Ten Essential Items Every Freelance Office Needs to Get Started

3452272176_3fabbca25d_bBecoming a freelancer is one of the easiest business to start, because–unlike starting a bakery, gym or other kind of business–it doesn’t require much capital to begin. Most people already have what they need to start, but there are still some essential items you’ll need to become a freelancer that you may (or may not) have.

Some of these are large ticket items, but most are inexpensive, easy to find, and very helpful. Let’s take a look at some of the things you’ll need to begin a freelancing business.

Essential Items

Here are some essential items for freelancers:

  1. Computer–Unless you’re planning on dealing with clients via mind control, you’ll need some kind of computer in order to design, code, write or whatever it is you plan to do. Computers don’t have to be expensive, even if you prefer a Mac. Nowadays you can get a very inexpensive Mac with great specs for brand new, or even purchase one that’s slightly used. I recently sold my top-of-the-line Macbook on eBay for $750, which was still better than a brand new PC. So check out eBay and other bargain places for gently used power machines. New isn’t always better!
  2. Cable Internet–Especially if you’re doing design or development work, high speed cable internet is a must-have in order to really do anything in business. Skip dial-up and DSL and go with cable (preferably 10mbps+) or even Sprint’s 4G portable wireless network (I’ve been wanting to try that). If you can’t afford internet just yet and have a laptop, considering making your local coffee shop, who often have free wireless, your office for now.
  3. Printer–Printers are a must have in order to print your tax info, business write-offs, contracts and more. Having a printer also allows you to have your own professional stationery without having to pay a professional printer for (which also cuts down on waste and space).
  4. Composition Book–No matter what work you do, a good notebook is essential for any freelancer. Designers need to sketch, developers need to write down slice sizes and CSS rules and writers need to, well, write. I love the composition notebooks because they normally go for less than $1.00, are wide-ruled for note crunching and last for forever.
  5. Good lighting–I’m in the process of moving my office out of the basement and upstairs into the best lit room because my office is a dark, scary cave. Lighting is essential to well-being and will save you from terrible headaches, bad eyes and even bad posture.
  6. Automatic Backups–An automatic backup has saved my life (and my client’s) more than once. Spend the money to set up a system that does it automatically for you, so you don’t have to ever think about it until you need it. I use Apple’s Time Capsule, because it backs up wirelessly, turns any printer into a wireless one and provides wireless internet (more on wireless below). Plus, it can work with multiple computers.
  7. File System–Whether you go with paper, paperless or a combination of both, you need to have a great filing system in place that allows you to quickly find client files, contracts, receipts, etc quickly.
  8. Ergonomics–I once spent $10 on a chair at Wal-Mart for my office. I used it for a week and had aching wrists, back, neck and bum. Ergonomic chairs aren’t cheap, but you can find comfortable chairs in all price ranges. Make sure the chair is proper height and the desk is large enough so that you can lay everything out comfortably. No one likes to be aching and cramped all day.
  9. Software–A lot of software these days are free (or have free versions) so take some time to set up what you need. You might even be able to get by using nothing besides Google apps. (Hey, I’ve seen it done!)
  10. Inspiration–Why do you keep working all day? Some people like to keep a picture of the goal they’re working towards, but I like to take it a step farther. I keep my Bichon Frise (that’s a white poofy haired dog) sleeping on my desk. Not only is he good for a hug and kiss after dealing with a nightmare client, he also keeps me motivated to work by reminding me that I have others to take care of. And, he’s just plain cute to look at while I code. So what motivates you? If you’re wanting a Porsche someday, keep a model of one (or a photo) on your desk. Wanting a vacation to the beach? Keep something in eyesight that reminds you of it in order to stay productive.

Almost Essential Items

You can get by without the items on this list, but you probably won’t want to.

  • Smartphone–Smartphones make it easy to stay connected and answer emails without being chained to your desk. They’re also pretty affordable nowadays as well. I suggest the iPhone for its extensive business and productivity app collection. Plus, you can use it for play after you’re done working.
  • Dedicated Office Space–I’ve got an entire room in my house used for the office only. Not only does this allow me to work in peace by shutting off the rest of the household, it also ensures that I can get away from work. If you work on your dining room table, you may not be able to eat relaxing dinners without thinking about work.
  • Wireless Everything –You’d be surprised at just how much an icky office can mess with your productivity. My office has been a mess for two weeks now since we’re renovating and I’ve seen it cut my productivity way down. That being said, one of the best ways to keep an organized, clean desk is to pay an extra few bucks for wireless. I’ve got a wireless printer, wireless backups, bluetooth keyboard & mouse and wireless internet. My desk is still a rat’s nest of wires, but a little less so. Plus, this allows me to move around the house and still use the devices.
  • Good Speakers–Music keeps me productive every day, so I find it almost essential to have a computer with good speakers, good headphones or good external speakers.
  • Books, Blogs & Podcasts–These things, while not┬ánecessary┬áto being in business, keep you on top of the new stuff in your industry, which keeps you on top of others too.

What About You?

What tools and equipment do you consider essential for your freelancing business?

Image by Risager