Ways to Save Money

Gifts for Freelancers: Help Your Favorite Writers, Designers and Business Owners Make Money in 2016

Updated January 26, 2016
by Dana Sitar
Contributor

I should apologize to my family: I haven’t been easy to shop for over the past few years.

It’s because I haven’t had much time for hobbies. Most of my waking moments for the past four years have been spent trying to make headway as a writer.

As anyone who’s done it knows, launching a side hustle or full-time venture becomes all-consuming.

That ambitious and creative writer, photographer, artist or other entrepreneurial spirit in your family or circle of friends might have no idea what to ask for for Christmas, because she hasn’t looked up from work since July.

And if you’re not familiar with her work, you might be clueless as to what she needs.

Give a Gift That Helps Your Freelancer Make Money

Business expenses are not the first thing on your mind when you think of Christmas gifts. But for the side-hustler in your life, these gifts could mean growing a business and making more money.

I’ve rounded up a few valuable items the entrepreneurs on your list might not have thought to ask for this year.

Some of these may seem tough to give as a gift, but read on! I’ll also share some tips for “wrapping” these unique items creatively.

1. Invoicing Service Subscription

My subscription to Harvest is one of my favorite freelance business tools. It helps me track hours, invoice clients and keep track of my freelance income and payments.

The monthly fee, however, is not my favorite part.

For under $150 a year, you can offer this gift to your favorite freelancer. It will help him make better use of his limited time and take steps forward in his business.

If that price tag is too steep, consider covering just a few months — every little bit will help!

I recommend these top three:

  • Freshbooks — $9.95 per month for the Sprout plan for contractors with up to five clients
  • Harvest — $12 per month for the Solo plan
  • Quickbooks — $9.99 per month for the Independent Contractor subscription

2. Creative Software

Whether the creatives on your list are publishing a book, producing an album or editing photos, they’re probably doing it from a computer at home.

Do they have the best tools for the job? If they could use something better, keep reading.

Photography and Design

Adobe’s Photoshop, Acrobat, Illustrator and other software is pricey to buy outright. But Creative Cloud can be an awesome solution for someone just getting started or working on a limited-time project.

A subscription to all apps through Creative Cloud is $49.99 a month. You can also purchase a single app subscription for $19.99 a month or the Photography Plan for $9.99 a month.

Writing and Publishing

For writers and self-publishers, I recommend Scrivener, book-production software a writer can use from the first spark of an idea through submissions or publication in various ebook formats.

For all it does, this software is crazy-affordable — a one-time payment of $40 for Windows or $45 for Mac.

Music, Sound and Video Production

When someone is ready to upgrade from free software, professional-level video and sound editing software can be a pretty big leap in price.

If it’s in your budget, Live is the preferred music production software, with a Standard package running $99.

For video editing, Adobe’s Premiere Pro is included in a Creative Cloud subscription, or try Premiere Elements, on sale now for 30% off, which makes it $69.99.

For serious video editors, however, Final Cut Pro is la crème de la crème. It comes with a price tag of $299.99, though. Maybe your gift to the newbie could be the start of a savings fund to cover the software as they grow.

3. Hardware Extras

These might be simpler to gift, and an affordable piece of hardware could be a game-changing addition to a home office.

Portable Hard Drive

Portable storage is vital, especially for videographers and photographers. Help them out with a portable hard drive like this 1TB drive from Toshiba for $54.99.

For less storage — and a smaller budget — try the Storite 60GB portable external hard drive for only $23.

USB Hub

I also love anything that helps me keep my workspace more organized. With a virtual side hustle, that means clearing up cords any way I can!

This five-port USB hub is on my wish list. It’s only $12.99, and eliminates the need for a bulky power strip to charge the devices I use throughout the day: phone, tablet, headphones…

For the freelancer with more whimsical taste, check out this adorable three-port hub shaped like a cartoon pig!

3. Online Courses

Online course sites are awesome for busy side hustlers. Through these sites, they’re able to learn skills unique to their field from the people who have done the kind of work they want to do.

And most make the course content available to participants forever, so they can learn around their own hectic schedule and work at their own pace.

A Premium subscription to Skillshare unlocks thousands of paid courses (not available with the free option). Get it for $96 a year or $10 a month.

You can also coordinate with a recipient to cover the cost of a course of their choice.

I recommend Udemy, which offers a similar experience to Skillshare with a wider course selection; or Quistic, which offers courses specifically designed for creative career development.

4. Books

Anyone starting a freelancing business or side hustle is a voracious reader, I promise. There is a lot to learn!

If you want to show your support for a new venture and boost someone’s business, you can’t go wrong with an inspiring, informative book.

Here are some of the most sought-after books for freelancers and creative entrepreneurs, each between $14-$15 on Amazon:

5. Newsletter or Magazine Subscriptions

A newsletter or magazine subscription is a gift you can buy once and keep giving all year long!

Affordable annual subscription fees also make this a gift you can give again year after year — which simplifies your holiday shopping.

When it comes to gifts for writers, I love TOTAL FundsforWriters, a weekly email newsletter that lists dozens of contests, grants, publishers, agents and markets for freelance writers and aspiring authors. Subscribe your favorite writer for $18.75 a year.

Writer’s Digest makes it easy to gift an annual subscription to their premiere magazine for writers. Enter your payment info and the recipient’s email and mailing address, and set up this subscription for $19.95 a year.

For photographers, an annual digital subscription to Professional Photography magazine is $30. Or subscribe to both print and the digital version they can read on any iOS device for $58.

Digital Photographer magazine also makes a gift subscription easy, and you can buy a year for $49.99.

6. Website

Almost any side hustler or freelancer these days has a website. It’s our version of a storefront, portfolio and workshop all rolled into one.

It’s easy to set up a website totally free — but that usually comes with a generic design and an unprofessional URL, like yourname.wordpress.com. These are red flags to potential clients or customers that someone is pretty new and not yet invested in the business.

Make that investment for them!

A domain is really affordable, and you’ll delight someone with this unexpected gift. Buy a domain through GoDaddy for $2.99 for the first year. You can make it a recurring holiday gift for $14.99 a year after that.

Or you can provide the whole shebang — Squarespace is $96 a year for website hosting, design and domain name.

For Squarespace, you’ll have to set up an account. You can do it with your email address or create a new address, and share the login information with the recipient. She can update the info anytime once she’s logged in.

Or allow the recipient to choose his own design. Give the gift in the form of a Visa gift card or a “coupon” for a session to set up the website together.

7. Email Service

Email marketing is the best way to grow a business online these days. If she hasn’t already started, give your resident side hustler a boost by covering a monthly subscription to MailChimp or Aweber.

These services will run between $15-$100 a month, depending on their number of subscribers. If their email list is brand new, you’ll start by paying the lowest monthly fee. Along with the gift, work out with the recipient how or when they’ll take over payments down the road.

Note: MailChimp is free to use with up to 2,000 subscribers, so it’s a great service for newbies. A paid subscription will also unlock some features of the service even for users with fewer subscribers.

8. E-Commerce Solution

If someone wants to sell his photographs, books, courses or other digital products online, he’ll need some way to process payments and deliver the product.

And guess what? That usually costs money.

These services process payments and automatically deliver products. Once set up, they save the creator the time he’d have to spend taking orders, monitoring PayPal payments and delivering items to buyers.

E-junkie is the most affordable, starting at $5 a month, but also has the most basic design. For a more visually-appealing point of sale, Selz helps set up an online store for $12.99 a month, and Shopify adds a buy button to a user’s website for $9 a month.

9. Cloud Storage

Someone working from home probably already has a favorite cloud storage service, so it’s best to work with them to coverage existing fees or upgrade.

You can also give this gift as a Google Play, iTunes or debit gift card, and indicate its intended use with creative packaging. Cloud-shaped card, anyone…?

The most popular cloud storage options are:

  • Dropbox —  $9.99 a month or $99 a year for Dropbox Pro
  • Google Drive —  $1.99 a month for 100GB or $9.99 a month for 1TB of storage

10. Amazon Prime Membership

In my opinion, an Amazon Prime Membership is kind of a home run in the gift department.

It’s another gift that keeps giving all year, and the recipient can use it for just about everything. Prime members will save money all year, because all eligible items ordered on Amazon come with free two-day shipping.

Movie and TV buffs will love the Prime Video access (and finally be able to see why everyone is making such a fuss over “Transparent”).

They’ll also get Prime Music streaming, unlimited cloud storage for photos and access to free Kindle books through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

11. Business Cards or Other Swag

Congratulate someone on their new business! Business cards and other swag are a fun way to make a virtual business feel a little more “real.”

I love Moo for beautifully-designed business cards, postcards and other printed materials. Get 50 custom double-sided business cards for $19.99.

In addition to business cards, Vistaprint allows you to print a company (or website) logo on just about anything you can imagine. Surprise a friend, colleague or family member with a care package of mugs, T-shirts and other swag decorated with their logo for under $20.

12. Postage and Shipping

Got an Etsy artist in the bunch? An online business can turn costly quickly when she has to start shipping those cool creations.

Save her some money and a lot of trips to the post office with a subscription to Stamps.com for $15.99 a month.

They’ll start with a free USB shipping scale and $5 in free postage. After that, Stamps.com members get up to 62% off USPS rates and can print professional shipping labels at home.

How to Gift it

Not many of these gifts are easy to wrap and stick under the tree, I know. So, you have to be creative if you want it to be a surprise.

For most of the software or other online subscription services, you might have to set up an account. You could use your email address or create a new address, and share the login information with the recipient. She can update the info anytime once she’s logged in.

Or, you can also simply give a gift card for the amount of the gift you want to cover. Package it creatively to indicate its intended use, or include an invitation to get together with the recipient to get the service set up.

Show Your Support

No matter how you do it, giving a gift that supports someone’s new business, side hustle or creative passion sends a powerful message: You believe in them.

It’s a bit corny, but you have no idea how much it will mean to them on Christmas morning.

Your Turn: Is there a creative entrepreneur on your shopping list this year? Are you looking at any of these gifts for them?

Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more.

by Dana Sitar
Contributor for The Penny Hoarder

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