My favorite freelance tools make my freelance business easier to manage.
Others regularly ask me what freelance tools I use to manage my business. Some of my favorite freelance tools are decidedly low-tech, while others integrate technology. Here are the tools that make my life a little bit easier:
I've been using FreshBooks for a few years now to manage my invoices. FreshBooks is integrated with PayPal, so your clients can pay via PayPal if they want, making it easier all around. Plus, if you invoice through FreshBooks, you only pay a flat fee for each transaction, rather than a percentage. It's saving me more than $1,000 per year to use FreshBooks instead of invoicing through PayPal.
I also like how FreshBooks makes it easy to see how much you have outstanding. It breaks it down so you can see how late payments are. I start sending letters to clients when their accounts reach 60 days late, and then 90 days late. FreshBooks makes it easy to keep track of who's paid — and who still owes.
Plus, it's compatible with other accounting programs, like Quickbooks, if you're into that sort of thing.
2. Simple notebook
One of my low-tech freelance tools is a notebook. I manage my workflow with the help of simple Moleskine notebook. Everything I need to do for the month is listed, and I have room to add more items if necessary. It's easy to see, at a glance, what needs to be taken care of, and when it needs to be done. Much easier than trying to get a calendar view. Sometimes, the simple solutions are more than adequate.
I also have another simple notebook that I carry in my purse. If an idea occurs to me, I can easily jot it down. Then, I have a go-to place for post ideas if I'm experiencing writer's block.
3. My iPhone
I've got a smartphone that I count as one of my freelance tools. I use the calendar function to keep track of interviews I have. When I interview experts for articles, I like to keep track of when they are. I put it in my phone's calendar, which also syncs with my calendar on my computer. I set up reminders so that I don't forget.
It's easy to quickly look at when I have interviews scheduled, and how those times relate to other things I am doing. I use my smartphone calendar for PTA meetings, lunches, and my son's extracurricular activities so that I can see how everything fits together, and so that I don't schedule interviews at the same time I'm doing something else.
My iPhone is also helpful since I can make notes with it, snap quick images of things that I want to use in articles and blog posts, and even use a dictation app to capture thoughts and have them transcribed into written form (although I don't really like using dictation to create content).
4. Google Docs
I love that I can use Google Docs to access what I'm working on from various computers. Since I have a downstairs computer in my home office, and a laptop, having Google Docs makes it a little easier to work on the same thing from different computers.
Google Docs is also convenient when I'm working with someone else. We can share changes, comment on articles, and more. Plus, many of my clients like to use spreadsheets in Google Docs. It makes it easy to manage article ideas and assignments.
I also have a Google Document designed for story ideas and research. If I come across a stat or bit of research that I think would add authority to a blog post, I can easily grab it and drop the link into the document — and then access it from whatever computer I'm using to write the article.
You can also use cloud-based solutions to better store your work and collaborate. I also use Dropbox and Apple's Cloud as part of my freelance work.
5. Pomodoro Technique
One of my favorite freelance tools is a modified Pomodoro Technique. I use this technique as part of my effort to bunch my work and use bursts of productivity to be more effective. I get more writing done with my current schedule, and the Pomodoro Technique is part of that effort.
With the Pomodoro Technique, you work at a dedicated task for a set period of time, take a short break, and then work some more. After going through three or four “Pomodoros,” you take a longer break. For me, this works well. I can write an article, take a break of three to five minutes, and write another article. After four articles, I take a 10 to 15 minute break and then get back into it.
This is a way to help me stay focused.
6. Guided meditation app
I use guided meditation as a way to help me refresh and refocus throughout the day. While I can meditate without guided help, I find that meditating as part of a work break can be aided with guidance. I use a five-minute guided meditation at the end of a Pomodoro to help me get back in a work state. A 13-minute guided meditation can be used for longer breaks.
I find that a guided meditation helps me quickly move beyond the distractions in mind and focus on meditating. For better results in a short period of time, guided meditation can be a great tool.
This is what I use to manage my social media submissions. I have my Twitter account connected to my Facebook status updates, so all I have to do is schedule tweets. I schedule the tweets for the articles I've written, as well as for my associates. I can also schedule more personal tweets. Sometimes, if I want to share a Pin on Facebook, I'll get the address from Pinterest, and schedule that separately.
Hootesuite lets you easily see who is replying to your tweets, so you can reply to them in turn and keep up with your engagement. I don't like to let scheduling my social media get in the way of interacting, so I make sure to reply to some of my followers when I complete my scheduled social media times. Hootsuite lets me see what's happening quickly and easily, and allows me to craft responses.
I also use a virtual assistant to help with some social bookmarking so that I don't become overwhelmed.
What are your favorite freelance tools?