At the start of every year, it’s the perfect time to reflect on your wins and set professional goals for the year ahead.
As you make your plans, you probably set various revenue, client, project, and networking goals for yourself. For example, you want to make $100,000 by onboarding fewer clients with higher budgets.
You can set and follow-through with some big goals, but what about setting yourself up for success during the daily grind?
These moments in between your big wins are some of the most crucial. As you plan for the year ahead, it’s important to take a step back and analyze which tools you need as a freelancer so you can work efficiently and productively day after day.
Top Tools for Freelancers
In the 2018 Freelancing in America Report, 66% of full-time freelancers revealed that they felt anxious about all that they have to manage. That’s not all that surprising. From quickly sending out proposals to managing your time so you can actually get all that work done, the freelance life is full of challenges.
You wear a lot of hats as a freelancer so it’s important to have processes and tools in your toolbox that will set you up for success.
Of course, there are plenty of advantages to freelancing like working remotely, creating a flexible schedule (so you can sleep in until 9am on the days that you really need those extra zzz’s), and being your own boss. It’s a big reason why 56.7 million Americans freelanced in 2018.
To help you navigate these challenges and success, we put together a list of tools you can add to your freelancer’s toolbox. So if one of your new year’s resolutions is to work smarter, then give these tools a try!
For Time Tracking — Harvest
Harvest is a time tracking tool with a simple design and powerful functionality. You can create multiple projects so you can track to the minute how much time you’re spending on client work or even personal projects. Harvest has excellent reporting capability and even allows you to create and send invoices.
Using a time tracking tool will give you incredible insight into how you spend every hour of your workdays. Think you spend too much time in meetings? Tracking time in Harvest can confirm that you do spend too many hours in hours and that it’s time to start working on those deliverables you talk about providing.
For Project Management – Trello
Trello is a visual project management tool that uses boards, lists, and cards to organize and prioritize projects and tasks. The tool’s drag-and-drop functionality make it easy to keep track of the status of your projects. At a quick glance, you can see what you’re ready to work on and what’s in progress. And if you work with a team, Trello has some great features for team collaboration so everyone can stay organized together.
For Finances — QuickBooks Self-Employed
Unless you’re a freelancing accountant, then anything to do with taxes induces a migraine. QuickBooks Self-Employed is an essential tool for freelancers or independent contractors. The app connects to your bank account and credit card so you can easily track expenses and separate personal and business spending seamlessly when tax season rolls around. One of the best features of the app is the ability to take photos of receipts from expenses so you can finally remove that stack of receipts cluttering your desk.QuickBooks Self-Employed also helps you estimate your quarterly and annual taxes. But of course, you should work with a certified accountant to cross-check your numbers before filing.
For Easy Graphic Design — Canva
If you don’t have the budget or patience for Photoshop, then Canva will become your new best friend. Canva is an online graphic design tool that uses drag-and-drop functionality to create beautiful graphics, documents, and more. It was made with non-designers in mind so you can easily make gorgeous graphics for social media, email, and even your website without a design degree.
For Password Management — 1Password
How many times per month do you forget your password and have to go through that tedious process to reset it? 1Password is a password management tool that securely stores and remembers your passwords across sites and platforms.
So if you’re a freelancer that has various email addresses for your many clients, then you can say goodbye to that pen and paper and use 1Password so you never forget your login details again.
For Expert Writing and Editing – Hemingway App
Even if you’re a freelance writer, you can’t always be on your A-game when it comes to cranking out copy, blog posts, or even a simple tweet.
Thanks to the Hemingway App, you have a writing and editing assistant at your fingertips. Hemingway helps you write well by identifying common writing issues like complex sentences and unnecessary adverbs. Ernest Hemingway himself was an advocate of short, simple sentences so you can understand the inspiration behind the app.
The tool makes sure everything you type is clear, effective, and mistake-free so you always maintain a professional persona while doing business.
For Saving Important Articles — Pocket
If you like to take breaks and hop on your phone to catch up on the news or industry buzz, you probably find yourself skimming articles without enough time to read the full thing. Of course you want to read it later, but as a freelancer, life can get pretty hectic. So instead of forgetting about the amazing research article you wanted to read, you can save it to Pocket. Pocket is a mobile and desktop app that allows you to save articles, links, and even videos so you can view them later when you have a little downtime.
For Contracts — Proposify
As a freelancer, you probably spend a good amount of time doing your own sales and writing proposals for new clients. If you aren’t using a tool already, then you know how time-consuming the proposal writing process is. Proposify streamlines the proposal, contract, and quote creation process. You can easily create templates so you can send your proposal out and land that big project in a matter of hours.
For Social Media – Sprout Social
One of the best ways to work efficiently is by batching your work. This means you work on one task and complete it in a matter of minutes or a couple of hours. As a freelancer, you run the show and you’re probably creating and posting your own social media posts. Instead of doing this work on the fly, dedicate a few hours at the start of your week to write, create, and schedule your social media posts. Your following and engagement will grow week-over-week without your constant attention! To schedule your social posts and track analytics, Sprout Social is one of the best social media management tools on the market. The tool gives you a preview of what the post will look like before it goes live and it has some of the best analytics reporting. The tool also has great functionality for social listening so you can keep a pulse on your industry.
For Email and Everything In Between – Spike
As a freelancer, your information is most likely spread across different email addresses and calendars. Keeping everything in order takes away precious time from your workday to get that real work done. When it comes to organizing your inbox and calendar, there’s one tool that reigns supreme. Spike is the first conversational email tool that gives you access to a unified inbox and calendar. If you have multiple email aliases, then you can sync them all into Spike to keep track of every email and calendar invite. Spike is packed with other superpowers like Priority Inbox, Advanced Search, and File Management. On top of these features, Spike is designed to look like conversations so you’re not digging through threads of information to find one update from a client. You can simply scroll or use the advanced search functionality to find exactly what you need to go about your day.
The future of freelancing is bright. It’s your chance this year to take control of your work days and to set yourself up for success with these tools.