By Deepak Gopalakrishnan Feb. 07, 2020
If you’ve recently become a freelancer, chances are you’re grappling with questions like, how do I snag clients, or maintain finances, or know when to wear pants? The following gadgets won’t really give you answers, but will make your life a little easier.
If you’ve decided to jump into the exciting world of self-employment, congratulations. By now you have probably decided what matters to you more: A steady paycheck or control of your time. I’ve been on my own for a year now, and have learnt several things along the way. While the standard questions I get are how to snag clients, how I maintain finances, or when was the last time I wore pants (true story), no one asks the question they should – about the tech you need to successfully freelance.
I’m obviously not going into the basic stuff you need to do your job. I assume writers will have a computer, photographers will have a camera, musicians will have instruments and organic chemists will have Hell-Volhard-Zelinsky apparatus.
I’m talking about stuff beyond that, such as:
A backup internet dongle
Most freelancers are reliant on the web for research, work submissions, and hours of procrastination. An internet failure can be the worst thing to happen to you, and trust me, clients won’t buy your excuses (“My ISP was down!” is the freelancer’s “My dog ate my homework”).
Plus, it comes in handy when you’re traveling, or working from a cafe — even if you have WiFi. And while mobile hotspots are common, it’s good to preserve battery and have a dedicated connection. Dongles and data are cheap and feel cool to have in a retro kinda way.
Price: A Jio dongle will set you back by ₹1000, data can be as low as ₹100 per month.
A pair of good speakers
While you might think the primary purpose of speakers is to blast the bejesus out of your heavy metal collection (not a bad idea, given your neighbours are unlikely to be home), there are several professional reasons to have one, the main one being educational content, news, and case studies often come best in video format.
Plus you can watch stuff while you eat, play background music while you work and transmit bird noises when you want to call the cats. Whatever you do, don’t rely on laptop speakers as your primary audio output (yuck!). While I’m a big fan of quality headphones, I’d recommend them only for offices or more critical listening.
Price: ₹7500 should get you a decent 2.1 system, I have ₹30,000 speakers which are stellar and have lasted me close to five years.
A mouse with programmable buttons
I’m going to put it out there — trackpads are a bad way to work. If you’re going to be sitting for long hours at a desk, get a mouse. Even better, get one of those gaming ones that have programmable buttons. This is not to encourage you to play GTA while you’re supposed to be writing tech articles, but to make work easier.
I’ve used mine for years, and have programmed the buttons to copy-paste, take screenshots and close tabs, because I’m cool like that.
Price: Logitech’s G-series starts at ₹1500, and I highly recommend them.
A Solid State Hard Drive (SSD)
An SSD is like a big-capacity pen drive. It has no moving parts, meaning it’s faster and more reliable than your regular mechanical hard drives. Not only does it speed up your work, it’s also safer and consumes less power.
I’ve been using a desktop with an SSD for years and pretty much salvaged my wife’s snail-like laptop by putting one in place of the HDD. Yes, it’s slightly more expensive, but given that these days, the need to keep media (be it work files or entertainment or, well, “entertainment”) locally has reduced, it’s a very worthy investment.
Price: ₹2500 (240 GB) to ₹9500 (1 TB).
A good coffee machine
Freelancing ain’t all about working in shorts and chilling with your cats. It will often involve late nights and early mornings. A nice strong cup of coffee will get you through the day (and, um, night). Stay away from instant coffee, and choose instead freshly ground coffee from artisanal roasters. It’s a fraction of what you would pay at a proper cafe, and it’s delicious. Show me a freelancer who doesn’t have a coffee machine, and I’ll show you someone who will order one soon.
Sure, it’s not technically a “gadget”, but if you were so inclined, you could find an IOT-connected espresso maker if you wanted. But… Don’t.
Price: A decent drip coffee machine should start at around ₹2000. 250g of good coffee powder will set you back by around ₹350-400.
And there you have it. Five things to make your life as a freelancer — or even otherwise — better. Now don’t forget to send out all your invoices.
Deepak 'Chuck' Gopalakrishnan is a freelance writer and marketing guy who lives in Mumbai. He runs two podcasts (Simblified, The Origin Of Things) and a satire newsletter (The Third Slip). He used to work in advertising until his soul couldn't take it anymore, and now spends all his time annoying his cats, listening to prog-metal, cycling and writing bios of himself in third person. He has an irrational love for cold water and Tabasco.