A thriving freelance career depends on two things: the quality of your services and your ability to manage a business. As a freelancer, you juggle business development, bookkeeping, project management and contract negotiations, not to mention client work. Choosing the right productivity and business tools for freelancers saves time and creates processes that strengthen compliance with government regulations and legal responsibilities.
But it’s easier said than done — productivity tools can be time-wasters in disguise, and even the self-proclaimed “super adopter” of new tech, Dr. Alexandra Samuel, says that less really is more. Searching for “productivity tools” on Google will return a casual 5,770,000 results, and with more than 2 million apps in the Apple App Store, it can feel overwhelming to choose the right options to keep your business running smoothly.
You want the tools you choose to help, rather than hurt. More than any other cloud-based software programs, these four business tools for freelancers streamline my workflow, making it easier to balance the multiple demands of a solopreneur.
I’ve tried a handful of different accounting tools, and Intuit Quickbooks is the most comprehensive and user friendly, by far. It tracks expenses and revenue, linking to your business bank accounts and credit cards. Before I started using Intuit, the process was extremely tedious. I had an intricate Excel sheet first, and then, I used two poorly designed bookkeeping programs.
With Intuit, I upload each receipt and match it to the expense as I reconcile my accounts, making it easy to comply with IRS standards. But my favorite aspect? I can invoice straight from their system, which allows me to manage all my business finances through one portal.
Cost: $10-plus per month
One of the most challenging aspects of freelancing is creating your own contracts. Without a law degree, it’s tricky to identify and develop the right terms to protect your business. Bonsai helps freelancers manage their legal agreements by creating reliable contracts with an easy, plug-in format. You enter the information, and they personalize the contract. Plus, you can send the document straight to clients from their website.
Project-based work requires clear communication and effective time management. Trello offers a visual guide to manage different deadlines and clients. In their project management system, cards work like sticky notes; you can drag and drop them into different lists or boards. I place each note into five lists (Assigned, In Progress, Submitted, Approved and Paid) to track the status of every client project.
G Suite is an all-in-one communication and storage tool that integrates different aspects of my work in Google. For example, I use a business email created in their system; I keep all documents, contracts and resources in Google Drive; I manage my schedule in Google Calendar; and I conduct remote meetings through Google Hangouts. It’s efficient to use these different tools in the same platform, ensuring important details don’t get lost in the shuffle.
Cost: $5-plus per month
As your career takes off, implementing the right tools is essential to scaling your freelance business. Without these concrete processes, it’s almost impossible to grow your workload, as administrative tasks can eat up your time. But for $15 a month, you can implement these four business tools for freelancers to effectively and easily manage every aspect of your business.