There's no denying it now, the holiday season is well and truly on its way. If you haven't started thinking about presents yet, you're not going to be able to put it off for much longer. In this post, we've rounded up the best Christmas gift ideas for the freelancer in your life. We've got a gift for all budgets, from bargains under £20/$25 to luxury gear over £100/$125 – use the quick links opposite to navigate to your price bracket.
You'll never go far wrong with a good book: there's one that'll help freelancers do better with money, and another that'll stop them forgetting important stuff. We've got a smart power bank and an even smarter cup (really). We've got touchscreen gloves that don't look stupid, novelty chocolate that doesn't taste awful, and lights that will change how you think of lights. And we've got an essential item every freelancer should invest a bit of cash in (but most won't, so you can put that right for them).
Christmas gifts for freelancers under £20/$25
The Bettie Confetti brand has a set of pencils 'for those who love a colour breakdown'. Each of the five matte black pencils in this pack is hand-foiled with a groan-worthy graphic design pun: Just my type, I shot the serif, Crop it like its hot… you get the picture. The pencils have black erasers and a ziplock case to keep them in.
Want something more specific? Bettie Confetti does punny pencils for pretty much every freelance profession. Sample pun from the photographer pencils: Stay focused. Classic.
Three crayons, a pencil and pencil sharpener, scissors, a fountain pen – all made from chocolate. But this is not that weird, chalky chocolate you usually get with novelty confectionery at Christmas time. This stationery set is proper Belgian chocolate, white and dark, designed and made in England. To confuse things with a different food metaphor, the cherry on the cake is the eraser on the pencil – it's made from marshmallow.
With an appropriately hard-to-remember title, Remember It! The Names of People You Meet, All of Your Passwords, Where You Left Your Keys, and Everything Else You Tend to Forget, this new book by Nelson Dellis promises to help you make the most of your memory. Chapters are short and fast-paced, each looking at a different topic to help you remember the things you always forget: names, deadlines, which invoices are unpaid, where you left your phone… Good reading for any freelancer.
Easily the most overlooked bit of kit on your average freelancers desk is the mouse mat. It's usually some dodgy ergonomic thing with a really unergonomic gel wrist rest, or a freebie with some company's name on it, or, worst of all, a stack of books. This here is a proper, grown-up mouse mat, 100 per cent leather, designed and manufactured by Man Gunn Bear, a brand with a workshop in the UK's New Forest. And it's personalised with debossed initials, so no one can nick it.
It might not be the most joyful topic to consider, but money management is absolutely vital for freelancers, and it's one of the hardest things to master. There are few guarantees. You have to plan ahead for time off, quiet periods, errant invoices. You don't have a fixed income so you need to know how to look after your finances.
In Good Money, Nathalie Spencer takes a visual approach to the science of making and spending money: 'Good Money reveals how you can be motivated to be better with money and provides you with essential tools to boost your financial wellbeing.' Your freelancer friend will definitely thank you in the long run.
The Rolling Stones tongue-and-lips logo is one of the greatest pieces of design of all time. It features on this limited edition series of Moleskines. The range includes covers made from the key elements of your average Keith Richards outfit: silk, denim, velvet, and leather. It's perhaps the coolest Moley collaboration ever. Satisfaction guaranteed.
In The Complete Color Harmony: Pantone Edition – a completely revised edition – Leatrice Eiseman (executive director at the Pantone Color Institute) talks you through a different colour "mood" in each chapter, all based on and matched to with Pantone colours. It is the brand's "most comprehensive colour reference to date" and a must for every serious designer's desk.
Christmas gifts for freelancers under £50/$75
Even the biggest, highest-capacity power bank will need to be plugged into the mains sooner or later. Not solar chargers. At full capacity, this Hiluckey waterproof solar charger can fully charge your iPhone 11 times. It has three solar panels to absorb sunlight, which means it recharges pretty quickly. It also has two ports for charging a couple of devices at the same time, and the output and input USB ports are protected by silicone covers, so it's waterproof and dustproof. This is one of those things where, once you've got it, you'll wonder how you'll managed without it.
Easily the worst of all first-world problems is Headphone Wire Tangle and the inevitable Headphone Wire Tangle Rage that follows. Sort that out with one of these: a personalised, handmade, solid oak headphones stand. It also has space for phones, cards, keys, and an "optional secondary hidden message". Interesting.
'Believe in your f****** self. Stay up all f****** night. Work outside of your f****** habits. Know when to f****** speak up. F****** collaborate.' And on and on it goes in all its beautiful, foul-mouthed wisdom, a print that is the work of the US-based company called, unsurprisingly, Good F****** Design Advice. If your freelancer is easily offended, buy the f***** a different f****** gift.
- Buy: $45
One of the most influential designers of his generation, Paul Sahre was always going to do something a bit different in his monograph: this "part memoir, part art book, part meditation on creativity" features personal essays, artwork, and stories from a 30-year career at the top of his game.
Sahre shares the moments that have "informed his life as a designer and artist, and proves that humour and meaning can be found anywhere, if you're only willing to look."
Late, great designer David Hicks (1929–1998) wowed the English was revolutionised the world of interior design. Whether you're interested in that particular field or not, it shouldn't effect your enjoyment of this book. Hicks documented every moment of his life in 24 volumes of scrapbooks. It includes notes, drawings, and photos of clients (Jackie Kennedy, Grace Kelly, Andy Warhol), all put together lovingly by Hick's son. A fascinating read.
Christmas gifts for freelancers under £100/$125
Remember when touchscreen gloves first became a thing? Whoppers, weren't they? Absolutely monstrous things. Not now. Brands like Saville Rogue are now making stuff like this, leather gloves that look good, are made with proper materials, put together well and are also compatible with all your touchscreen gadgets. They're made from premium grade lamb leather, are fleece-lined so they're breathable, have 100 per cent cashmere wool cuffs, and an adjustable wrist strap. Available in various sizes.
In life there are few greater disappointments than this: you pick up your favourite mug to take that first, satisfying sup of your favourite hot drink, but it's cold. You've forgotten about it. It's dead. The disappointment, the sheer desperation may even compel you to reheat it in the microwave. No more.
This mug keeps your coffee at just the right temperature – "from the first sip to the last". You don't even need to turn it on. The mug senses liquid, then you remotely change the temperate through an an iOS or Android app. Best of all, the coaster is the charger. If you've got a freelancer friend who drinks tea or coffee by the bucketload, but is also a bit of a tech geek, then this is the gift for them.
Christmas gifts for freelancers over £100/$125
For a freelancer based at home, it can get a bit tricky working and living in the same space. These smart lights are a good way of breaking up work and play. You change the colours of these smart lights by using the control, your phone, or with your voice if you use Alexa.
"We didn't design it to be a lighting product," the manufacturers say, "rather, we created it to be a canvas that allows you to transform light into living paint." The lights can simulate sunrise to help you wake up when it's dark outside. They can sync up to the rhythm of your music or the sound effects in your video games. You can even get creative with the pattern you create when assembling the triangular panels. These are different lights for different times of the day: a simple way to separate the one space into home and studio.
Figuring out the right headphones to buy is a bit of a minefield – although our guide to the best noise-cancelling headphones for designers is the very best place to start). With a well-earned spot in our buying guide, the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless are generally regarded as a great all-rounder.
The German brand being the go-to brand for serious musicians, the sound is outstanding, as you'd expect. But, importantly for freelancers, they're wireless and, crucially for freelancers, they're noise-cancelling.
Noise-cancelling headphones are a freelancer's best friend. You can work in cafes, libraries, shared workspaces, and not be distracted by background noise or background people. You don't even need to play music through them. Just wearing them gives you a bulletproof excuse for completely ignoring any chatty people nearby.
GQ and Vogue recently featured this leather travel wallet. It includes a powerbank charger and cable, a foldaway plug set, and 32GB memory stick – plus room for your own gadgets, notebooks, passport and travel tickets, all that stuff. It comes with gold foil or blind embossed initials and is made with "butter-soft Spanish leather and Italian suede lining".
The Prynt Case enables you to print photos from your smartphone. You attach your phone to the case, press the shutter button to take a shot, and print out the photo in seconds. It doesn't need ink cartridges either. It's a good way to make mood boards, and to get ideas and inspiration laid out in front of you, rather than flicking through images on your phone.
Hawthorn of London hand-makes high-end backpacks that are "built to last a lifetime" using tough 18oz waxed canvas, organic cotton, and proper leather. This model has a several cool features, the best of which is that the zip is on your back, so the only way to open the bag is to take it off. It comes in a few different colours and is naturally water resistant, to keep your laptop and gadgets dry.