A couple of years ago, I bought a book called The Writer’s Desk. It’s a pictorial assortment of well-known wordsmiths – novelists, poets, journalists, and others – at work in their studies.
I remember poring over the photographs with a mixture of curiosity and envy. I felt like I was participating in the joy of having a completely personal area that was filled with the promise of great work.
You’ve probably experienced something similar when designing our own workspace. It’s an inherently satisfying process. It also tends to be open-ended. Most people’s desks are layered with a forever-transmogrifying jumble of gadgets, decorations, and other bric-a-brac.
So if your desk (like mine) is an ongoing project, here are nine suggestions for filling those precious pockets of remaining space.
Full disclosure: Where appropriate, I’ve included affiliate links to the products I recommend. Whenever you click on one of these links, I get a small commission, which helps me keep FreelanceHappy.com going. I’ll only ever recommend a product that I’ve personally tested and believe in. Click on the image if you want to buy an item.
1. Desk Cable Clips
If I were only allowed to pick one thing from this list, it would be a case of cable clips. I think these little blobs of silicon rank among society’s greatest achievements, easily surpassing agriculture, penicillin, and (probably) Tinder.
Stray, spindly wires, which seem destined to slip into the most hard-to-reach places, are the bane of post-industrial life; everybody knows what I’m talking about.
Get yourself some clips. You’re paying five dollars or thereabouts for a lifetime free of cable-related stress. Well, almost free. Occasionally one will magically get loose. It’s best not to question how. Personally, I recommend the Shintop Cable Clips.
2. JBL Headphones & Waterproof Speaker
I think a portable speaker and a pair of headphones is an essential combination for a freelancer: the speaker for when you’re working from home, the headphones for when you’re not.
But don’t head over to you preferred online electronics store just yet. There are a few non-negotiable criteria you need to acquaint yourself with first. Failure to do so will result in many bad things.
To start off, your speaker should be portable, for use on sunny days spent outside. It shouldn’t be too big, either, and fit neatly into your rucksack.
So what about headphones? Opt for a pair that has a noise-cancelling option, unless you’re particularly fond of ambient coffee shop sounds. Finally, make sure there’s a wire slot along with Bluetooth connectivity, just in case you forget to charge.
3. Denby Mug
I’ve drunk a lot of tea. As a consequence, I’ve used a lot of mugs. And I’ve picked up a few things about what makes a superlative piece of tea-holding pottery.
Denby makes my favourite mugs. They’re sturdy, big (but not oversized), and look lovely. What more do you need?
4. Tea Strainer (With a Lid)
Loose leaves are far superior to teabags. As a freelancer, you’ll likely sip your way through tens of thousands of cups of tea over your working life. So you might as well drink the good stuff.
I’ve relied on the same tea strainer for over five years. And I’m not talking about light use. Pick a good quality one with a little “saucer”. The stainless steel one made by Yoassi is a good bet.
5. Microwavable Neck Warmer
Despite not being an evolutionary biologist, I’m fairly certain that neck muscles didn’t evolve to enable us to stare at computer screens for hours on end.
Neck warmers, which are heated up in the microwave, are great for easing achy muscles. There’s even some scientific research which supports their efficacy.
Wrists are often early casualties of sedentary computer work. And carpal tunnel syndrome is a prospect scarier than fluorescent purple face boils for people that rely on their ability to type to make a living.
Regular wrist exercises have a myriad of scientifically-supported benefits. And hand grippers are very inexpensive. Get yourself one, pop it on your desk, and you’ll be playing with it in no time. I suggest Captains of Crush.
7. Phone Stand
Phone stands are the type of gadgets that seem unnecessary at first glance. But it’s amazing how much difference tilting a phone a mere thirty degrees can make.
Tapping becomes easier, taking video calls is less of a hassle, and it just feels more professional. And if feeling professional isn’t the most important thing in life, then I don’t know what is.
Go for the Nulaxy phone stand. You can fold it up when you’re travelling.
8. A (Big) Water Bottle
I don’t know who invented water bottles. While Nathaniel Wyeth of the DuPont chemicals company claims the dubious honour of conceiving the first plastic bottle, glass bottles date back thousands of years, and earthenware drinking vessels predate civilization itself. Anyway, I digress.
If I could go back in time and meet the innovative individual responsible for the first-ever bottle, I’m sure I could instill in them an untameable ferocity at the diminutive size of some of today’s reusable receptacles.
Water bottles should be big, imposing things that are easily capable of holding at least our two-litre daily recommendation. Simple as that.
The QuiFit bottle is wonderfully large and also has markers for tracking your consumption through the day.
9. Laptop Bag
I spend most of my time working at home. I do sometimes feel the urge to leave my burrow, however. Having a small laptop bag to hand means I can nip out to a coffee shop or the library without any fuss. North Face bags are my favourites.
What Tools Couldn’t You Do Without?
You only live once. Probably. And life is too short to spend in an uninspiring work environment.
As a freelancer, you’re very lucky. Your desk is entirely your own. It’s free from company-owned hardware and the unwelcome eyes of coworkers. You can do whatever you want with it.
So don’t squander the opportunity. Spend a little time making it more comfortable, whimsical, and personal.
And let me know what tools and gadgets you couldn’t do without in the comments section below.