Kristen Lem

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3 Essentials for Freelance Life on the Go

It took me awhile to get my bearings as a freelancer. Having been used to reporting to an office every day for over 15 years, I tried to emulate the same setup once I branched out on my own. “You need structure,” they said. “A routine is everything,” was the advice. Determined yet scrambling, I rented an office space at WeWork, sure this would “set me up for success.”

Biggest waste of money of my life.

No fault of WeWork by any means. They have great coffee (caffeine makes me break out), beer on tap (which I never drank), and that fun, modern sort of startup look that’s supposed to make you feel young and progressive. It came in handy for the couple of client meetings that I had, and on the weekends I was able to let friends mooch off my membership. (In case you’re wondering, YES, they lock up the tap after hours).

But in the end, it wasn’t authentic. I didn’t quit the rat race just to be back at an office, stuck behind a desk. I was taking the “free” out of “freelance.” It was characteristic of me though to get hung up on the “right way” instead of figuring out “my way.” Once I realized this, things got better.

I stopped pouring money into the empty WeWork hole and started to see EVERYWHERE as my office: my kitchen table, café’s, coffee shops, hotel lobbies. I’d lost sight of the entire reason I’d quit my job in the first place:

FREEDOM

With that came freedom of location. Once I settled into this frame of mind, I never thought about an office space ever again, and it’s been the most delicious thing ever.

Since I’m always on-the-go: meeting friends after work, seeing a client at their studio, or en route to the airport – there are a few items that I never leave home without. These are highly functional and professional enough for a meeting, yet comfortable when you’re moving and shaking all day. Please note, these are pricier than my usual purchases ($30+) but trust me, they are well worth it.

Dagne Dover Medium Landon Carry-All

Price: $155

I bought my first Dagne Dover bag this year after going to their pop-up in NYC. Their concept was brilliant: a hands-on kids’ museum sort of set up where you could try on all of their bags. They had laptops, phones, gym shoes, water bottles, all sorts of things to put inside to test the fit, weight, ergonomics, and ease. It was genius. How many times do you go out to buy a bag for your laptop, but don’t actually have it with you? As I said: GENIUS.

I settled on the Dagne Dover Medium Carry-All in Dune. The color is PERFECT. It’s this dusty brown/mauve shade that hides whatever, well … dust might get on it. What’s more is it’s made of neoprene, the same stuff they make scuba diver suits out of – which MEANS, if you’re a clumsy slob like me, you can spill on it, and that sh*t will just roll right off. Another glass of wine Ms. Lem, yes please! (White wine. It’s a bag, not a rainboot after all.)

First favorite thing about this bag is the built-in laptop sleeve, which fits my 13” very snuggly. To fit a laptop, you’ve got to unsnap the sides so it looks more like a large tote than a cute duffle. It’s fine though and still looks good like that. When I’m not lugging around my computer, I prefer to use it as a duffle. Because of the material the shape holds up well without having to stuff it with a bunch of crap.

Next thing I love is the little outside slit for your phone. It’s just deep enough to sit securely while still being able to grab quickly. You could easily also use this for your metro card as well. If you turn the bag so the slit is facing your body, you won’t have to worry about someone lifting it from you on the train.

And last big perk is the included WASHABLE bag for your shoes. This is honestly perfect for going to the gym to drinks or wherever. There’s also an attached mesh pounch inside (that I use for earbuds and phone charger) as well as additional side pockets for easy access to smaller items.

The bag comes in larger sizes, but IMO, this one was perfect for all your stuff without looking like a weekender. I like the sporty look of the neoprene duffle, but Dagne Dover certainly has leather styles for you classier bitches.

Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Quilted Jacket

Price: $50

No surprise, I post up in a lot of cafes and coffee shops with free wifi (croissants are a plus!). A lot of times these places are cold AF. Maybe they do it to discourage freelancers like me from camping out, sipping a small iced tea for hours? I don’t know.

Either way, I almost always have this Uniqlo quilted jacket with me.  It squishes down to basically nothing so you can fit it into your bag, and then comes back to life as soon as you need her. If only the humans who wear the jackets could be so adaptable.

I’ve got this one in brown and it goes with nearly everything. It’s also deceptively warm for as lightweight as it feels. Obviously wear it with jeans, but I’ve even worn it with an a-line party dress and tights. It adds a fun and sporty vibe, but the texture keeps it chic and interesting. And yes I do mix the brown with black. Rules were meant to be broken – that goes for fashion too.

Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf

Price: $57.48

I know their leggings get a bad rep, but this clearly didn’t keep them from making really versatile scarves. I’ve never seen anything like it. Firstly it’s double-sided: one is a print and the other is a solid color. I have the one that is neon orange and navy blue stripes on the printed side, and solid neon orange on the reverse. That’s my style, but certainly they have more subtle designs.

Additional to the 2-for-1 design is its dual use. The ends of the scarf snap together to make it an infinity scarf, or it can be worn unsnapped like a traditional scarf. And in true Lululemon fashion, it is yoga-friendly as a full-length blanket during savasana to keep your body warm and relaxed. There’s also a ton of other ways to wear it (a wrap, a vest, a shirt, etc.) as seen in this video.

I throw this scarf in my bag and it comes in particularly handy when I’m going from yoga class to work and beyond. I almost always take it with me when traveling between coasts from sunny winters in Los Angeles to teeth-chattering New York. The material is really soft and stretchy with no hard edges or pilling to worry about. It’s great for the plane. Doesn’t wrinkle or fray.

Honorable Mention: Betabrand Yoga Dress Pants

Price: $58

I struggled with whether to include this one or not. I was incredibly frustrated with Betabrand’s customer service and shipping, which was slow as balls. For starters, I originally ordered the skinny yoga dress pant and after inquiring about my order DAYS after I should’ve received tracking info (which I never got), someone FINALLY got back to me saying it was out-of-stock. To make up for it, they gave me credit that I could use towards a different item. So, I decided on the straight leg dress pant. I received a notification saying that it would be delivered on Dec. 1st. That day came and went … so AGAIN, I’m back with Betabrand customer service inquiring on the status of my sh*t. They tell me the shipping updates are delayed and that I should be getting another notification soon.

As promised, I do get an email from DHL Shipping (which I’m convinced is absolute garbage) that now says my expected delivery date is Dec. 8th, an entire WEEK past the original. I’ve been waiting now over a month for my pants, and they’re in f*cking Valencia. That’s barely X miles from my house. Anyway, so at this point all I have are hopes and prayers for Betabrand – but I’d really just like my effing pants.

When I finally do receive them, they are pretty great. Thicker than normal yoga pants, but just as stretchy and comfortable. The fake buttons and pockets give the illusion of a dress pants and they definitely have a professional look to them. You could walk into a traditional fortune 500 firm wearing these and no one would be look twice at you.

I love them because they are great for travel, running around all day, working out, and going to meetings. There’s no cutting into my belly or stiffness. I bend, they bend. In short, YES, they were worth the wait, but I could’ve done without the hassle.

So there you have it! My list of favorite freelance items. Have any of you given up your 9-to-5 in favor of something more about you and less about “the man”? I’d love to hear about what freelance-life-savings things you use!