Whisper it quietly, but freelancing and independent contracting are fast becoming the primary engines for economic growth in developed economies throughout the world.

Political and economic leaders have been full of praise for freelancers in recent times, with British Prime Minister David Cameron asserting that his country ‘owed a great debt of gratitude to the thousands who have decided to make their living as freelancers and entrepreneurs.’

The concept of working independently is also being embraced in the U.S., where technology giant Intuit have suggested that 40% of the workforce will be self-employed by the year 2020. While independent working methods may represent the future, however, it is important to remember that freelancing and independent contracting brings risk as well as reward.

Thriving as an Independent Worker: How to Become a Cost and Energy Efficient Freelancer

While making the transition from employee to freelancer, perhaps the most difficult challenge is assuming responsibility for costs and output. This is especially true if you are required to work from home while establishing yourself as a blogger, for example, as you will be forced to consume additional energy and spend more on the spiralling cost of electricity, gas and broadband usage. Unless you are able to secure relatively well paid contracts quickly and manage these costs, your dream of working independently may ultimately turn sour.

With this in mind, what practical steps can you take to establish yourself in the right way while becoming a cost and energy efficient freelancer? Consider the following: –

Invest in the Right Products and Equipment

As a freelancer, it is important that you make an initial investment in professional grade equipment that enables you to work quickly and efficiently. While there may be a huge range of available computers, printers, scanners and mobile devices, however, you will need to select products that deliver the best performance in terms of cost and energy efficiency. According to the Energy Saving Trust, for example, desktop computers use 85% more energy per year than laptops, without boasting the same levels of flexibility and performance. When you take to the market and appraise individual offers, be sure to look for products that have an excellent energy efficient rating, specifically those that are marked as either A++ or A+++. These will deliver the best savings over time, and ultimately deliver a better ROI (return on investment).

Select Suitable Data Usage Plans for your Mobile Devices

In terms of cost cutting, you will need to pay close attention to your data usage when operating mobile devices. You should be particularly cautious when it comes to using phablets, as these devices are likely to leave you with costly data bills for increased data usage over the course of the month. Energenie recently reported that British consumers experienced a 72% increase in the amount of data used on phablets and large smartphones, for example, specifically when compared with devices smaller than 4.5 inches. Given the nature of freelancing and need to be available to clients as often as possible, the best way to reduce these costs is to negotiate a business plan with your provider rather than persisting with the terms of your existing contract. If you contact your provider and explain your situation, they should be willing to deliver a tailored business plan that will help to minimise costs.

Choose the Right Lighting Options

While this may seem like a secondary consideration, lighting can account for a significant faction of your energy consumption when working from home. This is particularly true during the winter or while you are working irregular hours as the additional usage can add up to a significant amount over the course of a year. According to the independent consumer watchdog Which?, for example, replacing every standard bulb in your home with an energy-efficient or LED alternative can actually cut your electricity bill by an estimated £2.50 each year. You may even save more on higher voltage bulbs or those that are on constantly, so it is crucial to consider this carefully before establishing yourself as a freelancer. While it may require an initial investment, the savings that you make will more than repay this over a concerted period of time.