Essential Tools for Freelancers - 2019 Update

This original list appeared early last year, and given just how much updating I’ve done to my own personal list, I think it’s time for an update and a re-do. While the original post had 23 listings, this one is beefed up to 37.

Writing, Editing, and Drafting

  • Office 365. Office, like everything, has become cloud-based and built on a subscription. Some freelancers swear by Google Docs for all writing, but I happily use both.

  • Google Docs. Google Docs is easiest for sharing and editing documents online, particularly in remote work and group environments.

  • Scrivener. Scrivener is ideal for long pieces (like novels and eBooks) thanks to its organizational features and formatting presets.

  • Hemingway App. Although the app tends to rely on shorter-is-always-better feedback, it’s a useful tool for seeing your writing in a new light and highlighting particularly difficult sentences.

  • Grammarly. I use the free version of Grammarly to give my content a run-through, as it usually picks up things I miss even on re-reads.

  • Cliche Finder. Exactly what it sounds like.

Schedulers, Calendars, and Follow Ups

  • Google Calendar makes a great central hub for all things scheduling.

  • CoSchedule is robust if you need an interactive schedule that includes a remote team.

  • Calendly lets your clients schedule a meeting without playing email tag.

  • Buffer lets you schedule your social media posts in advance.

  • FollowUpThen lets you BCC yourself in an email with a reminder to follow up, cutting down on calendar reminders.

  • Zoom seems, more than ever, to be the go-to for video conferencing and client phone calls.

Website Builders and Hosting

  • SquareSpace is the web platform I use, and makes it easy to create a professional layout without much fuss.

  • GoDaddy has always been good to me in terms of customer support; they respond to you within a few minutes and are happy to walk you through the technical aspects of hosting a website.

  • BlueHost is an affordable and simple alternative that I often see recommended.

File Storage and Sharing

  • Dropbox. After I once had my files go corrupt at random, I rebuilt my portfolio and previous client work--but everything would have been fine if I had simply used Dropbox all along.

  • Google Drive. Especially good for sharing files with clients and remote team members.

Project Management and Dashboards

  • Trello. Creates a smooth dashboard for all of your daily work.

  • Slack. Good for team-based communication you need to get things done.

  • Basecamp is straightforward and easy to figure out, even if you’re doing a project on it for the first time.

Accounting, Legal, and Payments

  • PayPal. Invoicing, accepting payments, and generally making your online business life easier.

  • FreshBooks. Easy syncing with a business account to track everything coming in and going out of your business.

  • LegalZoom. For creating a new business structure or finding contract templates.

  • And Co. Invoicing, proposals, contracts, expense tracking--essentially, an all-in-one tool for managing a freelancing business.

  • HelloSign. At some point, you’re going to need to sign electronic documents, including service agreements and NDAs. HelloSign makes that easy.

Automation

  • IFTTT. If This, Then That works on a basic recipe system: stimulus and response. It makes it easy to sync your social media posts or automatically load files to cloud storage.

  • Zapier. Connecting apps like Dropbox, HubSpot, Gmail, and even LinkedIn makes it possible to automate your essential and overly laborious daily tasks. One example: using Zapier to automatically update your HubSpot contacts after you receive new leads via LinkedIn.

Password Management

  • KeePass or LastPass. Both are great ways to manage and easily search your passwords. LastPass is very good at integrating with your browser so you don’t constantly have to write in your own passwords.

Visual Elements for Posts

  • Canva. Create infographics, blog headers, pull-out quotes, and email headers with ease.

  • Unsplash and PicJumbo for unique, royalty-free pictures.

Lead Generation and Conversion

  • Proposify. The first time I used Proposify, I landed a new client. It gives your proposals a professional, well-organized element that communicate all the right things about your business.

  • Draftsend. Want to add more oomf to a proposal? Use Draftsend to create presentations specifically for your potential clients.

  • Pitcherific. A service you can use to improve the quality of your proposals, including training for drafting presentations for potential clients.

  • Gleam. Applications for lead capturing and generating buzz about a service online, especially via social media.

Productivity, Focus, and Concentration

  • e.ggTimer. I use this to create dedicated periods of productivity and keep myself accountable. Set it to anything. One good trick: use the Pomodoro technique for 25 minutes on, 5 minutes of break time.

  • Pocket. If you like saving content for later so you’re not tempted to read about the destruction of the dinosaurs all afternoon, you can use Pocket to remember your content.

  • TextExpander lets you fill in frequently-used paragraphs and contact information with a few taps.

Other

  • StickerMule for when you need, uh, stickers. Look, it’s been a long post.

I expect this list will change over time as I discover new tools and try other ones. Do you have any suggestions? If so, drop them here.