As a kid, you would proudly announce no one was the boss of you. Well, if you're a freelancer, you still get to say it, and amazingly, it feels just as good well into adulthood. Who knew you'd really have it all figured out by the age of eight? But things aren't as easy as they were back then.
Naming your own hours, working in your comfiest sweatshirt, and blasting jams while you work all come with having the best job ever (a.k.a. being a freelancer), but managing yourself is a special skill that takes quite a bit of practice. I've discovered that being a freelancer means being good at what you do, but it also means being your own office manager, and accountant. There's lots to do, and you need to set yourself up for maximum productivity. So, here's a guide to just that. From a fail safe wireless router like the Linksys WRT1900AC to a killer cloud service, here are tools and tricks to being the most productive bossless wonder around.
All Your Files At The Ready
As a freelancer, you're not always at home or in your office. You might hear from a client while you're sitting on a train, running an errand, or visiting that one friend who lives in a treehouse in Big Sur. Since you might not always have your laptop on hand, you may need to hop on the nearest computer, phone, or tablet, which means you need to have your files accessible. How does one do that? Store your work in the cloud.
You can use Google Drive, Dropbox, and iCloud to store important files that you might need in a pinch. Upload them to any of those three, and you'll be able to download them wherever you are. Clouds also ensure that your files will always be there, even if your laptop dies or gets stolen. It's added insurance that you'll never lose all your hard work.
WiFi You Can Count On
Your WiFi connection is your lifeline to the world, and it's at the top of the list when it comes to making or breaking your business. Downloading, uploading, researching, streaming, video calling — you essentially do everything online. It's not only important that you're WiFi's always there, but that it's fast, too. Getting something quickly over to a client can really impress them, but on the flipside, if you miss a beat, you can damage your client relationship and miss out on future business. Linksys just came out with an updated version of their best-selling router, the WRT1900AC.
You might've thought a router's a router (at least, I did). But routers come in classes, and this one's at the top. It has a professional-grade 1.2 GHz dual-core processor — to compare, other routers on average work on 800MHz. 1.2GHz means fast, robust WiFi that will support the many, many things you need to get done online. The dual-core part? That means the router can multi-task when you're doing multiple things online, so you won't get slowed down. It also comes with four antennae, which will make sure you have strong coverage.
An extra amazing thing this router does is let you strengthen the wireless signal to a specific device. (It's called Beamforming technology, which is rad.) You can also control it all from an app — it's free and called Smart Wi-Fi. See what devices are online, how much bandwidth each is using, and control their signal strength. You can use the app also to check download/upload speeds, set up passwords for guests, and if you have kids, you can use it to put parental controls on your network. For sharing files across your network, hook up an external hard drive via the USB port or the eSATA port, which transfers files as fast as 3Gbps. If you're a smarty-pants techie, the router is also open source, so you can even customize it to your desire. When you're working remotely, a good router will get you through thick and thin.
Apps: Your Personal Assistant
There's basically nothing an app can't do. Remember when you had to keep a to-do list on a piece of paper? Psh. Try Things or Asana to keep your tasks organized. Both let you organize to-dos by project, and you can check off each task as you go (so satisfying). Asana's particularly useful if you're working with multiple people and need to collaborate or view each others' tasks. On that note, you might need to have meetings or simply have a way of conveniently chatting online. CampFire lets you have group chats, easily share files, and keeps a history of your conversations. Because it's web-based, you can ask a client to hop onto a chat without having to download any software.Google Hangout is another good option for chatting with more than one person at a time and also for video calls. With a good internet connection (a-hem, router), it's the next best thing to meeting in real life.
Optimizing Your Work Space
Getting into your work zone sometimes means exactly that, and getting into that mental space means optimizing your physical space. The things around you affect your focus and productivity more than you might realize. If you're working for large chunks of time, comfort's a big deal. Some simple ergonomics will keep your focus on your work and not how much your back hurts. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor, and your lower back is supported. The top of your monitor should line up with your eyes to keep your neck in a relaxed position, and your arms should be level with your wrists.
If your chair isn't doing it for you, consider a new one or throw a cushion on the one you have. I recently found out about the Gesture chair from Steelcase, which supports your lower back no matter what sitting position you're in. Being comfortable while working might also mean having more than one seating option. I've found I tend to brainstorm better when I curl up in a sofa chair. If I get stumped at my desk, I change locations, and I find that just a small change of scenery gets me thinking in a new way. Maybe you'll find you work better at a standing desk, or better yet, a treadmill desk.
Another way to boost your productivity and energy (hey, we all need some of that) is by adding a plant to your desk and also giving your space plenty of natural light. There have actually been studies done that have shown both to be effective. See: the light study, and two plant studies.
Now that I've shared my best tips, we'd like to hear yours. What's the most helpful freelancer's tool you've used lately? Maybe you had an a-ha moment that changed the way you work at home. Tell us in the comments, and learn more about the Linksys router that can make it all possible here.