Working as a freelancer is practically a one-person-army armed with a computer and a desire to be in control. You not only have to do your job, but also deal with all other aspects of running a business – even if you’re the only one involved in it.
This includes accounting, sales, lead generation, customer support, and the list goes on.
To run a successful business, you need a series freelancing tools to help manage everything as efficiently as possible. Life as a freelancer is always easier when you’re using the right tools.
So, without further ado, let’s talk business. Here are the freelancing tools you’ll need in your toolbelt on your journey to professional independence.
Depending on your freelancing niche, it can be difficult to find clients and projects. This is the reason you should take advantage of the many online platforms that bring freelancers and clients together. Upwork (Formerly Elance-oDesk) is the biggest such platform. It boasts 10 million freelancers and 4 million clients.
Not to mention that 90% of those who work on Upwork have been rehired by previous clients, which is pretty amazing!
Regarding freelancing tools, this is your best bet! Repeat customers are where freelancers really earn their money. Upwork, as discussed, also has tens of thousands of freelance skills that have ready-paying clients.
So if there’s a job out there for you, Upwork is likely where you’ll find it.
Freelancer is another platform you can leverage that is similar to Upwork. The only difference is that you have to bid on projects that you find interesting, rather than write a cover letter to the client who specifies a budget. LinkedIn also now has a jobs section, where you can find interesting freelancing jobs from companies who operate in your niche.
Although most jobs are for full-time positions, you’d be amazed at the times I’ve applied for a full-time position and sold the idea of doing it remotely on a part-time basis. You know your freelance market by now, so you can consider cold email outreach to companies in your industry.
Hunter is a fantastic tool that helps you find email addresses of specific companies. When you’re browsing a website, you simply click the Hunter button and it will pull emails belonging to that domain. You can then pitch your services via email.
It’s easy to lose sight of staying organized, especially when working on your own projects. And before you know it, your ideas and notes get scattered all over, ruining your workflow and productivity.
Trust me, I’ve been there!
This is particularly true if you have a multitude of clients and tasks to keep track of. You need a central location where you can keep track of your tasks, clients, and deadlines.
Consider using Evernote for example, a free note-taking app that allows you to take notes and sync them between multiple devices. You can keep your notes and ideas organized in groups, and synced for easy availability on all your devices.
Evernote also lets you include images, todo lists, attachments, audio recordings and even website excerpts in your notes. Your ideas don’t have to be dull, ever!
Evernote is my favorite freelancing tool; I couldn’t live without it. I have over 2,000 notes organized into various notebooks that are easily searchable and archived when no longer needed.
Check out this awesome video from Evan Carmichael on how to use Evernote to stay organized:
Another aspect of freelancing is keeping track of your schedule. Most freelancers choose to use Google Calendar, just because it’s so easy to use.
You can also sync your Google Calendar across multiple devices and different productivity apps. For scheduling and creating reminders, Calendly does an amazing job of allowing others to schedule time with you without constant back and forth.
If you tend to procrastinate and leave everything for the last minute (and who doesn’t from time to time?), then Habitica may be the right freelancing tool for you.
It’s an app that helps you stay on top of things. You’re rewarded for meeting deadlines, for instance. Tasks, like finishing work and sending your invoices on time, will help you unlock prizes too.
$30 may be a lot to fork out all at once, but Freelancy is totally worth it if you want to take freelancing seriously. This tool gives you the ability to easily track projects, timesheets, and invoices.
And CO is also a similar tool with a new of built-in freelancing tools in one cool platform.
A true freelancer’s dream, amirite?
When you’re managing multiple projects with different clients and teams, project management becomes synonymous with communication.
The chances are that you’ve even already had exposure to at least one of these at some point. But just in case that you haven’t, get acquainted with all of them. Most of your clients will require you to operate with one of this software.
From my experience, Trello is the most popular of these, and I most frequently use it and Trello to manage projects with clients.
Unless you want to get into serious trouble, you need reliable accounting software. Which – luckily – you can now find online for a relatively low cost.
There’s certainly no time for paper invoices these days, so… Be a professional and use the freelancing tools that are available.
Remember that finances are not something you want to forget or procrastinate about. Being thorough about your accounting is essential, not only for your reputation, but also your security and peace of mind.
You may be surprised to find out that most freelancers simply rely on standard emails for payment reminders and invoices. Avoid this at all costs. You’re better than that, and keep your reputation as a professional intact. I always suggest freelancers check out two amazing accounting tools: QuickBooks and Freshbooks.
These are both easy-to-use accounting software for the self-employed. Of all the successful freelancers I’ve run into, very few didn’t use one of the above accounting tools.
You must get your finances in order!
Come tax time, you’ll thank me for suggesting Freshbooks and QuickBooks because all your information is contained in easy to download reports. Also, Freshbooks and QuickBooks are great at keeping track of all your expenses so you don’t have to carry around a box full of receipts.
Google Drive is my personal favorite cloud storage solution, mainly because of how well it works with Google Docs. It also syncs with Evernote.
These two services give you access to all your important files from every device. What’s best, is that this is a great way to keep your work files separate from your personal files.
I consider Google Drive as my virtual filing cabinet, which includes all my important contracts, receipts, and work. As a freelancing tool, I couldn’t live without this system.
As soon as I have an expense, I scan the receipt, upload it to my accounting software, file it away in my virtual filing cabinet, and then…
Then, I violently toss the receipt in the garbage!
As a freelancer you’ll miss some of the standard perks of being traditionally employed: free letterheads, business cards, office phone, mailing services, and much more.
Here are a few freelancing tools that will help you replace these systems.
Phone.com is an all-in-one platform that allows you to set up your virtual office with a few clicks, including creating custom phone numbers, an auto-receptionist, video conferencing, and my two absolute favorite tools: voicemail transcription and call recording.
As a freelancer, we’re a busy bunch, so having our voicemails transcribed for us and emailed is a huge time-saver for me, and allows me to respond to clients quicker.
Call recording is also invaluable. Instead of taking crazy notes during a call, the call recording feature allows you to focus entirely on what your client is saying and how you should respond.
You can go back later to take notes!
Stamps.com is also another fun freelancing tool I use to save myself time and energy. If you are a freelancer who is going to be mailing a lot of products or doing outreach by mail, you have to try Stamps.com.
This service eliminates trips to the Post Office by allowing you to print postage on demand. You simply print the postage and shipping labels, attach them to your parcel or letter, and then mail it from anywhere in the world.
Stamps.com also offers a 4-week free trial and $5 credit in free postage.
Anyone who has ever had to create business cards, letterheads, signs, or any type of marketing material has heard of Vista Print. For a ridiculously low price, you can create yourself professional business cards that you can use when you attend conferences and other networking events.
Trust me, there’s nothing more embarrassing than talking to a potential client who then asks you for a business card and you come up empty-handed. Be ready with your freelancing tools, and have a kickass business card at the ready for that perfect moment.
Never underestimate the importance of online networking. In other words, you should take Twitter and LinkedIn seriously. If social media isn’t really your thing, you still need a profile on LinkedIn at the very least.
Aside from checking out your website and blog, potential clients will always check LinkedIn. Stay active on these platforms, posting thoughts about your particular industry, sharing news, and best practices.
Think of this as a way to force you to stay on top of the top news in your industry, which will also help you stand out as the expert.
One of the best investments I’ve ever made is in social media automation software like Sprout Social or Buffer. With these tools you can schedule all your social media posts at once which will then drip out over a set schedule.
For instance, say you’re a freelance architect and want to comment on industry news but don’t want to be tied to social media every day. You spend an hour review industry news, scheduling it in Sprout Social or Buffer, and then that content will auto-publish over the next week or so.
When it comes to blog management, nothing compares to good-old WordPress. Simple, easy to use, it is the epitome of efficiency.
No matter if you’ve got your own blog or if you’re producing content for other people, some WordPress knowledge will always come in handy. Here is an amazing resource to help you set up your WordPress website.
Squarespace is also another great blog management platform that I’ve used in the past. This tools is a lot more user-friendly than WordPress, but is less customizable.
There is one important step you must take before getting the ball rolling on your website: register and host it!
You need to register your domain and then host it, and I always suggest you do this through the same web service. The best tools our there for this are HostGator and Blue Host, both of which will allow you to register and host your new freelancing website at a low cost.
If you want to really accelerate your freelancing business then the best freelancing tool is the graphic design service 99designs.
This tool will pair you with professional designers who can help you develop a brand identity, logo, website, and other useful marketing tools like business cards and packaging.
By partnering with a professional graphic designer, you will set yourself apart from the millions of other freelancers who rely solely on other platforms like Upwork and LinkedIn for their branding.
What if these websites change their rules, or decide to close shop? Then where will you be at? All of you hard work developing your freelancing profile on these sites will be gone, which is why it’s important for you to create your own brand, your own identity, and a web presence that you own.
A professional graphic design service like 99designs can help accelerate this task.
I’ve been a freelancer for quite a while now. So you can imagine that I’m all too familiar with those times when you feel a little lost.
When you’re looking for a specific piece of professional or even personal advice, but you’re not exactly sure what. Well, here you can find a number of blogs that are meant to inspire people like you and I to make the best career decisions possible.
To multitask like a boss. To balance work, family, and friends. This is not mandatory, but I suggest following them.
It’s always good to see what other successful freelancers are doing to improve their lives. Take charge of your new flexible career by adopting some of the above freelancing tools.
You will save yourself time and energy by adding to your toolbelt the right tools you need to accelerate your freelancing career, and ultimately your income.
Glenn Carter is a sharing economy expert and is sharing his passion for side income through new digital platforms with his readers.