Freelancers often work in isolation, communicating only through email or by phone. In addition to completing assignments on time, they're responsible for keeping up with income and expenses for tax purposes, invoicing and managing their own billing processes, and marketing their services to bring in new business.
Operating a one-man shop is never easy, but with the right tech tools, freelancers can build their own brand and make it work. Here are 12 helpful technology solutions that can make life as a freelancer more efficient and successful.
You'll routinely be asked to sign documents such as contracts and non-disclosure agreements. Until recently, this has meant printing the document out, signing it, then scanning it back in. Fortunately, technology has made this process easier, speeding up the process of getting documents signed and back to the sender so that everyone can keep working.
PandaDoc is a free service that allows users to sign on a computer or mobile device. They have thousands of free templates for you to use. Every document is saved in the cloud as well as tracked so you can see everything that's going on with the documents you sent.
When you're busy, the last thing you likely want to do is take a break. But studies have shown that working for brief bursts, followed by short breaks, is actually more effective than working for long stretches without coming up for air.
The Pomodoro technique boosts productivity by motivating workers to spend 25 minutes on a task, then take a break. The focus booster app automates the process by first timing your efforts and then providing reports on your progress throughout the week.
Brainstorming is an essential part of any project you'll tackle as a freelancer. As a creative professional, you'll be required to come up with great ideas on a regular basis, whether it's naming a new application or troubleshooting an issue with your project.
MindMeister helps you with the process, allowing you to brainstorm on your own or invite others to collaborate with you. Using mind-mapping techniques, you can outline your ideas on the screen in front of you to make it easier to see the big picture.
Being a freelancer means having to motivate yourself to get things done. You don't have a boss standing over you throughout the day, so you have to be able to force yourself to get tasks done on your own, despite the many distractions you'll face throughout the day.
To-do lists have long formed the foundation of a productive workday. Wunderlist lets freelancers create and access lists across multiple devices, with lists organized into folders for easy task management.
Most freelancers work remotely, communicating daily with people they rarely see in person. Face-to-face interaction is an important part of working with someone. Using technology, freelancers can easily enjoy the same regular interaction with clients and colleagues that they'd have if they were in the same building.
Initially more of a personal service, Skype has become the go-to tool of outsource workers worldwide. Using Skype, you can participate in free audio or video calls with clients, whether they're located in your own country or overseas.
DCMA Takedown Notice
One of the biggest concerns for freelancers is getting paid. When someone uses your content without paying for it, a DCMA Takedown Notice can get that content removed. Some sites charge for the service, but you can do it yourself for free.
Once a DCMA notice has been sent, the offender's ISP will often remove the content after reviewing the information. Once the content has been removed, you'll then be free to sell it elsewhere and get reimbursement for the work you put in.
Once you've begun a freelancing career, you'll be tasked with filing taxes for the money you earn. The bad news is that you'll be required to pay taxes on every dollar you make. The good news is that you can offset some of that amount by claiming your expenses.
While tracking expenses is a pain, Shoeboxed makes it easier. Using your smart phone camera, you can capture information on receipts and upload the information to your QuickBooks account. Shoeboxed can even capture information on business cards to save you from having to store them.
If you're working for someone, you'll need to get paid. The easier you can make this process, the better. While there are many useful billing solutions out there, most charge a monthly fee.
Due allows you to send and manage invoices for free, with clients paying directly through the site. Late payment notifications can be set up to deploy automatically, saving you from having to send awkward emails.
Although many freelancers operate as sole proprietors, they all eventually have legal questions. Unfortunately, attorneys often charge large consultation fees just for basic advice. Most freelancers can't afford to pay an hourly rate just to ask a question, let alone have an attorney standing by for the subsequent questions that will come up.
Rocket Lawyer helps freelancers with those minor questions that will inevitably creep up. Rocket Lawyer gives you access to thousands of documents and attorney advice for a monthly fee, but you get one document free.
Once you get started, you'll likely find emailing documents back and forth isn't always the best option. Dropbox gives you a handy place to store files for retrieval from any device. You'll be able to pull up the documents you need if a client unexpectedly requests information.
Perhaps the most handy part of Dropbox is its group feature. Using Dropbox, you can easily upload multiple documents and share them with other team members or clients for easier collaboration. Data is synced in real-time, which means each team member always sees the latest version of a document.
Part of landing a new job is crafting a professional, detailed proposal for prospective clients to review. Bidsketch walks you through the process, helping you outline your offerings with free proposal templates.
While the free version helps you create winning proposals, the paid version is even more powerful. Clients can approve proposals and digitally sign them, saving time and improving acceptance rates.
How much time are you spending on each task? If you reach the end of the week and wonder why you didn't accomplish everything you should have, that's probably a great question to ask. You may not even realize how many valuable minutes you're wasting each day until you find a way to track your time.
Time-tracking apps serve a variety of purposes in addition to helping you be more productive. You can also capture this information for billing purposes or use it to better prepare future proposals, Toggl can help. The app tracks the time you spend on each task and records it for later retrieval.
Freelancing can be an exciting, profitable venture. With the right tools in place, you can get the help you need at minimal expense. These tools will make you more productive and improve your customer service, bringing you more success as you run your sole proprietorship.