We all know that man has been using various tools to increase productivity for ages immemorial. A freelancer is no exception to this rule. You may be a freelance writer, a freelance IT worker, freelancer graphic designer / illustrator or just a freelance virtual assistant you will definitely need tools to automate your workflow as you gain more experience down the years and as the bulk of your work starts to increase. You will need better time management, task prioritization, account maintenance and what not. Most freelancers have to manage everything themselves and it is not an easy job.
Your objective should be to minimize housekeeping jobs so that you can concentrate more on catering to your clients. This is where tools come into play and increase the efficiency of every freelancer. Here we will concentrate on the best tools available in the market amongst a plethora of options so that you can take the right pick the very first time to get your freelance job done most efficiently. Now as far as tools are concerned they can broadly be classified into hardware and software tools. We shall dwell on both hardware tools and software tools but in this article we shall concentrate mainly on hardware tools for freelancers first.
We shall first take a look at hardware requirements. We shall suppose that you are just getting started and is looking to buy a computer. In today’s world options galore. What type of computer, a Mac or a PC, what kind of processor, motherboards, RAM, hard drive space, mouse, printer, scanner, tablet for illustrations, UPS or inverter an external storage device for backup etc. There are many and many choices in each category. Freelancers have to take their pick judiciously to get the job done most efficiently and smoothly.
Macintosh Vs PC
If you are just starting up your freelancing career then there is a good chance that your budget is limited. You might be looking for a bargain PC. So you have to decide on the specifications of your computer system with care. A mac is a costly proposition to start with. Some argue that a mac has many advantages. In olden days a mac was a designer’s dream computer and it was also known for its ease of use. With the advent of operating systems like windows 7 and windows 8 this is no longer true. A mac was built keeping graphic designers in mind. It had better screen resolution, better graphics elements, better font management and most importantly there were no viruses for mac. This does not hold true anymore.
PCs now have much improved graphic design ability and they can take a mac head on any day. Now even a mac can get infected with a worm or a virus. So the advantage of the mac over a PC has become blurry. It would be good to start with a PC unless you are doing some kind of video editing on Apple Final Cut Pro which requires a Mac to run. Remember that if you are very picky and are planning to buy the best computer ever, you are walking the wrong path. The ‘best computer ever’ thing lasts for only a short while because the computer hardware world changes very fast and you cannot win the race against it. So always remember your purpose while deciding your computer system specification.
What kind of system configuration is good for freelancers ?
While selecting a computer a freelancer should keep in mind what work he will do using the system. The system will depend on the software you will be using to do your freelance job. If you use a word processing software to write a blog or be a ghost writer for someone then a medium range PC would do just fine but if you are a graphic designer or a 3D modeling artist then you will need to invest in a high end rig with a pretty good graphic card. As I mentioned before if you need to edit using Apple Final Cut Pro then you need a macintosh.
One thing I would like to mention about content writers is the you should go for a silent PC so that your concentration is not harmed in any way while writing. I have noticed that many content writer friend of mine loves to work at night when the surrounding is silent. They specifically mentioned that a noisy computer with lot of fan noise distracts their attention. They would give anything for a silent pc. That being said, we will now take a look at the components of a computer one by one and the parameters of their selection to support your freelance business.
Processor / CPU
Every freelancer’s first consideration while deciding the specifications of a computer system should be the processor or the central processing unit. There are various options available like the Dual Core, the Sandy Bridge and the Ivy Bridge. There are also some great APUs available from the AMD stable. If you perform mundane tasks like content writing or surfing the net and checking emails then you could settle for a low end processor but if you are into design, illustrations, 2D or 3D animation, 3D modeling or video editing then you need a rig with a good graphic processing power. You will feel the difference when you render your work. You will save a lot of time in your freelance career and hence your productivity will increase.
While deciding on the motherboard we have to be careful enough to select a board which can support the components we have used in the computer. Most people make the mistake of cutting down on the motherboard budget and investing the juice thus saved on a powerful processor. This is not the right strategy. Motherboard houses all the components of a computer and makes one component ‘talk’ to the other on the computer. So if you are not selecting a powerful enough motherboard, then chances are, that you components will not be able to perform at their best. Thus we often see that the motherboard becomes the limiting factor in the performance of a computer. Today we are not going to discuss the various models available in the market either for the Intel or the AMD stable but the aim of this article is to just educate you how to make the right choice. So whenever you plan to buy one take care to select the best motherboard model to complement your CPU and other components.
Memory is something for which we can say “the more the better”! We often synonymously call memory as RAM which is an acronym for Random Access Memory. If you are a freelancer doing graphic design or doing video editing or even 3D modeling then having at least 4GB of RAM is necessary. Even the latest operating systems available today are RAM hungry. If you can have 8GB its good. Things like 3D modeling, video editing / post production and graphic design requires a lot of system memory. If you are scarce on RAM, your system will slow down considerably and you will waste a lot of time sitting idle waiting for the computer finish your task.
Secondary storage is often referred to as hard disk space. It is the age of terabytes of space and having anything starting from 1TB drive is good. Also again if you are a freelancer doing 3D, video editing or graphics design job you could consider adding a Solid State Drive aka SSD so that your booting speed and system response times improve considerably. Remember to load your application programs on the SSD so that they respond faster. You can use another 1TB drive for storing your working files and taking backup. Now the question is why not use SSD for both booting and a backup drive? The answer lies in the cost of SSD. SSDs being new to the market are prohibitively costly at this point of time. As time passes the cost will come down and maybe you could use SSDs for backup as well. Also SSDs have a much lower failure rate making them even more dependable!
As a freelancer, you should also make it your habit to backup your files on a regular basis. This can be done in two ways. You could back up your freelance project files after each project reaches its completion and is signed off by the client or else you can take regular backup at the end of each day. I would suggest that you take backups at day end everyday. In this way the maximum risk you run is losing your day’s work and not the whole project altogether. Imagine what happens if the failure occurs on the last day of the project completion.
Now many online storage spaces are also available in cloud servers and it is a pretty good option for keeping your backups but the problem with cloud storage is that you require a lot of bandwidth to upload and download your files. Cloud storage backup solutions could be a good option if you are a freelance coder or a freelance writer but if you are freelancing in 2D / 3D graphics or video editing then cloud storage would not be a very good idea for two reasons : firstly due to the heavy bandwidth requirement for uploading and downloading the files and secondly the cost per megabyte of storage. So take your pick according to the type of freelancing you do.
When it comes to display you would want nothing other than a LED backlit display. Not only do they consume considerably lower amount of power than CRT monitors but they also give a more crisp, flicker free and clear image which is again a requirement for freelancers dealing in design, video production, post processing and 2D/3D animation. It should also be remembered that use of CRT monitors for long hours takes a toll on the eye but this problem is minimized considerably by using a LCD display. So investing in a good display will go a long way towards your freelancing success.
Keyboard / Mouse
Though these components might not sound very important towards the performance of a computer but they are important for your health. A good ergonomic keyboard goes a long way in protecting you from carpal tunnel syndrome found most commonly with people who have to do a lot of typing work. A good mouse will also give you precision and protect your wrist.
Digital Drawing Tablets
If you are a digital artist then illustrations will definitely feature in your portfolio and you shall also love doing illustrations and drawings. This is where digital tablets come into play. By digital tablets some people would assume that we are talking about iPads, Galaxy tabs etc. But no! Here we are talking about drawing tablets used by artists and illustrators. Digital drawing tablets come in a wide variety of flavours and form factors so if you cannot decide correctly you might end up with an unsatisfactory product.
Of all the digital drawing tables I have reviewed and used, I find the ones from Wacom to be the best in terms of sensitivity, precision, user friendliness etc. Though products from Wacom have a good pocket pinch but considering their benefit I would say that they have good value for money. While Wacom has Bamboo Series, Intuos4, Cintiq there are some other products worth a mention. They are Genius PenSketch 9×12, Genius G-pen M712x, UC-Logic Hot Key Series (HA60) and UC-Logic TM19W01. So take your decision wisely and select the one that suits your budget and pocket at the same time.
UPS or Uninterrupted power supply
Most computer problems and hardware failure result due to ‘impure’ power or abrupt power disruption. Apart from fluctuation and total power disruption a power line suffers from other problems like brownouts, blackouts, spikes and surges as well. You never know what kind of power quality you are getting from your wall sockets. Hence it is always wise to invest in a good power protection and backup unit. There are lots of good online and offline uninterrupted power supplies available in the market today.
I use an APC UPS myself at home. It gives me a good backup time of 20 to 30 minutes depending on the load. Since my hometown is virtually devoid of total power outages so I do not need back up time more than that. All I need is to protect my computer and my work from other power problems we discussed before. If you stay in a locality that has frequent and prolonged power outages you will have to invest in a better UPS with longer backup time so that your freelancing projects do not suffer enabling you to deliver your projects on time.
Your sitting machine
You will find that the most neglected aspect of discussion in freelancer gatherings, meetings or forums, yet one of the most important tool of a freelancer is his or her chair. Surprisingly this is where you sit for 8 to 10 hours a day, sometimes more, to get your work done! I would say that if I spend most of the time sleeping on the bed then I would invest in a really good bed or if my work involves a lot of travelling then I would invest in a good car.
So you have to pick up a very good ergonomic chair that provides ample support to your spine, back, arm, and helps you maintain the right seating posture. If you get a cheap chair for yourself then in no time you will be developing back pain and shoulder pain and your working hours will be drastically reduced and so will your productivity. These problems may turn permanent if not immediately treated and if the cause of the pain is not immediately addressed. A few things to consider while selecting your chair is its design, built quality, lumbar support, arm rests and performance on long term use.
Let me explain. The design of a chair should be appealing so that it adds that x-factor to your workspace yet it should be able to provide necessary support to your elbows while typing and to the lumbar region of your spinal cord while sitting for long hours. Another thing is noticed while sitting for long hours is that your back and bottom gets sweaty due to the development of high temperature. To address these problems some good quality chairs are built using breathable mesh for the back and bottom so that airflow is maintained keeping sweat to the minimum. By investing in a good chair you will be able to work for longer hours without fatigue or backpain and your freelancing revenue will increase as will your output quality and hence the chair will pay back for itself even before you know!
To summarize, every component matters and the final output of the whole system is only as good as the weakest component. Hence it is really vital to pick up every tool intelligently to add to the optimum performance and the success of your freelancing career.
If you liked the article then please do share it with your friends using the social media icons on the left. We would also like to hear your views and about the tools you use as a freelancer. Please use the comments section.
Latest posts by Priyankar (see all)
- 7 secrets you must know about guest blogging - August 11, 2016
- 13 awesome image optimization tips for better search engine ranking - July 20, 2016
- 6 priceless lessons Steve Jobs taught me about Blogging - July 13, 2016