One of the many benefits of starting a freelance business is it has the lowest costs; you can run it for free or almost free.
Here are 8 freelance business tools I couldn’t run my business without! And the best part? They’re all FREE:
For Time Tracking: Toggl
As a freelancer, tracking your time is essential. I try not to charge by the hour these days (I think project-based fees make more sense), but I do have some clients whom I charge by the hour. I’ve used a lot of time tracking tools, but I think Toggl is the best.
It’s completely free. You can organize it by Clients and Projects, and annotate each time entry with more details on what you’re working on.
My favorite feature is the ability to quickly pull reports by Client or Project so I can send my clients a report of how many hours I worked for them each month, and a breakdown of what I worked on.
For Project Management: Trello
I am a productivity junky, and I am not naturally organized. So I went through TONS of apps looking for the “perfect” project management tool. After going through some really complicated and fancy ones, I’ve decided to stick with Trello. I love it because it is simple and visual. Basically, Trello consists of Boards, Lists, and Cards, in that order. I assign a board for each client, and then create lists within the boards. I usually break down boards by
- To Do
- In Progress
- For Review
Each time a task is moved in the workflow, I just move it on the board. Then I share the board with my clients. This makes it easy for them to see what I’m working on and what stage it’s at in the process.
You can also get really fancy and use “Power-Ups” such as the Calendar Power-Up. This allows me to assign due dates for each card and then see it all in one calendar view.
For Graphic Design: Canva
If you’re not using Canva–you need to. It is the most easy-to-use, yet powerful, design editor you can get. If you’re not a designer, Canva is for you. No matter your skill level, you’ll be able to easily create graphics because Canva comes with premade templates and a media library filled with thousands of stock photos, icons, and backgrounds.
A few weeks ago, I upgraded to the paid version, Canva for Work–and I don’t know how I ever got by without it. It has completely replaced Photoshop for me. I do believe it’s worth it to pay for Canva for Work, rather than just use the free version. Canva for Work allows you to save your brand colors and “magic resize” different templates for different social media channels. As a social media manager and blogger, these things are MUST-HAVES for me. I highly recommend it.
For Bookkeeping: Wave
I used to pay $30/month for Xero, but I wasn’t even using it. And truth be told, I haven’t set up my Wave bookkeeping yet, but I’ll definitely be using that going forward because it’s FREE and offers all the features I need as a freelancer to keep track of my income and expenses.
For Invoicing, Proposals, and Contracts: AND CO
Yes, you can send invoices through Wave, but since I don’t have it set up yet, I find it really simple to just send invoices through AND CO. AND CO has a whole suite of tools for freelancers to use, but I don’t take advantage of the others. When you send invoices through AND CO, you get notified when the client has viewed the invoice and you can send payment reminders if they are late in paying.
AND CO also has a FREE contract creator so you can send over contracts for clients to sign—no lawyer needed!
For Time Zone Tracking: FIO
If you’re working with clients in different time zones AND you travel a lot, FIO is essential! It’s a Google Chrome extension that lets you see various time zones at one time when you open a new tab. Super helpful!
For Word Processing and File Sharing: Google Drive
I use Google Docs to write and submit my articles to clients. I use Google Drive to share files, such as accompanying photos, with editors. I use Google Forms to create client questionnaires and intake forms. The entire Google suite is extremely helpful, and I use it daily for my work!
For Grammar Checking and Writing Improvement: Grammarly
As a freelance writer, I use Grammarly primarily to do a quick check of my work before I submit it to my editors. While Grammarly should NOT replace proofreading your own work, I’ve found that it will often catch things that neither I nor Google Docs caught, such as repeated words. It’s a useful tool, not only for grammar mistakes but also for ensuring you’re using varied vocabulary and that your sentences flow. I highly recommend it!
If you pay for the premium Grammarly, you get extra features, such as plagiarism checker. But I’ve found that the free version works just fine for me.