Navigating your way through freelancing can be tough. There’s keeping track of invoices, understanding what expenses you can claim, knowing the difference between being a sole trader and limited company, and – perhaps most importantly – keeping on top of your cashflow. When it comes to actually getting your work done, there is a host of freelancer tools out there that can help you twist and turn your way through your freelancing career.
Think of them a bit like a compass, only more high-tech. Most are available across all platforms and many have an associated iOS or Android app, meaning there’s no excuse not to enhance your freelancing lifestyle.
Freelancer tools for clever freelancers
You’re on the go and moving from co-working space, to coffee shop, to your living room – all the while trying to keep on top of your freelance email and comms. Stop, breathe, and download Slack.
Slack is an instant messaging service that allows you to communicate with other users via an app for your computer or device. The main benefit of Slack is that it eliminates endless emailing back and forth. You can integrate Slack with other freelancer must-haves, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and Asana.
Currently Slack has an estimated 3 million users daily. Worried your clients aren’t using Slack yet? They soon will be. Reports show that growth is happening at one million new users every five months.
Ever wanted to schedule emails? Boomerang lets you do just that. This app allows you to write an email, schedule it, and the rest will be taken care of. And that’s not the best part.
A key benefit of Boomerang is its ability to remind you when you haven’t heard back from a client, for example if you send out some pitches and receive nothing back. Some might have slipped through the editor’s fingers or maybe your pitch was genuinely rubbish. Either way, Boomerang will give you a nudge to follow up on unanswered emails. Genius.
If you need some support organising your freelance work, Trello is your go-to app. It allows you to sort your workload into projects and subsequently into boards. For example, you could create a project called Editorial Work and boards labelled ‘To Write’, ‘In Progress’, and ‘Complete’. In each board you create cards for different pieces you’re working on.
The idea behind Trello is that you move the cards along the boards in time with your workflow. Trello then creates a great visual aid to see the different stages your work is at.
Asana allows you to create and manage projects more effectively. You can assign different tasks to team members and communicate about the project via a built-in messaging system. It’s super handy if you find yourself collaborating with other freelancers on larger-scale projects and ideas.
Time is precious when you’re a freelancer and effective time-management can often make or break a business. Toggl allows you to break the mould when it comes to time-management with its easy to use time-tracking software.
Create projects and tasks, then start the counter. You’ll quickly see how much time you’re spending on specific working areas. Toggl also allows you to enter whether a project is billable – giving you the option to show clients on what tasks their money is being spent.
Are you one of those people who is easily distracted? You need Rescue Time. This desktop application tracks specifically where your web-activity happens and allows you to view productivity reports based on your browsing. The premium version also allows you to block those pesky distracting websites, allowing greater focus and productivity.
If you’re really struggling to focus, download Self Control. This application allows you to block websites that are distracting for a set amount of time. If you decide you want to access the website, there is no way to do so – even if you uninstall the app – until the timer is up. A great little tool for those of us who spend way too much time on Buzzfeed.
Commonly known as ‘Drive’, this nifty application from Google allows you to create documents, spreadsheets, and slides from your computer, save them in the Cloud, then access them from anywhere using any internet-connected device. All you need is a Google account and you’re good to go.
A major benefit of Drive is the ability to share documents with other people. Written the first draft of an awesome piece on what tools freelancers should be using? Share it with your editor for their feedback. Drive takes away the pain of cross-platform document or PDF sharing, saving masses of time and improving overall workflow.
If you work across multiple countries, chances are you quickly tire of being charged large amounts by banks for transferring funds. Transferwise is worth signing up to because it eliminates any colossal bank fee.
Simply log in, choose the currency you want to convert from and to, and into whose bank account you’d like the money to go, then pay with a debit or credit card. It really couldn’t be any simpler.
A much-respected method of working is the Pomodoro technique. Roughly translating from the Italian word for tomato (its creator named it after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer he used as a student), Pomodoro involves spending 25 minutes concentrating solely on the task in hand. Once your 25 minutes are up, take a 3-5 minute break. Continue for a full hour and then take a longer 15-30 minute break.
Pomodoro Time – available on the Mac App Store – allows you to time your Pomodoro sections and help improve both your focus and workflow.
Pen and paper
No, it’s not the name of a fancy new app, but the vintage method of planning and organising. Sometimes all it takes to refocus and develop new ideas is a pen to paper brainstorming session or plotting out strategies on a whiteboard. We live in a modern world but the old-school methods seemingly never fail to set off new ideas and creativity. If nothing else, you’ll end up creating some fantastic doodles.
Got any must-have apps of your own? Let us know in the comments below.