A Freelancer’s Toolkit: 18 Tools Everyone Should Use
With changing work environments, a global pandemic, and uncertain economies, more and more people find themselves freelancing. As the number of people independently working grows, there are also increasing opportunities for someone willing to work hard and hone their skills.
Independently working may seem like a dream come true. Freelancers enjoy flexible schedules, new and interesting work, and don’t need to report to a corporate office, which is very appealing for anyone who can self-motivate. However, it also comes with challenges. Working through and overcoming these challenges can be easier if you have the right tools.
This article will guide you through some freelancing tools and how they can make your work life easier.
Freelancer tools for marketing your skills
To be a successful freelancer, you need to find clients. Beyond having visible profiles across social media platforms like LinkedIn, having the tools to market your business helps clients find you. Below are some of the best tools you can use to promote your work.
Starting an email list is a great way to keep your brand at top of mind for your existing clients, and also to recruit new clients. You can use your list to send a newsletter with updates on the work you’re doing or timely topics that position you as a subject matter expert. Mailchimp is an option for those who don’t want to work with HTML code. The service also has different levels of plans, including a free option for anyone with a subscriber list under 2,000. The paid plans step up based on the number of subscribers.
If you’re a freelance designer, Dribble is another way to get your work out into the world. Using this platform is a great way to share and promote your portfolio. Dribble is also a helpful place to go when you need some inspiration. There are two pricing plans: pro and pro business. If you sign up for the pro business version, you can find work through the freelance projects job board.
Sumo works with your website by offering tools to help with things like increasing traffic to your site and bringing users back. The service can also help you build lists and more. Sumo is user friendly for people with no HTML experience. There are four pricing options.
IFTTT is used by many brands you recognize, including Google and Spotify. The goal of IFTTT is to help companies increase their customer engagement on a variety of digital channels. The company understands this is difficult for many businesses to achieve, so the work has been done for you. Using plug-ins called applets, you can leverage the brands that your clients already use, including their social media, to connect them to your work and learn more about your customer’s behavior.
Drip can benefit an e-commerce site and increase sales. Features include collecting and analyzing customer data, personalization to your target customer, and the ability to engage across different platforms. Pricing is determined by the number of people in your account, but you can start with a free trial.
Freelancer tools for tracking your time
Freelancers often find themselves working on multiple projects at one time. Tracking your time is important for accurate and timely invoicing. The time-tracking tools below can make time management a lot easier for you and any team members you have, without interrupting your workflow.
OfficeTime is a good time tracker and expense-keeping tool. It’s easy to use, and you only pay one time for the software, instead of a monthly fee. You can track time and have it directly imported to a report or invoice. You can also use an Apple calendar to enter meetings into the project they belong to. The software works with Mac, PC, iPhone, and iPad.
What makes Chrometa useful is its ability to run in the background, meaning you don’t have to think too hard about starting and stopping a timer. It works in real time by learning your keywords, email addresses, and phone numbers to automatically attribute your activities to the right project and create a time sheet for you. It also integrates with practice or project management tools.
Harvest gives you the flexibility to track your time using a timer, or to input your time into the timesheet template all at once. If you have a team, everyone’s time sheets will be put into a visual summary to track where the team’s time is going. The data collected can then be used to create invoices and make the billing process painless. Harvest has monthly and annual pricing plans.
Toggl time tracking can run in the background or track with the click of a button. It also offers the functionality to sync across your devices. There is a Toggl mobile app for when you’re not at your desk. Toggl extensions work with Asana, Gmail, and more.
Freelancer tools for productivity and project management
Task management is one of the most important things for a freelancer to master. When distractions are everywhere, you must keep your focus on your task. Whether you’re leading a team or a part of a team, the collaboration tools below can help you manage your time and project from start to finish for quality results and a happy client. There are also several productivity tools to help you stay focused at all times.
Asana is a popular tool. The product is used by teams not only to track progress but also to communicate about a task or project. Asana has boards that can be used to visualize the work. There’s also a task dependency system where you can mark tasks as waiting on other tasks. Using the timeline feature, you can show your team how all the pieces fit together. There’s a “Workload” feature where you can manage each team member’s workload.
Asana has four pricing levels, including a basic free plan, premium plan, business plan, and enterprise plan.
Trello is based on the Kanban project management system. You create boards for each project. From there, you create lists and cards for each task within a project. The cards move as the project moves forward. Each card is an opportunity to store a lot of information, including communication about the tasks.
Trello has many “Power-Ups” that allow for things like viewing the cards in a calendar view or integrating programs like Dropbox. Trello has three pricing options, including free, business class, and enterprise.
Every freelancer has been there. You’re researching information or searching for clients online, and you see an article or a video that you want to learn more about. With Pocket, you can save all those TED Talks, interesting articles, or videos into your account to revisit later. Then, when you’re ready, go back and learn on or offline on any device. This is a particularly useful tool if you’re a freelance writer who is looking for sources for upcoming projects or a web designer who might be looking at other sites for design inspiration.
Freelancer tools for communication and collaboration
Strong communication and collaboration can make a project flow more smoothly to completion, making you and your client happy. As a freelancer, though, you probably don’t see your client as much, and if you’re working with a team, everyone may be located in a different place. The right technology will help freelancers keep everyone in the loop at the right time.
Slack uses channels to keep communication flowing. You create channels for your project, and everyone who’s included on the channel will see the same information and messages, which keeps everyone working from the same playbook. Within a channel, you can also share files or connect a voice or video call. Slack also allows you to connect multiple tools and apps. There are three pricing levels for Slack based on the size of your business.
Boomerang is an email productivity app that works with Gmail, Outlook, or your mobile device. Boomerang allows you to respond to an email when you have time, but schedule that email to be sent when you want it to go out. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help you write more readable emails and elicit more responses.
Freelancers can also use Boomerang’s scheduling feature to make scheduling a meeting less of a hassle. The “Inbox Pause” feature will stop new emails from appearing in your inbox until you’re ready for more. There are four pricing levels, including basic—which is a free plan—personal, pro, and premium.
SaneBox uses AI to analyze your previous email use and learn what you find important. It then keeps important emails in your inbox and automatically moves distractions to another folder you can deal with later. If it makes a mistake, you can move the email back and teach the AI to better predict your organizational needs.
Additionally, you can email SaneBox to create a reminder to follow up on a specific date. The folders you use for SaneBox will automatically show up on any device you use to check email, including Android and iOS devices. SaneBox also has a “Do Not Disturb” feature to help you catch up distraction-free.
There are three levels for SaneBox: “Snack” for one email account, “Lunch” for two email accounts, and “Dinner” for up to four email accounts. Within each level, you can pick pricing that is monthly, yearly, or biyearly.
Freelancer tools for accounting and payments
It’s easy for freelancers to be so focused on their work that they forget to stay updated on their invoicing and bookkeeping. However, making sure you get paid on time and are ready for tax season is important, and there are tools that can help you do just that.
For Freelancers, FreshBooks helps make invoicing easier by providing billing statements with different payment options. It also helps with recurring invoices, automated payments, and reminders. FreshBooks provides a way to give a client an estimate or proposal, and it allows for time tracking on projects. The spreadsheets feature will make your taxes less of a headache, too.
FreeAgent accounting software is designed for freelancers and small businesses. After you send a FreeAgent invoice, it helps with follow-up reminders. You can set up recurring invoices, as well. Receipt tracking is as easy as taking a picture with your phone and uploading it to the cloud-based software. You can start with FreeAgent using a free trial. After that, there is only one pricing level that begins at $12 a month for the first six months and goes up to $24 a month.
You’re probably already familiar with PayPal, but did you know it can work with your business? PayPal helps you collect payments, no matter how you’re selling your product or service, and has more payment options for your customers, including all major credit cards. The service also has a “buy now, pay later” option. You can make payments using PayPal. There isn’t a set fee for using the service, but you’ll want to check the merchant and consumer fees menu.
Put your tools to use for top clients
Having the right tools will go a long way in making your freelance business successful. Tools to promote your work, communicate with clients and integrate with their existing CRMs, and keep up with invoicing and accounting allow you to focus on doing the work you love—while keeping the hassles to a minimum.
Upwork can help you along the way to becoming successfully self-employed and helping your business thrive. Whether you’re a new startup or have been freelancing for years, you’ll find the best freelancing jobs on our work marketplace by browsing through job postings or searching keywords, categories, or skill sets. Join today and get started growing your business.
Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this section. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.