A freelancer's best friends
Freelancing for the last few months has taught me a lot, and I've encountered some awesome tools along the way that help me out. So I wanted to share with you some of my favourites I've met so far...
There are really nice tools like Bonsai (from $19/m) that allow you to send proposals, contracts and invoices all from one portal, then you can track when they are opened and when documents are overdue. It also has time tracking, so you can always only bill clients for hours your work. For specific time management tools check out Toggl (from $10/m).
Tools like Cushion (from $8/m) are great for helping you manage your time and resources when on a project to make sure you are always on top of your clients' needs. It also has a nice financial planning module that can help you stay on top of cash flow, and immediately see unpaid invoices.
It's worth mentioning a few other awesome project management tools, that are not specifically built for freelancers, like the above 2, but are incredible tools to use to help manage projects with multiple stakeholders. These include Monday (from £15 with unlimited project viewers) which has a super-nice interface, Asana (from free with 15 team members), which I like to use when planning projects with clients, and BaseCamp ($99/m for 5 team members) which I think is better for agencies with team members than individual freelancers, but it is worth checking out.
When on a project I always like to have a direct messaging option to talk with the client 📲, usually I use whatever the client uses, although I pray it is Slack (from free) over WhatsApp (free). With it's multiple channels, integrations with tools and the fact it is dedicated for work I always prefer Slack. Both work well though!
Managing prospective clients can be tricky, especially if you have lots of conversations all going at once (which you always should). So, naturally you need to have a CRM in place. Personally I use FreshSales (£15/m), with it's easy to use interface, slick pipeline management feature, and low cost (whilst still giving you automation workflows) it's a winner for a freelancer.
At the moment, all my clients are directly through my network, or referrals. Which is nice. But I know this might not last forever so I am on a few freelance-client matching sites. First up, I'd say forget UpWork & PeoplePerHour ⚠. You'll end up bidding down you value with people willing to work for much less.
The platform you use should be specific to your skillset, for example as a marketing automation expert I use Advisable (FREE to join). Although I have not yet closed a client through them, the project suggestions do seem to be well matched to my skill set.
Other start-up communities like Yena (£9/m) offer access to a community of start-up founders, as well as discounts on some of the awesome tools I've mentioned in this post. I'd 100% any freelancer joining this supportive, collaborative community.
I'm actually in the early stage of starting a community of expert freelance marketers who share knowledge and projects with each other. Message me on firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Some of the all-rounder tools mentioned above do track financing 📊, but if you decide to go down the multi-tool root here are some great options for invoicing and tracking your finances.
I love Coconut (from free), it's a new bank specifically focused on freelancers/sole traders in the UK. Putting money aside for the end of year tax bill involves a bit of guess work, but with Coconut it automatically escrows exactly how much tax you will owe as you go along (as long as you do all your business expense spending and invoicing through the app.
Out and about:
Being a freelancer, you might not have a dedicated office. Which I personally love, hopping between my home, co-working spaces and coffee shops. To find great coffee shops ☕ to work in check out Work Hard Anywhere (free) which is "build by freelancers for freelancers", and reviews coffee shops on plug socket, seating, price and wifi strength.
But being out and about comes with challenges, one of which is noise. To cut out noise when working I have Bose QuietComfort 35's (£300), and when in online meetings I use Krisp (£20 per month) to cut out background noise on the call. For calls I like to use Zoom (from free) or Hangouts (free), as even when the wifi lags behind it speeds up the bits you miss so the conversation still flows.
Now there are quite a lot of tools and resources mentioned here, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are loads I haven't mentioned, and loads I don't even know exist. If there are any vital ones I have missed off, or one of your favourites, do let me know.
Seeing it like this, with all the little £10 per month here, and £19 per month there, you start to see how hooked up we are on all these subscriptions 💰. It does all add up, but these tools not only save you time, but add a sense of professionalism to your dealing with clients that should help you close more clients and manage clients more effectively.