happy little biz

Five awesome (types of) Christmas gifts for freelancers

Got a freelance web developer or designer in your life, and trying to figure out what to get her or him for Christmas*? Well you're in luck! I've just compiled this totally awesome list** of gifts for freelancers!

1) Gadgets!


If your freelancer doesn't already have one, a Fitbit is a great gift. Working from home has major benefits, but one huge downside is the effect it has on your backside. Personally I've had to make more of an effort to get out and do something active every day, and having the fitbit is a fun way to track that.

On that note, the Pebble is another great techy gift. With it you can get notifications about text messages and emails, track your fitness, and get all kinds of apps to add other functionality. Works with iOS or Android!

I think every freelancer has been in this situation: they're out at a cafe or other public workspace, and need to charge one or more of their devices. But sadly, there are no plugs available. Portable charger to the rescue! Anker has several options, included solar-powered ones. No more racing to get to the cafe early enough to get a plug!

2) Software/Apps!

I've recommended some of my own workflow must-haves in the past, but here they are again, with some additions too.

FreshBooks, making billing easier since 2003

FreshBooks is my go-to solution for time-tracking, invoicing, book keeping, and all the other things I need to do that involve keeping track of and receiving money. Makes tax time way easier too, because it helps you keep track of your expenses. They also offer a new payment gateway that is designed for us small-biz folks, and I really love it. My clients do, too!

Remember The Milk is my reminder software that helps keep me sane. Tag items with categories, set due dates and times, have it nag you when something is due... really, it's the only way I got everything done that I needed to this past fall, when I was juggling many different projects. The $25 price for a pro account (1 year) is well worth it.

CodeKit helps you build websites faster. It compiles, optimizes, syntax-checks, auto-prefixes, and minifies. It comes with Bower built in, so you can add all kinds of awesome components to your project with a few clicks. The only thing it doesn't do is make you coffee. This is Mac only though, so if your freelancer isn't on a Mac, sorry.

Dropbox Pro is well worth the cash if your freelancer needs an easy way to share files/demos/mockups/etc with clients or folks they're working with. Dropbox is well-known too, which is a bonus if you're working with a client who isn't very 'techy' and is understandably shy to try out software they've never heard of before. Even my most self-professed luddite clients are comfortable using Dropbox.

Adobe Creative Cloud accounts are a must for anyone doing design. If your freelancer doesn't already have an account, I bet they would love to have one.

3) Books!

A book apart

In any technology work, you need to keep learning in order to keep your skills current. This is true for everyone, but it seems to be even MORE important for freelancers.

A Book Apart has some fantastic, short books for web-based freelancers of all stripes. Mobile First and Responsive Web Design are classics (can we call 'em classics if they were published in 2011?). But there's lots of other stuff to choose from.

O'Reilly is another great source for tech books on pretty much any topic you can think of. If you know what your freelancer is looking to learn next, or learn more about, they are a great resource for books and videos.

Most freelancers could also use some advice on the whole 'running a business' end of things. Some great books on those topics include Burn Your Portfolio, Creative, Inc: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business, and Rework.

And if you aren't sure what book they might like, A Book Apart offers gift cards.

4) Workspace!

Workspacesphoto from BlogTO article, linked below

Sometimes working from home or at a cafe all the time is a bit of a drag. Home has lots of comforts, but it also has lots of distractions. And cafes are nice, but they can be loud, have a lack of plugs, and have time limitations (only so many cups of coffee I can drink, and I prefer to vacate after a couple of hours if I'm not still buying stuff).

Solution? Coworking space! There are lots of spaces in Toronto, and most of them have a 'drop in' or 'single day pass' option, which is a good way to try out a space.

But what if your freelancer isn't really keen on the idea of working in a coworking space? Well, another idea is to get them a standing desk. Standing desks allow your body to take a break from sitting all day long. As a former Massage Therapist, I can tell you that sitting for many hours at a time is really not good for our bodies; we tend to develop neck, back, shoulder and arm pains due to it. So if your freelancer might like to mix it up, this is a good option!

5) Fun!

Ok, so not ALL gifts need to be practical, right?

Multitools are awesome

For the freelancer who is in love with their Adobe apps: How about these fun Adobe App Pillows?

For the Doctor Who Megafan: TARDIS cookie jar (cookies not included)

For the coffee drinker: there are tons of fun coffee mug designs out there.

For the cat lover: Pusheen the Cat hoodies are totally awesome.

For just about anyone: Multitools are extremely useful. Everyone should have one.

So how about it, freelancers out there: what's on your wish list?

Happy Holidays, everyone!

* Or any holiday, really. Or birthday. Or just because you feel like it day. :-)

** May not be totally awesome. But I did write it!