100 Must-Have Tools for Digital Freelancers
There is a lot to manage in a freelance career. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if there were online tools for freelancers that increase productivity and make business management a snap?
We’re going to show you the tools that help make sense of freelancing challenges, keep track of the details, save you time, and help you run a profitable freelance business. Plus, they’re super easy to set up, so you can be the most productive freelancer.
There are hundreds of useful web-based tools and mobile apps for freelancers, and you’re about to discover the best of the best.
First and foremost, you have to get your work in on time. Right? There is no freelancing career when clients are dissatisfied. Check out a few of our favorite productivity apps.
Scheduling and Insights
Even if you’re just diving into freelance, it would be wise to have a scheduling program to help you keep track of what’s due when. If you’re a digital nomad, it’s essential.
Are you looking for an easier way to schedule meetings?
Try calendar apps like Google Calendar or go one or two better by using Calendly or YouCanBookMe. Both give you and the person you’re meeting with a simple view of when you’re both (or all) available. Both programs identify time zone differences and reach out with email reminders.
Project Management Tools
Once you have your freelance assignments scheduled or marked in a calendar app, you might want to outline further what’s happening with those assignments.
If you don’t personally want to track that information, many of your clients will.
Most use programs like Trello, Teamwork, or Asana to keep an eye on different projects of which you are a contributor.
While these programs were designed to work for teams and collaboration, they are also useful in keeping track of your singular progress as a freelancer.
To Do Lists
If you’re not quite ready for full management tools or you need a quick look to do list, there are apps for that.
Now that you have everything scheduled and you can see what’s going on, you’re ready to work.
Time Tracking, Management, and Focus
How do you make sure that you stay focused while freelancing and making good time?
Try these reliable time management tools:
Honorable mentions for time tracking and focus you may want to check out:
You already have a million things to do. There are always tasks within tasks plus all of the background that goes into running a freelance business.
So automate, automate, automate. Use time-savers to get things done without even having to think about them.
Introversion and freelance go hand in hand (most of the time), but you will be communicating with clients and other freelancers.
Do you lose important emails or forget about important communications?
Boomerang allows you to schedule emails, have them bounce back later as unread, and get alerts if you don’t hear back on essential threads.
What if you need to find decision makers and influencers to prospect as future freelance clients?
Do you need to cross your chat functions with email outside of a team app?
Fleep is the program that will do that.
Chat and Messaging
Stay on top of what’s going on with the most popular chat apps for freelancers.
Yes, there are other chat apps, and you may have a favorite, but these are the apps most of your clients will have:
For the most part, freelancers use some form of text to communicate through either email or messaging apps.
But, there will be times that you use the phone. You can turn off the camera in Skype, or you could get a little more high-tech.
Google Voice is a voice to voice program that has a record function so you can play back what was said. It also turns your voice messages to text so you can read them.
Live Video Chat
A lot of meetings between team members happen through video chat hangouts whether they’re initiated by you or by the client or a client team member.
You can’t fly cross country for every meeting. So, face to face meetings will happen via apps like these:
Speaking of face to face, what about screen to screen sharing?
You may want to show a client a design you’ve mocked up or the details of a piece you’ve written to get real-time feedback.
Or, your client may want to show you visual representations of their expectations.
Several of the collaboration and communication tools listed above, like Slack, GoToMeeting, Zoom, and others have this functionality.
You may want to check out Loom for those times when you can’t share in-the-moment, but you want to record a breakdown of what you’re doing and send the clip to your client.
File-Sharing and Collaboration
Some of your client contacts will be managing teams of freelancers, and there’s a good chance that you’ll be keeping track of several clients.
File sharing tools that make seeing what’s happening across the board will be essential to your freelance tool arsenal.
Of course, you can use team project apps like Asana to share files.
When you have a large volume of clients or a large volume of projects, organization and management are vital to keeping things on target.
A CRM program can help you with that.
The most popular CRM tool for freelancers is the Gmail add on Streak. It turns your Gmail into a rainbow of color-coded order.
These CRM apps also help you manage all of your communications with prospects and leads so that you can grow your freelance business:
How many different places are you keeping your notes right now? Are they organized?
What about your records? Do you have a solution for backing up your contract work?
It’s maddening to try and keep track of everything you have to remember as a freelancer.
Good news: there are several tools to help you with note-taking and organizing your thoughts.
Whether you want a simple tool to jot down notes or bookmark links or if instead, you want a complete system for note-taking, scheduling, and planning, there is a solution for you.
Note taking tools:
It’s not just for sharing; it’s always prudent to back your stuff up.
All of these are popular with freelancers and clients too:
Wikicommons is an excellent resource, but sometimes it’s hard to find exactly the image you’re looking for.
You could Google Image search “labeled for reuse,” but then you have to slog through tons of results that won’t work.
You could pay for images, but that’s a pain — not to mention costly.
If you want quality, attractive, royalty free images, try:
There is also this list of even more resources and a handy attributions instructions section you can bookmark for later (in your handy note-taking app above).
If you need to create, manipulate, or edit images and graphics, you need Canva.
It’s incredibly easy to use. The menus are easy to figure out, and there isn’t any toggling between layers. You can move objects backward and forward, and that’s about as complicated as it gets.
If you’re looking to clean up an image for posting, try:
If you’re a freelancer, you are likely familiar with the world of marketing to some degree.
However, that doesn’t mean you like doing it for yourself. To make it easier, check out these apps that make marketing yourself as a freelancer simpler.
Pro Tip: Mastering these and adding them to your toolbox will open you up for more opportunities.
Social media management:
Website and mobile site creation:
At some point, you will need to get down to business. Handling the business side of things can be frustrating for freelancers and contractors, but there are intuitive websites and app to guide you.
Many even work in sync with each other making staying on top of freelance digital paperwork even easier.
Unless you never plan on leaving your favorite freelance job site, you will need to use contracts to protect yourself and to keep your freelance assignments within scope.
It might also behoove you to use sites that help you create solid bids and proposals as well.
Contracts and Legal:
Creating proposals and bids:
Need help with keeping track of freelancing finances? Some of the scheduling apps mentioned above help you forecast your financial goals and may even show you how well you’re doing, but you may need something designed to keep the accounts to stay on track and be ready for tax time.
Get ahead of the game with accounting or invoicing software and apps.
Invoicing and accounting:
Even introverts need some type of community. Even introverts need a community.
Where else can you vent your frustrations or get inspiration from people who understand the struggle?
You’ll also want answers from time to time about all things freelance.
Find a community to help with that.
If you ever feel lonely while working remotely, you can even have a virtual community right in the room with you. A lot of freelancers have found that their productivity goes way up when they run background noise while they work.
There are so many apps to help freelancers that you should have no trouble building your own perfect freelance tool stack.
Take a day or two to run through the above apps to see which work best for you. These tools will help any freelancer or small business succeed.
Need examples of how others have configured their toolkits? Check out this Reddit.
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