Over 50 percent of the workforce will be full-time freelancers by 2027. This is a conservative estimate. If that sounds impossible, consider the tremendous growth the freelance economy has seen over the past decade.
In 2017, there were over 57 million freelancers worldwide, compared to just 15 million in 2008. What has changed in recent years to allow for this dramatic increase in freelancing? Technology.
Software tools and apps make it possible for freelancers to easily manage their workflow, finances, and time as well as connect with a wide range of other freelancers and potential clients.
In this post, we’ll share our nine favorite software tools and apps for freelancers.
Leverage Trello to keep track of your tasks and client projects
Trello is a workflow software that uses the popular Kanban board technique to help you visualize your tasks. With Trello, you organize tasks into three or more customizable workflow sections.
Typically, the sections are “To Do,” “Doing,” and “Done.” As each task moves through your workflow, you physically drag the task into the next section. If you want, you can invite collaborators, or even clients, into your task board so that they know how the project is progressing in real-time.
For example, Trello works well for managing a client’s editorial calendar. Also, deadline reminders complete with email notifications allow this collaboration tool to keep everyone on the same page during even the most stressful of workdays.
Use Paymo to create an automated workflow system
Paymo is a web-based CRM designed for freelancers and small businesses. It includes an impressive number of features, including time-tracking software for billable hours, a workflow system, expense tracking per project, and customizable invoices and estimates.
It also provides a place to store all client files and enables you to receive online payments for your work. If you bill by the hour or incur expenses for client work, Paymo might be the CRM for you.
Manage your books with Xero
Xero is financial and accounting software for freelancers and small businesses. It works like a user-friendly alternative to Quickbooks or Freshbooks because the software provides all the financial tools most freelancers need without complicated extras.
You can see monthly income reports, track business expenses, send customizable estimates and invoices, and receive online payments for services rendered.
Store files in the cloud with Dropbox
Dropbox is a free cloud storage service that can be downloaded to your computer. It automatically syncs files like Word documents and PDFs. You can access your files through your Dropbox account on any internet browser.
Plus, you can create shared folders for project collaborators, allowing your team to sync and retrieve documents from anywhere. As a freelancer, your computer files likely contain your livelihood, so having a reliable cloud-storage system is a must.
Keep track of legally binding contracts with HelloSign
HelloSign makes legally binding digital signatures easy for both you and your clients. You upload your document (for example, a W-9 form or client contract) to your HelloSign account, and then send it to a client’s email for them to sign.
If you are like me and have PDF templates for all legal documents, here is a guide for how to edit a PDF quickly. The software keeps a running list of all your documents currently awaiting signatures, automatically sending you an email to let you know when your client has signed.
WriteRoom (for Mac) and Dark Room (for PC) are software programs that eliminate distractions when it’s time to write. Your computer temporarily becomes a full-screen black page, with no menus, no internet, and no pesky notifications in view.
With all distractions blacked out, you have no choice but to start typing. For freelancers who find it difficult to focus on writing instead of checking email or Twitter, these software programs can help you increase productivity.
Communicate effectively with Slack
Slack keeps all your work-related communications in a single place and out of your crowded inbox. You can send private and group messages, including files, to everyone collaborating with you on a project. In addition, you can organize information by topic for easy retrieval later on.
Supercharge your inbox with Boomerang
Boomerang is a Gmail plugin that lets you schedule emails to be sent at a later time or date. You can also use it to move sent emails that have yet to receive a reply to the top of your inbox, reminding you to send a follow-up message.
One of the perks (or drawbacks, depending on how you look at it) of freelancing is that you don’t have set work hours. This means that you may find yourself writing emails at midnight, but you likely don’t want to set a precedent of being available to your client at all hours.
With Boomerang, you can schedule your email to go out the following morning during regular work hours.
Schedule social media with Buffer
Buffer gives you a birds-eye view of all your social media efforts across different platforms. Since you run a one-person business, social media marketing is your responsibility alone.
Buffer acts like a social media assistant, scheduling and maximizing engagement and reach.
Bonus App: Rebrandly
Rebrandly is a useful service for solopreneurs who pay attention to detail. It provides a simple, yet useful service: branded, shortened links.
If you want your personal brand to live everywhere, Rebrandly will be of interest. Plus, it's a great example of good passive advertising.
Bonus App 2: Bonsai
Self-portrayed as the "global operating system for freelance work", Bonsai is a tool that makes life easier for companies demanding freelance talent, and for freelancers as well.
With Bonsai, people can quickly and easily auto-generate custom contracts from a range of templates, saving them a lot of time and hassle. And this, my friends, is how you stop losing time over strenuous paperwork on a recurring basis.
Using the right software and apps for your business helps you not only work more efficiently inside your business (that is, the work you do for clients) but also streamlines how you work on your business — all the accounting, workflow management, and marketing that goes into sustaining a freelance career.
Hopefully, this list gives you an excellent place to start when considering new software for this year.
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This article has been updated with new information on September 11, 2020.