Being a solopreneur has lots of advantages, but the fact that you're a one-person company isn't one of them. There's no one to remind you of appointments, manage sales leads, do your tax planning, or keep your accounts up to date except you. If you're like most entrepreneurs, you also have a whole bunch of technology that's supposed to help but often doesn't.
To make your freelance life a little easier in 2015, here are 7 business tools that actually can help you be more productive and effective.
I hate paper. Books, receipts, business cards, forms--I want everything to be digital so I can find it easily and share information among applications. Shoeboxed sets out to solve that problem by letting you scan, organize, and then get rid of all that annoying paper.
What would happen if the ceiling caved in on your desktop computer? Would you lose valuable data, setting your business back? If you want to stop being vulnerable, you need an off-site backup system, and an automatic cloud-based one is by far the easiest. I've used Mozy for years, and though I've never had a computer disaster, I've used it many times to grab files I needed when I was away from home--another handy feature.
I'm an advocate of two-factor authentication as a way to make passwords safer, but most websites don't offer this yet. In the meantime, you can up your security dramatically with a password generator that keeps everything stored for you. 1Password is user-friendly and syncs across your browser and mobile devices.
17hats gives you a suite of functions to go from a sales lead to information gathering (an online questionnaire) to proposal, contract, and finally, invoicing and payment. It's a like a big-company CRM system but designed for solos and in a user-friendly format.
5. Rescue Time
I got a smartwatch for Christmas, so I spend an inordinate amount of time when I ought to be working trying to figure out which of my favorite apps will work with it. If this kind of thing happens to you, Rescue Time can help you by tracking the activity on your computer and letting you know what your time sucks are. If you truly lack self-discipline, it can also block distracting sites for periods of time you choose to help you stay focused on work.
6. Focus Booster
If you're a fan of the Pomodoro Technique, as I am, you might want to try Focus Booster, which is a Pomodoro timer on steroids. You can download a desktop app that will run in the background and give you visual cues as to where you are in the cycle (it transitions from green to yellow to red). An inexpensive pay version helps you track activities by client or project for billing purposes as well.
Shake is a web and mobile app that creates simple, legally binding agreements in seconds. It's a handy way to create quick contracts for freelance jobs, but you can also use it to create many other things, including non-disclosure agreements, leases, loans, and sales.