20 tools that will help you become a more effective freelancer
Choosing to live the freelance lifestyle means choosing to focus on the work you love. It means choosing the freedom to work on your own schedule. It means choosing flexibility—in where you work from and who you work for.
But what many people don’t think about is that this freedom also means choosing to do your own taxes, be your own manager, and find your own opportunities.
As more and more people make this jump, however, we’re seeing an increase in the amount and quality of tools out there for the self-employed folk.
Here are a bunch you can use to be a more effective freelancer.
To help you focus
The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity method where you focus on one task for 25 minutes, followed by a 5-minute productivity-boosting break. This timer helps you stay focused and then prompts you when it’s time to take a break.
Working with a ridiculous number of tabs open seems to be an increasingly common affliction these days. It can be distracting, not to mention inefficient when you’re constantly clicking through to the wrong tab. To combat this, the One Tab extension sweeps all your tabs into one with the click of a button, where you can conveniently group and find them later.
If you work more productively alongside the gentle murmur of a coffee shop, Coffitivity can help you get the benefit of this atmosphere without having to leave home. According to University of Chicago research, a bit of distraction and ambient noise can help you be more creative. With a great selection of pre-recorded sounds available, the app provides the background noise you need to help you stay focused and creative.
For most freelancers, our working world exists inside the internet: a world that just happens to be full of possible distractions. Stop yourself from being sidetracked by using the Freedom app to block your most alluring time wasters during work time. The app also syncs across your devices—so you can’t get around your restriction by using your phone.
To track where your time goes
If you’re working across many different types of tasks or clients, time-tracking is a great way to ensure you remain efficient. Knowing how much time you spend on each task helps you to plan ahead when scheduling similar work in the future, and gives you visibility over which of your services need to be more profitable.
AND CO’s time-tracking software has an invoicing feature that pre-populates invoices based on the time you’ve tracked (and reminds you when they need to be sent out).
Self-reporting what you’re working on is one thing, but do you know how much of that time was actually spent scrolling through your newsfeed of choice?
RescueTime assesses what you’re doing while you’re on your computer, helping you understand your daily habits. Nothing motivates you to stay off social media like knowing you’re going to receive an email at the end of the week telling you exactly how much time you wasted there.
To choose an efficient workspace
Freelancers working from anywhere must be equipped at all times with their number one tool: functioning WiFi. WiFi Map crowdsources WiFi passwords for locations all around the world, so you can use it to find your office space for the day and join networks without even having to wait for cafe staff to give you the password.
Working in a room full of people who are focusing on getting stuff done is incredibly motivating. And sometimes you need to get out of the house to get away from the never-ending distractions that can pop up when you work from home. Workfrom lists the best places to work remotely in cities all over the world—including coworking spaces, cafes, and libraries for started.
To save your passwords
It’s great having all of these tools to help you work more effectively, but if you plan on using them all, suddenly you have a bunch of new passwords to keep track of. Don’t waste time with password reminder emails everyday—use a master password software like Dashlane so you only have to remember one.
To communicate more effectively
Never forget to follow up on pitches, invoices, or other important emails with this tool. Set reminders with one click, or even write your response and schedule it to be sent in a few days if you haven’t received a reply by then. This can really streamline your communications, help you stick to inbox zero, and leave your headspace free to focus on things that make more impact.
SaneBox automatically cleans up your inbox so that important emails stay at the top, while newsletters and other distractions are kept in separate folders or sent to you in a daily digest.
To collaborate with others
Airtable helps you collaborate with other freelancers or with clients on any kind of project pipeline or calendar. Organize ideas, lists, and processes0o0r even show clients where they are blocking the process by not providing feedback or information. There are several templates already on the website to give you ideas of how this tool could be useful.
Mural is a collaboration tool designed to help creative freelancers brainstorm ideas in a visual way. You can collaborate remotely with clients or other freelancers on all kinds of projects—using mind maps, post-its, drawings, and even multimedia like photos and videos.
To take productive breaks
Briefbox allows you to choose from hypothetical briefs to work on to keep you creative when you’re on a break or between projects. With everything from designing a pack of tarot cards to creating a checkout page for a major airline, there’s plenty to keep your imagination ticking. You can even upload your work to the site and get feedback from the community. It’s free to get a basic account, or you can upgrade to Pro to receive tips from professionals and feedback on every submission.
To save notes and inspiration
Add notes, lists, photos, and audio to Keep and instantly sync these across all your devices, so you never forget an idea again.
It’s easy to get distracted by articles, videos or other links that you want to come back to later. Instead of letting these take you away from your work, save them to Pocket and read them when it’s more convenient. Come back to inspirational writing by your peers or instructional articles while you’re on your commute or drinking your morning coffee.
To create better work
Typito helps you create simple and quick text videos. Upload footage and images to create your video canvas and then you can enhance your video with text, brand layouts, and music.
Design DB is a directory of free design resources. With UI templates, wireframe kits, icons, and graphics, there’s plenty you can use to help you do great work. All resources are hand-selected and vetted for quality to save you time sifting through everything that’s available around the internet.
Transcribe audio to text with this advanced speech recognition software. If you need written versions of interviews, client meetings, stories, podcasts or videos, simply upload your file and receive the transcription in your inbox in minutes.
Write better copy with this free online tool. Paste your article, email or other copy into the app to receive instant feedback and suggestions for improvement. It automatically highlights lengthy, complex sentences, and common errors, and lets you know what reading level someone would need to understand your writing.
Choose the tools that make you more efficient
There are so many tools out there, it may feel like setting them all up and learning how to use them is going to take up a bunch of your time. But a few select tools could make a huge difference to your daily efficiency—which translates into more hours in the week for productive (paid) work. Consider which ones are most helpful for you and take a bit of time to set them up—you’ll thank yourself later.
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