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In February, an estimated 3.4 million Americans were working from home. While currently impossible to determine, the number of people working remotely is likely much higher today. Management of The Writing Cooperative and everything I publish is written from home.
Being a professional freelance writer requires investing in yourself. Small investments, like a quality website and professional email address, go a long way. Though, sometimes more substantial investments are necessary to improve not only comfort but also productivity.
Here are a few investments I’ve made, both big and small, to improve my write-from-home experience. Hopefully, they help you develop your own best practices.
I’m not one of those people who write everything by hand. For one, I never learned how to properly hold a pen, so writing anything long-form causes a lot of pain. As a result, my handwriting is often wholly illegible. So everything I write, like most everyone reading this, is typed on a computer.
I use a five-year-old MacBook Pro which still packs a punch and gets the job done. Writing from the couch or, occasionally, my bicycle desk is a nice bonus. Though working from the sofa is not sustainable all day. Additionally, laptops are designed with incredibly poor ergonomics. To counter the built-in back pain, I’ve added a few accessories to turn my laptop into a desktop.
Maybe I’m getting older, perhaps my eyes aren’t the best (no, that’s not true, my vision is excellent), but I prefer a large screen. While the 13” laptop screen balances function with portability, a 24” second monitor provides the additional space I need.
A few years ago, my wife and I scored a fantastic deal on Acer monitors. They’re functionally basic, but provide a beautiful picture for about $100. I opted to add a third-party monitor stand to raise the screen to eye level while she stuck a few books under the built-in monitor stand. Both options work well.
I completed the faux-desktop set up with a wireless trackpad, keyboard, and laptop stand. All of these are bonuses. My wife uses the keyboard and trackpad built-into her laptop, which she positions under her second monitor.
There isn’t a right or wrong computer for writing at home. Work with what you have and invest where you can. The goal is comfort, which translates to productivity.
The third screen on my desk, while nice to have, is a massive distraction. It’s the smart TV from the guest bedroom that doubles as my office. I use it to stream Netflix when I should be writing. Right now, I’m watching Ozark, which is hard to look away from. Did I mention this screen is a massive distraction?
Sitting at a computer for hours on end requires a comfortable seat. As I type this, I’m sitting in a ten-year-old IKEA chair that costs about $50. The chair does one thing really well: provides a place to sit. Beyond that, it’s terrible. It’s about as comfortable as my wife’s piano bench. I’ve tried pillows, cushions, nothing works.
Remember, we can’t be productive if we’re not comfortable. Since the desk chair is uncomfortable, I revert to the couch, which requires the poor ergonomics of the laptop screen. It’s a destructive cycle.
I’ve been on the hunt for a quality desk chair for a few months. Since stores aren’t open to provide a proper sit test, I’ve been hesitant to purchase. After extensive research and recommendations, I ordered a fancy chair. It’s still a month away, but I’m hopeful this will complete my write-from-home workspace.
There are plenty of free writing apps, including the Notes app on your phone. While these get the job done, investing in a quality writing app can enhance your productivity and writing.
Over the years, I’ve tried every writing app on the market. I love Scrivener, but it’s novel planning and character charting features go unused on me. iA Writer is great, but I need more options for organizing files. Ulysses is my Goldilocks writing app. It’s distraction-free, highly customizable, and syncs with my phone for when inspiration strikes.
Beyond the benefits of Ulysses, investing in a writing app develops a writing process. I write, I edit, and then I publish. Sure, I could write everything in Medium’s app and immediately hit publish, but that isn’t conducive to quality. I write my first draft in Ulysses and then begin the editing process.
When reading submissions to The Writing Cooperative, it’s easy to tell when someone hasn’t taken time to edit. To elevate your writing, investing in editing software is a must. These tools point out avoidable flaws, like comma splices and overusing the word that.
Unlike writing apps, I use both ProWritingAid and Grammarly. Each is fantastic and comes with different levels of integration. I prefer using the standalone Grammarly app and ProWritingAid’s web app. Again, this is all part of the writing process. I write in Ulysses, I edit in Grammarly or ProWritingAid, and then I publish wherever.
There are a million different web courses to improve your writing and they typically require a significant investment. I recently came across Come Write With Us by Alexander Webb and Kristin Wong and gave it a try. Led by two accomplished writers, CWWU is a great crash course in developing ideas, pitching, and expanding a portfolio. While not for everyone, web courses are a nice way to invest in your skills and continued education.
Writing from home doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. While you might find ideas from my preferred tools, copying them outright might not work for you. Take the time to determine what your favorite setup looks like and figure out how to make it a reality.
The investments I’ve made into my writing did not happen all at once. I’ve added bits and pieces over the years as my income increased, and as new tools or equipment became necessary.
Whatever your write-from-home setup, find ways to invest in yourself. You’re worth it.