Working from home: plug in

Posted on Aug 28th, 2014 | Productivity

Now that you’re all settled, it might be worth thinking about some technology and apps that will help your business. Aside from the essentials you already have to do your job, there’s plenty of other things you can get a hold of that will make your life easier and hopefully a bit more profitable.

Disaster Prevention

Tech isn’t just about making things easy, it’s also about preparing for the worst. Hopefully you’ll never get robbed or accidentally set your house on fire, but it’s worth making sure you can face any problems that may arise.

Spare batteries are a must. This is especially true if you intend to be on the move or work in cafes a lot, but they’re also really handy in case of electrical failure. Depending on where you live in the world, this can happen rarely or regularly – if it happens when you’re faced with a strict deadline, you don’t want a room full of dead equipment. Sure, a power cut is a decent excuse for not sending off your work on time, but it’s always better to get the work done. A secondary battery and a quick trip to your nearest WiFi hotspot or an emergency dongle can really save the day.

Another essential is online backup so, even if your house was hit by meteorite, you wouldn’t lose a single piece of work. Services like Google Drive or Dropbox mean you can keep everything safe and secure at absolutely no cost – they’re also easily accessible from anywhere with an internet connection.

It’s worth looking into insuring your equipment as well. You don’t want any of your essential pieces of kit out of action with no way to pay to fix them. Insurance can make a big difference, so look into it. You’ll even be able to claim back the costs on your business expenses.

Make it easy on the eyes

A lot of us do our work on laptops with pretty small screens. They might also be low in quality if you’ve gone for a pretty cheap option. A nice solution to this is to get hold of a HDMI cable or a Chromecast so that you can turn your TV into a second monitor.

It’s likely you’ll have a half decent TV, or at least something bigger than your laptop screen. Getting plugged into one of these should be a nice change – it’ll also take over your TV, reducing the chance of getting distracted by daytime programming.

Another plus to having a Chromecast is for meetings. While you might not be inviting clients into your home, if you rent out a meeting space with a TV you can simply plug it in and cast everything with ease from your tablet – as long as you’ve got your presentation or work stored on the cloud. This means lugging around less equipment and still being able to conduct a professional meeting.

Free Software Alternatives

If you’re a designer, you’re not going to be looking for a free alternative for something like Photoshop – you’ll need the full product. But what if you’re a writer who needs to edit some photos now and then? Shelling out for Photoshop might be a little pricey, so instead you can use something like GIMP, a free image editing program. It might not be good enough for a designer, but it will do the job quite nicely.

There are also free programs like LibreOffice and Google Drive (again) that offer you everything you’ll need to get your work done without spending a penny. This means if you don’t have access to something like Microsoft Office, you’re not going to have to spend any extra cash.

You might also want to put together some decent looking graphs, either for a piece of work, a monthly report, or maybe just to illustrate a point. Along with Google Sheets offering this option, there’s also Datawrapper which allows you to create great looking graphs very easily. You even have the option to embed interactive charts if you need to, using a simple piece of code.

There’s so much free software floating around these days, it’s always a good idea to double-check some kind souls haven’t created something free to use before buying software you might not really need.


These days freelancers mostly communicate with clients through email, but sometimes a proper phone call is easier. For complicated jobs it’s often better to actually talk to a client to get things sorted quickly.

Of course, phone calls can get pretty costly very quickly, which is why services like Skype are incredibly popular. Not only can you make video calls, but it’s completely free if your client is using Skype too. If not, you can still reach mobiles and landlines at a pretty reasonable cost. It’s unlikely this kind of software will be news to you, but to make sure you get the most out of it, it might be worth investing in a decent webcam and microphone. This will make your calls sound much more professional and decrease the chance of mistakes and miscommunication.

Bonus tip: always check what’s behind you when you’re making a video call. You don’t want anything weird or embarrassing in shot.

Being organised and tracking time

If you’ve made a switch from an office to working from home, you might notice that the lack of structure affects your productivity. Your day is your own, so it can be easy to waste a lot of it until you can get into the swing of things. The rigidity of an office may not be nice, but it helps you keep a good sense of time.

Getting an idea of how you spend your time is a good way to make sure you’re using wisely. Apps like Toggl and RescueTime mean you can record your activities for the day and look back over them. You’ll probably be quite surprised by how much time you’re wasting. These tools can be a good way to be a bit strict with yourself and ensure you’re productive.

You’re also going to have to be on top of organisation. This means knowing where you’re putting everything, keeping track of meetings and generally being on top of everything that’s going on. You’ll notice quickly exactly how much more you’ll need to deal with compared to office working.

Luckily, there’s some great software out there for project management too. Freedcamp and Asana are two free examples (Asana only costs money when you have over 15 users) which will enable you to keep track of your work, set targets and record milestones. They’ll make your freelancing life a whole lot easier.

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Written by Joshua Danton Boyd

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