3 Tools for Mobile Freelance Writers

I can’t write today. Maybe not all week. Maybe not again. Who knows?

That’s what happens to me when something upsets my balance. I get now what Obi Wan was talking about when he reacted to a disturbance in the Force– it’s undetectable by so many, but you feel it, and it’s almost crippling.

Yesterday’s upset was personal. Dad was given a bad prognosis. Then the ambulance had to give him a lift to the hospital. Imagine living every breath wondering if it’s going to be the last good breath you take. With emphysema, that’s what you get. Every painful breath is both embraced and hated for how it makes you feel.

I couldn’t function yesterday. It took until 3 pm for me to be able to do anything useful. Luckily, I’d worked ahead on much of my projects, but there’s a new client with a short deadline. It’s also a new area and a format I’m not used to. I might be in over my head.

And it’s all happening right when the big bills are hitting. Fabulous.

But I’ll try, giving her the head’s up that my life right now is complicated. I want to please her. And I want to be with my dad. So I’m working toward getting my research done so I can write as I sit either in a hospital or at my parents’ house. It’s why I freelance — so I can drop out when I have to.

And freelancer, you may have to be prepared to drop out for whatever reason. Hopefully not for similar reasons, but there may come a time when you need to be traveling instead of sitting at your desk. Maybe you’ve bought those airline tickets two days before that lucrative assignment comes in. Or maybe your favorite client needs a conversation with you the week you’re in another country.

Here are some of the tools that can help you work without interruption no matter where you are:

A portable device. A no-brainer, unless you really want to write it all out longhand. In which case, I applaud you. Laptop, tablet, hell, even your phone in a pinch can work as your portable desktop device. I have a Surface. You have an iPad. It all works as long as you have…

Connectivity. Sure, you can use your cell phone as a hot spot, but how long before you’re way over your data limit? Instead, get yourself a pay-as-you-go (or prepaid) mobile broadband service. You buy the device (often free if there’s a package purchased), you pay for the monthly charge for your data. No contract unless you prefer it. Readily available through nearly any store, including Walmart.

Recorder or a means of recording interviews. For me, that’s a digital recorder. For you, it could be an app that does the exact same thing (and costs nothing in most cases). I use one on my Android that works beautifully. Can it record when I’m on the phone? Couldn’t tell you as I haven’t needed that yet. But I’ll test it for you.

Notepad and pens. I’m a list maker, so this has to be mentioned even if you think it’s a given. A nice smaller notepad and pens. Plural. Pens run out of ink about the time you think you’re ready to write. And you’ll write because you take notes while you record, don’t you?

Writers, what are your portable freelance writing career survival items?

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  • Cathy Miller July 25, 2017 at 8:42 am

    Lori, keeping your dad and family in my thoughts and prayers. The only thing I can think of to add to your items is a portable charger. Never know when you are not going to be near an outlet. Take care, my friend.

    • lwidmer July 25, 2017 at 8:55 am

      Thank you, Cathy. The tough road ahead started yesterday. 🙁

      Chargers! Perfect idea, Cathy. I found one recently that’s brilliant — it converts from wall to car charger so easily. It’s not a “fast” charger like the one that came with the phone, but it’s great because it’s one cord to pack, not two! Similar to this: http://amzn.to/2utDyG7

  • Sharon Hurley Hall July 25, 2017 at 9:43 am

    Thinking of you, Lori.

    I agree with your list of items. I use my phone for recording, and carry a spare mouse because I loathe trackpads.

    • lwidmer July 25, 2017 at 10:07 am

      What app do you use for recording, Sharon? I have one I use for live interviews, but I’m not sure it works for phone interviews.

      • Sharon Hurley Hall August 1, 2017 at 11:41 am

        I’m currently experimenting with HiQ MP3, but I haven’t found anything that’s perfect.

    • Cathy Miller July 25, 2017 at 10:28 am

      Sharon, twins once again. 🙂 I forgot about the mouse. I carry one, too, for the exact same reason.

  • Mary Schneider July 25, 2017 at 9:54 am

    I could not survive without my laptop. I’m a single mom of teens, so nearly all my freelance work has been on the go. Sitting at an actual desk in my office is a luxury I rarely enjoy. Normally I’m doing my work while sitting at guitar lessons or at my daughter’s college waiting for her classes to let out. (She graduated high school six months early, and didn’t yet have her license when she started college.)

    I have a small string-closed bag I use to carry my laptop, headphones, and a notebook and paper.

    ((big hugs)) Lori. It’s scary when one we love is so ill, and I can relate to the medical interruptions as well. (Daughter with severe food allergies and a fiance with CP. We’re regulars at the local clinics.)

    Take care of you. Prayers are coming from NY!

    • lwidmer July 25, 2017 at 10:09 am

      Thanks Mary. 🙂

      Sounds like you’ve mastered the portable office! I like the bag for all the goodies idea. I use a purse my husband bought at an art fair — perfect size for the Surface. Didn’t save it, though, when I set it down hard on the floor. I cracked that screen and didn’t realize it until probably a month later. Ugh. No fixing those!

  • Paula Hendrickson July 25, 2017 at 10:12 am

    Sorry about your dad’s prognosis, but I’m glad you can be there with your family. You’re all in my prayers.

    A close family member has a biopsy this morning—not so much to confirm the ailment, but to determine the exact type/stage of it so they can plan the best course of treatment. We know not to hope for an “all clear” diagnosis, so we’re praying for a good prognosis. So my thoughts were fragmented this morning, too. I hope work will be a nice distraction while we wait for the results, which he was told would be about three days.

    So good timing with your list. I didn’t know you could get pay-as-you-go service for tablets. Mine is old (a hand-me-down) and so far I’ve only used it with WiFi.

    One more item I’d add to your list: Some type of large folder, binder, or briefcase to keep all of your notes and papers together.

    • lwidmer July 25, 2017 at 10:23 am

      Paula, I’m sorry you’re going through this, as well. Not fun no matter what the prognosis, is it? Prayers right back at you.

      Good idea on the “paper keeper” be it a binder or whatever. Papers get so disorganized when I’m traveling, and I can’t tell you how often I’ve driven myself crazy trying to find one sheet of paper. Out of four, no less!

      Another option on WiFi is to increase the data package on the cell phone to unlimited (if it’s available). I know AT&T allows so much “hotspot” usage before they dial back the speed, so it may not be ideal.

      • Paula Hendrickson July 27, 2017 at 11:05 am

        Thanks Lori. We’re still waiting for the results, but my brother (who thankfully doesn’t feel the least bit ill) is ready to start fighting!

  • Anne Wayman July 25, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Lori, I use my iPad – it’s light, battery life is excellent, I can write even though it’s a touch keyboard, it works in situations like you describe. I can get real work done. I also have a keyboard I can carry with me if I know I need to do a ton.

    I also carry 3×5 cards to jot down stuff…

    • Paula Hendrickson July 27, 2017 at 11:08 am

      Anne, my sister-in-law let me borrow a wireless/bluetooth keyboard she picked up for maybe $15-20 that worked wonderfully with my iPad. I was able to write an article and a column with it. I was HOPING they’d give me one for my birthday, but I got other cool stuff instead.

  • Anne Wayman July 25, 2017 at 10:43 am

    and, of course, healing beams to your dad… and to Paula…

    • lwidmer July 25, 2017 at 11:01 am

      Thanks, Anne.

      The cards are a good idea. I have an equivalent — a purse-sized notebook the size of the cards. Keeps them in order (I’m a bit messy).