COMMENTARY Sometimes you have to spend money to make money, especially if you're working for yourself. If I hadn't invested in a reliable laptop and smart phone and hiring a website designer, I'd miss opportunities and waste time and money as a freelance writer. Here are 7 other things that might help fellow freelancers make more in the future by spending a bit now. (The best part? Many of them are.)
A professional membership
Depending on your industry, membership in a professional organization can provide access to important resources such as contact databases and networking parties. One membership I purchase annually is from Mediabistro, a publishing organization -- and Mikey Rox of Paper Rox Scissors agrees that it's worthwhile. "From networking events to the 'how to pitch' series to news on coming and goings in the industry, my membership to MB has probably been the only purchase I've made for my business that has yielded the largest return on investment," Rox says.
Whether it's business cards, a website or something more unusual, marketing your product is essential if you're a one-man (or -woman) band. I love this example from Tiffany Aliche, who teaches financial literacy through her company The Budgetnista: "I don't believe in business cards, but I do give out Budgetnista Bracelets (rubber wristbands). The bracelets help to remind the wearer to think before they buy and they have my website on them. I've given away more than 2,000, but they have yielded way more than that in profits. My cost is 15 cents per bracelet," Aliche says.
Office furniture you love
Your should be as functional and inspiring as possible. So splurging on a piece or two of nice furniture can be a good idea. "My desk is the most expensive piece of furniture I've ever owned. Solid cherry. Drop-dead gorgeous. I spend many hours at this desk so I needed it to be beautiful," says writer Carol Meerschaert, MBA, RD.
Outside office space
Some freelancers may want to explore rented office space outside their home. "Having such a space can combat the loneliness and lack of focus that many freelancers see as a challenge," notes organizational psychologist Marla R. Gottschalk, PhD., of Gottschalk & Associations, LLC. Not in your budget to rent an office? Try Starbucks -- the Internet is free (for the price of a cup of coffee), and I've found most welcome temporary desk jockeys.
Working solo, you probably don't have an IT team on call beyond the Geek Squad and Apple Genius Bar crews. So buying software like a backup system -- I use Firefox -- can save you a lot of heartache. Virtual assistant Shildonda Downing agrees: "I think if you have an online business you should splurge on not only your computer, but the programs you use to protect the data of your business and your clients," says Downing.
A virtual assistant
Speaking of virtual assistants, you might want to consider hiring one. "The best splurge I made was for a virtual assistant: jesslarsen.com. Even though my background is marketing, I was not getting on Twitter and Facebook as much I wanted. I had Jess go through my blog and website, pulling out key phrases that could be become tweets and status updates a couple times per day, [and] I could fill in whenever I had time," says life coach Lauree Ostrofsky.
Clothes for meeting clients
If you work from home, you're probably not going to need a closetful of suits or business-casual outfits. But freelancers still take face-to-face meetings and go to networking events, and it makes sense to splurge on a few items of clothing for them, says Peter Shankman, the social media entrepreneur who founded HARO, a service that connects reporters and sources: "It doesn't mean you have to buy a $5,000 suit. If jeans are okay to wear in your industry, splurge on a great pair of jeans -- you shouldn't be wearing dirty ones that are muddy and can walk on their own."
Fellow freelancers: what are YOUR splurges? Please leave them in the comments below.