10 of the Most Useful Tools for Freelancers and Why You Need Them
This is a guest post by Amy Boyington.
If you haven’t yet jumped on the freelancing bandwagon, now is one of the best times to do it. Experts predict that, within the next decade, we might see more freelancers than traditional employees in the global workforce.
Freelancing offers scalability and flexibility that employed work can’t. It involves operating and growing a business, using your best skills to provide a service, and doing so while you work from a remote office (or your couch) on a schedule that you create.
As a full-time freelance writer for the past few years, I’ve more than doubled my business from the time I started. I owe much of that growth to the following tools that I use regularly and recommend to other freelancers from the time they hit the gas on their business.
1. Google Drive
There’s always that one tool that every freelancer would be lost without. For me, it’s Google Drive, which is actually a suite of invaluable tools rolled up into one handy, free package. Every Google account gets 15 GB of space for free with upgradable options for growing businesses for as little as $1.99 per month.
Google Drive comes with:
- Docs, a word processing software
- Sheets, which helps you create intuitive spreadsheets
- Slides, for presentation creation
- Forms, an easy-to-use form creator
- Sites, a website page publisher
Why it’s helpful: One of the things I use Google Drive for most is storage. Its free storage alone offers plenty of room for me to store client files, income and expense spreadsheets, and other important files related to my freelance business.
I also use it for document and slideshow creation, sharing files with clients, and creating onboarding forms to help me learn more about my clients and their business needs before I start working with them. Read our in-depth comparison of G Suite vs Office 365.
2. PayPal and PayPal Invoicing
Payments can be one of the biggest headaches you’ll have to deal with as a freelancer. Trying to find the right payment method that works for you and your client, creating invoices, and saving time processing payments can be challenging, but are necessary parts of running a business. PayPal is an online payment system that gives freelancers a way to get paid instantly for their work by invoicing their clients and receiving electronic payments right to their account.
Why it’s helpful: Clients can pay for your services using their PayPal account, a connected bank account, or a credit card. You don’t even need a website for people to purchase from you. Set up a PayPal.me link or send an invoice with PayPal’s free invoicing system. There are no subscription fees to use the service, but PayPal does deduct transaction fees. Good news: Your costs are likely tax-deductible!
Docsend is a service that analyzes the performance of documents you send. Sales teams often use it to keep track of who’s viewed sales documents, how long they’ve seen them, and what they did with them, like forwarding or downloading.
Docsend also has team collaboration tools for remote presentations and offers storing and sharing solutions for business owners to save all sales or proposal documents for prospective clients.
Why it’s helpful: I’m a stickler for making sure my clients receive the documents I send them. I don’t use Docsend in the traditional way for sales materials, but its analytics tools are beneficial for me to see when my clients view documents. It also provides proof that they received and downloaded them to help me uphold the terms of our contracts.
4. Fiverr Workspace
Fiverr Workspace is a free suite of business tools from Fiverr, a platform for freelancers selling their skills online. Originally known as AND CO, the service bundles various helpful tools for freelancers, like time tracking, invoicing, and proposal creation tools, into one handy website.
Why it’s helpful: Fiverr Workspace has become a pivotal piece of my freelancing business for so many reasons. One of its best features is its contract and proposal creation tool, which walks you through the process of setting up the documents for new or existing clients (you can add information about every client you have to the system for easy integration into the Fiverr Workspace trackers and tools!).
I also use the Income & Expenses tracker and Shoebox feature to keep my financial information organized. Fiverr Workspace lets you add receipts and other essential documents to the Shoebox, too, to keep everything handy for tax time.
Dropbox offers free, personal, and professional accounts for people who want a streamlined way to store files in the cloud and share them with others or between their devices. It integrates with other software, like Slack, Google Drive, and Gmail, to give you and your team convenient access to files.
Why it’s helpful: Most freelancers I know work with at least two computers or mobile devices every day. I need to be connected to my files on my phone, laptop, and PC, so I can send them quickly in an email or share them in Slack, no matter what device I’m using. I sometimes start a project on one device and finish it on another.
Dropbox not only stores your files in its cloud database, but it also lets you create folders on your computer to quickly access, and work with, those files whenever you need them.
Prospecting for new clients is a necessary part of marketing as a freelancer, but there are so many factors that make it time-consuming and, frankly, a pain in the butt. Hunter is a tool that makes one part of the process - finding the best email address for a contact - much less painful.
Use Hunter to look up a company you want to work with and click Find Email Addresses. Hunter then searches its database for generic addresses and personal email addresses of people who work there.
Why it’s helpful: It’s important for freelancers to know that sending a sales email to a generic email address of a business isn’t the best option. Instead, you should try to contact a real person—a decision-maker, hopefully—at the company. Place Hunter in your toolkit of marketing strategies to make the process of prospecting easier. I use it in combination with other tools, like LinkedIn and Google, to find the right contact for the person I need to speak with.
Grammarly is a web-based software and browser extension that can improve your spelling, punctuation, and grammar with a few clicks of your mouse. There are both free and paid options for the program, with the paid version offering more in-depth grammar checks.
Why it’s helpful: Contrary to popular belief, Grammarly is not just for freelance writers and editors to check their work. It’s for any freelancer!
I use the Grammarly browser extension, which runs in the background of my browser and double-checks everything I type, to proofread emails, proposals, and anything else I want to make an excellent impression with (as a business owner, that’s everything!).
Wave covers all things finances, so if you’re looking for a tool strictly for the financial side of your business, this is it.
Track your sales, income, and expenses by integrating Wave with your bank accounts, PayPal account, Etsy shop, Shopify store, Stripe account, and more. The tool will track what you make and pay, wrapping it up into handy reports for taxes, vendors, clients, and more.
Why it’s helpful: Wave’s free account likely has everything you need to track your freelance finances. I find it even more useful than paid services, like QuickBooks. You can also use the program to create one-time or recurring invoices for clients and get paid directly through your account.
Project management has never been easier, thanks to Trello, an app that works in the cloud to keep projects organized when you work with other people. You can create boards for each project and break them down with lists, cards, checklists, and more.
Why it’s helpful: Trello is most beneficial when you work with other people on projects because you can assign tasks to others and see who’s working on what within each task.
You can also use it to organize projects for yourself. If you’re a social media manager, for example, you can create boards for each client with lists for each channel you manage for that client. Break lists down further with cards, or sub-tasks, that outline each post you need to schedule for your client. Read our in-depth Trello Review.
Toggl is a time tracking app that does more than just keep an account of the time you’re working. It can break down how much time you’ve spent on a project, task, or with a client, help you plan your workday for more productivity, and syncs with your mobile device to track your time wherever you go.
Why it’s helpful: Time is one of the biggest struggles for freelancers, whether there’s not enough time in the day to work or not being productive enough in the time we do have. Toggl is one of the most straightforward time trackers you’ll ever use, showing you how much time you’ve spent working, so you can improve your productivity or track your hours for clients. Read our in-depth Toggl Review.
This article was updated by Zephin Livingston in July 2022.
Amy Boyington is a freelance writer and blog manager for lifestyle entrepreneurs and businesses. After working a few unfulfilling 9 to 5 jobs, she took it upon herself to create a career path that meshed with her family life. She now works with clients all over the world in a flexible freelance career that helps her be both a businesswoman and mom to her two children.