The freelance life is a chaotic one without the right tools. Not only do you have to find and provide your own on-the-job tools, you also have to manage all of your activities, expenses, appointments, and time on your own; there’s nobody to do it for you and nobody to hold you accountable.
The right tools can be a real game changer. Properly managing your time alone can deeply impact your income. Time is money, after all.
The big drawback to the plethora of digital tools available today is just that: there are so many choices! It’s easy to get bogged down in signing up for every free trial and tool that comes along and actually make yourself less productive because managing your tools has become another job.
We’ve scoured the internet for the best tools to make freelancing more productive—and more profitable.
These are our top 7:
Trello is a visual task management system similar in appearance to Rindle. It uses lists and cards that you can easily drag and drop. Where Trello differs, though, is that it’s meant for teams. This means you can add your clients to certain lists and cards so they can be aware of the status of a project. You can upload files from the cloud or your computer, add checklists and due dates, and make comments. It’s one of our favorite ways to collaborate as a team, and it’s very easy to set up different boards for each of your clients where you can both check in and stay on top of things.
Bidsketch helps with one of your very first communication tasks with a new client: the proposal. If you frequently submit bids for work, Bidsketch is a tool that will change your life. In minutes, you can create a beautiful, professional client proposal that will put your bid at the top of any pile.
When you’re competing for work, it’s critical to put your best foot forward. Don’t let your proposal end up at the bottom of the stack with every other generic, unmemorable bid the client has received. Get an edge with a polished, designed proposal created in minutes.
“Thousands of people are closing more sales in less time with Bidsketch.” Why not give it a try?
3: Tomato Timer
Based on the popular Pomodoro technique of time management, Tomato Timer is my favorite of many Pomodoro apps thanks to its extreme simplicity. Click “Start” to start a “Pomodoro” (a 25-minute block of uninterrupted work). An alarm sounds at the end, and you can choose to take a short (5-minute) or long (10-minute) break, then it’s right back to work. This method is believed to work with your body’s natural rhythms to induce short bursts of extreme productivity without burning yourself out.
If you bill clients by the hour, Toggl is a simple solution that makes it easy and intuitive to track and report your every minute. With a single click, you can track your time on each task you perform throughout the day, and then organize it by client or type, label it as “billable,” and even quickly generate reports that you can use to invoice clients or pay employees.
Need a firmer hand to keep yourself in line? Freedom “ends digital distraction” by simply blocking the websites and apps that cause you the most wasted time. You can create custom lists (Facebook, Reddit, YouTube, for example), or you can even choose to just block the entire internet and burrow down in true do not disturb mode. You have the option to set a schedule, so the app kicks in at the same time every day automatically. It works on Mac or PC and even syncs to your iPhone and iPad so you can’t cheat (an Android app is in development).
Shoeboxed “turns receipts into data.” You can take a picture of any receipt with your phone and upload it to the app, where it’s turned into usable, organized data. You can auto-archive receipts from Gmail, use your phone’s GPS to track and record mileage, and even mail them your piles of paper clutter in a pre-paid envelope and have them scan and digitize all of it.
We love Wave because it’s a fully-featured accounting software—and it’s free. Accounting, invoicing, payments, expenses, payroll, and receipts—Wave does it all and it doesn’t cost a cent.
“Made specifically for entrepreneurs, freelancers, consultants and small businesses with 9 employees or less. And it’s 100% free.”
These are our top 7 essential tools, but we know there are dozens more out there that many freelancers swear by. What tools do you use every day?