Whether you’re just getting started freelancing or you’ve been doing it for a while, you need a solid arsenal of tools in your repertoire to be efficient and effective. These freelance tools are relevant for writers, designers, developers, personal assistance, or whatever your freelance expertise happens to be.
These are tools I currently use, or have used in the past, to manage my freelance work.
Freelancer Productivity Tools
When you have multiple clients and multiple projects for each client, you need some way to organize your work. Each of these platforms has various strengths and weaknesses, but they’re all solid choices for keeping your freelance life on track.
When it comes to simple task management, there’s nothing better than Todoist. It’s basically a giant, but organized, to do list (hence the name). You get the satisfaction of ticking off tasks as you complete them. Awww, yea. Create tasks, add comments, assign dates, indicate priority, and set reminders. You can assign tasks to projects so you can keep work for all your clients organized.
You can access Todoist on any device with web, desktop, and mobile apps. There is collaboration functionality in Todoist, but it’s not the greatest. You earn fake internet points called Karma for completing tasks, and I have more than 23,000 as of this writing.
Their free plan is great, and includes all the basics. But the annual plan is so affordable and adds some nice functionality, so I actually shell out the money because I use to track basically my life.
Price: Free or $28.99/year
Trello is great for managing or own work or collaborating with others. You can have private or shared boards for all your clients and projects. I usually go with their defaults To Do, In Progress, and Done lanes on each board, but you can get as complex as you want based on your process. Sometimes I’ll throw a Waiting on Client lane in there to track things that are off to client but not complete.
You can color code cards by client, task type, or whatever else you’d like. And moving and adding cards is insanely easy. If you want to use it with clients, they’ll pick it up really fast.
The free plan has all the functionality you’d need. For the small monthly fee, you can integrate add-ons and take your work to the next level.
Pricing: Free or $5/month
If you’re looking to step up your project management game, then Basecamp is your tool. Nest everything with projects that have discussions, file management, permissions settings, to-do lists, and more. Basecamp is incredibly sleek and really easy to use. It’s especially powerful when you have a team working together on projects.
Basecamp is more expensive than the other tools, but it’s much more powerful. Probably best for established freelancers juggling many clients, projects, and potentially sub-contractors.
Pricing: 30-day trial, then $99/month
Freelance Accounting Tools
When you’re a freelancer, you have to deal with numbers. Sorry, it’s a reality of the gig. But luckily, there are tools out there that make it really easy to manage income and expenses to give your tax person (or software) the right information come tax time.
And.co is 1) free! and 2) built specifically for freelancers.
Built by the people behind Fiverr, And.co has has super handy features for freelancers like time tracking, proposals, contract templates, expense tracking, and more. It has task management, but I don’t really use that…I use Todoist. It’s crazy easy to create a proposal, but you’re pretty limited to their structure. Then you can send the proposal to a client, see when they view it, and then they can accept the proposal right through And.co. It also has payment integration, so you can pretty much manage project admin from proposal to payment through the system.
Quickbooks has a self-employed version perfect for freelancers. Track revenue, expenses, you know, all the fun stuff. You can track all your home business expenses like office supplies, mileage, equipment, and more. Then at the end of the year (or quarterly if you have to), you get fancy reports for your tax man.
Pricing: $10/month (or $12/month if you want TurboTax thrown in)
Freshbooks is super easy to learn and use. Everything is really self-explanatory, and navigating the system is simple. You can create clients, projects, invoices, and more within the application. And you can request payments so clients can pay by credit card or Paypal. In my experience, this results in faster payment.
Price: 30-day trial, then $15+/month
Finding Freelance Jobs
Beyond the traditional methods of finding freelance work like tapping into your existing network, there are plenty of platforms out there to connect freelancers with people who need them. Here are a few I’ve used.
FreeeUp has helped me get a lot of freelance writing and digital marketing work. They tout themselves as having the top 1% of freelance talent on their site, and I’ve found that the client caliber is high. Most are very responsive, clear on their needs, and willing to pay for expertise. Projects tend to be writing, digital marketing, development, virtual assistant work, and more.
One huge benefit of FreeeUp is that they do all the rate negotiation for you. You don’t have to talk rates at all! You provide your ideal rate, and the team makes it happen. FreeeUp marks up your rate to make their cut, so you actually get your full requested hourly rate.
Because they promote a higher caliber of freelancer, the interview process is more involved than other platforms. You submit an application, have a Skype interview, complete tests to ensure you understand their process, then you’re off to the races.
Skype is the main form of communication for FreeeUp work. I actually find it works well. You get notified of new job requests, show your interest, and talk with the FreeeUp team and clients on Skype. You can also use email to talk to clients during the onboarding process, but I enjoy keeping it all in Skype.
Fees: None for the freelancer
They promote $5 – $50 rates, so if your ideal rate is much higher than $50, it may not be a good fit.
Tell ’em Megan Horn sent you!
UpWork seems to be the most popular, well-populated platform for finding freelance work. There are dozens of jobs posted each hour in all sorts of categories:
- Social media
- Email marketing
- Virtual assistant
- Management consulting
- Many more
It’s a great platform if you’re just getting started. I’ve found it hard to find high-paying clients because clients can see how many hours you’ve worked on the platform. When you’re new, you won’t have ratings or reviews so you might have to take a lower rate than you’d like. I always talked about my non-UpWork work and send clients my portfolio site to show them that just because I’m new to UpWork doesn’t mean I’m new to the field.
UpWork does take 20% of everything you make through the platform. And obviously it’s against their terms to move clients off UpWork and onto your own payment system. I don’t mind staying within UpWork because they provide payment protection and other legal coverage that I couldn’t really afford on my own.
You can only submit a limited number of proposals for month…usually around 30. This is to keep spam and copy-and-paste proposals off the site. I’ve been frustrated near the end of the month, but I understand why they do it. You do have the option of upgrading to more credits, but it only equates to about 5 more proposals. The upgrade does, however, have other benefits.
Fees: 20% of earnings
Thumbtack focuses on local services, but also offers remote services. There’s everything from plumbing and home repair to copywriting and design. A lot of the writing jobs on there are grant writing, so be prepared for that.
There seems to be a lot of good potential work on here, but service providers have to pay to submit a proposal. Some cost a few dollars, while others cost upwards of $30 just to submit your bid.
I haven’t had much luck on Thumbtack, but you might!
Fees: Costs to submit proposal
People Per Hour
People Her Hour is awesome if you want to work with people from across the pond. It’s a UK site that is also great for US workers.
The site focuses on writing, design, development, digital marketing, and business services. Jobs range from a few pounds to a few thousand pounds. Yup, you get to work in pounds, euros, and dollars.
The clients put money into an escrow when they sign on with you. That makes them motivated to continue the project because they already have a financial stake in it. It also ensures you get paid.
The interface isn’t all that easy to use, but you can figure it out. I did!
There are so many more tools out there, but these are the ones I have in my tool belt. What freelancing tools do you use? Tell me here.
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