The best online tools for freelancers need not be robust and complicated, they just need to work. After spending years as a freelancer working with various apps and online tools I keep coming back to the foundational ones that keep my business running day in and day out.
Below you will find what I consider to be the most important and frequently used tools in my freelancing arsenal. There are thousands more out there to help you solve more specific problems, but the majority of your time will be spent in sales, marketing, and project management, so we put together this list of freelancing tools just for you.
Sales & Marketing
I have been using PipeDrive for several years now and it is by far the easiest sales CRM I have used. They have improved the product so many times over the years and each iteration comes with really cool features. I experimented with several others including Zoho and Salesforce and PipeDrive blows them out of the water in my opinion.
The user interface is very intuitive and easy to navigate, and it has all of the features you could ask for to help stay on top of your leads. One of my favorite features that is so simple by design that none of the other apps seemed to do well was an instant popup to create a follow up after you mark a task as complete.
The Essential Plan is only $12.50 a month and will save you so much time and help you make so much more money by staying on top of your leads. Set it up, check it every day, and I promise you will close more leads.
When it comes to market research, SparkToro has built one of the best tools out there for finding where it is your target demographic is hanging out online. You can easily find the social accounts they follow, the podcasts they listen to, the YouTube channels they watch, where they live, and much more! Their free version is all you need to get started and the price plans are affordable when you need it.
Conducting basic keyword research to determine what keywords you should focus on with your content, whether it be blogs, videos, podcasts, etc., is a critical step in your marketing efforts.
Using UberSuggest is really easy and intuitive and you can perform 3 searches per day for free and easily export the keywords into spreadsheets that you can then save to Google Drive for reference when working on your content marketing plan.
This one goes without saying. Google is your best friend when you are focused on your sales and marketing. Simply search for your services and see what the competition is doing. Find sales leads by searching for your target market and finding potential clients. Seems like a no-brainer but is often overlooked.
Google Sheets & Docs
Conducting research and strategizing for your sales and marketing will require a repository and Google Sheet and Google Docs are the perfect place for them. Trying to keep track of Excel and Word files will become quite cumbersome very quickly if you don’t get organized.
Operations & Project Management
If I had to start from scratch and start my freelancing career all over again, there is no doubt in my mind the first app I would sign up for would be Asana. This app is designed for project management but I would actually describe it as capable of life management. It is the heart of every project I work on and as a freelancer, it is critical that you stay on top of your projects.
As soon as you start juggling more than 2 or 3 projects, things can get out of hand really quickly if you are not organized. Asana will help you by creating projects and setting up tasks with due dates associated with each one. You can attach files, write notes, set priority status, and even assign to other contractors or freelancers you are working with on the project.
The combination of Google Drive and Asana can be a real upgrade and game-changer for any freelancer whether you are just getting started or have been in the game for years. Think of Asana as the heart of your business, and Google Drive as the arteries. Store any and all of your files, docs, graphics, etc. in Google Drive and link to them from Asana.
This combination allows for easy collaboration with others you may be working with, even with your clients. Just simply create a shared folder that you give the client access to so they only see what you want them to see and you can keep your private project notes in another folder they don’t have access to.
I have also used Box and Dropbox over the years and to be honest, I cannot stand either one of them. Dropbox is great if you are in photo or video and are always sharing large files with clients or other freelancers, but the download and upload speeds are the only real advantage of Box and Dropbox over Google Drive in my opinion.
Zoom has become a household name and for good reason. It really is a solid product and when you need to meet with clients over video chat then it is the best option for the price out there. Even the free version works really well as long as you keep your meetings under 40 minutes.
Loom is an absolute necessity if your work is online. You can quickly record short screen capture videos to send to clients or other freelancers you are working with to explain and outline what you are working on.
Adding the visual element with you verbally explaining things will save you so much time in meetings and back and forth with clients and contract workers. It is also a great sales tool if you sell websites, graphic design, and other services that can be shown on a computer. Providing prospective clients with a short explainer video showing them how you can improve their videos, photos, logo, website, etc. can drive more leads than a cold email alone.
When on calls or just for when that random idea pops up in your head, having a notes app of some sort on your phone and computer will be super important. I used Evernote for years but finally retired it recently for the free Notes app on the Mac and iPhone. It is simple, easy to use and keep organized, and syncs across devices.
Use it while on calls with clients, or use it to jot down the random ideas that keep popping up in your head so you can free up that headspace for more important and creative work.
Well there are literally thousands of apps and tools out there to choose from and as a self-employed freelancer you will be bombarded with options for every single aspect of your business, but at the heart of it all, you really only need a handful to get the majority of your work done.
Are there apps for bookkeeping, taxes, invoicing, brand management, and other aspects of the business? Well of course there are and we will cover those in detail as well. For now, we wanted to make sure our freelancing community had the tools they needed to get started.