Freelancing is just as much about juggling details as it is about scratching your various creative itches. And, just like you’ll need specific tools to help you better complete your projects (like the right design software), you need some specific tools to help you better manage those details. Here are some of the best tools for those wanting to learn how to grow a business more efficiently with technology: Productivity: Trello
Keeping track of the various stages of a project is difficult for even the most organized person to do without having to write some things down. The problem for lots of freelancers is finding a productivity and project tracking app that will help them track their projects in simple and straightforward ways.
Trello bills itself as a super powered white board and, after you spend a few minutes messing around with it, you’ll see why. Trello gives you a simple way to track individual projects and their progress. You set things up by “boards” (kind of like Pinterest). On each board you can have several lists and then within each list there are cards. A simple way to set up a board is, for say, “Articles.” Then on that board you can have lists for “Finalize/Send Pitch”, “Awaiting Response” “Contract Sent” “Writing” “Waiting for Approval” “Invoice Sent” and “Invoice Paid.” Create an individual card for each article on which you keep notes about that article. Then simply move the card from one list to the next as each step is completed. It’s a great and simple way to track what you need to do.
There are other productivity apps, of course. Some people love BaseCamp. Others are head over heels for Evernote. Both are good tools for productivity (though Evernote does more than track project stages) too.
Yes, it is true that if you are a sole proprietor and you are good with numbers, you can manage your money using a simple spreadsheet. Some people solve the money problem by simply running all payments and expenses through an accountant. If you don’t have the money for an accountant, though, and you don’t trust your own spreadsheet skills, you’ll want a really great money management tool. Yes, you will want this even if you do most or even all of your invoicing via PayPal.
One of the best tools for this, especially for newer freelancers who are still learning to track and classify their expenses, is Freshbooks. Freshbooks integrates with PayPal which takes a step out of PayPal invoice tracking. If a client prefers to pay another way, no problem: clients can pay however they want and Freshbooks will track the details for you.
Other great money management tools include Wave, Harvest and Mint. You can also use Quicken or Quickbooks or any other accounting software, though those take some extra work to master.
There are a few different programs out there that will allow you to fill out and digitally sign things like W-2s, 1099s, contracts etc. But what about the documents you send out? You should already know that you should get a contract finalized and signed before you do even a single scrap of work on a project. Contracts protect you and your clients. Unfortunately, if you send them out in paper form, you have to find a fax machine, wait for them to get printed out and scanned or faxed back to you. It’s much easier to find a way to do this digitally.
Signnow.com lets you send contracts as well as file signed contracts on their cloud servers (you can still print them out for your own keeping, of course). According to the literature, the service improve contract finalization speeds by 90%.
There are other digital signatories, of course, but we have yet to find one that will help you manage your contracts in addition to collecting signatures.
These are just three of the most important detail management tools you should download. You’ll also want a good project sharing app, a time tracking app and some solid cloud storage so you can manage projects even when you aren’t home.