I am not the techie type. I don’t own an iPhone or BlackBerry and I may never own an iPad. Cell phones with app attitude are not on my must-have list and they will not be, unless my business changes and I find myself away from the office for long stretches and unable to respond to emails on time.
I’ve lived and worked on both sides of the technology divide. I have typed on an IBM Selectric. I remember mainframes and teletype (the first fax machines). I am not a Luddite and I’ve never completely eschewed the many technological advances, but neither am I enamored of them all. I have never played a video game in my life and have no plans to do so. I prefer the low tech life, yet I spend lots of time online.
Around 1986, my employer decided that its entire workforce would receive computer training. Region by region, department by department, each employee in the white collar workforce and managerial level employees in our blue collar workforce, spent 5 days from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM in computer skills training classes.
It was a massive undertaking. Businesses the world over had no choice but to provide such training for their employees in response to a paradigm shift that was as powerful as the transition from the farm economy to the industrial age. Small businesses struggled to not only finance the significant cost of purchasing computers for many of their staff, but also the cost of training staff. Freelancers eventually had to enroll in training classes that seemed to average around $300.00 +. Typewriters were out and word processing was in. DOS ruled the day.
I was happy to receive the training. Computers were the wave of the future and I was grateful to develop a vital skill set on the corporate dime. Scott, my manager, was thrilled that I was a fast learner and did not rebel against the training. The same could not be said for several of my co-workers.
I’ve been able to recognize which tech tools are essential for me and I have acquired them. I was an early adopter of fax machines and have owned a phone / fax since at least 1995. We rarely fax now, but they’re still good to have around.
I also had an electronic date book in 1995, pre-Palm Pilot. After the memory ran out in ’97, I switched back to paper date books. For some things paper and pencil are easier, cheaper and more reliable. Paper and pencil never crash or freeze up.
Like every Freelancer, I maintain a home office. I write to you on an aging laptop that’s real short on memory. I need to buy a new one very soon—come on, clients! I dislike spending money on that kind of stuff. I’d much rather buy designer belts and bags, or art, jewelry and vacations to the world’s great capitals. If I must spend a thousand-plus bucks on something, I’d rather it be on what I enjoy and not on electronics that may be nonoperational or outmoded in 5 years (or less).
But Bill Gates and Larry Ellison have us by the short hairs and they will not let go. Cloud computing is here to stay until the Next Big Thing overtakes it. Plus, some of that techie stuff is quite useful—when it works right.
So what are the must-haves for the average Freelancer in the office and in the field? Next week, I’ll present an overview of the basics that will keep you and your business up to code, technologically speaking.