The essential toolkit for minimalist (or broke) freelancers
This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you're interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.
On every freelancer site, there are lists of tools and apps that freelancers just have to have. As with many lists, most of the items are optional at best, and a trendy waste of money at worst. They seem to ignore that freelancers have finite resources and often can't afford to waste time and energy — let alone money — on unnecessary items.
Many freelancers will find that a certain level of minimalism will help eliminate distractions and help them focus on the important aspects of their business.
Of course, there are tools that freelancers do need to streamline their process and work efficiently. Below are some of the absolute essential tools for freelancers, with some optional additions for maximum efficiency.
A Ready-to-Go Resume Template
Procuring contract work can be a tricky process. Sometimes it will be a full-on application process with several interviews, and others it will be an off-the-cuff, "we just met, here's a contract" situation. You need to be prepared for all scenarios. If you don't already, make sure you have an updated resume that highlights the main skills you want to market. Look up several freelance resume samples and combine them into a master document that represents you. This will be easy to update and send off at a moment's notice.
Of course, you also want people to be able to find you, so you should keep your resume on LinkedIn and other professional networking sites. Whether you're starting from scratch or just updating your profile, this LinkedIn guide for freelancers has some great tips. LinkedIn won't take all the work out of online networking, but it's a great start to creating a visible, professional presence. If you haven't used professional social media networks much, you'll want to spend an afternoon optimizing your LinkedIn to generate leads.
A Decent Phone Plan
Contrary to popular opinion, it is possible to freelance and maintain a work/life balance. That being said, the more available you are, the more successful you will be. This means you should always have the capability to check your email (though feel free to turn off notifications at will). Choose a plan with wifi calling so that you don't have to worry about reception as much. Don't worry too much about extraneous apps, just make sure your phone has reliable service and excellent data capabilities.
A Dedicated Work Space
Even if you do a lot of your work on the go or in public spaces, it's important to have a dedicated work space. Whether it's a home office, a shared office space, or even a corner in your home, have a place where you only store work-related paperwork and items. This is key if you want to work from home without sacrificing your sanity.
If possible, keep your work on a separate computer and have a dedicated work phone. If that's not possible, at least use separate browser accounts for work and personal items. This will make it easier to find things in a hurry. Having a dedicated space will also help you mentally keep work and personal life separate. When you're in your workspace, you work. When you're on your couch, you can watch cat videos. It's the same concept as not spending non-sleeping time in your bed. When your brain can associate certain places with certain activities, it works more efficiently.
These three items are essential to freelancing in today's economic landscape. There are lots of other tools out there, but many of them are extraneous, and others are only needed for specific workflows.
Do you have any other essentials for minimalist freelancers? Share in the comments!
Jeriann blogs at dairyairhead.com, exploring books, life, and the struggles of paying off student loans.
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