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9 Things Every Freelancer Needs Starting Out

Phone

I use a voice over internet service for my main line. This give me all kinds of fancy features, including one that when someone leaves a voicemail, it sends me an e-mail with the audio file attached. (if you get lots of calls, you could make a special voice mail only e-mail account). It uses a small adaptor that plugs into your modem or router on one side and your phone on the other, so you can take it with you anytime you move or travel. If you want, you can download a free program, (I use X-Lite) that lets you use your computer as a phone anytime you're connected to wi-fi. You can also pick your phone number or have an existing one ported over. If you pick a number through them, you might consider getting one in a major city for your industry. 

For almost a year now, I’ve used a company called Voipo. (http://www.voipo.com) They offer unlimited calling to US and Canada, plus tons of features. Costs only $149 for two years. 

Mobile Phone

You’re going to need a smartphone. Just trust me, you’ll never regret it. I’m an Apple guy, have been since the early 90’s, so I’m heavily invested in their systems. I’m not interested in starting an endless debate here. If you want to use other systems, feel free, I’m just explaining what I’ve settled on after years of use and experience. That of course means an iPhone. Most of the time, I upgrade every other generation, and always get the one with most memory. 

I’ll cover apps in another post later, but I can easily run my entire business just off the iPhone if I have to. Apps are available to let me manage all social media, update my website and this blog, use spreadsheets, word processing, databases, scanning, manage finances, etc…. 

Online Presence

First register a website domain address. Get one with your name: www.johndoe.com. If your name is unavailable, try initials - www.jdoe.com for example. Consider claiming the same name versions under .net, and .me as well. Even if your not planning to use your name right now, it is always good to have the domains under your control in case you need the option later. If your going to use a company name, register it also but get the .com and the .biz instead of .me. You can have the “extra” domains automatically transfer over to the .com account. Each domain is only a few dollars a year to register, so don’t be shy about taking multiple versions, and/or spellings. I use GoDaddy.com, they are the cheapest of the bigger companies, have good customer service, and have been easy to work with. 

You need a place to host the website content. GoDaddy will do this, but I prefer to use a company called HostGator. (www.hostgator.com) Their middle plan, which gives you an unlimited number of domains, bandwidth, and storage only costs $4 a month for 36 months. HostGator is one of the largest and top rated hosting providers, with an excellent reputation along with live, 24/7 phone tech support. (one of the best I’ve ever used. They are happy to walk you through any issue, which is important if you’re not knowledgable about web administration)

Now that you have a domain, you need e-mail. With HostGator, you can have an unlimited number of addresses for each domain. Make up one with your name (john@johndoe.com) as your primary account. Then start with another at info@johndoe.com. This is your commonly published address, you need to have a filter so your not overwhelmed with frivolous items in your inbox. Others you might consider immediately: subscribe@…., for people to sign up for a mailing list (we’ll talk about automating this later). You can make up one for each employee, or even for each section of your business. When using HostGator, you can have your e-mail program get the mail from each account, or you can log into any web browser and manage all e-mail online. 

Now you’ve got a web domain, and e-mail address, so it is time to get a website. There are lots of design programs and services available. Myself, I went with SquareSpace. (www.squarespace.com)  They have nice clean templates, many geared towards photographers and visual artists. Their building block style takes some getting used to, and it isn’t infinitely customizable, but once you get the hang of it you can make a really clean site. It will autosize your content for viewing on any platform or size including iPhone, iPad, and monitor. Once set up though, it is the fastest and easiest way to update your content, blog, calendar, etc… It has built in e-commerce modules as well. They don’t offer e-mail, but HostGator walked me through how to set it up where the domain name servers point to my SquareSpace account, and the e-mail servers point to them. 

Lastly is social media. It’s kinda the wild west out there, and things keep changing, but for right now I would sign up for accounts with the following services: 

Professionally, in my opinion you should focus on these four: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Periscope is a new live video streaming app that Twitter just bought, and I wouldn't be surprised if it isn't the next big(ish) thing.  With some tweaking you can publish updates to one place and have it auto post to the others, saving you lots of time. 

Next, sign up for accounts with Vimeo and YouTube for video hosting. Vimeo is higher quality, but YouTube has a greater user base. Register for all social media accounts under your name and company name, trying to match your website name as closely as possible. 

Computers

My main desktop computer at this moment is a 27” iMac. When getting computers, I always get as much hard drive space, and RAM as possible. I’ve added two cheap 19” LCD monitors that I use to keep other programs open on while working on the main screen. (web browser, e-mail, etc….) Next time I update, I’m probably going back to a Mac Pro, with a 27” monitor. Some use a laptop connected to a big monitor all their work, but I’m a fan of having two computers in case one has to go out of service I have some type of backup. 

Laptop

Hard to beat a 13” MacBook Air. Big enough screen you can use Lightroom, or Final Cut Pro if need be, and its just powerful enough to allow for proofing, rough cuts, or light editing. My main concern with a laptop, since it is a second machine, is portability, and this machine is light enough I won’t leave it behind just because I don’t want to lug it around. 

Tablet

More of a luxury, although for some users a top end tablet might be able to replace a laptop. I do like using it for casually showing my demo reels and still portfolio’s. Right now I have an iPad mini. I picked it up as a Black Friday deal, so it is only 16 gb, and I’m always having to move stuff around. Like I said, always get the biggest storage available. The mini is a good in-between for the laptop and phone. I use it as a remote monitor/control for my DSLR and GoPro cameras. I also use it for quickly checking e-mails and web browsing, and watching Amazon prime around the house. I could get by without it, but it is pretty handy to have around. 

Office Hardware

Fujitsu Snapscan ix500 batch scanner, scans like 50 pages at a time, front/back and turns them into searchable pdf’s. Lots of options on how to handle scanned items, and where to put the new files. Combine with the Paperless software and you can get pretty close to a paper-free operation. I scan everything, then box it in archival file boxes, probably never to see the light of day again. 

Xerox Phaser 6110 color laser printer. I rarely use it, but the toner cartridges last forever and the printed materials look great. I’ve had it for years, but I could probably go without a printer at all at this point.

G Technology Thunderbolt Hard Drives. Use for backing up main computer, and for data storage. Also have a couple of their new evATC drives, mobile drives in a water/shockproof case to use in the field. 

Business Cards

Splurge and get nice ones, four color front and back. This is a big part of your first impression, you don’t want it to be cheap. Copycraft.com does a good job at a good price.

Portfolio/Demo Reel

No matter what work you do, you need to be able to show it off, both on your website and in person. Keep a version on your iPhone, iPad, laptop, and while you're at it, buy a keychain thumb drive and store it on there as well.