If you’re thinking about jumping back into the workforce after time at home, or if you’re planning on setting up a home office, you may find that your personal technology is outdated — or just plain inadequate. If your home office looks more Fisher-Price than Twitter, think about investing in some essential hardware and software for the job search ahead.
(First of all, it goes without saying: You need a smartphone. If you’ve been on the fence about trading in your reliable old iPhone 4, now is the time. A smartphone is probably the number one work-from-home tool of all time.)
1. Laptop (with camera)
A reliable, updated laptop is a home office essential, especially one with video camera functionality. As strange as it seems, I’ve already had one job interview via FaceTime, and it’s a huge advantage to be able to use some sort of video chat. If you already have a good laptop with a camera, make sure you’re familiar with video chat software like FaceTime, Skype, or Google Hangouts, all of which are free downloads. You could also use an iPad, but laptops tend to have more storage, and a full-sized keyboard is another plus.
2. All-in-One Printer (with fax)
A fax machine may sound, like, totally 1980s, but you’d be surprised how often they’re still used. These days, you can pick up a printer for your home office that will also scan, copy, and fax. Any time you need to sign and return a document to an employer or client, this machine can take care of it — and it’s much more convenient than visiting your local copy shop. Try a model like the Epson WorkForce, which can even connect via WiFi and print directly from an iPhone or iPad. It’s not a hefty investment, either — you can get an all-in-one printer for just over $100.
3. Adobe Acrobat, or other PDF editing software
As a freelancer I’ve found that many times, I don’t just need to view PDFs — I often need to edit them to include a signature or other information. PDF files are a very popular way to store, view and send documents, and while PDF readers are free, many PDF editors are not. You can try a free online PDF editor like PDF Buddy, but if you find you’re editing a lot of PDF files, you may want to think about investing in an Adobe Acrobat subscription, which starts at $14.99/month.
4. Google Drive
Want to create, share, and edit documents for free, and then access them from anywhere? If it sounds too good to be true, well, it kind of is. With Google Drive, you can share things like text files and spreadsheets with another Google Drive user, who can then edit or comment on your file. Remote collaboration? Yes, please. Not to mention, Google Drive is a great way to back up essential files. A GDrive account starts with 15GB of free storage, with the option to pay for more. Sign up at drive.google.com.
5. Microsoft Office Suite
Sometimes there’s no substitute for a classic. Many businesses still use Microsoft Office, and it’s definitely an advantage to have your own copy. These days, Microsoft has Office Online, which will look very familiar to users of Google Drive — it’s a free version of Office, usable for anyone with a Microsoft account (also free). But it’s also worth installing the software on your own computer for the freedom of working offline. Microsoft offers a variety of options, from monthly plans (essentially “renting” the software) to one-time purchases, here.
What essential home office tools do you use? Let us know in the comments!