The Freelance Writer at Home

By Colin

Of all the benefits of being a freelance writer, working from home has to be one of the best. You can set your own pace, manage your time how you want it, and best of all, you get to be your own boss.

Leaving the negatives out of the equation for the moment, what can a freelance writer do to make sure her working environment is as comfortable, supportive, and reliable as it would be, were she working in a city centre office? I’m not talking about front door security, a subsidized canteen, or even an ample supply of free staples and pens. I’m talking about the little things that affect productivity, like comfort, and staying sane.

Here’s a few things all freelance writers can do to make the working day go that little bit easier.

Buy A Good PC/Laptop

This is more important than many writers realize, because when I say “good,” I really mean “reliable.” There’s nothing more infuriating to have a PC that hangs on you as a deadline approaches. If you can’t trust the machine you are working on to be there when you need it, maybe it’s time to reinvest.

PCs and laptops are relatively cheap these days, and if you only intend to use it for writing on and connecting to the Internet, you need not go for a brand spanking new top of the range model. Save yourself some money and opt for a lesser model that’s just as new. So long as you can load up the software you need, and get onto the Internet, it will do just as well.

Keep Software Current

Maybe your PC is reliable and trustworthy, but it’s getting kind of slow. Windows 3.1 has almost ground to a halt and your printer drivers won’t install any more. If this sounds like you, not only should you be upgrading to newer hardware, but you should also think about updating your software.

All things man-made ground to a halt and die, especially PCs, which have an optimal performance life expectancy of around five years. Therefore keeping up with the latest technology isn’t so much a flashy thing to do, it’s a vital one if you are running a home-based business and need to keep up with your competitors, and continue to produce quality work.

Use A Reliable Printer

Owning a suitable printer can not only save you time, but also money. I tend to favor laser printers for their speed and relative cost to maintain, but you should do some research to find out what type, make, and model suits you. Some printers are notorious for paper jams or the rate at which they require a refill, so find out before you buy.

But A Nice Desk

A nice desk that fits your writing style and feels comfortable should be a priority for every home-based writer. Among the most important things to consider when buying a desk are:

  • Width: will it fit where you want it to go?
  • Height: it should be comfortable to type on and have plenty of leg room.
    Cost: the cheaper the better, but you will get what you pay for.
  • Surface space: how good is its ability to cope with papers and books strewn all over it and still allow you room to work on? Is there room for your PC/laptop, printer, telephone, etc.? Does there need to be?
  • Keyboard drawer: some desks come with a pull-out drawer on top of which the keyboard rests. Some people don’t like these and find them awkward – do you?

Invest In A Comfortable Chair

A good chair in terms of comfort and design is an important investment for anyone who intends to sit on it for most of their working day. Not only is it good for comfort reasons, but also for health and safety. The main qualities in a chair to consider are:

  • Back height: do you prefer high backs or low?
  • Support: is the back supportive enough to keep your back straight, and protect you from potential spinal damage?
  • Height to desk: can the height be adjusted to allow you to look at the screen straight on, and so that your arms are comfortable while you type? You would be amazed how many repetitive strain injuries writers get, purely caused by poor chair height.
  • Swivel or static: do you want your chair to swivel, or do you prefer it grounded?
  • Wheels: Do you like your chair to be able to move around easily?
  • Material: are you a leather fan, or do you prefer cloth?

CD/Radio

Some writers concentrate easier with low music playing in the background; the type of music they listen to often influencing what they write. Others prefer to have total silence. Either way, having a small CD player or radio handy can be useful should the mood take you or if you rely on it. If you’re stressed about an urgent deadline, the facility for some Vivaldi might just do the trick.

Book Case

If you have the space, think about getting a book case. A lot of writers like to have their favorite books nearby, but also for practical reasons, being able to retrieve a reference book quickly without breaking your train of thought, is worthwhile reason enough.

Warmth

Working in a cold room is horrible, so make sure you have a source of warmth for those cold winter months. I have a radiator in my office as opposed to a heater, because I find the warmth much more pleasant as opposed to an air heater, which dries out my eyes.

Window

Being able to look out to the real world is something all home-based writers should do on a regular basis. Getting involved with your work to the point where you start to forget that life exists on the other side of the door, is a dangerous place to get to.

Fish Tank

A small quirk of mine, but I love the background noise generated by the tropical fish aquarium in the corner of my office. It’s not the fish that make the noise – they don’t talk to me or anything like that – but the bubbles and flow of water give me the calming sensation of standing next to a gentle flowing river, which in turn, helps me focus on what I am writing.

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11 Responses to “The Freelance Writer at Home”

  • cat

    One problem with working at home (for me) is the lack of interruption.

    Sounds great, yes? But if you keep your eyes glued to a screen, well, we all know what happens.

    I tried different alarms, but as I work from home to get away from the annoying things waking me up every morning, that wasn’t the fix for me.

    Not for everyone of course, but having a cat or two around helps.

    With two cats demanding attention on and off, I’m assured of looking here and there more than often. An added plus is the furry companionship.

    I also type facing a lit display cabinet filled with pretties. They also draw my eye during the day.

  • Mari

    I found my laptop a must. I’ve had it for a year now and honestly would be lost without it. The mobility is fantastic; wi-fi is a must these days. But the freedom to get up and go wherever is the biggest boon. Plus having all the information or research tools I use regularly right here at my fingertips – very time-saving.

    Too, I go to conventions, so having a laptop to record events in my blog at the end of the day and to compile notes, addresses, etc, etc, I’ve collected, was a blessing last year. I didn’t have to worry about losing business cards or random slips of paper – and more – between the hotel and home.

    One thing you left off your list. If one is buying a laptop – make sure you get a laptop bag you can live with. Make sure you get a good fit. Make sure it’s neither too large nor too small (ie, will contain everything you need to take with you and doesn’t have wasted space, especially if you’re traveling), isn’t too heavy, and is something you’re able to live with long-term (the better ones can be quite expensive).

  • Stuart

    All this stuff is great for freelance writing- but mean while back in the real world, the 4th or 5th bill has dropped through the letter box to the sound of a thud, the kids need a new pair of football boots or dance shoes and its coming up for your mum or wife’s birthday.

    where does all this money come from……oh i get. in that tree outside,you know the one; the professional manicured garden that has a money tree. sorry for being realisitc.

  • Danica

    I agree with most of the list, but I can’t agree with the idea of the horrible, cold room. In the part of Texas in which I live, a cold room is bliss. I always have an AC running while I write; when I get stuffy, I get restless and lose my concentration.

    I also second the laptop bag suggestion. I’m lucky that the laptop I bought recently came with a roomy, padded bag that works perfectly for what I need to carry with me. But a lot of people aren’t as lucky, and they end up with some flimsy bag that falls apart soon after they get it. Go for the middle ground; unless your situation requires the most expensive or the least expensive, pick a mid-price and you’ll usually get something worthwhile. 😀

  • Daniel Scocco

    Danica, I guess it is because he is writing from the UK :).

  • Danica

    In that case, I’m sure I would love it there. Let’s switch! haha

  • shadownight

    I don’t mean to be rude, but it’s not 1997 anymore. Who in the world is still using Windows 3.1? And a CD player/radio? Computers can play music…

  • Solomon

    I liked the post as I have settled down as a freelancer.
    Thanks for the info.

  • Christopher Proudlove

    Freelancing was forced on me after being made redundant, but I’ve tried to make the best of it and I’m succeeding – in a moderate way.
    These are good tips, but I share Stuart’s sentiments. Man, it’s hard out there.
    Biggest problem for me is taking breaks/vacations. As a manager in my previous life I had colleagues and deputies and we shared responsibilities when one or other of us wanted to take off. Not any more.
    And don’t even think of being off sick.

  • ellen berthoud

    My name is ellen, am just trying to ask information on how did you do it? Where can you submit your articles and gets paid for it.

  • John Asam

    I am a registered member but each tim I see jobs advertised you still demand for money. why so?

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