It's never been easier to be a freelancer - in fact, 54 million Americans are happily taking advantage of this work lifestyle - but with the perks of working from home and taking on the work you want, comes a different set of complications.
Balancing clients, a wretched tax season, irregular cashflow, no set work structure, and more responsibility to aggressively self-promote your professional services on the digital landscape. These stresses can really throw some freelancers off. Luckily, there are hundreds of online tools to help freelancers minimize complications and strive towards a more organized, focused lifestyle.
Here are my 15 favorites.
Due - Anyone who works with a variety of clients on a daily basis knows how difficult the invoicing and payment process can be. Due offers a convenient time-tracking feature so you will know exactly how long a project took you, it allows freelancers and independent contractors to choose from a wide range of customizable invoices, and Due has an easy transaction feature and more, all consolidated on a sleep web-based interface.
Evernote - There are tons of ways to integrate Evernote into your life which will save you time, patience and, ultimately, headaches: you can snap photos of all your receipts to help you organize your expenses. You can sketch ideas into their Business Notebook, capture inspiration with their note camera, and keep your research notes tidy with their Web Clipper.
Squarespace - Building a personal and professional website is no longer a draining endeavor with Squarespace, an easy drag-and-drop website builder and blogging platform. Their templates are clean and modern, and integrating social media onto your site is a snap. The best part? No HTML necessary.
Desk - Cloud based customer service. Makes it easy for a small business owner to keep up with all their customers needs with their easy help desk software. This service is $20/month+. It comes with live chat and a few other amazing features that customers need.
Insightly - A clean, simple, visual task manager that's compatible across all devices, Insightly is helpful for organizing your own complex projects and multiple clients as well as collaborating others - simply add them to your CRM and every member of your team will be be on the same page (or the same board).
Join.Me - Join.Me makes collaborating a snap. This free service allows people plugged into different computers to convene and share desktop views to better illustrate your ideas. No downloads necessary!
RescueTime - The best way to start organizing your workday lifestyle is by monitoring your daily browsing habits. RescueTime runs in the background of your computer and smartphone and gives detailed reports on how much time you spend on various applications and websites, so you'll know exactly how much time you need to cut down on Facebook (Ideally? All the time you spend on Facebook should probably be cut out, but RescueTime is a good start to track your actual times and habits).
F.lux - Have you ever shut off your computer at 2 AM only to find yourself buzzing and unable to turn off your brain? Your eyes are tired from staring at a bright screen, you can't sleep, and you have a tiny headache because your synapses are all fired up. F.lux works with the movement of the sun in your area and softens your monitor display as the sun rises and sets, relieving you of your workday sensory burnout.
Shoeboxed - scraps of paper that come with every financial transaction can quickly avalanche into a headache come tax season. Shoeboxed helps you digitize all your receipts, send expense reports with receipt images, works with most major accounting programs, automatically syncs with Gmail and helps you create a database of all the business cards you collect along the way.
TripIt - One of the perks of freelancing is that you get to choose to work from home as much as you want, but that doesn't mean you don't have to do your share of traveling. For out of town conferences, meetings at corporate HQ, or even just working vacations, TripIt makes it easy to keep your travel itinerary organized and highly customizable. Just forward all your trip confirmations and documents and watch it automatically appear in your itinerary, across all platforms.
PandaDoc - Anyone who has ever had to finalize a contract remotely knows how annoying signing the dang thing (contract paper) is: if it's easy, it might not be safe; if it's safe, it'll likely be a headache. Freelancers who have to sign secure documents all the time have an easier time of it with PandaDoc, compatible with a wide range of third-party apps and exceptionally handy for signing, tracking and filing sensitive documents.
Tweriod - It's become more and more important for freelancers to maintain a strong social media presence: these networks, especially Twitter and LinkedIn, are how potential clients can find you. Tweriod takes the science out of managing Twitter - get reports on when the best time to post to your account based on your tweets and your follower's tweets, and you'll never send an ineffective tweet again.
FollowUp.cc - Nobody likes email, but freelancers often have to deal with them more than anyone else, with a wider range of people at more sporadic hours. FollowUp.cc is a Gmail plug-in that sends you reminders so you never leave a client or friend hanging, tracks your emails so you can find out when it's read, and allows you to schedule emails to send later.
DropBox - In our fast-paced, constantly changing digital environment, sometimes the oldest advice is the most important: always back up. DropBox has been around for a while now, because they make it exceedingly easy to digitally store and share documents, photos, and even large presentations across a variety of platforms. Losing your computer or your phone is an awful experience, but losing precious files can be disastrous - personally, financially, and is especially disastrous for your business. I love using DropBox to keep track of the blog posts I am writing.
Mint - Managing finances can be difficult for anybody, but freelancers who have unreliable cash flow, complicated taxes, a number of different clients to balance, and personal and professional expenses to balance - have it the hardest. Mint helps alleviate all that confusion, with easy and secure syncing to your bank account and bills and uses your data to create budget reports and help you find savings.