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Essential Tech, Tools, and Software for Freelancers & the Self-Employed

Introduction

The life of a freelancer often involves a fair bit of travelling, necessitating a light travel load without compromising on efficiency. Selecting tech gear that offers the maximum functionality in the smallest package is crucial. This list provides essential technology recommendations for freelancers and the self-employed, focusing on portability, performance, and convenience. Note: Colo is not affiliated with any of the products mentioned; we simply find them useful and believe you might too. 

Best Hardware Options for Freelancers

Laptop

A high-quality laptop that balances power, durability, and portability is essential for the digital nomad. Most of your work is likely to be online, so you need a reliable device. The Surface Pro stands out for us; it combines the best features of the MacBook Pro, but also includes a touch screen and a pen for drawing, offering additional versatility for various tasks. 

Smartphone

While exploring new locations, a powerful smartphone is indispensable. It’s your guide to finding the best spots to eat, adventure, entertainment, create content, and meet people. With a superior camera, access to numerous apps, high speed, and robust security features, the iPhone remains our top pick, closely followed by either the Google’s Pixel with its impressive AI capabilities and great pricing, or the Samsung’s S23. 

Power Bank

Never let a dying battery disrupt your workflow or travel plans. A reliable power bank is a must-have for those moments far from a power source. We recommend the Anker 737 Power Bank for its ability to charge both your phone and laptop. For a more compact option that’s just for phones, consider the Nimble Champ Lite Portable Charger (Nimble). 

Headphones

Quality noise-cancelling headphones are a game-changer for focus and productivity. Ideal for travel and crowded spaces, they help create a personal oasis of calm. The Sony WH-1000XM5 stands out for us, offering superior comfort and sound quality, making them a worthy investment for any freelancer.

The Best Software Tools for Freelancers

VPN

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is crucial for protecting your online privacy and accessing geo-restricted content. For NZ freelancers who often work on public Wi-Fi networks, a VPN ensures secure and private internet access. We recommend ExpressVPN for its speed, security, and ease of use. 

AI Tools

AI tools deserve a dedicated discussion, but in brief, they offer immense benefits to freelancers. For technical work, Bard is excellent, while ChatGPT shines in content writing, and Midjourney is ideal for image creation. However, this landscape is fast-evolving, and will probably be out of date before we’ve finished writing this blog! 

Financing

Xero is popular among freelancers for tracking transactions, though it’s most effective when paired with an accountant’s expertise. For a more automated, full service approach, HNRY is our preferred choice. 

Email

Moving beyond Gmail, we’ve explored various options. Superhuman, with its AI integration, showed promise but lacked reliability. Hence, we lean towards Outlook for its robust features and reliability. 

Video Conferencing

For freelancers, having a personal subscription to a video conferencing tool is essential. Zoom is our top recommendation for its user-friendly interface and reliability, outperforming alternatives like Microsoft Teams which is so favoured by the corporates.  

File Sharing

A reliable file-sharing platform is vital.  For everyday needs, Dropbox stands out for its ease of use and integration capabilities. For larger files, we recommend WeTransfer. 

Design

Design software is a must-have for creating professional visuals. Canva is an excellent tool for beginners to knock out designer quality decks and social media even without design talent, while Adobe Suite remains the go-to choice for true professionals. 

Productivity

The right productivity tool varies based on personal preference and team requirements so we don’t have a stand out recommendation. However, Asana is among our top picks for its versatility and user-friendly interface. 

Freelance Job Platforms

Platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer are essential for finding gigs and networking. They offer a range of opportunities suitable for various skill sets and experience levels. 

Contract Signing

E-signature software streamlines the contract signing process. Adobe Sign is a reliable and cost-effective option, offering more versatility than competitors like DocuSign. 

The Right Workspace for Freelancers

The right workspace setup can significantly impact a freelancer’s productivity. Colo believes in matching individual needs, working style and task at hand with suitable workspaces and in doing so also providing a balance of work and life, networking opportunities, and spaces designed for productivity. 

Beyond shared spaces, a dedicated home office is crucial. A space solely for work helps establish a mental boundary between work and personal life. Essentials include a good desk, reliable Wi-Fi, and a comfortable chair. Extravagance isn’t necessary – functionality is key. 

Summary

In summary, freelancers and self-employed individuals need a blend of hardware, software, and a conducive workspace to thrive. From the Surface Pro laptop and iPhone for mobility and connectivity, to productivity tools like Asana and secure file-sharing options like Dropbox, each element plays a critical role in enhancing efficiency and output. But finally, remember, alongside the tools being in the right environment can make all the difference in your freelance journey. 

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