36 Tools in 8 Categories For Freelancers: New and Experienced
No matter how big my business grows, I’m still happy to think of myself as a freelancer (hmm, maybe freelancepreneur ). I love the freelance community (online and offline), I love the opportunities to work with amazing small and medium sized businesses, and I love that I get full credit (good and the bad) for the work I do. 100% of the profit is pretty nice, too!
Now that we’re past the halfway mark in the year, I figured it was a good time to share some of the tools I’ve found that helped me be a better freelancer. I’ve used many of these tools – but not all of them – so I’m sharing them here to get your feedback and hopefully share something useful with you. Help, help, help – it’s what I try to do all the time (even if sometimes the other party doesn’t actually want my help…but that’s a different post!)
36 Fantastic Freelancing Tools
- To Do Lists
- Project Management
- Freelance Job Boards
- Social Media Tools
- Distraction Prevention
- Virtual Assistant
- Freshbooks – I’ve been using freshbooks for just over a year now, and they’ve been fantastic. Autoreminders for folks that have “forgotten” to pay, PnL reports, and easily exported to share with my accountant. Highly Recommend this product
- Invoicemachine – super simple invoicing option – I used this until I discovered Freshbooks. The branding options are good, even at the free level.
- Express Pricing – downloadable tool for your PC or Mac
- Zoho Invoice – I really like the Zoho suite of tools for business – ( I did a quick review a little while ago) and the invoice option looks nice (5 free invoices/month) and only $15/month for the standard package – it might give Freshbooks a run for the money!
- Cash Board – downloadable timer widgets make invoicing accurate and easy – you don’t have to guesstimate how much time you spent on a project (you’d be surprised how many times you guess low!)
- Simply Bill – Reminders and thank-yous, iphone friendly, and customizable templates = nice combo
To Do Lists
- ToodleDo – A horrible name, a fantastic product. Hugely useful tool to keep track of your projects – built in timer, email syntax, easy to use/share. This has been a great product for me – and some of my clients!
- RememberTheMilk – hugely popular tool, especially among the GTD folks. Works great, looks good, and is easy to use.
- ToDoist – simple and secure seem to be the main features here – as well as integrated options for many of your favourite browsers
- TaDaList – very simple, very free. The folks at 37signals make stuff that works for freelancers and anyone else.
- Proposal Kit – If you’re looking for a downloadable tool to create proposals for your next project – this might be a good tool for you. A solid proposal is the key to a great project, and this tools looks like it will make it much easier for you to create them.
- FreelanceSuite – At first glance – this looks like a pretty decent PM tool. Free 30 day trial, and then a one-time license fee of $70. Run it on your own domain, client management, invoicing, support tickets, payment gateway – very interesting tool. I’d love to know if you have any experience with this.
- Task Merlin – Drag and drop interface, GTD compatible, and a shared database seem like good options. Their website doesn’t instil much confidence in this product – please let me know what your experience has been
- Wridea – If you’re constantly losing your ideas, this might be a good tool for you. The focus seems to be on simplicity – capture the idea in its infancy, so you can file and sort later. Less about collaboration, and more about idea generation.
- Zoho – Yup, I know we’ve already mentioned them, but these folks seem to have a product for most categories – productivity, accounting, collaboration – and more. I’m not quite ready to make the switch to them 100% yet – but that’s mostly due to my fear of the unknown (or it might be laziness, hard to tell)
- GoTo Meeting – It’s not just for webinars and podcast sponsorship! Super easy to setup, and a great tool if you’re virtually meeting multiple teams
- Skype – It’s good. It works. It’s free. I love Skype, perhaps because it does at least the bare minimum very well. I use it daily to communicate with clients in the US, Canada, Thailand – wherever they’ve got internet. There’s lots of room for improvement with Skype, but for ease of use and ubiquity, it’s pretty hard to beat.
- Basecamp - Such a fantastic tool for collaboration. Sharing, chatting, tracking – super simple way to work with others.
- AgreeDo.com – another super simple collaboration tool. Schedule meetings, set tasks/expectations – Another product that focuses on the basics, and does them well!
Freelance Job Boards
While this could (and should) be an entire blog post – here are 5 places that you can find freelance projects:
- Elance.com – Say what you want about elance – low quality/low pay – but you can’t say there aren’t many jobs here. If you’re just starting out in freelancing, or maybe you just need a quick project to do until your proposal is approved, this is a great resource.
- Freelanceswitch.com – some decent jobs can be found here, but there are also some folks looking for rock bottom prices – so make sure you check the ad out carefully. Free to signup/get daily emails of new positions. $7/month if you want to apply for any. I’ve found a couple of really good clients here – and since it’s free to create your profile, it’s not a bad idea.
- Odesk.com – similar to elance(IMHO) but they seem to run more contests here for active members (definitely a good thing). I prefer elance – but only because I’ve got more experience with them. While I’m writing this, there are currently 5300+ jobs in the writing/translation category alone.
- Freelancer.com – In my experience – this seems to be a site more geared towards coders/web designers – but I’ve seen some decent sales/marketing posts here, too
- FreelanceDirectory – the ultimate list of freelance job sites – if you’re more experienced in the freelance world, this is a good resource to find boards in your area of expertise
- Bonus – Monster list of Freelance Job sites – another very useful tool from the folks at Freelanceswitch. Updated for 2011, and will have some crossover with the freelance directory – but what i like best is the feedback from the freelanceswitch readers, regularly adding new sites to find your next project.
Social Media Tools
- Hootsuite – local company (based in Vancouver) providing an excellent tool to maintain multiple accounts (on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/ and more) I use this tool daily, multiple times.
- TweetDeck – another tool used daily @brandscaping – and could have been included in the job boards section. I have found many clients directly as a result of setting up search strings in Tweetdeck – and the conversion time from prospect to client seems to be quicker on this route.
- Klout – handy tool for measuring your current social value (unless you prefer empire avenue…) The new feature of allocating +K to the influential people in the twittersphere is a good idea – feel free to +K me for freelancing – I won’t complain at all!
- Facebook Analytics – as part of your FB fanpage, you have access to the basic analytics offered by the Facebook team. Useful – but certainly could be better
- PageLever – Enter PageLever – “your Facebook analytics on steroids” – assuming that being on steroids is a good thing! They’re still in beta right now, but they are getting great press and providing stats to some big names. Looking forward to seeing more of what they offer soon.
- WriteMonkey – stripped down, zenware writing app. Blank page = endless opportunities. Fire it up and start writing.
- Q10 – some nice features – Target count, timer alarm, custom autosave – and you certainly can’t beat the price. Very nice looking tool – but don’t get hung up on finding the right writing tool – as a good friend of mine once told me – writers write!
- Macfreedom – Not just for Macs! You can now lock yourself off of the internet. Yes – it might sound counterintuitive, but sometimes the web can be a bit of a distraction. Program up to 9 hours of “freedom” so you can get the stuff done that you need to get done. If you only want to turn off Facebook and Twitter, you might want to have a look at anti-social.
I can’t speak highly enough about the value of a VA ( here’s an article I did on Freelanceswitch last year). You can only get so much done yourself – but you can do exponentially more if you’ve got some great help!
- VA4U – find your next VA by service, location, or length of service – but doesn’t offer a “by price” option, which is probably a good thing. Very simple site – but it looks like it has a large selection of VAs to choose from.
- Elance.com – yes, I know I mentioned it earlier, but you will find a large variety of VAs here, too.
- VirtualAssistantForums - huge director+y of VAs, listed by specialty. Find the field you want, then click on over to the website of the VA you want to learn more about.
So, this post went a tad longer that I had originally intended, but I hope you find some of the links useful. If you’ve got a site that you rely on heavily as a freelancer, please link to it in the comments.