What you need when you start freelancing

Pre-script: Since this post has been written by an Indian freelancing in India, i.e. moi, some of the information may be different where you live. The general idea would be the same though.

It recently* occurred to me that I haven’t shared much about what I’ve learned about freelancing on this blog. I’ve been a freelancer for over 5 years now and I’d like to think that I’ve learned a few things along the way. This is me sharing some of those things.

Disclaimer: If you’re thinking about getting started as a freelancer, some of these tips may be helpful. Keep in mind that I’ve worked as a writer and a trainer, so if you’re planning to be a freelance fashion designer, you may find some tips don’t apply.

So what exactly do you need when you’re getting started as a freelancer?

PC: A PC in reasonably good working condition with a decent display. If you have a laptop, it’s easy to cart around the place, especially to show off at client meetings, but that’s not a must – the showing off that is. If you’re using a laptop, an external keyboard + mouse is a good idea unless you want tunnels to form around your carps. Also, make sure that your PC has a writable CD or DVD drive for backups, or plenty of USB slots.

Printer: If you need to do a lot of printing, then a printer is a good idea. If not, don’t waste your money. I’ve needed a printer to print invoices and other stuff, so it’s been helpful for me. (Author John Scalzi doesn’t have a printer and that hasn’t stopped him from becoming a successful freelancer and best-selling author. Now, I am not saying that not having a printer will make you successful either. You get the point.)

UPS / Inverter: If power cuts are a problem where you live, then a UPS or an inverter is a good investment. I bought an APC UPS quite a few years back and I’ve never been happy with it (annoying sound notwithstanding), but that’s just me being all nitpicky. In namma Bengaluru, you definitely need a UPS or an inverter because of the sometimes unreliable power situation.

Internet connection: If your freelancing work involves spending time researching stuff on the “net”, then a reliable Internet connection is a must. You don’t need blazingly fast speeds, just don’t get one of those crawling type connections. The key here is reliability. Ask around and find out which ISP is reliable and doesn’t have many outages, etc. (I had problems with Sify because of connectivity issues and they use the local cable operators as franchisees so it wasn’t the best option for me. Airtel has worked fine so far and now that I’ve jinxed it, I’ll have to search for another provider.)

Health Insurance: This is probably the first thing that you should get. With the kind of hospital costs that we’re seeing now, this is a no-brainer especially as a freelancer with no fixed income. (New India Assurance gives freelancers health insurance, so that’s one option.) You can also claim a health insurance deduction on your taxes in India, so that’s another reason to get insurance. But seriously, get some insurance or you’ll pay for it.

Business Cards: I’ve managed so far without business cards (yes, I know), but it’s not a bad idea to print a few. Don’t spend money on fancy cards or on printing 500 at one go, a simple one will do and maybe 50 or 100 if needed. If you’re planning a freelancing career where you’ll be working remotely most of the time, maybe you can skip the business cards.

Working space: Unless you’re one of those people who doesn’t mind distractions, a work space to call your own, however small, is essential. Again, no need for a fancy, antique desk in a specially designed room, etc. Just a place where you can work without distractions is enough. Keep it simple.

Comfortable Chair: Since you’ll be putting bum on chair for at least a few hours every day, a comfortable chair that won’t make you feel stiff at the end of the day is a must.

Stationery: Pens, paper, files / folders, clips, stapler, punch, tape, etc.

Mobile phone: Everyone has one but still…

I think I’ve covered most of the stuff that you need. If there’s a glaring omission, let me know in the comments and I’ll update the post.

* – I use recently in the vaguest sense; we’re talking months here.

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