There are a lot of things that are taken for granted when you’re an employee. You sit down at your desk and you’ve got an email address, a phone, a workstation – and so on. When you make the switch to freelancing, it becomes painfully obvious that this kind of infrastructure costs – and in fact, IT and other tech are likely to represent a significant chunk of your starting up and on-going running costs.
So, what can you do about it? Are there any financial corners you can cut? Or do you simply have to put some money aside and invest in your own equipment an infrastructure?
The good news is, there are plenty of free or very cost-effective ways you can bag some serious freelance infrastructure – you’ve just to know where to look. I’ve compared notes with 6 of the most successful freelancers I know and shared their tech money saving tips here:
“Use open-source software”
Software tends to have a serious price tag – especially when those pieces of software are created by Adobe, Microsoft, and the other giants that have a hold over certain areas.
The interesting thing is – there’s an enormous number of free alternatives out there in the open source community. Now sure, if you’re reading this, there’s every chance you’re going to need Photoshop or Lightroom – but do you need a full Microsoft Office Suite? Is the best accounts software the most costly?
Of course, only you can answer that – but if you’re paying for software and it’s leaving a bitter taste in your mouth, check out a resource like SourceForge and browse their categories. The open source community is genuinely interesting movement – and just because the developers don’t have the astronomical budgets needed to put their products in front of millions of people – it doesn’t mean they’re not world class options.
“Use software as a service”
Software as a Service, or SaaS as it’s commonly known, is a relatively new way of buying software – especially software that’s costly to license.
The deal is this:
Instead of spending a huge chunk of cash on a one-off license key, you access the software through the cloud. Some companies let you download a copy to your device – others just let you access through a browser – but either way, rather than paying a big one-off fee, you simply pay on a month by month basis.
Aside from the fact you’re going to be spending a few dollars every month – compared to hundreds up front, SaaS makes a lot of sense for freelancers. You’ll always be able to access your most important applications – and you’ll never find yourself working on outdated applications since you’re always just accessing a central copy.
If you’ve got your eye on a piece of software that’ll help you take your business to the next level, it’s well worth checking to see if there’s a monthly subscription offer – before you dive in and buy a license.
“Embrace free alternatives”
In the same way that there’s a lot of open source software out that you may not be aware of, there’s almost always excellent free alternatives to paid programs that are waiting to be found.
The great thing about freelancing is that there’s usually only one of you – which means you qualify for the lowest tier subscriptions on a bunch of great software. Take project management tools for example – I used to use Basecamp, but, whether you were 1 person or 100, it cost $99 a month. I switched to Trello, which for what I needed was free.
The thing is, it makes sense to offer a free option to get people onboard on software – because if your freelancing or startup business takes off, then you’ll be back with your wallet when it’s time to scale up. Until then, enjoy paying nothing for entry-level use of top-quality software.
“Lease your equipment”
Since we’ve talked about software as a service – why not consider hardware as a service?
If you’re looking at MacBooks or high-end PCs and daydreaming about what they could do for your productivity or general freelance performance, then think about leasing.
READ – The Best Laptops for Freelancers
Sure, you don’t own the device – but is that a big deal? Over 3 years, $2000 worth of equipment is likely to cost you around $80 a month – and yeah, I know that works out more in the long run, but how long is it going to take you to put $2000 together to buy the kit in the first place? And can you stand to take the hit if your older equipment ups and dies tomorrow?
Leasing isn’t for everyone, but if you want reliable equipment on an affordable monthly basis – you might want to weigh up what kind of productivity and earning potential you stand to unlock.
“Go for VoIP”
Sometimes, it’s useful to look a little bigger than you are when you’re freelancing. You might actually be sitting at your dining table with your laptop open in front of you – but if you’re providing a good service, does it matter that you don’t have premises or office space?
You and I know the answer is no, but big clients sometimes want to know you’re seriously invested in what you’re doing before they take you on for a project – and a good way to look like the real deal is to have a business phone line.
Now, unless you want to invest in having additional lines put into your home – the best way to do this is with a voice over IP (VoIP) service that directs calls to your cell phone or computer. Although it’s not the only option, Skype can provide you with a virtual landline – with your own area code that looks just like the real deal.
You might go through a 30 year freelancing career with no need for a landline or office number – and if you do, that’s great – but if you ever need to look like you’ve got some solid roots, there are ways to do it that don’t involve hundreds of dollars of set-up fees or hardware…