Freelancing can be a tough gig, but there is no better time than a new year to begin building (or rebuilding) a fantastic new business where you can do what you love. Being successful has a lot to do with your drive and passion, but depends largely on your efficiency, workflow and presentation. In this post you’ll find a collection of modern, effective tools and apps we hope our self-employed readers will find useful. Best of all, they’re free, mobile-compatible and integrate with each other or a wide variety of other apps and platforms.
Evernote is one of the oldest and best loved tools for organizing a variety of content. Catalog your thoughts, drafts and inspiration, or use the super helpful web clipper to save quotes, code snippets or screenshots. The app integrates with several popular apps and platforms and provides tips, tutorials and templates to help you get the most out of its features.Evernote can be accessed through the web, or downloaded to any device.
This tiny task manager is one of the best apps ever made for keep track of your day to day, setting reminders and sharing lists. Wunderlist is available for desktop and mobile, comes with remote sync/backup and is free for solo freelancers.
Toggl is the leading online time tracking tool, which is extremely popular among freelancers, consultants, and small companies. It allows users to track the time spent on various projects and analyze productivity. It’s cloud-based and can be up and running from scratch in less than a minute. You can use Toggl on the web, as a desktop widget or on your mobile – all your data gets synced in real time.
Contracts & Copyrights
MyOws is an online digital copyrights management system where you can catalog and protect your original works including blog posts, dribbble shots, websites and illustrations. As soon as you upload an Original work on Myows, a copy of that work is time and date stamped and saved on their secure servers. Each work can be licensed to clients using professionally drafted certificates, and cases submitted for copyright violation that the MyOws team handles for you. An essential service for every freelancer!
Bonsai is a beautiful client contract and payment system that is completely free for freelancers. Their helpful contract wizards use vetted templates for generating contracts and estimates, and send it to the client to securely e-sign in minutes. Time tracking and reminders are included, as are monthly reports. Invoices can be customized and branded and optionally hooked up to an online payment processor for a small fee per invoice.
DesignBrief is a web tool built in collaboration by Boldtask and Placement Labs walks you through creating a simple, beautiful proposal for your clients. Each brief can be linked and viewed online, or downloaded to PDF and includes a project summary, mood chart, color palette and value statement.
Invoicing and accounting is one of the more important things to get right when building your freelance workflow. Freshbooks is designed to be the most ridiculously easy to use accounting software ever built. It helps you automate time consuming tasks like organizing expenses, tracking your time, and preparing for taxes – tasks that go beyond most simple invoice apps. Zapier support means you can connect it to over 700 other productivity apps (including WordPress) for seamless integration.
The new kid on the block, And Co is currently in beta, but you wouldn’t know it. This incredibly versatile app helps you process invoices, track expenses, make payments, and provides you with a wonderful "chief operator" AI that can help you along and answer most questions you have about running your business. And Co tracks your billing schedules to make sure you’re never late to send an invoice, and also automatically remind clients when their payments are late. They also offer online payment options for no additional fees. This app is every freelancer’s dream.
There is no shortage of excellent personal finance mobile apps, but Mint has long been the best. Their app shows you the big picture while also keeping tabs on every single transaction that posts to every one of your linked accounts. It includes budgeting tools, bill reminders, and more and supports hundreds of banks and credit services, including Paypal and Skrill. Unlike Freshbooks or and.co, mint is more of a personal banking helper – it does not do client management or invoicing.
Trello is one of the most widely used apps in the creative industry today for both individuals and teams. It offers a Kanban-board style interface to visually manage your work. If you have ever used a post-it note to remind yourself to do something, you’ve already got the chops to make this tool work for you. Trello’s Cards help you to see work in progress and organize tasks, goals and discussions. Lists of cards can be laid out in any way you like, from days of the week to specific topics, and moved around with drag n drop. Collaboration tools allow you to assign tasks, add team members or deadlines, comment and view activity streams where needed.
Meistertask is very similar to Trello in that it uses Kanban-style project boards, but through a different UI experience. Presented as projects, each board has a pre-defined flow of Open, In Progress and Done for each task or goal, which in turn holds its own checklists, attachments, due dates and conversations. Each task has built-in completion action to notify participants (if there are any) and a highly customizable interface and dashboard. MeisterTask seamlessly integrates with MindMeister, the online mind mapping app that lets you brainstorm with others in real-time and create project plans visually.
#slack is just about the best thing to happen to freelancers and remote workers everywhere. It is a cloud-based chat app where you join a "team" (or two, or three) to hang out and collaborate. Aside from real-time conversation, #slack’s strengths is in its powerful API and integrations, allowing you to receive notifications and interact with other applications in your workflow through simple commands, including several on this list. #slack also includes notes for storing code snippets, quotes or other useful info and starring or pinning of any message that contains a useful link or comment. Best of all, its powerful search feature helps you refer back to discussions from days past to stay caught up.
In case you missed it, Zapier is a platform that lets you connect your favorite web apps to create automated workflows between them without any programming skills. It’s a great way to connect your email and tools like MeisterTask or Freshbooks with calendars, time tracking tools, productivity apps, and even social media networks. Most apps on this list use or support Zapier – check out their impressive list here.
A similar tool to Zapier, IFTTT helps you connect your apps and services together and automate tasks easily. Unlike Zapier, IFTTT is 100% free and includes unlimited repetitive tasks. While the app integration for web is not as deep, IFTTTs reach is a bit broader, allowing you to define a wide variety of logical rules that extend into your environment, including turning your lights on at home. At its most simple, IFTTT can repost Instagram to Twitter, automatically add new Gmail contacts to your iOS contact list, or automatically send a chat message in #slack to remind you of upcoming calendar deadlines.
Hootsuite is a social marketing management tool that focuses on user engagement and workflow optimization. Manage up to 3 social media profiles in one place, all with one password, to easily schedule, synchronize and interact. If social media is a big part of your business, this app is for you.
Buffer shares your content at the best possible times throughout the day so that your followers and fans see your updates more often. As you add content, you can easily select which of your social accounts you want to post to. Your updates will automatically be scheduled and spaced out throughout the day to post to your favorite social networks. Plus, you can custom schedule or “post now” right inside the app. This is a simple way to chekc your social media in one place on the go, and interact efficiently for the most impact.
DropMark offers an ultra-simple way to organize links, images and files into visual collections that are perfect for creatives. You can organize by project or client, for example, drag and drop images to upload, then share securely. Clients or team members can quickly view all images in a project, view full-screen and comment, helping you keep discussions in context and out of your busy inbox. Even their paid option is super-affordable at only $5 per month.
No doubt you’ve heard of DropBox and what it does. It is the industry leader in cloud storage and file sharing for freelancers, offering a multitude of incentives for earning free space upgrades. It accepts integrations with many apps on this list for seamlessly backing up your data to cut down on the amount of time spent syncing. DropBox files and folders can be shared securely to your clients via email.
WeTransfer is simple, beautiful single-file sharing. It sends a link to the recipient with a secure download link, and presents your file in a mobile friendly page. It is an excellent, quick alternative to other file sharing tools when you only need to send a single file that doesn’t need to be referenced or accessed multiple times.
GitHub is a web-based code hosting service that utilizes the Git version control system, focused on open-source. Through its Desktop, Android or iPhone app, you can easily sync your local code repositories on the fly, manage issues or browse the community. GitHub supports any command line or Git-supported apps if you don’t want to use theirs. Don’t have a project worth syncing yet? GitHub is an excellent place for hosting code snippets or "Gists" to build an online code portfolio that can be seen and shared among one of the web’s most active developer communities, or embedded into your own website.
Bitbucket is a Git-based code management system very similar to GitHub, but designed primarily around collaboration and team projects. Unlike GitHub, a free Bitbucket account allows up to 5 team members and private repositories, but also does not have the community or public code sharing potential of GitHub. They offer their own free app, called SourceTree, or you can use any other Git-supported tool or app to connect to Bitbucket repositories if you prefer. If you are a developer that is new to freelancing, it is worth having a Bitbucket for your personal projects and a GitHub for those you want to share and promote.
The Twine marketplace connects creatives with companies and individuals seeking contract workers. If you’re a creative freelancer, you can choose which projects you want to work on and submit your proposals. Twine does not take a cut from you, and they offer portfolio pages and find interesting creatives to collaborate with from all over the world.
Remote|OK is a remote job marketplace and community of over 500,000 remote freelancers. Most listings fall within the categories of design and development but freelancers can specify their search to see which jobs are the highest paying and see graphs on trends within the growth of various remote job categories. You may also subscribe to receive emails daily, weekly, or monthly stay updated on new postings.
Formerly Freelance Switch, Envato Studio helps thousands of individuals and companies find creatives for everything from WordPress installation to full scale branding projects. Envato’s platform handles all contracts and licenses, and ensures you get paid on time. They do take a 30% fee once the job is closed, but rates are competitive to what you may find on other job boards where you’re left to go it alone.
Is there a tool you have found to help you be more productive or successful? Feel free to share them in the comments below!