Start Freelancing: All You Need is a Laptop and Wi-Fi

 Ready to start freelancing? You can do it from anywhere, as long as you have a laptop and Wi-Fi.

Right now, I'm sitting in a hotel room in Los Angeles. I'm hundreds of miles away from home, but I'm still getting some work done. I am working on a restricted schedule, but working nonetheless. And that's one of the great things about owning a business focused on freelancing.

There are a number of business models you can use for a home business, but one of the things I like about freelancing is that it can be done from anywhere. Freelancing works well for me because it doesn't require me to have a product, so I don't have to create and ship it. With freelancing, you basically monetize what you know.

Start freelancing with a laptop and wi-fi

All you really need — beyond your knowledge — is a laptop and an internet connection. When I first started freelancing, I actually had a desktop computer. The desktop made sense to me. I already had it, and laptops weren't as widespread. My internet connection was actually through my cell phone.

The cost to start freelancing, for me, was negligible. Use the old computer and the cell phone to make things work. In today's world, it's relatively easy to start freelancing with stuff you probably already have on hand.

Finding a laptop to start freelancing

While I started my freelance journey with a desktop, I quickly learned that a laptop would improve flexibility. I certainly didn't travel as much in the early days of my freelance writing career. In fact, with a toddler running around and a husband working on his Ph.D., there wasn't time or money for much travel.

However, I found that a laptop could still be quite useful. If I needed a change of pace, I could take the laptop to a coffee shop and work while my son was at the nearby preschool. When I started traveling for conferences, having a laptop became especially important so I could keep up with work and email while on the go.

For a time, I had a desktop and a laptop. These days, though, I find a MacBook Pro does the job just fine. I have a standing desk where I can set the laptop when working in my home office. Plug in a mic and headphones for podcasting, and the laptop can handle video editing software. I no longer use a desktop.

If you're looking for a basic laptop to start freelancing, there are a few options:

  • I've actually used the Acer Chromebook for other projects related to politics. I can access my Google Docs, making it possible to easily write no matter where I am. This is a relatively inexpensive option, which is available for less than $120 on Amazon.
  • It's a little pricier, but the Lenovo Chromebook also offers access to tools that allow for basic word processing. For those who have a desktop for other projects and just want something light to take for travel, this can be a good choice for under $200.
  • For something more heavy-duty, consider getting an HP laptop. You can do more with this laptop in the event that you want more advanced word processors and aren't interested in being confined to Google products. You can usually find these for less than $500.
  • If you're like me, getting a MacBook Pro or other expensive laptop can help you accomplish more than just writing.

Look for a laptop that fits your budget. Then, consider that if you use your laptop for business, it can be a tax deduction.

Finding wi-fi for your freelancing business

The next step is to make sure you can connect to the internet. The lifeblood of a successful freelancing business is the internet.

If you have unlimited data on your smartphone, that's a good place to start if you don't have access to at-home wi-fi. There are programs for those with low incomes or who live in rural areas to help you connect. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) offers its Affordable Connectivity Program for those who qualify. You might be able to get discounted access to broadband, which can help you start freelancing at home.

It's also possible to buy a wi-fi hotspot, like that offered by T-Mobile or NetGear. These come at various cost points, but you might have another cost of paying for a wi-fi subscription. For travelers, though, this can be a good solution, especially if you don't use your smartphone as a wi-fi hotspot.

There are a few places where you can access free wi-fi if needed:

  • Public libraries: Many public libraries offer free wi-fi. This can be helpful when traveling as well. When I was in New York City earlier this year, I spent an afternoon “co-working” at the New York Public Library in a beautiful room with free wi-fi access.
  • Coffee shops: Often, local coffee shops offer free wi-fi. However, you often need to spend money to “buy” your seat. I usually try to buy a $3 steamer and, maybe later, a sandwich.
  • City public wi-fi: Some cities offer wi-fi as a public good in certain buildings, parks, and commercial areas. Check to see if your community offers this.
  • Other businesses: Some places, like malls, shopping centers, and restaurants offer free wi-fi. You might be able to find a place to sit in a mall to get some work done. During the pandemic, there were stories of people who sat in parking lots outside McDonald's restaurants to do their schoolwork.

The downside to reliance on outside sources for wi-fi is that you have to match your hours to theirs. Plus, you must be careful of the information you send to public and unsecured networks.

However, if you're just starting, free or low-cost wi-fi can help you get your foot in the door and land your first freelance writing gigs.

Bottom Line

Freelance writing is one of the easiest businesses to start. You literally only need access to a computer and the internet. Getting a laptop can be the way to go if you want more flexibility. Not only does it allow you to find a spot in your home that's quiet, but your laptop can be key to working no matter where you are.

Now that I'm further into my career and I have several other projects, my main accouterments of freelance writing include:

  • MacBook Pro to do all the work on.
  • Cloud storage and automatic syncing so I can access what I need quickly and easily — and have a backup if my computer fails.
  • Home wi-fi (included with the price of my rent at my apartment complex) so I can access the internet easily.
  • Hotspot on my smartphone plus unlimited data. This allows me to access the internet as long as I have a good signal. It costs a bit more, but it's worth it, and a portion of the bill is tax-deductible.
  • List of backup spots where I can access free wi-fi in a pinch. This includes local coffee shops and my library.
  • When I travel, I check to see what's available in terms of free wi-fi so I can get work done if my lodging doesn't offer it and my cell signal isn't great. However, most of the time I have wi-fi where I stay.

The tools you use to start freelancing depend on your situation and what's likely to work best for you. As you find more paid freelance writing work, you'll be able to upgrade your tools and become even more efficient at making money.

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