Getting Started as a Freelancer? Here’s What You’ll Need
A laptop. You want to live the freelancing lifestyle, working wherever you happen to be? You’ll need a laptop, preferably with wireless Internet access. I have a MacBook, which I love.
A website. I rarely get e-mails from out of the blue from editors who happened to run across my site, but having a website is a great way to showcase my offerings. I link to my site in e-mailed queries in lieu of attaching clips. A good website from a designer can cost upwards of $2,000, but you can build your own using free site building applications like Nvu or KompoZer. Both of these are complete web authoring systems for Linux desktop, Microsoft Windows, and Macintosh users that let you create web pages and manage a website with no technical expertise or knowledge of HTML. You can also find open source (i.e., free!) web templates. For example, Open Source Web Design and The Open Design Community are collections of web designs that anyone can download free of charge. For more info, my article on building a writer’s website is in the current issue of Writer’s Digest. (It’s not online, sorry.)
A desk. When you’re not working at Borders and Starbucks and Paris cafés, you’ll need somewhere to use your computer and stow your files. The dining room table works just as well when you’re starting out, but eventually you’ll want a place dedicated exclusively to work. You can find used desks on Craigslist and through Freecycle, or check out office supply stores like Office Max and Staples. My desk is a plain table that I bought at an unfinished furniture store and painted white.
A recorder. You’ll likely need something to record your interviews. An analog recorder works fine and you can buy a doohickey from Radio Shack that hooks it up to your phone to record phone interviews. However, with an analog recorder, interview tapes will soon take over your office. That’s why I bought a digital Olympus recorder. It cost around $180 and is one of the best investments I’ve made. Now I can store interviews on my computer, and send them as attachments to my transcriptionist.
A fax machine or online faxing capabilities. I have to admit I’m a little outdated…I’ve been using the same fax machine since I started out in 1997. I rarely use it, but it is very handy for receiving contracts and sending back the signed copy. And, every once in a while, someone will want to fax you some research materials for an article. But you don’t have to find desk-space for an old-fashioned fax machine anymore…FaxZero lets you send free faxes of up to three pages with an ad on the cover page, or for $1.99 you can send a fax of up to 15 pages without an ad. Here’s a list of free and pay Internet fax services.
A printer. We use our printer less and less these days, but it’s still a necessity for printing out research notes, drafts of articles, and contracts. You can find printers at Staples, OfficeMax, and electronics stores like Best Buy. You can also get all-in-one printer/copier/scanners, though if it breaks you’re three times SOL.
A postal scale. This is another of the best investments I’ve made. Even with the almighty e-mail, writers use the mail — a lot. A postal scale will keep you from randomly pasting on tons of stamps to make sure that multi-page contract gets through to the magazine or those clips (yes, I occasionally snail mail intro packages and clips) make it to the editor.
Office supplies. The basics for me include postage stamps of different denominations, a stapler for stapling together clips, large and small envelopes, a return-address stamp (from Staples; it was about $8), paper clips (Clipiola Italian Paper Clips), small notebooks, Post-It notes, extra printer ink (because you always run out when you’re printing something important at 1 am), pens, an inbox to hold random items to process in batches, binders to keep track of income (no Quicken for me, sorry), and a hanging file for current article research.
Those are my basics for starting a freelance writing business. Do you think there’s something I’m missing — something you find crucial to any beginning freelancer? Please post it in the Comments! [lf]
If you liked that post, you might also like:
- Recording Interviews on Skype
- What Should I Put on My Website if I Have No Clips?
- Why You Shouldn’t Create Your Own Writing Samples–And What You Can Do to Get REAL Clips Instead
- Clips 101: What They Are (and Aren’t), How to Get Them, and How to Make The Most of Your Clips
- The Freelance Writer’s Bill of Rights