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.