I came into freelancing completely by accident. One day I was asked to edit a report for a business. The only difference was that this time around the one asking for the edit was not my direct employer, but instead a good friend with a stationery business. It was a pleasant experience and I certainly did not mind the extra money for a job well done. As time went on I realised there were plenty of folks who had been inquiring after editorial and copy writing services in my circle. I had just been passing all that business on! I decided to formally take orders and set up a simple Facebook page to kick it off. A couple of years later, I say it has been a fulfilling experience, but not without its own set of unique challenges.
One of the drawbacks is the number of small tasks that have to be done on a daily basis, from accounting to marketing. Then there is the fluctuating workload and the fact you have to foot the bill for everything from the electricity to the coffee beans. Thankfully there are some amazing tools that ensure the sustainability of the freelancing lifestyle. I am listing a few of my favourite tools that make being a freelancer an absolute dream:
What does the person you are writing an email to tweet about? Who exactly wrote back to you? How high up are they on the corporate ladder? What is their activity like on social media? What does their LinkedIn Profile say?
Rapportive is an excellent tool that pulls together all this information and presents neatly in a box on the right side of your inbox as you start typing an email. It even shows your shared connections. This extra information can make the difference between putting an email on hold or replying right away. This may be the decision-maker you were waiting to hear from.
The Boomerang App brings AI into your inbox. Think of it as your personal e-mail butler that swiftly brings the most important emails to your attention. Boomerang seamlessly integrates into your email client (Outlook/Gmail/Android) and bounces unread emails to the top. Other features include ‘Send Later’, snooze and a boomerang option for those emails that have not received a reply.
I have lost count of the number of colleagues that I have introduced to Asana. It is a task management and team collaboration tool that essentially removes any need for email communication. You can add a client to a project, track progress on common tasks and even share files right on Asana.
If visual organisation is your thing and need to brainstorm for creative projects, then Trello will be your new best friend. I have used Trello as an editorial calendar for blogs I am working on. The best features include color-coding, checklists, keywords, and multiple project boards – all within a free account. If you require task-tracking for longer, complex projects, I would suggest sticking with Asana.
Dare to Design
Hi-definition stock photos for free? Yes, please! That is exactly what Unsplash offers. From a blog post to a newsletter, there are numerous situations where a freelancer needs photographs that are fresh yet affordable. You will want to bookmark this site.
End your dependency on the local graphic designer, at least where basic design work is concerned. Canva’s intuitive drag-n-drop functionality makes designing presentations to business cards a stress-free experience. It is my go-to website for creating Facebook covers and posters.
Tracking Time & Money
If the workweek just flies by, RescueTime will show exactly where you have been spending your hours. There is even a mobile phone app so the report gives a 360-view of when and where you have been – online that is. One or two days with this tool helps evaluate whether you really need to be logged into Facebook or Twitter during ‘office hours’.
A simple invoice system that keeps track of time, sends invoices and stores the data on the Cloud – that is what you get with FreshBooks. FreshBooks comes with a free app that can be downloaded onto both Android phone and iPhones. The built-in project-tracking facility makes hourly invoicing a breeze. New users get a 30 days to test out the entire accounting suite, otherwise their money back.
Social Media Mastery
To stay relevant, your brand needs to be in front of potential customers at the right time. What better medium than Social Media? The BufferApp has made scheduling posts for my business-related Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Facebook posts more effective and efficient. With one-click, I can queue up enough posts for a new promotion or offer to cover a few days in the future. That frees me up to focus my efforts on more pending work, like the latest writing assignment from a client.
Is this an exhaustive list of freelancer tools? No! There are tons of more tools and widgets on the Internet that claim to make life as freelancer as smooth as possible. However, to save yourself time, (as time equals money)I would suggest you begin with the ones recommended above. If you have your inbox under control, your billing done on time and your clients happy with the work, that is ‘Mission Accomplished’!