When you’re starting a small business or picking up your side hustle, one of the best words you can hear besides YES is the word FREE. Even though your business is important and likely you are passionate about it, your priority is still to keep costs low so that you can continue to run your business. Enter: indispensable free freelancing tools.
Time Management & Project Management: Paper Calendar
The most effective method for tracking deadlines and monitoring my workload is a paper calendar. As a teacher, I would keep meticulous notes on a paper calendar to track the topics covered each day, the absences, and what’s coming up. My OCD tendencies have come back in full force as I track client phone calls, due dates, ideal check-in dates, and invoice dates on a paper desktop calendar. It’s even color coded! I’m sorry guys, it’s just how I roll ;-).
I turn this into project management by writing reminders for myself about when to check in with clients and what to check in about. I keep things prompt, short, and clear, and so far I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback!
Content Management & Editorial System: Google Docs
Google Docs & Google Drive are the ultimate collaboration tools. I keep separate accounts for each client, and I organize the titles like so:
When an item is in draft, it doesn’t have a date code, so my documents are always organized and I can access concepts easily. Once an item has a delivery date, I check on it weekly to assess my progress.
When it’s time to deliver, I simply update the sharing options and send the link to the document to the client for feedback, changes, etc. Simple, and nothing gets lost!
Writing Helpers: Pen + Paper, and Dragon Dictation App
There are two very real dangers when you write for a living: running out of ideas and getting hand/wrist pain from typing all. the. time. Enter: Pen + Paper and a dictation app.
A great habit I’ve gotten into is using all downtime to let my mind wander and refresh itself in addition to straight-up brainstorm sessions. When ideas for posts come up, I jot them down on paper with a pen. Then, I sit with those 10-12 ideas and talk about them into the Dragon Dictation iPad App, which provides a text I can email to myself.
It took some practice to speak slowly and pronounce tough words (and I also learned I am not good under dictation pressure, haha!) but it lets me get 10-12 drafts out there in as many minutes! At the very least, it gives me the confidence of an arsenal of ideas to fall back on when the time comes.
Accounting Software: FreshBooks
A short & awesome phone call with Sweeter CPA turned me on to FreshBooks. I entered all of my yearly expenses and was totally shocked at how much money I have invested in my business without even knowing it. I love the invoicing features, and I will be using the free version until I need to upgrade.
Social Media: Hootsuite + BufferApp + Feed.ly
This potent combination has given me an active social media presence without feeling like I’m constantly checking in online. Create a BufferApp account and connect your profiles. Then, as you read website and as you read your RSS feed, use the BufferApp system to schedule retweets, links, and updates with a click.
I schedule mine for my “peak” social media times and I have a steady flow of links going out during the day. I especially love the “buffer retweet” option, which keeps a healthy flow of “other people talking” on my Twitter feed.
Proposals: Mac Mail Client
This might be a no brainer, but in my constant state of responding to ads for freelance writers and copywriters, using my Mac mail client has been essential. I can go through 20-30 Craigslist ads with a point, click, Ctrl+V, send, and the client inserts the title and original post information for me.
I tried to use Evernote, but it wasn’t organic to my work processes. I also envision moving to BaseCamp for project management if I take on a website development project. However, my primary services are freelance blogging, ghost writing, email newsletter marketing, and social media support, which lend themselves well to these processes.