There are few professionals as in tune with digital technology as freelancers, especially those who have come into the profession in the last 5-10 years. Flexibility, speed, and the ability to be dynamic are all major factors in finding work and keeping in touch with clients for many of us. And since we’re mostly one-man or woman operations, we also have to figure out how to efficiently and affordability take care of all the back-end responsibilities we have to keep our businesses on track and in compliance.
Fortunately for freelancers, there’s an app for that…all of that. Well, apps to be specific.
As more and more people begin working for home and for themselves, elements that would traditionally be part of a brick-and-mortar company’s infrastructure are now becoming the vernacular of the self-employed. As freelancers, we are suddenly becoming in tune with estimating our quarterly taxes, tracking expenses, sending potential clients into our own version of a sales funnel to convert them into customers, and marketing and advertising our services through social media, SEO best practices, and more.
So what’s out there in the app world for freelancers to take advantage of to make their professional lives easier, more productive, and more organized?
The Freelance Back End Office
Don’t let the above be your admin setup when these apps are so much better!
- AND CO: What? We’re a little inclined to this dynamic app’s ability to merge smart tech with real humans to create the Chief Operator that every member gets when they download the app. Covering invoice creation, delinquent pay tracking, quarterly and yearly tax documents, and an array of other admin tasks, AND CO automates your backend experience so you can focus on your work without having to learn any additional bookkeeping software.
- CurrencyFair: No matter where you live on our big blue ball, odds are at some point you’re going to work for someone in a different company. That often means getting paid in a different currency and then having a bank strip out a fee for transferring it to your currency. One of my UK clients does this, and Paypal devours 6% of every dollar I earn! CurrencyFair is a bit like an exchange market, letting you browse to “trade” funds with someone seeking to exchange the same currency. Customers can transfer their funds up to eight times cheaper than the banks, not a bad way to save a few bucks.
- ContactMe: If you’ve got online profiles, Skype, instant messenger services, plus your normal email, it can be tough to keep track of everyone’s contact information all at once. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally sent Fantasy Football league invitations to someone whose first name started with the same letter as one of my college friends. ContactMe puts everything together into one online system.
- MailStrom: Another clever play on words, MailStrom lets you clean up your inbox by wiping out annoying newsletters and keying which emails you ignore the most. It’s a great way to eliminate clutter and ensure that you’re never missing critical emails from your clients.
- Contactually: Probably my second-favorite app for freelancers on this entire list. It combines all of your contact information with their social media presences and more importantly, your previous interactions with them. Being able to strengthen those bonds is critical for repeat business.
- Mozy: If you’ve ever had a motherboard crash, you know how painful it can be start over again in backing up your files and building your portfolio. Mozy takes the guesswork and fear out of that by moving all your data to a cloud environment as it happens, it also means you don’t have to worry about working from the right location or the right computer in order to have access to your files.
- Slack: The gold standard in chat apps today. Companies, clubs, and even individual freelancers use Slack all the time. I currently use it for two authors I’m collaborating with on a book about debt, and it’s an invaluable tool to maneuver through the clutter of my inbox and talk to them directly without picking up the phone or dialing through Skype.
- Falcon: Falcon has the keen sight to see your contacts and pair the information down the most relevant information that allows you know exactly what contract they hold, when the last time is you’ve worked for, etc. As someone who works for hundreds of clients a year – from giant projects down to thing that are over and done with in a single day, this is an enormous tool to keep my business end operational and productive.
- TeuxDeux: Finding the best scheduling software is a constant war. That’s probably why there are so many apps on the market. Not only does TeuxDeux have a clever name, but its clean lines set it apart, not to mention its handy ability to repeat tasks. If you’re a freelancer with multiple jobs that occur every week or every so often, this is an ideal fit for you.
- MindMeister: Visualize your brainstorms, whether they are for a design project, a coding task, or your own master plan for advertising and marketing yourself as a freelancer. I used a similar product to lay out how I wanted my business website to look and it really got me where I wanted to go, allowing me to visualize categories and sub-categories and group similar skill sets together.
- Wunderlist: Equal parts cloud and task manager, Wunderlist has a very attractive set-up, which makes it an ideal thing to see first thing in the morning when you’re filling out your day’s schedule.
Getting the Job
- BidSketch: As more and more people get into the freelancing game, one of the best ways to set yourself apart is with your proposal. BidSketch goes way beyond the standard templates, allowing you to customize all parts of your proposal to impress the client. The more professional your freelance business appear, the more likely you are to get the job when the competition is thick.
- Shake: A really powerful tool to get the ball rolling on the job; it asks you and your client a few easy questions and concocts a legally-binding agreement to be used for contracts or NDAs. It’s perfect when you’re working with sensitive material and allows you to come across as being professional and prepared.
- EchoSign: When all that’s lacking for a contract to start is your signature, you can send it instantly to any contract by using EchoSign to act as your digital signature. This is an absolutely huge app when you’re traveling or away from the office, but the client wants a contract or NDA signed to get you working.
- HootSuite: If you’re using social media to promote your business,Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram are likely on your radar. You can keep everything in one place and monitor all your social media campaigns on one platform. A really great way to interact with clients who are active on social media – you can build a relationship with them here to establish your brand and get to know each other on the personal level.
- Moo: Even in the increasingly digital world, there’s still demand and room for paper products. Whether you’re at a coffee shop or a convention, having business cards to give out to potential business clients is essential for any businessperson, freelancers especially! You can use online photos and design your cards so you’re never caught empty-handed again.
Apps On The Job
- RescueTime: Make sure you use this app on an empty stomach, the results might make you sick. As opposed to classic time trackers, RescueTime assesses how much time you spent on your computer and what you were actually doing, then sends you the results for productivity purposes. When you see you spent 14 hours last week trying to beat Candy Crunch, well it may be time to uninstall a few things.
- Basecamp: Feel like you’re a big time company even if it’s just you and two guys who live two blocks away with this collaboration tool. The titular “camps” can allow you to run your whole company under one roof, but limit who has access to what documents – so you can put things like HR and accounting there too. It does have quirks in how it allows you to tag people on certain jobs, but otherwise, it’s a strong product.
- Freedom: No, it doesn’t activate George Michael, this app actually denies you working on non-essential software when it’s activated so you can focus on the job at hand. Cyberslacking – that is, doing less work than a person could because of going to other websites – is a real thing that is combated by this app. In other words, no Facebook.
- OpenOffice: We can’t all afford Microsoft Office and we don’t all trust Google Docs to not lose our stuff one day. Open Office is the best alternative to those two. When you’re dealing with clients using Office products like Excel, Word, and PowerPoint, you need to be able to communicate on their level. OpenOffice has clones of all of these programs that will have you playing ball at the highest of levels.
- Droplr: There are a lot of storage places around, but Droplr does it best when it comes to both sharing and screen captures. With so many freelance jobs happening for clients outside our own locale, it’s essential that we have tools that can allow us to easily share progress and information with the people paying us, and Droplr is at the top of the charts.
- Google Drive: Quite frankly I’m not sure how I survived before Google Drive Being able to work on the same file no matter where I am or what computer I’m using. I’ve moved both the front and back end of my business to the cloud in the past few years and have never had a single problem.
- FocusBooster: If you’ve never heard of the Pomodoro Technique, it’s not how to make your own ravioli but rather a work-focus technique that involves 5-minute breaks every 25 minutes. FocusBooster maintains your time schedule and cues you for the breaks. The lure of working eight hours straight to get a job done and get paid is always there, but we’d rather be at our freshest than falling asleep at the keyboard.
- Slideshare: For graphic artists and designers, Slideshare is the best thing since sliced images (I apologize for this pun). If your freelance business is visual, then Slideshare is for you. It makes every collaboration a visual delight and allows for comments or instant communication in real-time as you send graphics and designs back and forth to clients in impressive presentation formats.