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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.