But even your best strategies should be updated once in a while. So whether you’re new to freelancing or can barely remember what it felt like to have a boss looking over your shoulder, check out our best apps for freelancers.
With two small children at home, the organization of my physical space is an ongoing effort. But my digital life—where most of my work happens—looks much neater thanks to these helpful tools.
Google Calendar is still my favorite place to keep track of my schedule and deadlines. By noting my personal and professional obligations in the same place, I can see what my week looks and whether there’s room to add anything else. And by scheduling a deadline as an “all-day event” so it appears at the top, I never forget to submit an article on time.
Evernote is an easy-to-use catchall for your to-do lists, bookmarked articles, pictures, and other minutiae. I use it for two important purposes. First, it’s a place to brainstorm ideas for new articles and collect sources and notes for articles-in-progress. It’s also a space to “brain dump” before and during a work session. If I have ten tabs open with non-work-related articles, I bookmark them with the Evernote browser extension so I won’t be tempted to take a break from writing. I also find that when I sit down to work, I’m suddenly inundated with urgent thoughts along the lines of “The carbon monoxide detector needs a new battery” and “New throw pillows could really brighten the living room.” So I quickly list these personal to-dos in Evernote and get back to my work with a clear head.
Dropbox stores your files in the cloud, so you’ll always have access to them even if you left your laptop at home. It’s also a convenient way to share files with other people if you need to collaborate or delegate.
Shoeboxed organizes paper clutter such as receipts and business cards and turns them into expense reports, contact lists and tax deductions. It also works with other apps such as Evernote to make it even easier to collect and file all the stuff that accompanies freelancing.
Oh Don’t Forget is a text message-based reminder tool. If you’re like me, you let your inbox pile up and sometimes forget to look at your calendar each morning. But it’s impossible to miss a text message when your phone is always with you. That’s the premise of Oh Don’t Forget, which lets you schedule reminders in advance or send them instantly. This is a great way to remind yourself that a deadline is coming or even give yourself a “false” earlier deadline to prevent procrastination. You could also use the app to remind yourself to check in with clients, follow up on pitches, and other important but easy-to-forget tasks.
Freelancers usually aren’t paid by the hour, so you want to work as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality. Of course, if you don’t know how long it takes you to complete an average project, you won’t know how much you’re earning per hour and if you’re charging enough for your time.
Timing yourself as you work will help you answer those questions. And keeping track of everything you spend your time on during an average week can be enlightening. As Laura Vanderkam, a writer who studies time management explains, “Try logging your time…so you make sure you’re not telling yourself false stories.” In other words, you probably have more time than you think.
Once you have a better sense of how much time you spend on regular tasks, try organizing your to-do list based on the length of each item. You’ll never waste time again wondering what to do next.
Do you spend a lot of time on your computer without feeling like you accomplished much? Rescue Time can tell you exactly how many hours and minutes you spend on email, social media, and other websites and applications. Don’t be embarrassed if the report shows you spend a lot more time on Facebook and Twitter than you would have guessed. Just use that knowledge to limit your social media use and redirect your time to something more productive.
Harvest lets you track your working hours and create invoices to send to clients.
Combine scheduling and time tracking with Timely. As you see the difference between how much time you planned to spend on a task or project versus how much time it actually took, you’ll get better at planning your work schedule.
TeuxDeux is a simple yet appealing to-do list app. Its calendar format allows you to assign tasks to specific days, turning “to do someday” into “to do today.” I recommend putting the estimated completion time in parentheses so you always have a range of tasks to choose from when you find yourself with an unexpected gap in your schedule.
The administrative side of freelancing may be tedious, but if you don’t stay on top of your invoices you won’t get paid in a timely fashion. These apps will help you with taxes, invoices, contracts, and other aspects of the business side of your business.
Wave is a free accounting app for tracking your expenses and income, sending invoices and receiving payment, and filing taxes.
Create free, professional looking invoices with Aynax. You can also email your invoices to clients through Aynax and they’ll tell you when the email was opened.
Shake makes it easy to create contracts, send them to clients, and sign them on any device.
There are many tried-and-true favorites as well as newcomers in the productivity app field. Tell us in the comments if you swear by one of the apps in this article or want to suggest one we didn’t cover.
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