When I started my freelancing business, I didn’t know about most of the tools and software available to help streamline things and save time.
I wasted an atrocious amount of time trying to figure out how to make booking meetings easier, how to create nice-looking graphics for my blog, and how to make my opt-in boxes look better.
Not to mention all the time wasted looking through old emails to find a client’s Twitter password or editing the wrong version of a word document.
But eventually, I started to learn about the tools that could save me time, money and headaches, while making me look like a more organized and professional business owner to all of my clients. Talk about win-win-win.
These are 16 tools I use every day to make my freelance business run smoothly.
WordPress is, in my opinion, the best platform to use to create a professional-looking website. There are thousands of themes and plugins to choose from to get exactly the look you want without needing to know how to code.
Having a great-looking website can help you stand out from other freelancers, and shows you mean business! Plus, with the flexibility of the WordPress platform, you know that your website can grow with your business and never hold you back from reaching new goals.
Sending professional-looking invoices is a must have. Freshbooks is incredibly easy to set up and customize so your invoices look great. Plus, they have a built-in time tracking app so you can bill for exactly the amount of hours you worked.
But the best part of Freshbooks is how easy it makes it for clients to pay you. Freshbooks integrates with PayPal and credit cards, so clients can pay you with the click of a button. No more excuses for late payments!
Ever heard the saying “the money’s in the list”? Well, it’s true. Focusing on creating a solid email list of your ideal clients is one of the smartest things you can do as a freelancer. Email marketing has the highest Return on investment of any other marketing channel.
ConvertKit has all the tools you need to grow and engage your list – like custom landing pages, automated email sequences, and tags that let you segment your list however you like! It’s easy to stay in touch with your list and build automation that helps do the selling for you.
I switched to ConvertKit from a MailChimp account last year, and I’m so happy I made the investment.
You want every opt-in on your website to look good, match your branding, and work well to convert readers into subscribers and clients. One of the more frustrating aspects of email software, like ConvertKit and MailChimp, is the lack of design options for opt-in boxes.
Bloom is a plugin that allows you to create styled opt-in boxes that look good and work!
There are several out-of-the-box options that look great, and you can tweak them with your brand colors and fonts. Plus, it allows you complete control over where the opt-in boxes show up on your site.
If you’ve got a website, you need Google Analytics. GA shows you how much traffic you’re getting, where they are coming from, and what they are looking at. With this info, you can:
- Create more valuable content that attracts your audience
- See the pages people are spending the most time on, and improve conversions on that page
- Spend more time on the marketing channels that are bringing you traffic (for example, you might see that Pinterest brings you twice as many people as Twitter, so you should spend more time promoting on Pinterest)
- Understand the keywords people are using to find your site
All of this info will help you attract a larger audience and more clients.
You may have heard of HubSpot as an inbound marketing platform. But they also have a suite of free tools called HubSpot Sales, which is great for streamlining interactions with your client leads.
You can use this free tool to create email templates or sequences to send to leads. You can also track when a potential lead has opened your email, so you always know when to follow up. And if you’re ever cold emailing, the Gmail plugin will help you to verify if you’ve got the right address.
Every interaction is an opportunity to show that you are a professional who gives a damn about their work, and sending an email or proposal with a few spelling errors sends the wrong message to clients. Grammarly is a free plugin that will save you the embarrassment of spelling mishaps.
This is especially useful if you’re creating content for yourself or your clients. No one wants to post a Facebook update with a misspelled word! So do yourself a favor and install the free plugin.
Have you ever tried to book a meeting with someone by email and you end up sending your available times back and forth for what feels like days until you find an agreed-upon time?
You: Let me know when you’re available for a meeting.
Client: I am free any time!
You: Ok great!, how about Thursday at 4:30?
Client: Oh that’s when I pick up my kid. How about Friday at 11?
You: I am not available then. Are you free earlier Thursday?
And this goes on and on forever.
Make it easier by setting up a calendar on HoneyBook. It’s ridiculously easy! You just set up your calendar, choose your available times, and your clients can pick a spot that works for them and book it!
You can set up rules and time slots that work for you.
- Not a morning person? Don’t let clients book before 11:00 am!
- Like to end your workday at 3:00pm? Set up your last available appointment for 2:30!
- Got spin class every Wednesday at noon? Block off a couple of hours on Wednesdays so you’ll never miss your favorite class!
This tool saves so much time wasted on the back and forth emails. Plus, it makes you look super professional and organized – always a bonus!
Social media can be a massive time-suck. But it’s a necessary evil if you want to build up your business. HootSuite (and Buffer) can help you to schedule your social media in advance so you don’t have to spend the whole day on Twitter. Create your updates for the whole week at once, upload them to Hootsuite, and schedule them out over the week.
This frees up your time to focus on other things – like booking client meetings and winning contracts!
This is another social media scheduling tool that is a life saver. If you’re on Instagram, PlannThat is a great app for you. This app has everything you need to create a cohesive, attractive feed. You can see how your photos look in your grid, drag-and-drop your photos, and crop and edit photos.
One of my favourite features of this app is the hashtag management. It allows you to create multiple sets of up to 30 hashtags so you can copy and paste right into your Instagram post. And if you’re looking for tips and inspiration to improve your Instagram skills, check out their blog.
If you’re not a photoshop whiz, you can still create great designs using a free tool called Canva. Canva has hundreds of templates for social media posts and headers, blog graphics, PDFs and downloadables, flyers, business cards… you name it!
The tool is incredibly easy to use, even if you have zero design skills. You can use their templates and elements to create professional looking designs. You can also upload your own images to use in your designs, or select from theirs (some free, some cost $1).
Unsplash is the go-to for finding high quality photos for every situation. If you are creating any kind of content that requires images – websites, blog posts, social media content, videos, graphic design – you should check out Unsplash. The images are all submitted by amazing photographers around the world. Oh, and they’re free to use.
File storing and file sharing wasn’t something I really thought about before I started freelancing. I just kept everything on my desktop and send emails to the latest version of a document. But once I started dealing with clients and sending files back and forth, I quickly realized that a shared system would be much better.
With Google Drive, you can set up shared folders for your clients and upload all the files you need – images, documents, spreadsheets, etc. You can actually store a lot of files in Google Drive for free, and both you and your clients (and anyone else you give access to) can see everything.
Plus, you won’t have to save a copy of your document and end up with file names like ‘final-blog-post-title-version-1’ and ‘final-final-blog-post’ and ‘no-really-this-is-the-final-version’. You and your clients can make live changes and it is all stored in the cloud, so you can always see the latest version without going on a hunt.
Dropbox is another alternative for storing and sharing files in the cloud.
It’s really important to track your time as a freelancer. Here’s why:
- If you’re billing hourly, you need to know exactly how many hours you worked
- Even if you’re not billing hourly, it’s nice to know how much time certain tasks take so you can determine if you are charging enough for your work
- Tracking your time can help boost your productivity because you’ll know where you are spending time
- Time tracking reminds you to take breaks!
My favorite tool for tracking my time is Toggl. I can track my time to specific clients and projects, see how much time I’m spending on different activities, and even use the Pomodoro timer to remind myself to take a break every half hour.
Trying to remember all your own passwords can be such a nightmare. Now imagine you get the password to 10 clients’ WordPress sites. Yikes! LastPass is seriously your savior!
LastPass is a password manager that has a browser plugin that saves and auto-fills all your passwords for you, so the only password you have to remember is your LastPass master password. You can also share passwords with team members without them ever seeing your real password. Security lifesaver!