One of the best things about freelancing is the opportunity to create your own work space. But it can be hard to justify the expense to yourself, so we’ve collected together the best budget home office upgrades.
And while some may be more aesthetic, the focus is on small home office investments that will help your wellbeing and productivity. So, the money you spend on upgrading how you work will be paid back by reducing the chance of injuries, and getting more done. For just a few pounds, you can create a much more pleasant environment for freelancing, and find yourself wondering why you didn’t make the effort until now.
It’s a useful list if you’re self-employed, but also good inspiration if you’re looking to buy gifts for other freelancers. And they’re all solutions used and recommended by the Freelance Corner team from their own experiences of remote working and improving their home offices.
The best budget home office upgrades:
Whether you’re using a laptop or external monitors, having them set at the wrong height can contribute to eye and neck problems. And a monitor stand is much cheaper than investing in a new desk and chair.
You can always use books or boxes to prop things up, but adjustable monitor stands with holes for ventilation are a safer option which allow air to still circulate under your laptop, and create a bit of additional storage space underneath. And it’s surprising how much difference it can make to your home office set-up.
For example, this VonHaus Monitor Stand, available via Amazon for £12.99.
We’d all love to have the perfect desk and chair in our home office. But it’s not always possible, and you can find yourself perched off the ground for hours. A cost-effective footrest is a quick way to improve your posture, reducing issues with back pain and orthopaedic issues, and improving circulation.
Look for something easily adjustable with anti-slip options, and a few moments spent on getting everything set up in a comfortable position will make those hours at your desk put much less strain on your back and legs.
Take a look at this Kensington Adjustable Ergonomic Foot Rest for £16.54 via Amazon.
External mouse and keyboard
If you’re relying on a laptop as your only freelancing device, investing in an external mouse and keyboard has a couple of useful benefits. Even the most ergonomic trackpad limits your wrist movements, especially over a long day.
And if you’re typing a lot, you can find your laptop keys start wearing out surprisingly quickly. So, an external keyboard not only gives you more options in terms of position and adjustability, but saves you the cost of repairs, especially if you’re a typist with a habit of really hammering the keys when inspiration strikes. It’s possible to invest a lot in ergonomic mice and mechanical keyboards, but even budget options will allow you to change things up at your desk.
If you struggle with aching wrists or RSI, then switching between different mice or even trackballs can help to change up your movements, along with using wrist rests.
You can find budget wireless keyboard and mouse packages for as little as this Logitech MK270 combo for £19.99 from Amazon. And increasing your budget slightly will open up the options more ergonomic solutions.
Good lighting will help you as a freelancer in two ways. Working in darkness, or a dimly lit room, will mean that the glare of computer screens can cause problems for your eyes. And if you’re based in a rented home or share your workspace with family or other members of your household, it can be tricky to make big changes to the lighting. So, a small adjustable desk lamp can make a big difference.
The other main advantage of investing in lighting is that you’ll look much better in the inevitable Zoom meetings and Skype calls which make up so much of freelancing from home for many people. You might not be planning to become an influencer, or show your face in Youtube videos, but a simple ring light can give you more confidence when you’re talking to clients online.
It also opens up the options for where you can place your webcam, or using a green screen to hide an untidy office, as you don’t have to worry about natural light as much.
Lots of adjustable desk lamps are available, but for a nice retro design, this Lepro LED Desk Lamp can be clamped to your desk, and can use Alexa smart bulbs, for £18.69. And there are a wide range of ring lights available from £15 and up.
Adding greenery to your home office may seem like an indulgence. But they’re actually a useful way to filter the air, can help you to manage stress and even boost your productivity. Not only that, but there are a wide range of options which can cope with shade and low maintenance, such as the Aspidistra elatior, Zamioculcas zamiifolia or a cactus like Pachycereus which barely needs watering if you’re forgetful.
And if you’re worried about your home office looking like an explosion in a florist shop, then you can always opt for bonsai, or something like a dark, almost black, burgundy rubber tree. Best of all, you can potentially sort out the plants for free if you have friends willing to donate some – all you’ll need are pots and compost.
You can get plants, pots and soil from a huge range of suppliers, and as examples, the selection on Amazon starts from £5 with a basic plastic pot.
Chargers, cables and cable tidies:
It’s fairly obvious that you need to keep your phone and laptop charged. So, making sure you have at least one back-up option for each device is common sense, along with keeping them somewhere organised and accessible. There’s nothing worse than being unable to work because a charging cable has broken or gone missing.
Looking after your cables will also help you enable them to last longer, and prevent things from constantly getting tangled and cluttered. If you have a Desktop PC in your home office, you’ll know how quickly you can end up with power leads and USB cables woven together. Some simple cable tidies like Velcro wraps or zip ties can make a big difference to your workspace, and if you’re swapping things around a lot, labelling can save a lot of time.
If your home office is at the other end of your house to the internet router, then you might need a signal booster or repeater. But so many freelancers complain about WiFi when they’re sat 2 metres from an access point – using a wired ethernet cable will instantly give you a more reliable and faster connection.
For tidying cables, something like the reusable Velcro one wrap is a cheap and versatile solution available at £5 for 5 metres on Amazon. Ethernet cables for wired internet are available in various lengths from around £4.99, and a quick search for your devices will find a whole range of power leaders and charging options.
If you’ve ever turned an old keyboard upside down after weeks or months of use, you won’t need to be told that regular cleaning is a good idea. Not only will it make your workspace a more pleasant environment, and give you a chance to remove any clutter that has been sat around, but it’ll also cut down on the potential for germs to hang around.
And if you look after your equipment, it’ll perform better and last longer. Regularly cleaning monitors with a microfibre cloth prevents you from mistaking dirt marks for commas, or thinking it needs removing from an image via Photoshop. And computers will soon start to overheat if dust is allowed to build up inside them. If you’re happy to remove the casing of your laptop or desktop machine, it’s easy to use a can of compressed air to dislodge most of the detritus. Just make sure the power is off first.
General cleaning for your desk and home office will support the sense of pride in your work space, and makes it a pleasant place to spend your days.
Budget audio upgrades:
While high-end headphones might not qualify as budget purchases, you can still find ways to improve your home office audio experience for a modest investment.
If you’re working alone to your productivity soundtrack, then you can find some surprisingly good speakers, including a subwoofer, for as little as £28.99 with products like the Creative Pebble Plus 2.1. And if you’ve invested in expensive headphones, then looking after them with a headphone stand will save on desk clutter, help to keep cables tidy, and mean you can find them quickly when you’ve forgotten about a Zoom meeting.
For talking or podcasting, a separate microphone doesn’t need to be massively expensive. The Blue Microphones Snowball ice is a popular choice for around £50. And you can improve issues with echo and ambient noise with cheap tips including hanging fabrics or blankets on the walls, or using soundproofing strips on doors. Particularly useful if you happen to share your home with noisy family and friends, or like working late into the night when other people might be sleeping.
If you’ve found some amazing home office upgrades and improvements on a tight budget, then we’d love to know about them and add to our list. Why not share them with us via Twitter or the Creative Freelancers UK Facebook group?
And if you need help in choosing which type of freelancing workplace might be best for you, whether it’s working from home, a co-working space, or renting an office, there’s a useful guide to help you decide on the IPSE website.