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100 Must-Have Tools for Digital Freelancers

Last updated: June 25, 2019
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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.

 

Time and Productivity

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.

 

must have tools freelancers

 

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.

  • Cushion: Schedule your week or even your year ahead of time. Cushion helps you keep track of different projects and shows you when you’re overbooked and where your time gaps are. It even shows you when a project has been delayed. Cushion keeps track of who you’ve invoiced and if you’ve been paid as well as what you need to make next week or next month to stay on goal. It works in sync with your chosen accounting or invoicing software (Stripe, Harvest, FreshBooks, FreeAgent, Xero).

  • Timely: Timely syncs across your devices and helps you schedule your time and track it as well. Timely holds you to your word – if you said you’d be working on Assignment 1 at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, it’s going to want to start tracking you at 3:30 p.m on Monday. Timely can issue you a report on how well you’re sticking to your scheduled time slots.

 

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.

 

must have tools freelancers

 

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.

  • Trello: A simple system that uses cards to organize what’s happening visually. You can move cards around, tag team members to them, etc. It’s like a simplified bulletin board that you write on and make updates to easily. What’s helpful is that you manage your boards in one place. If your client invites you to their Trello board, it will show up in your Boards section along with the rest of your boards. It might sit between your freelance schedule and your brainstorming board for how to use all of the apps in this article to your advantage.

  • Asana: Asana is very team oriented. It simplifies cross-team communication and file sharing. It’s likely that at least one of your clients has this in their toolbox. You can use it as a freelancer to invite clients to Teams that you create for file-sharing and easier all-in-one-space communication.

  • Basecamp: Basecamp keeps everything in one place, including documents. With its simple interface, it brings you the best of Trello with Asana-like detail.

  • Monday.com: Flat design makes Monday.com easy to scan to see what’s happening. Drag and drop features make reordering and organizing a breeze.

 

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.

  • Google Keep: Google Keep is like the post-its type notes feature on your desktop, but better. Take notes, drag and drop, organize by color and more. You can also right-click any page you have open in Chrome and save it to Keep. If you like to keep things simple or you want a place for throwaway notes, Keep is your friend.

  • Wunderlist: Organize your to-do list by folder with Wunderlist. The app lets you set times on your to-do list too. And you can share it.

  • NowDoThis: NowDoThis is so simple and effective. No bells, no whistles. Just the top task on your list until you click “done.” The bare-bones nature of it is like a slap in the face to you indecisiveness and procrastination habit.

  • Todoist: Todoist is the most comprehensive to do list out there. But it looks simple and stress-free. The app syncs across your devices so you can add or complete tasks and view your task manager from anywhere. Tasks can be assigned to different projects, people, and by priority level and date and time due. Their mission is to help you declutter your brain by dumping all your tasks — whether they’re due in a week or a month — into one place.

 

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?

 

must have tools freelancers

 

Try these reliable time management tools:

  • Toggl: The free version of Toggl is one of the most popular tools used by freelancers. It tracks your time by project, and you can see the timer running in the tab at the top of your browser. If you need more, they have a Starter Plan and a Premium Plan that is complete with everything you need to track time and projects accurately.

  • RescueTime: Do you need to micromanage yourself? Then RescueTime is the tool you need. It tracks the time you spend on each website and your project – basically, everything you’re doing on your computer.

  • StayFocused: StayFocused doesn’t time your activities, but it will block you out of web pages after a time limit you’ve set for yourself for that website. So, if you’re browsing social media past the time limit, it will pop up and block the site with a page that says “Shouldn’t You Be Working?”

 

Honorable mentions for time tracking and focus you may want to check out:

 

Shortcuts and Timesavers

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.

 

must have tools freelancers

 

So automate, automate, automate. Use time-savers to get things done without even having to think about them.

  • 1Password: Keeps your passwords all in one place, so you don’t have to remember them.

  • IFTTT (If This, Then That): Helps you automate tasks across platforms. For instance, if you post a blog post, it automatically tweets that you did.

 

Communication

Introversion and freelance go hand in hand (most of the time), but you will be communicating with clients and other freelancers.

 

Email

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?

Try Hunter.io and Voila Norbert.

Do you need to cross your chat functions with email outside of a team app?

Fleep is the program that will do that.

 

must have tools freelancers

 

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:

  • Skype: you know it well and so does everyone else.
  • Slack: mostly for teams but useful for freelancers too.

 

Phone

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.

 

must have tools freelancers

 

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:

 

Screenshare

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.

 

must have tools freelancers

 

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.

But Google Drive, Droplr, and DropBox should also be in your freelancer toolkit.

 

Customer relationship management

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.

 

must have tools freelancers

 

These CRM apps also help you manage all of your communications with prospects and leads so that you can grow your freelance business:

 

Record Keeping

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.

 

must have tools freelancers

 

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:

  • Google Keep: Take notes, organize them by color, pin important ones to the top of the board, save from any site you reached through Chrome.
  • Evernote: The freelancer’s best friend. It does everything Keep can do but backward and in high heels. It also works across devices and even from pen and paper.

 

Cloud Storage Tools

It’s not just for sharing; it’s always prudent to back your stuff up.

 

must have tools freelancers

 

All of these are popular with freelancers and clients too:

 

Source Photos and Images

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.

 

must have tools freelancers

 

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).

Of course, if the client is paying and you don’t mind facilitating the transaction, there’s always iStockPhoto, and Dreamstime.

 

Graphics

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.

 

must have tools freelancers

 

If you’re looking to clean up an image for posting, try:

 

Marketing

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.

 

Email marketing:

 

Social media management:

 

Brand management:

 

Website and mobile site creation:

 

Business and Administrative

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.

 

must have tools freelancers

 

Contracts and Legal

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.

 

must have tools freelancers

 

It might also behoove you to use sites that help you create solid bids and proposals as well.

 

Contracts and Legal:

 

Signing contracts:

 

Creating proposals and bids:

 

Invoicing, Accounting, and Expenses

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.

 

must have tools freelancers

 

Get ahead of the game with accounting or invoicing software and apps.

 

Transactions:

  • PayPal – Get paid, buy, transfer payments to your bank in seconds.
  • Square – Take credit card payments.
  • Mint – Keep track of where your money is and how you’re spending it.

 

Invoicing and accounting:

 

Stay in the Loop

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?

 

must have tools freelancers

 

You’ll also want answers from time to time about all things freelance.

Find a community to help with that.

There are also freelancer FAQ blogs and forums that can help you with solutions to your freelancing hiccups.

 

must have tools freelancers

 

Stay in the loop by following what news impacts your clients and the digital marketplace. Stay up to date by following news regarding what’s trending on Think with Google and Google Trends.

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.

To get that feeling, open up Coffitivity or Noisli.

 

There are so many apps to help freelancers that you should have no trouble building your own perfect freelance tool stack.

 

must have tools freelancers

 

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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