There are thousands of tools and services around to help if you freelance or work from home.
If you’re just starting out freelancing, you want to keep costs to a minimum so here’s my top 5 of the best and most useful free tools around (although I will admit I’ve succumbed to the odd upgrade here and there – but I think that just means it really IS useful, not that I’ve been tempted by new features…yeah right).
Best time tracking tool
Toggi (free or $9-$18 per month)
I think it’s really important to log your time spend working on tasks for a variety of reasons:
- It makes you focus and not faff around (faff around = looking at Instagram, looking out of the window, looking at anything other than your laptop). Once I’ve clicked start I feel committed to the task and guilty if I drift off onto something else.
- It’s really useful so you stay on track of a project. If you’ve quoted a job at 10 hours, you really don’t want to be spending 20 hours doing it and effectively halving your income.
- That said obviously miscalculating your time happens, but by logging your time it’s really useful data for when you quote for a similar job next time. So that job that took you 20 hours and not 10, well now you know how long it really took. Use the data as examples to new clients.
- Which leads me onto, it’s useful for clients. If you are working on a project that involves various different tasks and elements it’s useful for everyone to see where you spent your time – and maybe that 3 hour call wasn’t the best use of it.
- Maybe I just love data?
Best project management tool
Trello (free – $9.99)
Oh my, I love Trello. It is amazing and it’s free. Why is it amazing?
- It gives you complete flexibility to set up a project how you want
- It enables you to get all the tasks out of your head and onto a board so you can visualise what you need to do
- It enables you to collaborate with clients on projects
- It reduces emails by about a million
- It saves you having to have a filing system on your computer and dig around for things – just look up the card you’ve created and there is everything you need (as long as you’ve attached it for course)
- It saves you SO MUCH TIME (I love it so much I added a 6th reason!)
I’ve used plenty of expensive and needless complicated project management tools in my time, but this is by far and away the best. Now it might help I don’t have a room full of colleagues with which I have to discuss workflow and process with, but still Trello is powerful yet simple. I love it. I might have already mentioned that?
The best design tool for non-designers (ironic?)
Canva(free – $12.95 per month)
Ok, I admit I upgraded on this one. I basically wanted access to more images and illustrations, plus you get more storage space. However the free version is great and well worth using to see if you like it first. So why do I like Canva?
- It’s very quick, easy and intuitive to use
- It’s easy to make designs look professional
- If you upgrade, it’s super easy to resize a visual for different purposes, eg same visual, different sizes for Facebook, Instagram etc
- If you are feeling uncreative, there a brillant range of templates to base your design around
- Whilst I love WordPress (see number 5) I find the functionality around images irritating to say the least – I just do everything in Canva now and then upload it to WordPress. It’s much quicker and saves my sanity.
Best invoicing software
Invoicely (free to $29.99 a month)
I spent a while researching various invoicing software but wanted to start off with something free and simple. I’ve found Invoicely to be really useful, and more so than just sending manual invoices and keeping a spreadsheet up to date. Here’s why I like it:
- It’s easy to use and set up
- You can produce reports by month showing paid and unpaid invoices
- You can accept payment via PayPal (on the free model)
- You can issue unlimited invoices
- You can set up clients details to make invoicing really quick
You will need to upgrade if you want to be able to issue quotes, accept online payments by anything other than PayPal (eg WePay or Stripe) or add additional team members.
Best website builder
WordPress (free but you might need some plugins)
Well it doesn’t get to be the most popular content management system and website builder for nothing. My website is built using WordPress and so was The Cottage in Staithes, that I created for Ravenscraig House, a holiday let in Staithes. Why is WordPress amazing?
- Once you’ve worked your way around the dashboard it is SO easy to use
- You can have full control over your site
- There is pretty much a plugin for anything you want to be able to do
- Search engine optimisation is straightforward
- Learning about WordPress is easy. As WordPress is so popular, there are lots of great YouTube videos and blogs explaining how to do something. I have got stuck on the odd thing but always managed to suss it out in the end, which I think is half the fun anyway.
So that concludes my post of my favourite tools that I use on a daily basis. What are your favourite freelancing tools and what would you add to the list? I’d love to hear your recommendations.