The great resignation and work reawakening have led many people from traditional work to freelancing. With that move, some people find they need more stuff to get the job done. What counts as a “toy” might be in the eye of the beholder, but with the holiday season of giving upon us, I tapped into the Community hive mind and my own experience as a freelancer to compile 20 great gifts for freelancers and people who work from home.
1. Second monitor
This first gift idea is seen as increasingly essential among those who work from home: a second monitor. Their usefulness can be immense and some companies are even requiring two monitors for remote workers. As Executive Assistant Hannah says, “I find myself needing to respond to requests very fast so a separate screen would be so so helpful for looking up multiple things. I’m saving to buy a great one!”
2. Portable monitor
On the subject of second monitors, one reason that I don’t often work outside of my home office is that I do have two monitors at home. It’s hard to go from having both an external monitor and a 13” laptop screen to just a 13” laptop screen. While I could certainly rig up a way to bring my regular monitor along for the trip to the coffee shop, it’s not necessary! There are tons of portable monitors on the market. Most connect by HDMI or USB-C and are compatible with both PCs and Macs.
For someone who already owns a tablet that can be used as an external monitor, an alternative gift idea is a clip that holds a tablet to a laptop, creating an effective second screen.
3. Laptop case
While we’re thinking about enjoying the perks of being a freelancer - like working from anywhere - I’ll touch on another important need: a laptop case. My computer is my livelihood so I’d never dare leave the house with it were it not carefully protected. Laptop cases come in a million different styles and designs. Personally, I use a backpack with a built-in laptop sleeve. This allows me to carry the computer along with anything else I might need while away from home.
4. Wireless headphones with built-in microphone
Whether you’re working at home or away, good headphones are essential for freelancers. Some people like to listen to music while working, but moreover, a good microphone and headphones are essential for calls with clients. There’s another benefit too. I use Apple AirPods Pro and one of my favorite features is the ability to turn noise cancellation on or off. With one click, I can mute the world around me (whether or not I’m listening to anything). This is great for when I want to be away from home, but find myself unable to hear myself think at a busy coffee shop.
5. Coffee mug warmer or Electric coffee mug
Much of the world’s workforce runs on caffeine and a lot of us would be thrilled if our tea or coffee stayed hot just a little longer. Upwork Ambassador and Social Media and Content Strategist Neal recommends a desktop mug warmer, saying, “It’s a little gift that can make a big impact. While there are a lot of items we (freelancers) might spend money on, a mug warmer is often towards the bottom of the list since it’s a ‘want’ vs a ‘need’. It can also be used with most mugs that a freelancer already owns.” This gift is especially nice for anyone who has a favorite mug or collects mugs.
And what’s better than a traditional desktop mug heater? A portable mug with a heater built right in! This is a great option for someone who prefers to work from a library or other venue rather than from home or a cafe.
6. Funny Mugs (or Posters!)
On the subject of staying caffeinated, Upwork Event Manager and Graphic Designer Will suggested a cheeky mug for the graphic designer in your life. You can find similar mugs for other jobs too. Like the concept, but the gift recipient isn’t a coffee or tea person? Check out these posters.
7. Drawing tablet
While we’re on the topic of gifts for graphic designers (and other artists!), both Neal and Will recommend a drawing tablet. Neal said, “While it’s a more expensive gift, it’s something that (some) designers use regularly and can really improve the way they work.” Tablets like these can be helpful to many types of artists from illustrators to sculptors.
This is also a gift that could help someone to improve their existing skills or add new skills to their repertoire. For that reason, I literally have a drawing tablet on my own wish list this year!
8. Ring light or desk lamp
Lighting can be key to setting ourselves up for success. As Customer Training & Education Specialist Hailey said, “Anyone who spends time on video calls knows that the setting where you’re taking the call from has an impact on how well people can see you. I try to find work spots by windows where there’s lots of natural light, but a lot of the time I find myself wishing I had a ring light or strong desk lamp that gave my home workstation more consistent lighting.” Not only can proper lighting help us see what we’re doing and help us to be seen in video calls, but some lamps can help fight off seasonal affective disorder.
On the subject of video calls, a good webcam can go a long way in creating a professional appearance. An external webcam also offers flexibility in camera placement that isn’t possible with the cameras built into laptops.
10. Green screen backdrop
Another gift idea for improving video calls is a green screen backdrop. This makes it easier to use virtual backgrounds within tools like Zoom and Google Meet.
11. Sensory Toy
Another suggestion from Neal was a fidget toy. “This sensory toy may have possibly been the greatest gift I ever received,” he said. “A simple fidget toy that doesn’t make much noise so you can play with it while on a video call or while working. It’s inexpensive and can be a fun addition to someone’s desk.”
12. Organization tools
Content Program Manager Chris recommends a travel folio to help the freelancer keep items organized while on the go. A gift card to a place like The Container Store can be another great gift to help freelancers stay organized.
13. Calendar or Planner
For those in your life who still like to write things down on paper, an agenda or planner can be a hugely practical tool. As we’ve said, organization is key and planning is right there with it.
14. All-in-one Printer/Scanner/Copier
I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m asked to print something, I let out a very loud sigh. I don’t own a printer. I have owned several over the years, but, when my last one died, I wasn’t using it enough to justify buying a new one. That means that every time I need to print something, it means a trip to FedEx Office. It’s not that expensive and their staff is friendly, but it’s frustrating to drive across town for one sheet of paper. While I still can’t justify buying a printer (I only spend about $5/year getting things printed), I sure wouldn’t mind receiving an all-in-one printer as a gift. I bought and set up this one for my grandma last year and was pretty happy with its functionality. Being able to print directly from your smartphone is a magical thing.
15. Standing desk
Someone: “You can have my seat.”
Someone else: “No thank you, I’ve been sitting all day.”
Me, while working retail: “I love sitting. I could sit all day!”
Sometimes this exchange just happens out of politeness, but now that I’ve been sitting all day for many years, there are genuinely times when I do not want to sit anymore. It’s times like these that I wish I had an adjustable standing desk. I don’t always want to stand, but sometimes I do!
16. Standing mat
Once you’ve got a standing desk, it’s helpful to have something nice to stand on. Anyone who’s worked fast food, standing at a register taking orders for eight hours can attest to the displeasure of standing on hard floors. An anti-fatigue mat is a great addition to a standing workstation and now you can even get them in pretty colors and patterns!
17. White noise machine
Whether you’re trying to drown out the noise from other parts of your home, working to keep client secrets secret, or simply trying to find some inner peace, a white noise machine can be an extremely useful tool for freelancers. Mine was originally gifted to me to help me stay asleep when living near train tracks, but I’ve also found it helpful for keeping my dog calm in his crate when I’m not home.
18. Space heater
One of the joys of working from home can be controlling the climate of your work environment. As I live in Wisconsin, for me this means keeping my home office warmer than any office building I ever worked in. However, I don’t necessarily want to pay to heat my whole house just to keep my office warm. So, I turn to a strategically placed space heater (or three). The freelancer in your life might appreciate one as much as I do. If you want to get fancy, you could opt for the type with a built-in fireplace illusion (I also have one of these…)!
19. Snack subscription
I don’t know about you, but I love snacks. Snacks are one thing that freelancers might miss if they previously worked in an office building. Whether they be employer-provided or simply accessible via vending machines, snacks can become an integral part of the work experience. Fortunately, many snack subscription services exist and they often cater to a niche, such as snacks from around the world.
20. Office decor subscription
Along with snacks, the right decor can go a long way in improving the workday experience. Another perk of working from home is more freedom in how (and how much) we decorate our workspaces. And luckily for us, there’s an office decor subscription service too! The service offers a variety of items from productivity tools (like the organization items mentioned above) to desk plants and framed art.
What gift would help you recommend for freelancers or remote workers? Let us know in the comments.
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