Top 5 Software Tools for Freelance and Business Pros
In order to be successful as a freelancer or business owner, having a quality software toolset is absolutely critical. Not to be the poor workman that blames their tech stack, but the freelancer or small business owner who misses appointments, can’t invoice properly, or doesn’t track their finances well probably isn’t going to get very far.
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Freelancers are businesses, and they need to endow themselves with all the tools and functionality of an enterprise, and often at a fraction of the cost. Here are the most important tools that a freelancer needs to have in their tool kit.
Calendar tools are critical in ensuring that you can keep your commitments. As a freelancer, every single day is different, and your recurring meetings only last as long as whatever project you’re working on. It can be difficult to establish a routine and easy to find yourself not knowing what you’re supposed to be doing at a certain time of your work day if you’re not tracking your engagements. They’re also crucial in ensuring that both you and your clients are aware of when your meetings are, to avoid costly miscommunication.
The best calendar tools that we recommend are Google Calendar and Calendly.
Google Calendar’s ubiquity and great business-friendly feature set make it an obvious choice, especially the ability to add rich formatting and hyperlinking to share assets and resources.
Calendly is great for first contact meetings as it makes scheduling a breeze by allowing the client to choose meeting times based on your set availability and also handles timezone detection so you’re always in sync.
Communication is King, and to be a successful freelancer or solopreneur you must master it. As an independent worker you might need to handle multiple different communication streams across multiple platforms, and being able to do it seamlessly is invaluable to your ability to conduct business efficiently.
Freelancers often need several different kinds of communication tools for different kinds of interactions. Boomerang, Hunter.io and Slack are some of the services that we find most useful.
Boomerang is a great tool for freelancers who want to be able to better structure their communication or push their sales pipeline, allowing them to schedule emails to be sent at predetermined times, automate follow-ups, track clicks and opens and more.
Hunter.io is a great prospecting and cold calling/emailing tool, allowing freelancers to search for relevant email addresses listed on company sites, allowing you to send communications directly to decision makers.
Slack is a ubiquitous workplace communication tool that’s mostly used for shorter form communication where email might be too cumbersome. Slack integrates great with other tools and is really easy to use, which is great - since it’s virtually inevitable that at some point, a client will ask you to hop on their Slack. Just be careful to avoid notification overload!
Contracting and Legal
A mistake many freelancers make when they’re just starting out is entering an engagement with a client without first signing a contract or statement of work. Having the specifics of the agreement in writing not only legitimizes you as a serious business, but it also protects you from sudden changes in the work arrangement and provides you with legal recourse if the client decides to renege on the agreement in some way, such as non-payment.
Legal documents and contracts can be dense, dry and overwhelming, especially for new freelancers. Luckily, you don’t need to go to the trouble of hiring a lawyer. There are tools out there that make building, signing and managing legal agreements simple and easy to approach.
LegalZoom and Bonsai are all great tools for freelancers looking to build contracts and legal documents for their businesses.
LegalZoom has a library of legal templates to help you get started, and you can add the support of an attorney for a monthly fee. They can even help you out with business formation if you’re brand new.
Bonsai is a tool for contract creation and invoicing, making it a breeze for freelancers to build contracts from fill-in-the-blank templates, edit them with clients and then e-sign them all on the platform. Bonsai’s invoicing feature also integrates with Stripe, PayPal and Coinbase, and also allows freelancers to accept payment using ACH (meaning lower transaction fees).
Dealing with finances is an inevitable part of freelancing and running a business. It’s just a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Finance tools are constantly evolving to make it easier to do business and track your finances.
PayPal and Square are both excellent and commonly used payment platforms. PayPal allows international freelancers to take online payments and supports over 25 currencies across 200 countries. Square gives you the ability to accept credit cards and collect next-day deposits. If you have an ecommerce store, Square can also handle POS services and sales reporting as well.
Mint is a great budgeting app that allows you to collect and view all your financial data and accounts in one place. It helps you track bills, expenses, and investments and is a great tool for you to get a sense of your business’ overall financial health.
Freshbooks is a popular and free accounting and bookkeeping tool that also allows you to do invoicing, project and time tracking and also enables you to accept credit card payments. Quickbooks is another popular accounting tool and very comparable to Freshbooks, though it is not free and includes a feature set more suited for larger, more established businesses.
Project management tools are crucial to ensuring that all pieces of a project are developing as planned and are working as expected. Staying on top of deliverables and deadlines is incredibly important as a slip-up could mean delays in the project timeline of days or even weeks.
Trello was one of the first major project management tools to build off of the Kanban model used in Japanese automobile manufacturing, and the Kanban model still remains core to Trello’s offering today. Trello offers a very visually-appealing setup and great features like the ability to sync all associated notifications across all Trello platforms, a calendar view for organizing task due dates and a large selection of what it calls “Power-Ups”, that is additional features you can add to your Trello platform, such as significant integrations like MailChimp, SurveyMonkey and Evernote, time tracking tools, customer support tools and more.
Asana is a robust (if complex) project management tool with an incredible feature set, giving you the option to views tasks on a Calendar timeline, in a list view or on Kanban boards, as well as the ability to automate certain routine tasks like assigning tasks, setting and shifting due dates and changing deliverable visibility to stakeholders when certain milestones are hit.
These are the types of tools that form the foundation of almost any freelancer’s tool chest, and ones that are crucial to the core duties of running your business. For more content and advice about how to succeed as a freelancer or business owner, download the Noumena app now!