After almost eight years of the freelance life, there are some things that I wish I had gotten sooner to make my life easier. Little things that might seem inconsequential at first but have a big impact on my well-being as a photographer. Here are 10 of them.
1. Walkie Talkies
I’ll start off with the most fun one. As soon as I realized I could buy walkie talkies (more adult-ly known as “two-way radios”) and write them off as a business expense, I did it. You know why? Because walkie talkies are lots of fun and are incredibly useful. Whether you’re using earpieces to communicate with your team during an event or communicating with your subjects at a distance, they’re incredible handy.
The next time you’re trying to direct a client or model to do something while shooting with your 400mm lens from across a ravine where you’d otherwise have to yell at the top of your lungs to get your message across (literally), think about why you don’t own walkie talkies.
2. Lint Rollers
As facetious as number one sounded, number two seems even less serious, but perhaps just as useful. In the life of a freelancer, time is king. How you choose to spend it can make a huge impact on your success.
And I, for one, choose to spend as little time as possible sitting at my computer photoshopping out dog hairs, dandruff, or anything else that someone brought with them to my studio.
Buy lint rollers. Thank yourself later.
3. A Watch
Speaking of time, here’s a great one. Buy a watch.
While I don’t really like wearing things on my wrists, I can’t deny the usefulness of wearing a watch while on the job. I had been going without one for years, but received one this Christmas, and I admit it’s been very useful. Besides the obvious reason — knowing what time it is — there are some key reasons why wearing a watch is a great idea, including, but not limited to, knowing what time it is. Knowing what time it is without looking at your phone so your clients don’t think you’re just wasting time. Knowing what time it is, discreetly, while shooting a dimly lit performance without your phone lighting up the room. Knowing what time it is so that if you forget your phone at home, you won’t miss something important.
Less phone. More wrist.
4. Yoga Mat
Getting regular exercise, or at the very least having a routine of getting up from your desk, will make a huge difference in your mood, motivation levels, and overall well being. Even just breaking out the yoga mat for some quick but effective stretches while some images are exporting, for just a few minutes, will make you feel a little less like you sat at your computer all day. Join a gym if you want. Stick a yoga mat in the corner. Just get up and get moving, at least a little, every day.
5. Rewards Credit Card
If you own a small business and have lots of expenses, including camera equipment, get a credit card that gives you some type of rewards. I prefer cards that give me airline miles. Getting a sign-up bonus is great, and putting everything you can on it and paying it off each month will basically just give you free things for spending money one way versus another. My favorite is the Chase Sapphire Reserve card; a high annual fee, but you get $300 in travel credits each year and lots of other perks, including three-times points on restaurant and travel purchases, and you can transfer the points to various airlines and hotel chains. That free plane ticket might just make or break your sanity as a freelancer someday. Take it.
Double bonus: get a personal version of the same card and combine the points for quicker rewards.
Go to a hardware store and buy various sizes of A-clamps. You’ll use every one of them and won’t regret it.
7. Tool Kit
You don’t know how many times I’ve loaned out a screwdriver or a pair of pliers. If you’re old enough to be running a business, you should own some sort of tool kit. It can be small and basic, but if you don’t own at least a hammer, screwdriver, pliers, measuring tape, and utility knife, you’re doing something wrong. These tools could mean the difference in fixing some piece of equipment on the spot and having a disappointed client.
8. Good Computer Speakers (Or Headphones)
The next few are for those of us who spend way too much time at the computer in postproduction.
Treat yourself to a nice set of headphones or speakers. If you listen to a lot of music, podcasts, or just like to Netflix binge while you’re editing, nice sound will make it much more enjoyable, make it more desirable to keep working, and you’ll get the job done faster. This is especially important if you do video editing.
9. Second Monitor
It doesn’t have to be a very expensive one. I’ve had the same 24-inch Acer monitor as a second screen for my iMac for the past five years or so. It’s not a great one for color calibration, but I can throw my email client on it, or multitask with spreadsheets, or, more realistically, watch movies or shows while editing to pass the time more quickly.
10. Standing Desk
This one is the one thing on the list that I don’t have yet, but am going to get as soon as I can.
Get yourself a standing desk.
Sitting for long stretches of time can wreak havoc on our bodies (see #4 above). We’re made to be moving, not to be sitting for eight hours in a day, which happens when you’ve got a lot of photos to get through. Getting a desk that allows you to stand, or even a convertible one that lets you switch between standing and sitting throughout the day, would almost certainly improve your overall health.
What non-photography specific things do you recommend people get to make them better freelancers?