7 Freelancer Tools You Have to Know About
Freelancing can be tough work. There seems to always be a perfect storm of new things you have to think about, current factors you have to account for. Figuring out everything you need to be a successful freelancer is, in some ways, a personal experience. However, there are some things that apply to all freelancers regardless of industry.
Thankfully, there are powerful freelancer tools that make managing your freelancing career simpler than you might imagine. Here are 7 of them that can make your life a lot easier.
For bookkeeping: Keeper Tax
When you're just starting out as a freelancer after a long time working a traditional career, it is easy to forget something that turns out to be extremely important: taxes. Since your income is not taxed up front, you're going to be on the hook for a nasty bill when tax season rolls around. If you lack the right tools to keep track of your business expenses, that bill will be much larger than it needs to be. That is where Keeper Tax comes in.
What can Keeper Tax do for you?
There are many other bookkeeping apps that you may have heard of. Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero are among them. Freelancers prefer Keeper Tax over all of these for its unparalleled ease of use. Keeper Tax is an app that securely connects to your financial institutions to monitor your purchases for potential business expenses that can be deducted from your tax bill.
While this is naturally most effective for tracking debit and credit card purchases, you can also add cash transactions to your records manually with a 1099 template. Tax time is a hassle for many people. But with Keeper Tax, it doesn't have to be.
For time management: Google Calendar
One of the first and most important aspects of getting the most out of your time is being able to visualize your schedule. A digital calendar tool is ideal for this, with the ability to cram as many tasks as needed into any given day and see at a glance just how busy you're going to be in advance.
What can Google Calendar do for you?
Google Calendar is a favorite digital calendar among freelancers, providing a massive host of features combined with exceptional ease of use, and - best of all - it's free alongside your Gmail account! Tasks and events can be color-coded to tell them apart. They can be edited to make them recur at custom intervals. You can set them to notify you a designated period of time in advance. They can be shared with others to coordinate collaborative work or to clearly show others what times you will be unavailable. It even has an app for android and IOS so you always have your schedule in your pocket.
Related tools: Microsoft Outlook Calendar, Calendar.com
For project management: Todoist
Of course, once you've visualized your schedule you will be quickly reminded that many tasks are far too complex to be adequately described in a single blurb splashed across your calendar. This is where a task management tool comes in.
What can Todoist do for you?
Todoist is a simple yet powerful tool for organizing your freelance business. It allows you to give tasks a hierarchy, arranging them into sub-tasks within larger, broader projects. Tasks can also be added to a project without giving them a due date or time, for the many times when there is something that needs doing but no clear indication of when it needs to be done by, or in what order. Projects can be shared with others for collaborative work. It even has integration with Google Calendar so that any tasks scheduled via Todoist show up on your calendar and vice versa. While Todoist's free plan is a little light on functionality, the pricing model for Todoist premium is generous. You can get premium for as little as $3 per month and the business plan for as little as $5 per user per month.
Project management is rightfully a large component of any freelancing operation. As a result, there are many alternative options to fill that purpose. Most of them, however, are better suited to small businesses that need to track the workflow of many team members in real-time rather than a solo free agent.
Related tools: Trello, Toggl Plan, Asana, Basecamp
For time tracking: RescueTime
Once you make the leap to being fully self-employed, you're going to need to track time as efficiently as possible. With a million and one things to do every day, you'll need a solid time tracker to make sure you always know where your time is going.
What can RescueTime do for you?
RescueTime is a lightweight app you can install on your work computer that runs in the background and tracks your time spent on both websites and desktop apps. Then it provides you with a timesheet of your daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly usage of your time spent on that computer. With this feedback you can easily determine both what you're doing too much and what you're doing too little. That information can then be used to determine a plan of action for increasing your productivity and allowing you to get ever more work done. The free plan for RescueTime includes the most important function, but it also has paid plans which provide even more features, including a website blocker.
Related tool: Toggl Track
For productivity: Freedom
When it comes to blocking out distractions, many freelancers working at home are in dire need of industrial strength solutions. Working from home - or anywhere else you want to be, for that matter - means nobody is watching you to keep you focused and productive. A distraction blocker app is needed to rescue you and your workflow from yourself.
What can Freedom do for you?
Freedom is a versatile app that will bring your capability to focus to the next level. During pre-planned, recurring, or on-demand sessions, Freedom blocks whatever you need it to block. Not just on your work computer, but also across many other devices. It works with Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android, and even has browser plugins to make it usable on Chromebook and Linux. With custom blocklists, you can block out different websites and apps at different times or on different devices. The ability to block not just websites but apps is one thing that really sets Freedom apart from other blockers. For just one example: if you're an avid gamer or Twitch streamer in your time off, then having freedom to block out the games can save you from throwing away an entire workday unintentionally. Freedom can be purchased via monthly or yearly subscription, or as an alternative a lifetime license can be bought for a single chunk of cash.
Related tools: WasteNoTime, StayFocusd, Crackbook Revival
There are many other website blocker apps and extensions available to compete with Freedom, and a number of them are even free. But none of them can compete with Freedom's power and reach to save the maximum amount of your valuable time.
For file storage: Google Drive
When you're working for a number of clients online, you're going to want to have cloud-stored backups of your work as insurance against anything happening to your computer before your projects are delivered. There are two significant contenders for this space, and they both have their strengths.
What can Google Drive do for you?
Drive is another service that comes free with your google account, including 15GB of free storage of all kinds of files. It integrates seamlessly with Google's composition apps, Docs and Sheets and so on - plus their selection of templates to get started on the right foot - to allow you to save some of your work to the cloud in real-time as you're creating it. It also includes viewers for a variety of media, including a pdf reader to save you from needing a license for something like Adobe Acrobat. If you are a writer, the 15GB of free storage may well be all the storage you will ever need for work. If your needs are greater than that, but not by a huge amount, Drive has 100 and 200 GB storage plans that are highly affordable.
Related tool: Dropbox
If you are a freelance designer, video editor, or anyone else in need of very large amounts of data storage, Dropbox may prove to be your ideal choice. It offers an advanced plan with unlimited storage for a reasonable price. These storages are great to hold freelance portfolio pieces to show potential clients.
For business development: Hunter.io
One of the unfortunate realities of being a freelancer is that from time to time you will need to find new clients. This is unfortunate primarily for one simple reason: time spent finding clients is time spent not getting paid. Now, unless you do all of your work through job boards such as Upwork, the majority of your clients are going to come from email marketing.
What can Hunter.io do for you?
Hunter is a service that helps you to spend as little time as possible fishing for clients. It does this by providing you with a means to find all of the major email addresses for a company. What this means, most importantly, is that it allows you to find the email address of the person you actually need to contact in order to start a working relationship with the company. While Hunter does have a free option, it is fairly limited in features compared to the more powerful premium plans.
Related tool: LinkedIn
LinkedIn is another of many potential options for finding business email addresses in order to create new client relationships. Whatever method you choose, don't forget to follow up on all your business emails.
Honorable mention freelancer tools
While the tools listed above are the favorites of many and will cover a number of any freelancer's day-to-day needs, there are plenty of other types of tools worth using. Which ones you need, and how often you use them, will vary depending on your industry and methodology.
For customer relationship management: Mailchimp
If you end up becoming highly successful in your freelance career, it is fairly common to find down the road that you wish to transition into an e-commerce startup selling courses to teach new freelancers the tricks of the trade. CRM tools like Mailchimp are great for such occasions to maximize the profitability of your relations with your consumers.
For collaboration: Slack
Tools like Slack enable you to seamlessly interact with distant coworkers on team projects. They also, however, provide an opportunity for some social procrastination on the job.
For invoicing: Simple Invoices
Tools like Simple Invoices make it quicker and easier for your clients to pay you after a job is completed, which will significantly reduce the amount of time you spend chasing down clients and being an independent contractor not paid for work.
For proposals: Proposify
Tools like Proposify offer templates to create fast and effective proposals to get your projects from interview to deal that much sooner. In so doing, they will increase your close rate and reduce time spent collecting clients.
For social media management: Buffer
Tools like Buffer allow you to plan, create, and analyze your social media presence, maximizing the impact of your posts on your following. As a result, you will gain more inbound traffic and therefore more clients coming to you without having to pitch.
For notetaking: Google Keep
As you no doubt remember, being a freelancer is complicated. They say you learn something new every day, but in this line of work you really do. Tools like Google Keep and Evernote provide you a free and convenient method for keeping notes on everything you learn, so that you never have to worry about forgetting.
You can see that there are an ocean of tools out there aimed at helping freelancers become and stay profitable. Whether you are looking for real estate agent tools or writing softwares, you will have to decide for yourself which ones are right for you. But remember: don't spend too much time making the decision. You can never get that time back.
Sign up for 1099 Tax University
Get the tax info they should have taught us in school
Tax filing for freelancers and side hustlersGet started→
At Keeper Tax, we’re on a mission to help freelancers overcome the complexity of their taxes. That sometimes leads us to generalize tax advice. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.