Like many self-employed professionals, I do my best work when I employ systems. With so many online tools for freelancers, it can be difficult to know which one is best, why and, most importantly, how it’ll prove effective for you. Here are seven tools I use regularly that are free or offer free trials, so you can test them out for your own business.
I’ll admit I use multiple tools to manage my social media posting and presence, but what I love most about Buffer is how low maintenance and easy it is. When I come across an article I enjoy, I simply click on my Buffer browser extension and add it to my queue. Buffer uses the predefined times I set in the app to send out my social posts, so I can be sure I’m sharing when my audience is online and paying attention.
One downfall: Since I rely on multiple social media tools, I’m currently on Buffer’s free plan, which means I can only have 10 posts in my queue at a time (you’d be surprised at how quickly that fills up), and I can only send to three social media accounts max. Since I only use it as my grab-and-go scheduler, this works perfectly for me, but you’ll want to consider this factor before taking the leap.
Regardless of your industry, you likely store certain documents you need access to on various devices, which is why you need a simple-to-use cloud-storage and file-sharing system. I’ll be honest, I don’t use Dropbox to its full potential, but I love that it’s an application on my computer, which I can easily drag and drop content into without ever needing to find an external storage drive, format it, and remember to regularly move content over. Dropbox lets me access my content from all of my devices, so when I need something, it’s always available.
3. Figure it Out
If you work with clients from various time zones, you’ve probably been left scrambling with the question, “If it’s 1 p.m. my time, what time is it there?” Figure it Out, a Chrome extension, displays the current time of up to 10 locations just by clicking a new tab in your browser.
Freelancers of all industries should double-check their writing and grammar. Even though I’m a writer with an advanced degree in creative writing, I still use Grammarly to scan my content and communications before sharing it with my clients. I like to use the online text editor Grammarly provides, as I often need it for long-form content, but there’s also a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox and Safari.
As a freelancer, your time is money. It may sound cliche, but it’s true — and if you’re anything like me, you’ll find it’s much easier to get distracted than it is to pay attention. RescueTime tracks the time you spend in apps and on websites by running securely in the background on both your computer and your mobile devices, conducting all the analysis for you. You can also track time off-line, block websites or receive alerts after completing an activity. If you find yourself aimlessly scrolling through Facebook when you should be working, this is one of the best online tools for freelancers.
I’ve always been a paper-planning girl, which is both a blessing and a curse. My brain works best when I can write down any to-dos on paper and then use the same pen to cross it out when complete. As a self-employed professional, I can’t risk anything falling through the cracks, which is why I rely on TeuxDuex to keep me functioning at my best. Its minimalist design keeps me focused. I mean, am I the only one who gets distracted by fancy task apps? Plus, I love that I can access it from a browser or my smartphone.
When I first started tracking my time, I hated it. Okay, I still find time tracking completely annoying, but only because it’s usually a manual process. Using Toggl, however, has been a game changer for my business. While RescueTime helps me analyze how I spend time online, Toggl forces me to measure it, especially helpful for time-based projects. An extra benefit is the option to pull reports from your data to use when invoicing clients. My preference is the Chrome extension that tracks your time with a single click.
Feel free to give these online tools for freelancers a shot, and remember, there’s no app that can do it all — this is why I’ve created a combination of tools that perfectly suit my work style. Mix and match a few options to see what works best for you!