Freelance In 40 Days [Day 7]: The Essentials For Freelance Work

Posted: September 1st, 2009

Photo by Emdot (Flickr)

Photo by Emdot (Flickr)

This is Day 7 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today’s tutorial will cover essential items for your freelance business that are well worth the expense.

It’s easy to believe that all a freelancer needs for work is a laptop and a free space at the nearest Starbucks. Ask any any veteran, though, and they’ll let you know that this is far from fact. In the rush to begin freelance work, we have a tendency to take for granted certain factors that are highly important in our work.

Also, new freelancers have a tendency to minimize costs at the start. While a smart strategy, there are certain costs that are absolutely necessary right from the beginning. Forgoing these can end up being highly regrettable which can cost you time you could be working, a lot of money,  your health or all three in the process.

The point is to make ourselves as efficient as we can in our work and prepare ourselves to minimize possible disaster in our business. Spending what we have to to cover these becomes essential to our business regardless of our desire to save.

1. Efficiency

A freelancer has to have the  best equipment available, but not necessarily the most expensive, in order to do his or her job as quickly and effectively as possible. This doesn’t mean you have to shell out for a $4,000 laptop with all the bells and whistles when a $1,000 laptop will suit your work just fine. This also isn’t saying you should try to upgrade that old Windows 95 machine thinking it will get you by. It won’t.

Have a list of the equipment, software and whatever other tools you need to do your job. Then do yourself a favor and make sure you have or obtain each and every one. It may costs you an arm and both legs, or you may have to beg-borrow-steal, but having anything less will cost you time which will cost you more in earnings in the long run. [DISCLAIMER: Steal at your own risk.]

2. Ergonomics

It’s a given that the majority of us will spend our time freelancing in front of a computer. What you may not be aware of are some of the afflictions it can cause when you are in front of it on a daily basis.

For example, hunching over a laptop day by day can lead to chronic neck, shoulder and back pain. You could become prone to repetitive stress injury typing all hours on a keyboard. Also, poor lighting as well as working long periods in front of a computer screen can lead to vision problems.

So preparing your workstation to minimize injury should be a priority. Ideally you want a work area where you can sit with your back straight, feet on the floor and looking directly horizontal at a computer screen. If it means you have to spring for a more comfortable desk chair and extra lighting for your workstation then do it.

Other ways to reduce injury are utilizing mousepads and keyboards designed to minimize repetitive stress injury. If you only use a laptop, try using a separate keyboard and mouse and prop up the laptop so you look directly at the screen instead of at a downward angle.

Take this seriously, too. You don’t want a bad case of “freelancer’s neck” or a wrist you can’t move to convince you otherwise.

3. Security

You are likely as a freelancer to experience one of two things at some point during your career: 1) Theft of equipment and 2) Loss of data on your computer. It really isn’t a question of if one of these happens to you but when. So when it does happen, you do not want to be caught with your pants down not knowing what to do next.

Unless you have enough savings to purchase new equipment in case of theft, it is well worth insuring it for a nominal monthly or yearly premium. The cost varies worldwide so consult a local homeowners insurance company or even google (i.e. “laptop insurance in new york”) one of the many insurers on the internet for coverage and pricing.

As for backups, it goes without saying that this has to be done. Plain and simple, though in one particular manner: online. To explain, physical backups normally reside on an external harddrive, but where is that harddrive stored after use? Usually nearby the computer its backing up which is dangerous in two ways:

  1. In case of a fire or natural disaster the harddrive could be destroyed along with the computer.
  2. If travelling with the harddrive, both the laptop and harddrive could be stolen if stored together.

Online backups provide the security of allowing you to restore data on a brand new computer anywhere in the world. So, in the event of theft or loss, you could conceivably be back up and running with a new computer and your old data within the day. Two reputable online backup services are:

  • Mozy: Provides unlimited backup for $4.95/month.
  • Livedrive: Provides online backups of up to 100 GB for 39.95 GBP annually (around $65) and unlimited backups along with synchronization between multiple computers for 99.95 GBP annually (around $160).

4. Health Insurance

It doesn’t do any good to hope we never get sick or injured while freelancing. Its also nice to not have that “what if it happens” worry constantly running through your head. Health insurance can take a small bite out of your wallet but is a bigger preference to the alternative scenario of spending the big dollars for medical treatment.

Having health insurance is usually the reason that many freelancers start out part-time and hold a full-time job at the same time. If you plan on freelancing full-time, however, then consider getting health coverage to protect you in case medical issues arise. Consult with local providers, or better yet, google (i.e. “freelance insurance australia”) to see what may be available for coverage online.

In the U.S., where health insurance is very expensive, there is coverage available through the Freelancers Union. Although coverage is not available in all areas of the U.S., they can provide affordable insurance or companies providing insurance for freelancers in your area.

Your Homework For Today

We covered a lot today, but we want to make sure we are prepared so we can work efficiently and protect ourselves in our health and equipment in case adverse events strike us. It also requires spending money before we even start earning, but it will pay us back later on. Therefore, ask yourself the following:

  1. Do I have all the equipment I need to work as efficiently as possible?
  2. Is my workstation prepared ergonomically to prevent strain and repetitive stress injury?
  3. Do I have a backup solution in place and insurance or savings to replace lost equipment in case of theft, disaster or loss?
  4. Do I have a health insurance plan?
More on the author, Johnny Spence
Johnny is the founder of The Freelance Rant and a freelance web programmer with 8 years in the business. Have a visit at his company Oscarrr!web or see what he's up to on Twitter.

Comments are closed.