Tools of the trade are those little things that make life easier, regardless of which industry you happen to work in. I’ve talked in the past about my passion for Dragon NaturallySpeaking, but there are other things which can make or break a freelance writer’s career, especially if you are someone who, like me, spends the majority of your time on the road, or in and out of a physical office.
Two years ago I never would have said that a laptop was a necessity. Then again, two years ago I wasn’t working remotely; I was working out of a home office. And while having a desktop is a bonus, I think a laptop is certainly one of those things I would consider a necessity these days. Not simply for the mobility factor, but also as a backup plan. What if your power goes out? What if your hard-drive on the PC crashes? What if your ISP goes out for a day or two? What if, what if, what if? Having a laptop enables you to have a backup plan in case the first plan fails. But most importantly, as I’ve come find in recent years, the use of a laptop for someone who is continually on the go is simply without par.
Flash drives are a given. But having multiple backups is ideal. Personally, I have two different flash drives. I haven’t needed to move to an online/digital storage yet, but I know some people who do. Until my work folder gets over 20 gigs, I don’t see a need to actually upload my files to a server somewhere. Instead, I simply have a couple of flash drives that I update regularly with the important work stuff. In addition, Google mail has a nearly unlimited (7.5 gigs is pretty damn near unlimited for the average person working online) amount of storage space, and I generally upload my work daily to my Gmail account. Sometimes I do it hourly, depending on if I’ve got a big enough project going on and I don’t want to run the risk of losing progress. But most of the time it’s just a daily update. I know Mozy is useful for people dealing with larger chunks of data, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet.
PayPal. Honestly, who uses checks anymore? I haven’t even touched a checkbook in 3 years. 100 percent of my statements and bills are delivered to me online. I bill my clients through PayPal, and only PayPal. Why? I think the more pressing question is, “Why not”? Checks are like the fax machine…they are outdated, old, and quite frankly, take far too much of my precious time to deal with. Get it done instantly is my motto, and I love working online. Plus, there’s no messy paperwork, no need for filing cabinets, no need for dealing with duplicate checks and etc. etc. etc. Some people like to stay rooted in the past for tradition’s sake, but I say evolve with the times. I’m sure somewhere there’s a guy still using a hand-cranked printing press to make his weekly church newsletters, and more power to him…but for me, I like to stay up to date with the beating heart of technology.
Portable scanner. I saw this come up on a forum I’m a part of recently. Most digital cameras take high enough resolution pictures to substitute in a pinch, as well as cell phones. If you are someone who works on the go and you don’t have access to a scanner, this would come in handy. You never know when you might need to scan a document and get it back to someone ASAP.
iPhone/Blackberry/iPad/whatever. Personally, I don’t see the need for any of these gadgets when I already have a laptop. But, for some people, I know they can’t live without them. Me, I’m happy with a 50 dollar phone.
Adobe. Enough said. I don’t know nearly enough about their suite of programs, but I love the ones I use.
OpenOffice. For those of you who haven’t used Open Office yet…it’s free, and it’s just as good as MSOffice. Did I mention it is free? And it ports everything, so it’s extremely versatile. Love it! And honestly…why would I pay hundreds of dollars for MSWord when there is a completely compatible program running around for nothing?
Skype. Who needs ridiculously-high phone bills when you can talk, chat AND video chat 100% free? As long as you have a stable connection and a webcam…welcome to the world of instant, global communication without a dime given to those damn telemarketing companies.
These are just a few of the tools that I use in my daily freelance writing. What are some of your favorites?