The Importance of Reliable, High-Speed Internet Service
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As an online freelancer, you’ll naturally need a way to get online regularly. Chances are that you already do have Internet access; in fact, you’re probably using it to read these very words. :) But even though Internet service is now viewed by most modern people as nearly as much of a necessity as electricity and running water, there are some important differences between using it for chatting on Facebook and emailing grandma, and using it to run a business.
The two most important characteristics of Internet access for professional use are reliability and speed. Notice that the order here matters: both are important, but reliability is more important. The reason is simple: if you’re a casual Internet user and your service goes down, that’s just a good excuse to get some of that long-delayed housework done; but as an online freelancer, outages can have a serious impact on your business. You can still probably do at least some of your regular work “offline”, but you can’t access online freelancing sites to look for projects or place bids, and you can’t communicate with clients.
Most Internet service companies do manage to provide a fairly high level of reliable service; the days of frequent outages are mostly behind us. Still, some do better than others in this regard. It is worth doing some research to see how satisfied people are with the various offerings that are available in your area. Bear in mind that nobody is perfect, and unhappy customers tend to be noisy, so you’re unlikely to find any Internet service provider that has a completely clean record when it comes to satisfaction. But if there are a lot of complaints, that may mean that it is worth exercising caution.
Some companies offer business-specific Internet service options. These are geared not only towards large companies with offices or factories: they can be tailored to small businesses as well. The monthly cost is usually higher than residential service, but in return, the company will offer perqs that can be of value to a business. In particular, some Internet companies will prioritize fixing Internet access outages for their business customers ahead of their regular ones. This can make a big difference in terms of when you get your access back if a problem occurs.
I also recommend that online freelancers have some sort of backup means of getting online, which they can fall back on if a problem occurs that causes their primary access to go down. This could be an inexpensive dial-up phone Internet account that you keep “on standby” in case your cable or DSL service goes offline. Some people prefer instead to use a mobile device such as a smart phone. If you’re really on a budget and your access is generally reliable, it could be as simple as a laptop with a Wi-Fi card that you can use at a local café or bookshop if your Internet goes down. Just be sure you have something, so you can at the very least contact clients and tell them what’s going on, if you have an outage at a particularly bad time. (And Murphy’s Law says that you will have an outage at a particularly bad time!)
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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012
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