A 2017 study predicted that within ten years—or sooner—the majority of the US workforce will perform freelance work. The pool of freelancers is steadily increasing as perceptions of freelance work become more positive and as it becomes easier to find work online.
Undoubtedly the rise of the internet as well as other technologies and tools have helped to remove obstacles that previously kept workers from taking the leap into the freelance world.
In fact, this digital era has turned out to be somewhat of a golden age for freelancers, who now have many tools at their fingertips to streamline once tedious or difficult processes.
But if you have already been freelancing for many years, you might not be aware of some of these newer tools.
And on the other hand, new freelancers who are just diving into their freelance career could be unaware of the possibilities that exist.
Whichever group you fall into, take a look at this list of tools you should try out to bring your freelance career into the modern digital era:
1. Reliable internet
This may seem like a given to younger or more tech-savvy freelancers, but just like any other job, freelance work used to be accomplished offline, the analog way.
Now, between finding gigs online, emailing clients, and performing other tasks, it is absolutely critical that you have access to a reliable connection.
Some freelancers may choose to rent part of a co-working space or camp out in a neighborhood cafe, but the safest way to ensure consistent internet access is to pay for a good connection at home.
You can find a provider that meets all your most important needs by using a comparison site to check how each option stacks up.
2. A job board website
The same study mentioned earlier found that 71% of freelancers experienced an uptick in the amount of work they found online between 2016 and 2017. This is likely due in large part to the number of websites offering virtual job boards.
No longer do you have to resort to Craigslist and other classifieds to advertise your services—now websites like Thumbtack and Fiverr provide a mediated place for job seekers to quickly connect with new clients.
3. A contract creation or signing tool
Freelance work can feel risky, especially when you are just getting to know a new client and you may be unsure of their trustworthiness. Will they try to change your project scope days before the deadline? Will you have to hunt them down for payment?
Whereas you may have struggled in the past to scrape together a respectable contract, or you might have even had to consult with a legal professional to put one together, now you can do all of that online.
You can also share contracts with clients a thousand miles away and get their signature minutes after sending them the document—without having to mail or fax anything.
4. A project management system
Freelancers can struggle with motivation and productivity: when you are your own boss, or you’re not reporting directly to a manager every day, you might feel less pressure to hit important deadlines.
Instead of floundering aimlessly, turn to a resource like Trello that will help you establish and maintain an intuitive workflow. Even just using Google Calendar to track your schedule and block off important dates can boost your productivity.
5. Time trackers
Different kinds of time trackers can serve different purposes. If you charge clients by the hour, you can use a time tracking app that helps you log actual hours spent on one specific project, even when you switch frequently between projects.
You no longer need to manually record when you started and stopped work for one client because that information will be automatically logged.
Yet even freelancers who charge an overall project fee (not by the hour) may find a tracker useful for identifying productivity killers and ways to enhance efficiency.
It can be alarming to look at the results of a time tracker and realize how much time you’ve spent on social media in a day—but that helps you recognize your opportunities to improve.
6. Invoicing and accounting software
The more successful you become as a freelancer, winning over more clients and project fees, the more complicated it will be to track your finances. You can, of course, always use basic spreadsheets either through Excel or Google to log payments and fees owed—but you may find that an app or software program will serve you better over time.
By using an automated program you will be less likely to lose track of owed payments. There are free options out there like Wave, but if you need more extensive assistance it can often be worth paying for those features. Due and Kashoo are a couple of paid software platforms that won’t break the bank.
And for freelancers who frequently meet clients face-to-face and would like to accept card payments, nowadays there are a number of mobile card readers available.
7. Collaboration platform
Freelance writers may opt for Google Docs as a free word processor that allows multiple users to edit and comment on a document. Yet designers and other freelance professionals will need another way to share their working projects with clients and ask for feedback in a convenient, easy-to-use platform, and also review our suggestions for collaboration software that will provide you with a transparent place to communicate with and update your clients.
Of course, a tool is worth very little unless it’s being wielded by a skilled craftsman.
You cannot become a successful freelancer based solely on your use of some handy software or apps, but with all these essential tools in your arsenal, you will be better equipped to streamline your freelance process and to optimize your time—making room for even more clients, projects, and, ultimately, income.