Having the right tools is one of the most important keys to success for freelancers. According to a survey commissioned by Freelancers Union and Elance, 69% of freelancers say technology makes it easier for them to find work and get things done. But, there are so many tools out there that it can be pretty difficult determining which tools your freelance business actually needs. I’ve done the research for you, and here’s a list of the 10 essential tools your freelance business should use to save time, build a client base and increase your bottom line.
1. Online collaboration software
Working as a freelancer usually means you’re collaborating with others on projects. You need an easy way to communicate with your team members and clients without clogging up your email inbox. Use online collaboration software to communicate, upload and share documents, assign tasks and keep up on a project’s progress in real time. Some popular ones to try are Trello, Asana, Redbooth and Podio.
2. An accounting system
Use an accounting system to track sales and expenses, bill customers, pay employees (if you have them) and make your life a whole lot easier, especially come tax season. Some popular accounting tools you can try are Zoho, Wave, QuickBooks and FreshBooks.
3. A time tracking tool
As a professional, you want to be transparent about, and accountable for, the billable time you invest in clients’ projects. But, keeping track of billable hours when working on multiple projects can be a pain. The way to go is to use a time tracking tool to eliminate the guesswork and save time. With one click, you get to accurately keep track of the time spent on tasks and send the results to your clients. This also helps you monitor your own time management skills, which can help you improve your productivity. Some time tracking tools to check out are SlimTimer, Toggl and RescueTime.
4. Cloud-based document storage
Using cloud-based storage to organize your work and share it with your partners and clients is a great idea. It makes your workflow smoother, gives you the ease of accessing your files from any other device and ensures you don’t lose them if you lose or damage your computer. The most popular options are Google Drive and Dropbox.
5. A task management tool
For most freelancers, keeping up on a daily workload requires more than just a to-do list. You need an advanced task management tool to get the clearest picture of and streamline your workload. Wunderlisthas all the list and reminder capabilities you could need to keep up on all your tasks throughout the day. Google Tasks is another great option that allows you to turn emails into tasks, and sync them with your Google Calendar.
6. A video chat and messaging service
Face-to-face meetings remain the best way to leave an impression on prospects and communicate with clients, but you probably don’t need those if you freelance online. What you usually need is videoconferencing. Use videoconferencing software with mobile options, chat, and other unique features to really connect with clients. A few popular options are Skype, Rounds, MeetingBurner, Bluejeansand Jabbster.
7. A document signing tool
Signing special contracts and non-disclosure agreements is a common task for freelancers. But printing out a document, signing it, scanning it and emailing it back takes a lot of time. Take advantage of document signing tools to save time and turn the whole thing into a wholly digital task. Some options to consider are PandaDoc, EchoSign and DocuSign.
8. An inbox management tool
Being a freelancer often means having dozens or hundreds of emails to manage every day. Cleaning out your inbox can be cumbersome, unless you use an inbox management tool. The tool will help you auto-unsubscribe from unnecessary emails and clear out your inbox clutter quickly. It will also adapt to your unique preferences when cleaning your inbox, offering filter options tailored to your needs. Two great options are Mailstrom and Sanebox.
9. A client database tool
The more clients you have, the harder it is to keep your freelance services personal. Use a client database tool like Falcon or Rapportiveand you can create advanced contact profiles right inside your email inbox or on social media. And even if you don’t have a lot of clients, using one of these tools to keep track of your prospects will help you remember the little details that matter the most to win the job.
10. A project proposal tool
Creating project proposals is one of the most important tasks for a freelance business to grow and thrive. But doing them right takes a lot of time and practice. Use a project proposal tool and you can cut the task down to minutes, creating beautiful proposals with the help of pre-built templates and landing pages. A couple of options to consider are Bidsketch and Proposable.