Tools help you get the job done as a freelancer. Without them, you’d be struggling.
Trust me, I know. I’ve been a freelance personal finance writer since 2018, working with Buzzfeed, Investopedia, Business Insider, and other publications.
These are some of my favorite tools. I’ve also reached out to other freelancers in my industry, to give you the best tools to see that project through. In this list, you’ll see productivity tools, final tools, project management time-savers, and other apps that freelancers like me swear by.
Keep in mind: Not every tool works for every freelancer. You’ll want to create a system that works for you. The 11 tools below can be your roadmap to creating that system.
1. Google Calendar
Best for: Literally every freelancer juggling projects, meetings, and other chaos
It might sound funny to have the first tool on this list be a calendar. But I’ve found that a dynamic calendar is the best way to track assignments, meetings, deadlines, and more. I’m not the only freelancer who relies on a calendar either. Fellow finance writer Jess Ulrich lives by her Google Calendar as well.
I schedule my assignments in GCal, breaking them down into steps to stay on track. I keep all my meetings in there as well, so I know:
- Who I’m talking to
- What about
Google even has a pretty cool video chat feature you can embed in your calendar invites, so people can access your video calls directly from there.
Tip: Supplement your GCal with a paper calendar
Having a paper calendar to supplement my Google Calendar has been key to my success as a freelancer. (Mine is Day Designer’s paper calendar.) I use my calendar to keep track of assignments, workflow, client calls, and more!
Best for: Anyone who dreads doing their taxes
Obviously, this list wouldn’t be complete without Keeper. Keeper changed my approach to my taxes in a big way.
Now I don’t have to worry about saving every receipt and documenting every tiny thing. The app does most of that for me by finding all the expenses I’m allowed to write off — including:
- 🗓️ My office supplies (calendar included!)
- 🤝 What I pay my assistant
- 💻 My subscriptions to all the other paid apps on this list
At tax time, Keeper can even file for you. You can literally do your taxes right on your phone, although there’s a desktop option if you’d prefer.
Because it was designed for freelancers, it’s easy to handle all your 1099 forms from clients and payment apps — or enter income by hand for an assignment where you didn’t get one. There's a free trial, so you can give their write-off-finding experience a shot.
3. Wave Apps
Best for: People whose least favorite thing about freelancing is invoicing
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: it’s okay if you hate invoicing. I do — I even contracted out my monthly invoicing because of how much the process frustrated me.
You know what my assistant did? She set up Wave first thing. It’s an invoicing software that tracks everything coming in and out of my accounts. It’s basically magic.
I can see:
- How much I’ve made for the month
- How much I’m spending on my business
- Which invoices are due
- When they’re due
Wave even sends follow-up invoices every three days once the invoice is considered “late”.
Best for: Freelancers who want to save time with contracts
Harlow is a newer app to the freelancing scene, but it comes highly recommended. When I asked people about their favorite freelancing tools, three of them suggested it as something I should be using as well.
It’s a place to keep all your boilerplate templates, plus it automates your invoices and keeps you on track with due dates and payment deadlines. It’s a little bit like Wave, except it also has a time-saving component with the boilerplate contracts.
People also love it because of the company’s personal, dynamic approach to customer service. Marketing consultant Corrie Oberdin told me, “They are incredibly responsive, they care about their users, and I just really believe in their service.”
Best for: Someone who wants a flexible, all-in-one project management tool
I surveyed freelancers in my network, and multiple people named this one as their project management tool of choice. “I’ve been using @NotionHQ since the beginning and can’t say enough good things. It is so many things for me, I can’t praise it enough,” says freelance executive assistant Kelsea Rambin-Warrick over Tweet.
Notion is the best project management software if you want something that all your potential clients are likely to enjoy. It's used by both freelancers and larger teams. (The company boasts that Pixar teams use their workflows to get important things done.)
They pride themselves on being more than a document or a table. Their mission is to allow you to customize Notion to work the way you do.
Other great options that bear mentioning are Asana, Trello, and Airtable, which I’ll dive into below. I'll dive into these project management tools below.
Best for: People who contract out parts of their business
This is a great tool for managing a group of writers, freelancers, or other team members on a single workflow. If you have contractors — like I do — try using Asana to assign things out.
It’s a great way to track every project your business has going, without overwhelming your senses. You can see all your to-do lists at once and track what other members of your team have going on.
While it has a bit of a learning curve to set up, Asana is awesome once you get the hang of it.
Best for: People with simple, streamlined business processes
Trello is great if you think in Post-it notes. I use it for the smaller teams that I’m on. We track:
- What stage of each project we’re in
- Special projects we’re doing
- Whether we’ve found art for a project
- Other things that are specific to our business needs
In my experience, Trello is the most straightforward project management app to set up and to use. I like it because you can share it with other users and it’s not that hard for them to figure out — even if they’re not used to working with apps.
The tradeoff is, it’s a bit simpler and won’t work if you have large, multistep processes, in my opinion.
Best for: Freelancers whose projects have lots of moving parts
Airtable is the most dynamic, feature-rich project management software I’ve seen used before. The learning curve is steep, but once you get it figured out, you’re able to do so much with it.
It’s great for larger teams of people and for projects that have a ton of moving pieces. You can customize your Airtable entries to support all the moving parts and pieces.
I mostly encounter Airtable when I freelance for larger clients that have made it part of their workflows, and I really enjoy using it in that context. However, it’s a bit too robust for me to use as a solopreneuer.
Best for: Anyone who writes on the job, whether it's emails or ebooks
This is one of the most famous grammar tools out there — it’s great if you need to check your spelling before sending an email. For most people, the free version has enough functionality that you don’t need to invest in a paid plan.
If you’re like me, though, the paid version is a lifesaver. As a writer, I use Grammarly to check my spelling and grammar, plus the tone of my writing and whether I’m hitting my metrics (like grade level). The tool will tell you the type of tone you’re using — examples include “assertive,” “formal,” or “disheartening” — and what you can do to shift the impression your words might have on readers.
Grammarly also offers word synonym suggestions that have helped me grow my vocabulary and polish my writing. And as I write more, Grammarly picks up on common mistakes.
10. Hemingway App
Best for: Serious freelance writers
Like Grammarly, Hemingway edits your writing. But it also allows you to choose what grade level you need to write at, and shows you where you’re succeeding — and failing — to write reach that mark.
I love it, because most of my clients want a seventh-grade reading level, but I have a tendency to write well above that. So I can plug in my article and tone everything down to meet my clients’ needs.
Best for: Non-designers who need polished graphics done, fast
Canva is one of my favorite freelancing tools. It’s a graphic design app, but built for people who aren’t graphic designers. It’s super easy to use. And when I say “super easy to use,” I mean I — a not-very-design-savvy person — can create beautiful graphics for my business quickly and cheaply.
You can make almost anything using their templates, the easy way. It’s great for social media, because you can plug in the kind of content you want to make for each platform and get a ton of different options.
You can also store color templates in your Canva account to keep your brand consistent across your whole social media presence. It really helps level up your professional game, so you can look polished even as a one-person freelance business.
Overall, the best freelancer tools should help you home in on what makes your business run smoothly— and streamline the (still necessary!) processes that bog it down. If these ones don’t, then try another tool.
“If it’s not making your life easier, ditch it,” is my personal motto. I’ve tried dozens of tools and found a system that works best for me, and you should too!
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At Keeper, we’re on a mission to help people overcome the complexity of taxes. We’ve provided this information for educational purposes, and it does not constitute tax, legal, or accounting advice. If you would like a tax expert to clarify it for you, feel free to sign up for Keeper. You may also email firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions.