Our top tools for making freelancing a breeze 01.03.2016 : 16:17pm
“Tools of the trade.” It’s a pretty common phrase, and yes you may be used to hearing your dad say it but it applies just as much now as it did years ago. It also applies just as much to you as say a freelance creative designer or developer as it does to a builder or sparkie. Why? Because if you don’t have the goods to deliver on all your clients needs, like their need for regular comms, then you may see your clients starting to look elsewhere.
Of course you can go old school, maybe sit there doing your job in your PJs doing everything the long way. But why not free up some time instead, that way you can go off and do what you want. That is the reason you started freelancing right?
Anyway, here’s the top tools we think most freelancers are going to need and our little recommendations for ones you could try. We recommend them simply because we either use them when dealing with our freelancers or we’ve heard our freelancers love them when they’re off doing their thing.
A time tracker.
“What? I work for myself now, surely I don’t have to clock in and out?” Unfortunately, you probably should. Not like on a 9 to 5 basis, but you should generally look at tracking how long you are spending on each task, and on each project as a whole, so you know that you are on target relative to your quote. It also means you know how much to invoice for if say you charge out hourly. There’s nothing worse than quoting 5 hours for a job, and it actually took you double the time. Track everything and don’t sell yourself short, simply guessing doesn’t cut the mustard.
Our recommendation: Toggl.
Why: Because the interface is super easy, it doesn’t take long to set everything up. You can track your time easily as you go through their mobile and desktop apps and you can colour code projects and tasks as well as assign them to clients.
A way to communicate.
Some clients may give you a project and never speak to you until you deliver it to them. Others may want updates and involve you more in the business, especially if they deal with you more regularly and over a longer period of time. Regardless, you need a way to chat with them, ask questions and generally talk things through. It keeps everyone on the same page and ensures come deadline day the client knows what they’ll be getting.
Our recommendation: Slack
Why:Although this one is more for the employer to set up, Slack makes it super easy for everyone to stay in touch remotely. You can create groups based on whatever you want, private message anyone and you can search your conversation history to find that interesting thing you were talking about with John the other day.
Something to collaborate through.
Depending on what you do how you need to collaborate with your clients will differ. But especially if you work with them regularly and have input into creative ideas and the like, having a space where you can brainstorm, write down ideas and hash things out makes it much easier to work together. And then of course you have a clearer idea of what they want the final outcome to look like. Win win.
Our recommendation: Trello
Why: We love Trello as you can easily set up and manipulate your boards as you please to suit your workflows. You can invite and assign members to tasks, upload docs, calendarise everything and leave notes to people as you go. It doesn’t offer a “whiteboard” space though if you need something more open.
A way to send the bills.
This is a no brainer. You need to send your clients invoices so they can pay you. Make it easy on yourself by not doing it the long way and using a patchy old document template. Get a solution that automates everything and means you spend as little time as possible on your accounts.
Our recommendation: Xero
Why: Invoicing is super simple, plus Xero has heaps of accountants that know it inside and out. That way you can easily get them to help you out, especially when it gets fiddly at the end of the financial year.