As a freelancer, time is your most valuable resource. You probably got into freelancing because you wanted to set your own hours and enjoy a flexible schedule.
Yet there’s a lot of time-consuming side work you have to finish in order to do your actual job. You are your own administrative assistant, salesperson, and CFO.
The services we recommend here will help you cut that administrative time dramatically.
Invoicing and Finance
We’re all familiar with the windfall week. It’s a great feeling when all your clients finally pay up all at once. Big paydays are always a reason for celebration.
But after you’ve finished your fancy dinner and a cocktail or two, you’ll probably remember that the two weeks before payday were tight. You knew you had money coming—the question was when you’d actually get it.
These tools give you several solutions to boom or bust billing. First, they’ll help you budget better. Second, they’ll help you invoice faster and more effectively. And best of all, they can get that one client—you know who they are—to pay you on time.
Wave is an elegant accounting and invoicing tool that starts out at the low price of free. Invoicing, accounting, and receipt scanning are all included in the free version. They also offer affordable credit card processing and payroll services if you need them.
Wave was designed for freelancers or businesses with nine employees or fewer. It’s apparent in every part of the company, from the app’s design to their website.
Just Tell Julie
Price: Per request
Julie gets your delinquent clients to pay. Seriously.
Price: 0.25% of annual yield
Betterment is an affordable, online-based wealth management company. They assign you to a wealth manager, but you can work on your 401(k) on your own time with their handy, intuitive software also.
This time tracking and project management software will take the guesswork and frustration out of your billing. If you’re diligent about entering your time and running the clock, you’ll always know how much time to put on the next invoice. You can even assign different rates to different projects.
Promotion and Lead Generation
You can earn more if you get more clients—it’s really that simple.
But managing social media is time-consuming. Managing a website and email list can seem even more daunting. We have good news! These tasks are very easy to automate.
Hootsuite is the leading social media management platform, and it’s free for basic functionality. Manage your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and every other social account that you can think of in one place. You can even push the same message across different platforms.
Mailchimp, which sponsors half of your favorite podcasts, is as good a tool as its ubiquity would suggest. The service cuts the time of running an email list almost to zero, as long as you take the time to write the content that Mailchimp sends out. In fact, you can actually complete your email marketing and blogging at the same time. Mailchimp integrates with websites, and it can send a blog post to everyone on your list.
This popular web hosting and site design service sponsors the other half of your favorite podcasts, and it’s also the most straightforward website service out there. Squarespace integrates hosting, domain, and design services in one place, and thank goodness. We’ve heard too many horror stories of companies losing access to their website when a domain expires or a host makes a change. Eliminate uncertainty by having everything with one company.
Productivity and Communication
It can be hard to remember what project to work on during which day. That problem grows when you’re collaborating with a team. Since you’re a freelancer, you’re probably used to living as a lone wolf. Joining a new pack can be tough, especially if you don’t know who is supposed to do what. These tools will help you work with clients or by yourself.
This project management software will help you plan tasks and collaborate with clients and colleagues. You can set up to-do lists and share software. You can even chat with clients for simple questions instead of starting a ten-message-long email chain.
If you manage all your work using to-do lists, but you need something that is shareable and works across devices, this app is for you.
Price: 14 day free trial, pay per use, or $19/month
We have to plug ourselves! After all, you probably do the same thing—every chance you get, you tell prospects about your work. You have to in order to keep your business growing.
Our online conference calling platform is ideal for remote meetings with a team that’s hired you on for a contract. Screen sharing lets collaborators see your work as if they were looking over your shoulder in the office. You can also use it for lead generation and remote pitches. Get (and keep) clients in different time zones.
Bidding and Proposals
You work all day, and then you get an email from a prospect that you first heard from two weeks ago. Turns out they do want your work! You get excited—and then you realize that you have another four hours to go putting together a proposal.
Either Bidsketch or Proposify can cut that time at least in half. Both services feature professional-looking bid templates that give you a better chance to win the job—with way less hassle and unpaid work.
Storage and Collaboration
Too many people share and co-edit documents by sharing Microsoft Office files over email. Sharing documents this way devours their email storage, clogs their web connection, and leaves them with several versions of the same document. Instead, use these simple, cloud-based tools that you can share every file type under the sun.
Drive allows you to share files easily with others. You can track changes and look at the document’s entire revision history. Indeed, Google Docs—the word processing component of the Google software suite—has replaced Microsoft Word as the publishing industry standard.
Price: freemium; $100/year for plus
Dropbox is an industry leader for a reason. It’s a file-sharing and cloud storage service that has comprehensive collaboration tools that you can adjust project-to-project and file-to-file. The 2 GB free version will be enough to get you hooked, but it’s probably not enough for the long-term. The one terabyte “plus” version is worth it.
Try For a Month
Most of these tools are free or freemium. If you fall in love with one of these subscriptions, then you might benefit from one of the enterprise versions. And you can cancel whenever you want. Given that, they’re well worth trying out.
But make an informed decision. Gather some data about how they’ve changed your work. Track or estimate the amount of time you spend on a task before adopting new software. When you start using the software, see how much time you’ve actually saved. Use the difference between the two to calculate how much client work time you’ve recovered.
That kind of experimentation and risk-taking is part of freelancing. You’re already good at it. Have no fear—if you’re already making a living by yourself, you’ve already won.