A few days ago, I had a conversation on social media with a colleague local to me. We were laughing as I’d posted something about how essential a dedicated workspace is to new freelancers.
I write from my couch.
She had posted her response from her recliner. (She does just fine, by the way! In fact, everyone should read her post on choosing words deliberately.)
Annie and I ultimately decided that we’d been in the business long enough to know when to work in front of the television and when to shut the office door.
But at risk of sounding hypocritical, I’ll state it again: beginning freelancers need a dedicated work space.
Ready to get started but don’t know what you need in your office? Here’re the essentials.
An ergonomic desk and chair
Whether you choose a cocobolo desk like Saul Goodman or you opt for a thrift store find, your workspace should be comfortable.
Search for something that’s ergonomic and easy on your posture. Your body should be in alignment when you sit – after all, you’re going to put in some very long hours. Make sure you’ve got lumbar support. And be sure that looking at your computer monitor doesn’t cause strain to your neck or eyes.
When I first started out, my “dedicated workspace” was a (very) large walk-in closet. There were no windows, and I was forced to work by glaring lamp light.
If I had the chance to do it again, I’d choose a space with natural lighting. And the experts agree. Natural lighting has been shown to decrease depression and increase productivity. Excellent, right?
If sunlight streaming through your office window isn’t an option, opt for LED. It mimics natural lighting and is less straining to the eyes than fluorescent lights are.
A solid computer
You could use an Acer or a Mac, a Lenovo or a desktop HP. Whatever it is, your computer is what’s going to pay your bills.
I type, on average, around 85 words per minute. There are a lot of people out there who type more quickly than I, but I’m by no means slow. A 1,000 word blog post generally takes me about 40 minutes to write.
Throughout my whole first year of freelancing, I was writing on a little HP netbook. It was wretched. That same 1,000 word post took me upwards of two hours. Research on the internet was slow as molasses. Even the act of submitting a deliverable was tedious.
If you’re going to invest in anything, invest in a quality machine. The ease of use will easily pay for itself.
By the same token, don’t settle for dial-up or the USPS. Internet is an investment you’ll need to make, even if it means cutting back on the lattes each month.
Your clients expect your internet to be reliable. “My internet wouldn’t connect” is an excuse that has worked for no freelancer, ever. Having a reliable and fast internet is in your job description.
In time, you’ll figure out your work process. Some people need nothing more than a computer and a brain. Others may need sticky notes, a notebook and pens and a bulletin board or calendar. As you continue your freelance career, you’ll get a better idea of what your home office needs.
Whatever you need, keep it in your office. Your productivity will suffer if you keep hopping up to grab a pen, a stapler or even another cup of coffee. Yep. If you want, keep a coffee pot in your dedicated work space.
A filing system
There are a number of accounts you’ll need to open before you begin your freelance career. For example, you may choose to register as a business and will have paperwork from the government. You will be opening a checking account which is used only for business.
A filing system will keep these all in one place. Trust me, you’ll thank me at tax time. Oh, and don’t forget a shredder.
If you want to write a few articles here and there, you can do that from your kitchen table. But if you want to turn your freelancing writing into a career, I strongly recommend that you have a place in your home (or outside of your home) dedicated to your business.
Even after you’re established, you’ll be glad you have a place to stash your tax receipts.