These digital tools will help your freelance business run better and in less time
When you are running a small business or are a freelancer — or even if your side gig is killing it, you have to do a lot of work that doesn’t contribute directly to your bottom line: Accounting, scheduling, paying people, getting paid, and talking to colleagues or customers. It’s all time-consuming and that often isn’t time you can bill for. Fortunately, there are some terrific apps and online tools that streamline this office work, keep you organized, and make life easier. The right tools can not only save you time but make you better at what you do.
Here are six of my favorite work tools.
I don’t have a personal assistant and, like most freelancers, am not likely to ever have anyone to do the scheduling for me. It’s no lie that this inescapable task can be super time-consuming. So when someone wants to talk on the phone or meet online, I let Calendly (free to $12 a month) take care of the scheduling. All I do is send a link. The person who wants to chat can see what times on my calendar work for them and, with a few clicks, book a meeting. It emails everyone the Zoom link or dial-in numbers, calculates all the time zones for everyone to save irritating scheduling mistakes, and is brain-dead simple to use. It has saved me so much time I can’t even calculate it.
There are a lot of tools for tracking invoices, payments, and business expenses. And, while the most well knows is probably Quickbooks, my favorite — and I’ve tried most of them, either for articles or my business — is And.Co (free to $18 a month.) It’s simple to use, doesn’t ask much from me, and does everything from sending invoices and reminding me when they haven’t been paid to creating proposals and contracts, tracking time, or even sending demand letters if people try to stiff me. It’s so simple to use that I spend very little time on accounting. I can do it all by glancing at the app once a week and responding to its reminders.
Indy is an all-in-one invoicing and project manager for freelancers
If you are a freelancer and don’t want your invoicing software, project management, calendar, time tracking, and other resources scattered all over the internet, Indy (free to $9 a month) is the do-all-of-it site for you. Show up here to see what’s on your work plan for the day, write proposals, send invoices, create contracts, and track your finances — all in one place. It even has file storage and a light CRM tool for tracking clients and subcontractors.
A business phone line
Setting up a separate phone line for your business gives you peace of mind that using your personal phone number does not. It lets you set hours, for one thing, for when your work line rings. So that clients in other time zones don’t call when you are at dinner or asleep. It allows you to leave a business-specific outgoing message. It gives you a line that’s not tied to your location so you can post it on your website. And it’s nice to have separation. There are a lot of options in this space. Google Voice is free but limited. RingCentral has every feature you could ever need — and more — but is a minimum of $20 a month. My favorite is OpenPhone.co ($10.95 a month for a basic plan), which has terrific collaboration features, can be shared with a team, has high-level phone-tree options and — my favorite — lets you record calls from the Web or phone app.
I don’t have to tell you about Zoom. But maybe you don’t always need or want a video call or the complexity of running one. If you simply want to give some people a phone number to dial into, want a recording of the call afterward, and don’t care if people show their faces, I like Freeconferencecall. It’s free and lets you set up your own branded page.
Keeping it together
Whether you work on a team or just have a lot of details to organize, I cannot recommend enough adopting an online tool that lets you capture, organize, assign, and track every project and detail and share that information with others (when you want to). You have a lot of options in this space. Asana (starting at free) is terrific and will let you organize your projects in boards, lists, or other ways and is often used by software developers to keep big, complex projects organized but remains simple to use. moday.com (free and up) is awesome, too, especially if you work with a team. It’s really hard to choose among these but I’m currently using Clickup.com (free to $5 a month), which has a set of features that suit my freelance work style — and syncs well with my Google calendar. It also fits my budget.
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