Editor’s note: This is a contributed post by Kurt Birkenhagen, who is Vice President of Marketing with conferencecalling.com from Vast Conference, based in Los Angeles, CA. He is focused on web design, user experience, inbound marketing and conversion optimization.
There’s no two ways about it: freelancing is a business. But it’s a business that can be started on a shoe string budget. Because freelancing is so easy to start, we often forget that like any business, we need to invest in the right tools for our freelance business to grow.
In this post, we will see 17 of these tools which provide a wide variety of assistance to make it easier for you to focus on your tasks rather than meddle with repetitive ones that can be easily automated.
Whether you are going at your freelance business solo or with a small group of collaborators, these tools (and some suggestions of similar apps) are going to fit right at home with the rest of the team and ensure you have all the help you need to propel your freelance business to success.
Recommended Reading: Diving Into E-Commerce: Do You Have What It Takes?
Wave Accounting – Small business accounting
Wave is a Cloud-based invoicing, accounting, payroll, payments and personal finance app for freelancers, contractors and entrepreneurs. Specifically, it’s for people running businesses with 9 employees or less.
They explain it best themselves:
Most "small business software" isn’t actually built for small businesses. It’s really meant for medium-sized businesses with dozens and sometimes hundreds of employees. (Just look at how complicated and expensive they are…!) But there’s a world of difference between the needs of a 5-person company and a 55-person company. So we build Wave for businesses with 9 employees or less, including all those one-person shops out there. And that makes for a much better fit between our products and your needs.
Manilla App – Personal Finance App
Before you can start putting your business in order, you need to get your personal life organized. The Manilla App saves all your financial accounts, bills, loyalty programs and coupons in one place. The security of their app is as good as any bank (according to their claim) and they have a mobile app too.
A service like Manilla helps you save money, keep your life on track and frees up precious time you can invest in your business.
CX – Cloud Storage
As a freelancer, your livelihood depends on the backup and storage of your work. Chances are you’re using great services like Dropbox to store and share files with your clients already. Unfortunately, the amount of free space allotted in most popular file sharing services isn’t a lot. And if you want more space, you have to pay.
CX fills this gap and has had every cash strapped freelancer who’s discovered them grateful for having a free plan that offers 10GB of space.
Mozy – Backup Solution
If there’s one mantra freelancers need to have, it’s: backup, backup and backup. Mozy offers Cloud backup solutions for individuals, small businesses and large corporations. Once you sign up with Mozy and set it up, you can well… forget about it. Mozy automatically backs up your data, offers web-based access to your files and has mobile apps too.
Most freelancers would be covered under the MozyHome package but they also have bigger packages for those with more storage and backup needs.
Similar Apps: Carbonite
Wunderlist – Beautiful and simple online to-do list
As much as I love Google Tasks, and use it for my daily workload, it simply isn’t powerful enough to handle large client projects. That’s where Wunderlist comes in. The beauty of Wunderlist lies in its ability to adapt to your needs. You can even invite or add people and assign them tasks.
The best part? It syncs across all platforms.
Similar Apps: Toodledo
Read Also: Top 10 Free Note-Taking Apps For Smartphones
Google Tasks – Task management
If you just did a double take, let me assure you that Google Tasks was meant to be included in this list. As freelancers, most of our communication happen through email. And with Google Tasks, you can easily turn an email into a task. All you have to do is click on the more tab and choose “Add to tasks”. Once that’s done you can easily assign a date to the task and never miss a task again.
The best part is that Google Tasks syncs with your Google Calendar. So if you believe in keeping your to-do list simple and organized, Google Tasks is ideal.
Trello – Online Collaboration
Trello is a free, online collaboration tool that’s organized by boards, lists and cards. Think of a Trello board as a whiteboard with the name of your project as its title. A ‘card’ is an item on your lits and every entry is treated as a “card” that you can drag around and do a bunch of cool stuff with. These cards can be organized under any list like ‘to-do’, ‘doing’ and ‘done’.
You can also attach files, images etc. to each card and add as many people as you want on board for collaboration. Changes appear in real time. So if your team’s working on a project together at the same time, the changes will appear without you having to refresh your page.
SlideShare – Upload and share presentations online
Freelancers need to show what they do and how they can help their clients achieve the results they want. The better a freelancer can explain how he can help his clients; the easier it is to find work. Presentations are a great way to do that.
Also, SlideShare gets 60 million unique visitors a month. Even a small fraction of those visitors equal to a lot of eyeballs on your work. You can even embed the presentation on your website and include it in your online marketing efforts.
Similar Apps: Prezi
Falcon – In-Depth contact profiles
In business, the more you know about your customer or client, the better and more personal your service is. Falcon helps you find out those small details that make a difference when closing a deal.
Falcon is a browser app that gets you contact profiles right inside your email or social networks by hovering over the person’s name.
Similar App: Rapportive
Contactually – Better relationship management
For freelancers, client relationships are everything. Contactually helps you keep those relationships alive. It is by far the most meaningful contact management tool that I’ve come across. It manages your contacts and prompts you to take action and tracks your progress. It also provides context like social media updates and your previous interactions with them to help you personalize your contact with them.
And even though it’s not a free tool, it’s worth every penny if you’re serious about growing your business.
Mailstrom – Clean up your email inbox
Email – it’s the bane of every webpreneur’s online existence. Mailstrom helps you clean up your Inbox in just a few clicks. Not only does it help you unsubscribe from unnecessary email newsletters, but it also shows you whose emails you ignore the most. It also shows you what time you get your most emails, which social networks clutter your Inbox the most etc.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re struggling with email, try it out. It’s free.
Similar Apps: Sanebox
EchoSign – Digital Signature
As a freelancer who rarely meets clients’ face-to-face, signing contracts is a hassle. It can often require printing, couriering or scanning back the signed documents to get the paperwork in order. EchoSign is a service by Adobe that lets you digitally sign documents without having to download, print or courier anything.
It’s as simple as sending an email. All you have to do is attach your document to EchoSign and email it to the person concerned. There’s no download or software of any kind involved.
Similar Apps: DocuSign
Hootsuite – Social media management
Hootsuite lets you connect every major social network under a single account. You can send status updates to more than one social network at a time and even schedule them to automatically post at a scheduled date and time.
Their free plan is great for beginners so don’t hesitate to try it out!
Similar Apps: Tweetdeck
Toggl – Insanely simple time tracking
If you charge by the hour or often wonder how long it takes you to do a certain task, Toggl will help you keep track. With one click, you can start tracking your time and find out which tasks take up the most time. It’s particularly helpful in tracking hours spent on client work.
Toggl works offline too so if you’re the kind of freelancer who disconnects to get work done, you can still use Toggl to track your time. It’ll sync itself once you connect to the Internet again.
MailChimp – Send better email
Email newsletter marketing is one of the best ways to get the word out about your business. It helps keep your clients and customers updated about news related to your business, gives you a platform to reach out to them whenever you want and gives you an opportunity to show them your expertise.
Mailchimp is one of the best newsletter services out there. Not only does it have an awesome free plan, it also has a friendly user interface.
Bidsketch – Create project proposal in minutes
Sending project proposals is one of the core activities of any freelance business. Creating one can take up a lot of time though – time you aren’t paid for. BidSketch helps you create beautiful, well organized project proposals in half the time it usually takes you. They offer pre-built templates and landing pages, electronic signatures and personal branding.
While BidSketch isn’t a free tool, it is reasonably priced for the freelancer who sends out a lot of project proposal to clients.
Similar Apps: Proposable
Dashlane – Password manager
Using the above services mean that at any given time, you’ll have 16 usernames and passwords to keep track of – at least. Dashlane is a password manager, autofill and e-wallet all rolled into one. What makes them so unique is that they don’t store your master password. You’re the only one who has the password to their account.
Of course, it also means that if you lose your Dashlane password, there’s no way they can recover it for you. Eek!
No matter how good the tools you use are, they won’t do you much good unless you utilize them properly. Take the time to research the tools you use before you pay for them or start using them. Take advantage of the free trial most tools offer to find out if the tool will be a good fit.
And once you start using them, stick to them and create a system that’ll help you save time and impress clients at the same time.
Which tools have helped you propel your freelance business to success?