Who can deny that freelancing is the future? The growth of entrepreneurs and remote workers has soared over the past decade, and there’s no end in sight.
By 2020, we’re expected to see upwards of 40% of the workforce consisting of independent workers and freelancers. But how do they do it? You’ll find the most successful freelance businesses have processes and systems, and more importantly, the tools to manage them.
If you’re looking to run a profitable freelance business, then here are the tools you should consider using.
Tools to Manage Your Finances
Without a doubt, you need tools in your arsenal that’ll enable you to keep your finances in order. This includes accepting payments, paying contractors, and getting reports to see how well your freelance business is faring. There are several tools on the market you can use for this purpose, but for this post, I’ll discuss PayPal.
This is one of the more well-known payment platforms on the market. It supports transactions in over 200 countries.
Not only does it allow you to accept and send payments digitally, but it also allows your clients to pay via a debit card or bank account. Then to ensure your business looks official, you can use its quotes and invoicing templates to send to customers.
You’re able to add your business logo and set it up so that you can calculate the subtotal for products sold or services rendered. And best of all, if there’s a dispute, you can prove you’re in the right, so a naughty client doesn’t attempt to get an unwarranted refund. Then once your business is doing well (earning at least $20k per year), you can apply for working capital loans.
You can use this fund inventory, pending invoices, and upgrading your equipment (among other things). The loan amount depends on your income — the more you make, the more you can borrow (starting at $1,500).
The repayment terms are flexible, allowing you to choose between 10% and 30% deductions from each payment you receive until it’s paid off. The higher the percentage, the lower the loan fee.PayPal serves as an invoicing tool, payment portal, and loan originator — all in one.
Not a fan of PayPal? There are alternative options, such as Stripe, Xero, and Freshworks.
Tools for Creating Professional Proposals
If you’re in the business of winning clients with exceptional proposals, then you’re going to need software to make your job easier. So let’s take a look at a great tool you can use to craft attention-grabbing proposals.
Any freelancer that’s been in business for a while knows how time-consuming it can be creating proposals from scratch. Thankfully, there’s a way to speed things along.
With Prospero, you’re able to get through proposals 3x faster. It comes with lots of templates for you to choose from so you can make a great first impression each and every time.
All you have to do is pick the layout you want and then fill in the information for your overview, fees, and so on. Then to further speed things along, the tool can generate content for you.
Plus, it has reuse tools, so you don’t have to keep filling in the same information. It does this for every area of the proposal. For example, for the “Why Work with Me” section, you can select between several options and it’ll auto-generate text you can use.
What could be easier than clicking your way to creating a professional-grade proposal? Of course, it’s ideal for you to tweak some areas, so it’s personalized for each client.
Tools for Project Collaboration
There will come a time when you’ll have to work together with other freelancers and contractors to complete projects. In most cases, they’ll work from a remote location.
It can be complicated when you don’t have a way to collaborate with your team to ensure things run as smoothly as possible. On that note, here’s a look at a recommended collaboration tool you can use.
Basecamp is an excellent tool you can use for setting up team projects. You can use it to schedule tasks and assign users to them. This way, everyone knows what needs to be done and who’s responsible for which activities. It allows project managers to organize tasks, so everyone’s accountable.
Your team can check items off their to-do list you create, which you can set up to notify you. There’s also a campfire feature you and your team can use to communicate (other than making comments on the tasks themselves).
If you’re managing multiple teams and projects, you can easily organize them all and grant access to specific users. Other excellent free project management apps you can use include Asana, Trello, and Podio.
Tools for Boosting Productivity
We all run into issues with maintaining high levels of productivity. So to help you stay on track, you can use productivity tools. We have two tools you can use — one for minimizing distractions and another for tracking how much time you’re actually working each day.
actiTIME is a high-quality time tracker designed to help you get an in-depth insight into how well you spend time, identify any time-wasters, and improve the quality of your time management decisions.
By using this tool, you can:
• Create multiple projects and plan team workloads;
• Track hours spent on tasks;
• Collect data on employee productivity, as well as review and analyze it via different reports and charts.
Besides, actiTIME has a straightforward interface and flexible configuration. Plus, it is highly affordable. If you plan to use actiTIME just by yourself or in a small team of three, you can do so absolutely for free
Here’s a great tool you can use to manage your own time-tracking or that of your teams. What makes this app unique is that it automatically tracks everything you work on. Then the tool analyzes your workweek and makes suggestions on how much time you spent working each day and on which projects.
When you accept or decline its suggestions, it trains the app to improve future recommendations. Its project management feature can be used for solo or team projects. In your dashboard, you can quickly see the status of your projects and how far you have to go to reach your milestones.
Speaking of which, Timely tracks various types of milestones, like reaching half budget or nearing the 75% completion mark. Your dashboard also shows how many hours your team members have logged on the project. You can easily manage the time tracking using bulk edits and entries.
For example, marketing multiple people as billed or paid. Then to ensure your team is performing optimally, you can set up real-time KPI tracking to determine your team’s efficiency. For instance, you can watch metrics like billable percentage and capacity. Tasks are also broken down to see how much time your team is spending on each activity. Best of all — you can see exactly what your team is working on in real-time.
Freedom – isn’t that one of the reasons we all become freelancers? Well, if you’re not careful, you could end up a slave to your own impulses. For instance, checking emails, surfing the web, or scrolling through social media when you should be working. Now, you can stop relying on sheer self-control and instead invest in productivity tools like Freedom.
With this tool, you’re able to get a handle on distractions by eliminating them. It works by blocking specific sites and apps on your desktop and mobile devices. You can start the app anytime or schedule specific times of the day and week. For instance, it can recur on a daily or weekly basis at the time you begin working. This app is ideal for all sorts of freelance professionals, including writers, editors, journalists, researchers, entrepreneurs, developers, actors, and so on.
Tools for Better Organization
Getting your projects in order is easy when you’re using project management tools and when you possess the right blend of project management skills. But that’s ideal for when you have teams. If you’re looking for cheaper methods to manage your own projects as a solo freelancer, then there are other options.
7. Google Suite
Chances are, you’re already using a variety of Google tools, such as Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Docs. So why not go all-in with the all-in-one platform for businesses? With G-Suite, you’re getting tools to communicate, connect, organize time, and share documents.
If you’re not already using Google Meet and Google Calendar, then these can help manage your appointments, meetings, and interviews. Why pay for this when you can use all of this for free? Well, to start, you can get your own personal @mycompanyname.com email address and 30GB of online storage per user. Of course, you’re able to upgrade to unlimited storage.
There are also 24-7 live support and advanced admin controls. Since everything’s in the cloud, you can access everything using any device. Start on your desktop at the coffee shop and finish things up using your tablet at home. If you ever need to migrate data from your own storage solutions, you can easily do so.
Get Better at Freelancing with the Right Tools
This is nowhere near an all-inclusive list of the tools you can use to improve your freelance business. However, it’s an excellent start. All of these options are affordable and simple to use (even if you’re new to freelancing). As a freelance business owner, you want to implement the right software and apps to make your job easier.
Because the reality is, you’re only as great as the tools you have. So even if you’re an excellent developer, writer, or e-commerce seller, you still need a system in place to stay productive and profitable. Give these tools a try to see which works best for you!
Bonus Tip: To broader your portfolio, try taking up a project management certification course to attract more potential customers in the future.