20 free or affordable tools to help money-saving freelancers run a lean business
It’s National Freelancers Day thanks to IPSE, so we thought we’d join in and celebrate by sharing 20 of the latest free and affordable tools for money-saving freelancers.
The following recommendations give you everything you need to run a business on the cheap – from as little as £26 per month. From invoicing and keeping in touch with clients to project management and time-keeping – we've got all the resources you'll ever need. And then if you need more features and you're happy to spend more cash, many of these options have upgrade options too.
Managing Time & Money
The most crucial aspect of running a successful, profitable business relies on adequate money and time management. We've tried and tested the following tools for many years and can't recommend them enough:
1. FreeAgent: One of the best online accounting software solutions out there, FreeAgent lets you nail the daily admin, covering expenses, payroll, time-tracking, estimates, and invoices. It also hooks up to your bank accounts to help you manage cash flow and project profitability. It's not free, but it has a superb referral scheme that gives you a 10% discount every time someone signs up as a member. Refer enough people, and you can get FreeAgent for free. From £19 per month.
2. Harvest: Love your job, like your timesheets. That's the promise from Harvest – a dedicated time-tracking tool that helps you manage your project budgets super effectively. Completely free.
3. RescueTime: With so many distractions and possibilities in our digital lives, it's easy to get scattered. This cool little app has a Lite version that's free and helps you understand how you spend your time so you can review and make changes. Completely free.
Cloud Storage, Communication & Collaboration
Now you've sorted your time and money management; you need tools to help you store your files in the cloud, and communicate with clients or other freelancers. The following kickass solutions will more than help:
4. Google Drive: Drive starts you with 15 GB of free Google online storage so that you can keep designs, drawings, recordings, photographs and documents all in one place. Even better, it's accessible on the move as well. Completely free.
5. Slack: Slack is a messaging app for teams, so you can collaborate with your freelance buddies and avoid email threads altogether. Completely free.
6. SamePage: SamePage makes team collaboration simple. It keeps you and your freelance buddies working smoothly and efficiently. Combine files, photos, cloud content, maps, videos and team conversation on the, you guessed it, the same page. Completely free.
7. Google Hangouts: Voice/video chats or messaging is freely available via Google Hangouts, making all types of client communication or group collaborating super simple, regardless of where your contacts are located or what devices they use. Completely free.
8. 1Password: Keep all your passwords secure and easily managed with 1Password. Add the extension and app to your devices, and never forget a password ever again. $5 per month or one-time purchase $64.99.
Any freelancer knows that effective task management is crucial if you want to run a successful business. The following free tools will help you keep on top of your projects:
9. Trello: Trello is the free, flexible and visual way to organise projects and share them with anyone. Ditch email communication and clunky task management software, and opt for this simple tool to keep on top of your projects. Completely free.
10. Wrike: If Trello isn't really your thing, give Wrike a whirl. It doesn't just offer easy task management; it gives you an entirely virtual space to collaborate, discuss and document share. Completely free.
11. Paymo: Paymo is a modern project management app for small businesses, giving you one platform for team collaboration, timesheet management and project accounting. Packed with features, we especially love the way you can manage projects with task lists. Just $4.95 per user per month.
What about staying in touch with leads and ensuring you win repeat business from existing clients? You need CRM tools, that's what you need. These recommendations will ensure you don't lose touch:
12. Streak: If you’re a Gmail user then Streak lets you manage your CRM without having to leave your inbox. It sits right on top of Gmail to help you easily keep track of your communications without switching between platforms. Completely free.
13. Insightly: Even if you're only small, it's wise to keep track of your communication with each client, while monitoring potential leads. Insightly is a flexible CRM platform that lets you manage up to 2,500 contacts for free and also integrates with other free productivity tools such as Evernote and Google. Completely free.
Who has time for marketing when freelancing? It's certainly a challenge to find the time. But these clever marketing tools will help you put your business name out there, without taking up too much time or costing you a penny:
14. Mailchimp: Mailchimp helps you send better emails to clients and sell more stuff. That's the promise anyway, and we certainly love it. Send amazing campaigns for free with up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. Completely free.
15. Buffer: Buffer lets you manage your social media marketing all under one roof. Ok, it can't monitor conversation – but it can help you schedule posts for later, so you can get on with running your business. Completely free.
16. IFTTT: IFTTT stands for If This, Then That. It's a superb automation tool that lets you create recipes that connect apps, sparking some action. It's great for automating your social media, for example. Completely free.
17. Bitly: Bitly isn’t just a beneficial URL shortening service, it gives you complete ownership of all your links, allowing you to capture data and track the effectiveness of your tweets and updates. Completely free.
18. Feedly: Need access to all your favourite news, blogs and inspiration sites, all in one place? So you can share via your social channels and keep clients informed of industry updates? Feedly brings everything together for you. Just subscribe to what you love, create folders and bingo. There's even an app. Completely free.
Find More Work
For those quieter moments, or if you're getting started as a freelancer, the following resources will help you find work:
19. Upwork: Considered one of the best in the business, UpWork lists freelance opportunities for programmers, designers, writers and marketing professionals. Completely free.
20. Freelancer: Launched in 2004, Freelancer is an established community of freelancers in the fields of design, development, marketing and data entry – one to join. Completely free.