The Apps, Tools, and Sites That Every Freelancer Needs
A version of this article previously appeared on Skillcrush, an online education program for creatives, thinkers, and makers that gives total tech newbies the tools to make major career changes.
Taking the plunge into freelancing is both an exciting and anxiety-ridden prospect for most working professionals. Being your own boss certainly has its perks, but how do you make sure you're prepared to run every aspect of a company—alone? Fear not, for in the age of the internet, anything is possible. And there's totally an app for that.
While it's true that even modern freelancers need to be flexible to fulfill many roles, they can also work smarter, and more efficiently, to maximize their strengths with digital tools. I hunted down the tools that make freelance pros' lives easy breezy, so that you don't have to.
Maximum Productivity—Minimum Headaches
You know it, I know, we all know it—keeping track of the time is hard. Even if you're expertly employing pomodoro breaks and timeboxing every bite of your lunch hour, we all have days where time just gets away from us. The tools here range from agile-type software for tracking projects on platforms that clients can join to sites specifically for small-business owners that are more about keeping all your contracts, jobs, and timelines, in one place.
- Toggl is a productivity device that tracks your time on projects, helps you figure out how to better manage that time, and provides progress reports for you to fill out as you work.
Price: Starts at $9/month and offers client review features, progress tracking for your projects, and reporting on how well you utilize your day-to-day time.
- Trello also helps you organize your goals by providing easy flow charts where you can break down projects into to-do lists and track progress.
Price: The free plan gets you unlimited boards to work off of and the ability to link projects to outside platforms like Google Drive or Dropbox.
- Freedcamp is what you need if you're routinely working with larger teams. Keeping tasks private? Check. Gantt chart options so you can see the overview of larger projects? You got it. Collab-friendly? Totally.
Price: the free plan offers unlimited storage, time tracking, and a messaging board, among other features. Got a bigger company? Just level up to one of the larger plans.
- Notion has one of my favorite designs of any of the programs listed here—I'm a sucker for a sparse, clean layout—but it's more than just aesthetically pleasing. Notion will link everything from Github to Trello all in one place, so that your projects are organized in easy-to-read lists.
Price: The free plan gets you 600 blocks (one block could be a to-do item, a line of code, an embedded file, etc), unlimited mobile blocks (when you use the app on your phone), and offers priced plans for larger companies who want more space and features.
Marketing Like a Pro
Okay, your time is being managed, but that's not particularly useful if you can't get your name out there and then turn your audience into customers. Here's some easy solutions.
- Mailchimp drastically cuts back your time spent marketing, with easy-to-automate services like email campaigns, and provides feedback on who your customer base is, what they're buying or interacting with, and how you can better capture their attention.
Price: The free plan offers you a 2,000 subscriber limit, and the option to send up to 12,000 emails per month.
- MeetEdgar is a social posting management system that you can back load content into, and then let run across however many platforms you want. As much as we all love scrolling on Facebook, wouldn't you rather someone else take care of all that posting?
Price: $49/month—with a 30-day trial period—gets you a library where you can add as much content as you like, schedule it across all your platforms, and post however often you'd like.
- Ghost is an open source application for blogging, which means that the users have the power to customize the code for their pages. For those of us just looking to write and post content, there are also publishing tools to help insert logos, play with text, and back load content.
Price: $10/month for a personal blog with access to hundreds of free themes, automatic backups, and access to a Slack community of over 10,000 other users.
Business Building Blocks
When you're working for yourself, you have to be on top of everything from scheduling meetings with potential clients to making sure those clients remember to pay you. Take some of the pressure off your administrative duties with these apps, so that you can focus on doing what you love instead.
- Honeybook is a all-in-one project management system that presents beautiful, easy-to-follow pipelines for both clients and collaborators, from the initial inquiry, to the final invoice. Save time, impress your clients with beautiful contracts, and take a load of work off your plate.
Price: $20/month (or $17 if you pay the annual fee) gets you monthly income reports, client questionnaires, invoicing templates, e-sign options for payment.
- Zervant's invoicing software has customizable templates, and gives you the opportunity to keep track of your finances with free reports. It's less comprehensive than Honeybook, but it certainly gets the job done when it comes to accounting.
Price: Free. Send as many invoices as you want, track your clients, and even export your data to your accountant.
The Day-to-Day Grind
Monthly bills rolling in are usually enough to keep us all at the daily grind, but when you're in the trenches, it's okay to admit that a little pick-me-up each day goes a long way. Keep your workspace (and headspace and body space) comfortable with support from tools that keep you energized, healthy, and upbeat on even the toughest of tough workdays!
- The Lumo Posture Corrector is a small clip that goes on your collar and gently vibrates when you slouch, to encourage good posture. Trust me, your spine will thank you for this kind of Pavlovian training.
- Move reminds you to do just that by sending your phone reminders throughout the day to engage in simple stretches, yoga poses, or more intense spurts of activity, depending on the setting you choose. Adjust to your office setting and let it ride.
Price: Free wit the option for in-app purchases
- Spotify doesn't just offer you access to thousands of songs, it also curates custom playlists based on your listening history. Follow friend's profiles and jam with them throughout the day, no matter how remote your work is!
Price: $9.99/month for a premium plan that gets you unlimited access to all your favorite tunes.
- Nature Box is that snacking service you keep hearing sponsoring all your favorite podcasts. Choose from an array delicious, healthy treats, and mix-n-match your favs for the ultimate snacking experience.
Price: Pricing depends on your selection
Invest wisely in your freelance set-up, and you'll be rolling out projects before you know it. And remember, if something feels unconquerable—whether it's learning a new business skill or dusting off an old technique to deal with a finicky client—you aren't alone. Reaching out to a member of the freelancing community, or taking a minute to research if there is an easily downloadable service to get you over the hump, will go a long way towards making sure your freelance career is one that lasts.
Chainalysis’s Ashley Vaughan on Why She Finds Cybersecurity So Meaningful, and How More Women Can Find Their Niche in the Industry
How much money do criminals control today, and where is it?
These are some of the many questions that Ashley Vaughan, Senior Solutions Architect at blockchain data platform Chainalysis, spends her days working to answer.
“You learn more about a situation or problem by following the money than from any other resource or piece of information,” she explains. “Money doesn't lie. People can lie in text messages or other means, but the path of the money leads you to what you're trying to accomplish.”
Though Ashley always knew she wanted to work with computers, she found her way into roles in cybersecurity, and then specifically blockchain security, through networking and exposure — not by setting out to do so.
We sat down to talk about her career journey, as well as what advice she has for other women looking to make their mark in these burgeoning fields.
Resilience and Curiosity
Ashley doesn’t often give up, and credits some of that attitude to an obsession with soccer as a kid.
“Playing sports makes you a more resilient person, I think. You learn failure and risk, which are very applicable to my job and my career path,” she says.
That resiliency was a good thing, notes Ashley, because as a young girl, she wasn’t always encouraged to pursue what she was most interested in: math and science. A teacher early on had told her that she wasn’t good at math, and Ashley believed that narrative until high school.
“We really shouldn’t put those ideas in children’s minds, because it affects them for much longer than you might think,” she says of the experience. “But I’m the kind of person that when someone tells me I can’t do something, it makes me want to do it even more, and do it better.”
Finding out in advanced high school math classes that she actually was good at math turned into choosing a computer engineering major when she got to college.
Graduating during a recession in 2010 meant Ashley didn’t have the job market of her dreams, but after working in IT, she networked her way into a role in the cybersecurity department of a prominent DC law firm.
“They were getting hit left and right from social engineering and phishing attempts,” says Ashley. “Due to the sensitive nature of the work they dealt with, I was exposed to the darker realities of the digital era, and I began to see a new side to the world—one of real significance to national security.”
Specializing in Cybersecurity — and Finding a Home in the Private Sector
Inspired by what she was working on at the law firm, Ashley pursued a master’s in cybersecurity with a focus on counterterrorism.
“I wanted to help protect our country,” she explains. “I have a lot of family members who are former military, so that was a natural step for me.”
That led to her taking a contract role specializing in offensive security at a government agency that frequently worked with Chainalysis. After working with Chainalysis folks onsite, she was sold and started pursuing a position with the company.
“I wanted to help make sense of blockchain data for a bigger purpose, like assisting in the continued threat of ransomware activity against American interests,” she explains.
Although she credits her public sector work with providing a solid foundation in blockchain security, the private sector turned out to be a better fit for her.
“What I love about Chainalysis is that my colleagues are really happy people, and I’ve always felt welcome and not scared to ask questions,” says Ashley. “In past jobs, where I was one of five women in a group of 150, I felt a lot of pressure. I didn’t ever want to make a mistake. I felt as if I had to be a chameleon to match the social environment of my male counterparts.”
Blockchains are all about democratizing data, and Ashley likes working with a team of people of all backgrounds to help support that mission. At Chainalysis, Ashley works with internal product and engineering to show customers how Chainalysis data can help them use complex blockchain solutions to solve data problems — and catch bad guys.
“Sometimes we’re following a bad actor who’s tied to child sex trafficking. Being part of a coordinated operation to put a stop to things like that is really fulfilling,” she says.
3 Tips for Women Who Want to Find Their Place in Cybersecurity
For a long time, reflects Ashley, she just wanted to come into work, do her job, and feel supported, without feeling like she didn’t fit in or was representing her entire gender. Fortunately, she found what she wanted — and she hopes other women will find that, too. They can start their search by:
- Knowing they’re not alone in having tough experiences. “Everyone has different definitions for how you’re supposed to act or supposed to handle your emotions as a woman at work, and it’s exhausting. It’s like, ‘This is just me.’ I can’t repeat enough how tiring that is,” she says.
- Prioritizing self-directed learning. Although Ashley completed a master’s in cybersecurity, she emphasizes that there are many other routes into the industry, including self-study. Whether you get involved in programs like Girls Who Code or do self-paced learning through platforms like Udemy or Coursera, the important thing is that you pursue independent learning about topics that interest you, she says.
- Creating and maintaining relationships. “Really talking to people is almost a lost art,” says Ashley. “Getting together with someone who has the same sort of mindset and leveraging their knowledge, and making sure you keep in touch with people who help further your career, is a good move. Most of the places I got to professionally were based on my human connections.”
Nowadays at Chainalysis, Ashley is no longer one of five women in the office, and is excited to start paying it forward so that more people with backgrounds like hers can pursue their own professional success.
“We tend to feel more comfortable talking to people who might have our same gender or educational background, and being open and vulnerable with them,” she says. “Being a visible role model is really important to me.”
Check out Chainalysis’ open roles here!
We all have our favorite websites– the ones we frequent, bookmark, and recommend to others. You might even enjoy some website features so much that you’ve found yourself wondering why they aren’t more popular. Or maybe you’ve experienced times where you were frustrated with a website and wished you could add features or even design your own!
If you’ve ever found yourself intrigued at the prospect of designing and developing your own websites, then a career as a web developer might be just for you!
As a web developer you would be responsible for coding, designing, optimizing, and maintaining websites. Today, there are over 1.7 billion websites in the world and, in turn, the demand for web developers is on the rise. In order to figure out what kind of web development work best suits you let’s start with an introduction to the three main roles in web development that you can choose from.
The Three Types of Web Development Jobs
Front-End Web Development: The Creative Side
In addition to programming skills, front-end developers need to be detail oriented, creative, willing to keep up with the latest trends in web development, cyber security conscious, and geared toward user-friendly designs. The median salary for a front-end developer can reach well into the $90,000 to $100,000 range.
Back-End Web Development: The Logical Counterpart
While a house can be beautifully decorated, it’s incomplete without a solid foundation and efficient infrastructure. Similarly, a well-designed website depends on logical and functional code to power the features of that website. Back-end web development is code-heavy and focused on the specifics of how a website works. If you enjoy the analytical challenge of creating the behind-the-scenes code that powers a website, then back-end development is for you.
Full-Stack Web Development: A Little Bit of Everything
A full-stack developer is essentially the Jack (or Jill)-of-all-trades in web development. Full-stack developers need to be knowledgeable about both front-end and back-end roles. This does not necessarily imply that you would need to be an expert in both roles, but you should fully understand the different applications and synergies they each imply. In order to work in this position, you will need to know the programming languages used by front-end and back-end developers. In addition to these languages, full-stack developers also specialize in databases, storage, HTTP, REST, and web architecture.
Full-stack developers are often required to act as liaisons between front-end and back-end developers. Full-stack developers need to be both problem solvers and great communicators. The end goal for a full-stack developer is to ensure that the user’s experience is seamless, both on the front-end and on the back-end. In return, you can expect to earn a median salary of $100,000 – $115,000 a year for this role.
Taking the Next Step
Web development is both in-demand and lucrative! All three roles described above contribute to specific aspects of web development and the scope of each one can be customized to the industries and positions you feel best suit you. Regardless of which role you choose, all of them need a foundation in programming.
To gain the programming skills needed in each role, you can enroll in courses or learn independently. Coding bootcamps are a great way to boost your skillset quickly and efficiently.
Click here for some of our highly rated programming bootcamp options! Make sure to check out the discounts available to PowerToFly members.
💎 “What are you passionate about?” In an interview, you may have to answer this and other personal questions. Watch the video to the end to succeed in your job interview at Ribbon.
📼If asked “what are you passionate about?” in an interview you need to show how your passion can make you a good candidate for a job position. Ryan Key, Talent Partner at Ribbon, shares some tips and tricks for you to stand out!
📼Answering what are you passionate about in an interview is not the only thing you need to know how to do to succeed. You should try to make sure that you express your experience in a way that shows your interest in Ribbon’s mission. Also, prove that you did your research and demonstrate to the recruiter that you understand exactly how your role affects Ribbon’s purposes. Don’t forget to share some ideas on how you intend to fulfill the company’s mission!
📼 You are asked what are you passionate about in an interview, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t ask as well. You should feel empowered to ask any question you want during your interview process. It may be helpful to save certain questions for certain people. If you're in an interview with your potential manager, you should take that time to ask about their assessment metrics for the role and their management style. If you're speaking with a potential peer, this would be a great time to ask about their experience during training and to learn a little more about the team and culture.
What Are You Passionate About? Show In Your Interview That You Are Aligned With Ribbon's Values
The mission at Ribbon is to make homeownership achievable for everyone, especially communities traditionally left out of the homeownership story. One way Ribbon addresses diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace is through its support of employee resource groups. Remember to show that your passion is aligned with these core values!
🧑💼 Are you interested in joining Ribbon? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Ryan Key
If you are interested in a career at Ribbon, you can connect with Ryan Key on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to mention this video!
More About Ribbon
Ribbon is a first-of-its-kind real estate technology company transforming the real estate transaction by delivering certainty, transparency, and joy to the home buying process. Consumers and realtors deserve a better experience, and they have designed an open platform that welcomes everyone in the ecosystem to participate.
💎 Partnerships in remote environments is one of the most important aspects to construct in a company. Watch the video to the end to get good tips on how to do it successfully.
📼Wondering how to create partnerships in remote environments? Play this video to get three top tips that will help you to achieve it. You'll hear from Olga Shvets, HR Business Partner, and Viktoriia Litvinchuk, People Team Operations at Unstoppable Domains, who will explain the essentials of this process.
📼How to build partnerships in remote environments? Tip #1: Communicate Effectively. Communication is the key to enabling your remote team to be successful. Choose the channel that works best. For this, chat with your employees and see what they use to communicate, that's how you find the best solution. Also, make sure your team is on board with your internal tools and they know what, how, and where they need to use them.
📼A requisite for building partnerships in remote environments is Tip #2: Show appreciation. Appreciation is shown through your actions. Let your employees know that you value everything they do for the company. Create a special gratitude channel where everyone can share their appreciation for their colleagues for some contribution. Celebrate some wins, promotions, and everything that is important for the company. If you appreciate the employees, employees do the same for the company.
Create Partnerships In Remote Environments Using Trust - Tip #3: Give Honest Feedback
Use engagement surveys! They are a quick and effective way to receive honest feedback from your team and you can see what's working well and what needs to be improved. Your main priority is to create spaces where managers and employees can share honest, relevant feedback.
📨 Are you interested in joining Unstoppable Domains? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Olga Shvets
If you are interested in a career at Unstoppable Domains, you can connect with Olga on LinkedIn. Don’t forget to mention this video!
More About Unstoppable Domains
Unstoppable Domains is bringing user-controlled identity to 3 billion+ internet users by issuing domain names on the blockchain. These domains allow users to replace cryptocurrency addresses with human-readable names, host decentralized websites, and much more.
By selling these domains direct to consumers for a one-time fee, the company is making a product that will change cryptocurrency and shape the future of the decentralized web by providing users control over their identity and data.