30 Inherently Useful Tools for Freelancers
Being a freelancer can sometimes feel like a solo venture into the unknown, an exciting but nevertheless daunting prospect! We all have our particular strengths and individual weaknesses, but few of us would decline a little help with some of the more practical aspects of being a freelancer.
While not every tool on this list will be helpful for every freelancer, its overall aim is to provide you with resources that could help you significantly increase your productivity (do more…), get organized, work more efficiently, plan your to do items better, and maybe even save some money!
Evernote is in the very first spot on this list because it’s awesome and it’s free! Whether it’s an App that will become a trustworthy companion or pleasant acquaintance will primarily depend upon your level of organization, but it’s undoubtedly worth a look! Click here for an in-depth review of Evernote for Mac.
You may be entirely satisfied with your current calendar and it’s capabilities, you like the way iCal syncs with your iPhone or the simply virtuous pen on paper. Despite this, it’s worth having a look at whether Google Calendar could enhance the way you work! It’s a great tool that allows you to share your schedule, access your calendar on the go, and get customizable reminders to help you stay on schedule. You can even choose to be notified by email or get a text message sent right to your mobile phone, for free!
“Bookkeeping sucks. We make it suck less.” Is the simple but striking tagline for LessAccounting that sums up a feeling many of us get when thinking about even the most basic accounting tasks. With the ability to import data directly from your bank, and a experience designed to be stress and jargon free, it’s well worth considering – you might even begin to enjoy it!
An iPhone and iPad App that heralds the future of monetary transactions! Square is a revolutionary service that enables anyone to accept credit cards anywhere. Depending on your line of work Square could be invaluable, allowing you to accept payment instantly and speeding up your cash-flow! It’s also worth bearing in mind that there is no extra equipment, merchant accounts, complicated contracts, or monthly fees required.
Alongside some of the more interesting entries here I’ll also endeavour to shed light on some useful tools that won’t change your life but will make it easier. Here is a good example of a sample design contract from Mayhem Studios that includes some useful small print!
SlimTimer is a useful tool for tracking how much time you’ve spent working on a task and even includes the ability to export the reports to coworkers and clients. Did I mention it’s free?
Outright is a simple piece of web-based accounting software that aims to help you ‘free yourself from accounting’. It has a couple of really great features, including the ability to pull in spending from your bank and credit cards, as well as grab online sales from PayPal.
This blog article by Anders Haig on how to create a web design contract is a great tool for anyone starting out in the web design business and gives a good overview of what needs to be included. It even goes as far as including a sample contract, although it is a little more basic than the sample from Mayhem Studios.
Dropbox is an effortlessly brilliant piece of software that syncs your files online, as well as across your computers and handheld devices. You simply put your files into your Dropbox folder on one computer, and they’ll automatically appear on any of your other computers or devices that also have Dropbox installed! Its basic version is free – get it now!
For some of us a fully functioning Office-like suite of programs for word processing, et al., just simply isn’t necessary and would be a waste of resources! Meet Google Docs. It’s a free, web-based word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, and form application that allows users to create and edit documents online. It goes above and beyond the standard word processor, allowing collaborating in real-time with other users!
An eBook on being a successful freelancer, covering everything from getting started to expanding your business. An invaluable tool if you’re just starting out and full of engaging insight for those of you already making good headway!
It might sound ridiculous to those of you who’ve been in the freelancing world for years but PayPal is an incredibly useful tool for receiving and sending money. If you regularly receive payments via PayPal, then it may have become a little mundane and unremarkable, but it’s worth remembering how powerful it is for a freelancer to be able to quickly and easily receive payments from anywhere in the world!
Things is an excellent task manager that is, for now, only available for Macs, iPhones, and iPads. Despite its platform limitations it’s well worth a mention, as the people at Cultured Code clearly understand the power of simplicity! Its sleek interface and beautiful cross platform synchronization allows you to focus on actually getting things done!
MakeSomeTime is a Web App for simple online time tracking and invoicing. Its interface is sleek and it’s packed with functionality for a free App! Perfect for those of us who need an easy and cheap solution for time tracking and invoicing!
An abundantly useful tool, the FreelanceSwitch Hourly Rate Calculator is designed to give you a guide based on your costs, number of billable hours and desired profit. As a simple tool for you to play around with it’s fascinating, and put to proper use it can really help you evaluate your finances!
A fascinating an effortlessly readable book, now available in electronic form, by Barbara Winters on creating work that you love. Great for those starting out on a journey into freelancing and working for yourself, but also an excellent tool for anyone who feels they have lost their drive or just simply don’t enjoy what they’re doing anymore!
Managing your money is a vital part of being a successful freelancer and Mint is another tool that is designed to help you do just that! Mint brings all your financial accounts together online, automatically categorizes your transactions, lets you set budgets, and helps you achieve your savings goals – and all for free!
If your foray into freelancing has begun to grow and find success, then it’s definitely worth considering whether a paid money management App would be beneficial. Pulse is one such App and describes itself as the easy way to manage your cash flow online! Its wealth of features and functions empower you to make the best decisions for your business.
MOO is a great place to start when thinking about getting yourself some business cards! It has lots of ideas and inspiration for designs as well as some beautiful templates. It’s well worth a look even if you decide to go elsewhere for printing. MOO also boasts a new approach to business card printing called ‘Printfinity’, a unique printing technology that allows you to print a different image on every card in a pack!
For many types of freelancer it’s vital to have access to, or be able to refer people to, your portfolio. If you’re one of the lucky ones, or happen to find an iPad lying around in the street, then UNPRINTED could be the perfect way to dazzle prospective clients! UNPRINTED gives you an easy-to-update, stylish solution for presenting your best work anytime, anywhere.
We are gradually working through many of the potential solutions for managing your money, which is a vital part of being self employed. The perfect solution will vary from freelancer to freelancer, however, Blinksale is a strong contender in the arena of paid for invoicing solutions! In addition to the features you’d expect, it allows you to import clients from Basecamp and even automate billing!
Remember The Milk is a delightfully simple way to manage your tasks and events that allows you to get email, SMS, and IM reminders. It’s free and available for almost any platform/device you can name!
For working with an overseas client you may need to handle foreign currencies. XE’s currency converter is a useful tool for accurate currency calculations that features up-to-the-minute currency rates.
Basecamp boldly declares that it’s the top choice for entrepreneurs, freelancers, small businesses, and groups inside big organizations when it comes to project management. It’s focus on simplicity, clarity, and ease of use is excellent, while the depth of functionality is invaluable if you need to collaborate with others on projects!
Even if times you need to do inherently complicated math are few few and far between, I would still recommend bookmarking Instacalc. It’s beautifully intuitive and the perfect solution to any math jam you may find yourself in!
FreshBooks is one of the more popular online accounting Apps and benefits from having a good free account and an excellent companion App for the iPhone. It aims to help you break free with fast, simple services that help you manage your business.
Campfire is made by the team that developed Basecamp and could become an indispensable tool if you are someone who regularly needs to collaborate with others. Fundamentally, Campfire is like instant messaging, but designed exclusively for groups – it allows you to share text, files, and code in real time. You can also use transcripts so you don’t forget!
Do you have a fax machine? I thought not. Very few freelancers would now find any use in having a fax machine, but for those rare occasions when a client requests a holdable copy of something there’s faxZERO – a simple but useful tool that allows you to send a fax free to anywhere in the U.S. or Canada!
If your output as a freelancer is creative and original, then Creative Commons is an organization that exists to help you! Creative Commons develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation. Use Creative Commons to specify what kinds of legal restrictions you want your work to carry.
As a freelancer it’s vitally important to protect your livelihood and creative output. To this end, the final tool included here is essentially a set of terms and conditions relevant to design work. This agreement allows you to create customized terms and conditions for different types of design engagements. It is arranged in modules so that terms and conditions can be kept to a minimum in each case.
Share Your Ideas
This is in no way an exhaustive list, but rather a taster of what’s out there! It would be great if you would share any tools that you’ve found particularly useful as a freelancer, anything from contract templates to eBooks! It’s always exciting when we become more productive in the more tiresome aspects of freelancing, thereby leaving us more time to focus on the work we love!