I spent a lot of time and energy trying to reinvent the wheel when I first started freelancing. I tracked invoices on a spreadsheet, I made PDF quotes, I backed up files manually on thumb drives and I manually wrote down all of my expenses on paper so I could submit them at tax time. I didn’t have any money, so buying resources wasn’t an option. I’ve learned now that having the right tools makes running a freelance business so much easier and it doesn’t need to cost a lot. There are many different types of software available that will save you time, help build your client base, increase your bottom line, and keep you organized. You don’t need a big budget to keep your business looking professional and coming across to your clients as a legit person to work with.
When I first started out, I didn’t have any tools in my freelance tool belt, and now I’m so appreciative of the ones I’ve found that have enhanced the experience for my clients and for myself. Here are a few freelance tools that have made a huge difference in my business.
Cloud-Based File Storage
My file organization has gotten a lot better since leaving my 9-5. I try to keep things simple and back everything up to avoid losing important documents. I use a combination of Drobox and Apple iCloud to always make sure my documents are safe. I love Dropbox because I can share folders with clients during projects. It really makes collaboration a lot easier than emailing files back and forth.
In my business, I charge clients based on the project, not based on the time it takes to complete it. While I’m not charging by the hour, I still find it important to track my time in order to make future quotes and better understand my process. I like to use time blocking when working from home. I set a timer on my phone and focus strictly on one thing. I know there are a few free time-tracking apps out there like Toggl, but I personally don’t use any. When I need to track time on a project, I use 17Hats, which I’ll mention again further in this post. This software allows you to track your time, include it on a project, and categorize it as billable or admin.
$100/year ($0.00 if you use TurboTax to file)
Having an automated accounting system was a game changer. I’m not good at keeping track of my expenses, so having QuickBooks Self-Employed does most of the heavy lifting for me. It connects directly to my business bank account and helps me to categorize expenses in the right places. It also links right up with TurboTax, making tax time a lot less stressful. Before I used an accounting software, I kept a written ledger. It was a huge pain!
Administrative Document Generator
I’ve mentioned 17Hats in multiped blog posts mostly because I think it’s been one of the best tools out there for freelancers. This is a web-based software that includes a client and project database, it generates professional invoices, quotes, contracts (+signing capabilities), and questionnaires. You also have access to calendars, to-do-lists, workflows, and a time tracker. This software integrates with QuickBooks, which makes keeping track of your sales super easy and efficient. Well worth the investment.
Variable – about $150/year
Every business needs a website and a way to get their message out to potential clients. Web hosting prices vary depending on what type of website that you have. I use Flywheel WordPress website hosting for all my websites. It’s a secure host that includes daily file backups. Writing blog posts costs nothing and it’s a great way to get information out to your contact lists. I use Mailchimp for email marketing (FREE) and Hootsuite for social media scheduling (FREE). Marketing is important, but as you can see, doesn’t need to cost more than your time.
There ya have it! What freelance tools to you use? Comment below =)
Thanks for Reading,