Boost Your Year With The Best Freelance Tools Of 2018
And 2019 is upon us! 2018 has been a BIG year for me! So, I want to see it out in style by paying tribute to my favourite tools and apps of 2018. Most of these I’ve used for years and they’ve really stood the test of time. I certainly couldn’t run my freelance business without these amazing free and paid resources.
Here are my best freelance tools and apps of 2018, in no particular order. I hope you find it useful. Happy holidays!
This year, I’ve (finally) gotten into Asana after reading about its merits for years. And I’m really enjoying it. Asana basically has 2 ways of working: on your own, you can use it to manage projects by breaking them down into tasks. You can set due dates, get reminders, never forget a step and have the satisfaction of checking tasks off.
The 2nd way to work with Asana is in a team, ie with a single client or a group who all work on the same project. You can assign tasks to people and keep track of how the project moves through its stages. Everyone is kept accountable and on target. This is where Asana as a project management tool really shines. Oh, and it’s free!
Asana is free for teams of 1-15 people.
Google Drive is the backbone of my business. It’s so much more than a Microsoft alternative for word processing and spreadsheets; the free 15GB cloud storage means I can organise my whole business with it. I create all my copywriting projects in Google Docs, do my finances with Google Sheets and organise my client production processes on Drive. I’m writing this blog post in Docs right now!
RELATED POST: Why Google Drive is Awesome for Freelancers
Google Drive is free to use, sign up required.
I’ve also dabbled in Dubsado as a project management tool and it’s got a lot going for it. It's specifically designed for creative freelancers - writers, designers, VAs etc which keeps it quite niche.
Dubsado has templates for contracts, quotes, invoices, questionnaires etc or you can upload your own as templates. It does invoicing, managing client emails, calendar syncing and lead conversion. Its customer service is also great - they’ll even upload all your files and turn them into templates for you!
Dubsado is free for your first 3 clients and $US20/month thereafter.
I use Toggl religiously to track all my working hours. It’s a time tracking tool that provides you a simple overview of how you spend your week via a weekly email report. There is both an online and desktop version and the interface is minimal but pleasing. You can easily track individual projects, clients, tasks and anything else you like.
Toggl Basic is free for up to 5 users, sign up required.
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
ABCya is a fun, free word cloud tool. Actually it’s a school resource so the interface is simple and friendly (there’s even sound!) I use it when writing SEO content on client sites - to check keyword proximity in page content. It helps you to see if you’re sticking to the main keywords in your page.
You simply copy and paste the text into the screen and click Create. Up pops the top number of words used in a random design. If you’re a visual person, you can even change the colour and layout.
ABCya is free to use, no sign up required.
RELATED POST: How to: Set Up Keywords That Will Rock Your Website SEO
If you’ve ever despaired at understanding Google Analytics, Quill Engage is the tool for you. Simple, powerful and requiring minimal input from you, Quill scoops up all your Google data and summarises it in an weekly email. You’ll find out about popular pages and posts, where traffic comes from, and whether readers are new or returning. It’s nifty and free and definitely worth investing in.
Quill Engage is free for a single website, sign-up required.
Try Test My Site for an easy Google tool to check your site speed on a mobile phone. Like any SEO health check software, you have to take it with a grain of salt. If your site normally uploads fast, then you don’t have anything to worry about. But if you’ve noticed issues before, then this site will likely pick up on them too.
Test My Site is free to use, report provided with email address.
Despite my love affair with Google Docs, I still use Microsoft Word for all my editing projects. It’s the standard global word processing software and a lot of my clients use it. As an editor and a writer, my favourite aspect and the one I think Word is worth paying for, is tracked changes. Word does this simple but effective function much better than Docs. Although the way the sidebars pop up unexpectedly can also be annoying.
Still, as a copywriter, I use it regularly for client work and so it’s on the list!
If you’re a writer, you probably already know and love Hemingway App. It’s an online editor for readability, passive sentences and grammar. Once you start using it, your sentences will become tighter, shorter and more focused. I love editing so I enjoy the finicky tweaking and fine tuning to wriggle my readability score down to 3 or 4.
Hemingway is free to use, no sign up required.
I use CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer less regularly than I have in the past but it’s still a fun tool for bloggers and online writers. This simple (and addictive!) app assesses the catchiness and appeal of your headlines, based on SEO and the kinds of words you use. CoSchedule rates headlines based on the number of emotional, common, uncommon and power words, word length and structure. Then it gives you a rating and assessment below. It’s really quite fascinating!
The Headline Analyzer is free to use, sign up required.
Design & Branding
As you know, Squarespace is my go to website platform thanks to its beautiful, professional and functional templates, and ease of use. The backend interface is easily identifiable and intuitive. Squarespace is an all-in-one platform that includes domain name, hosting, security, updates and 24/7 customer service.
Squarespace also has a members-only group for designers like me, called (ironically), the Circle. We get bonuses that we can pass onto our clients such as extra long trial periods and new member discounts. I love that Squarespace brings its existing fan-base along with them as they grow. They’re developing new features all the time.
Squarespace website packages start from $US184/year all inclusive.
If you’re designing your own website, or hiring a designer, you need to think about branding. That’s where a program like Coolors is awesome. It’s a free colour scheme generator that matches colour combinations. Maybe you have one key colour for your logo and want to add a second or third colour but have no idea how to start. Whether you know what you like or have no idea, this is a great app to check out.
If you choose not to go down the photo path in your own website, you’ll need some other kind of colour, graphic or theme. In my case, I chose icons. There’s so much diversity with Icons that you can really make them your own. Which means you can change up the colours and style, and you won’t see them on multiple sites.
Canva is my go-to design program for all my blog post images, business card designs, marketing materials and custom designs on my website.
Canva is a free online design program for social media headers, blog post graphics, invitations, marketing materials and more. There are templates, customisable layouts and free “elements” (graphics) such as photos, charts and illustrations. The homepage opens with all your saved designs, fonts and colours so it’s super easy to find and edit branded images.
RELATED POST: 17 Reasons Why My Business Loves Canva
Canva is free to use, sign up required. The paid version gives you more options including working in a team. I still use the free version.
I love Tiny jpg; it’s an amazing image compression site that’s beyond easy to use. Just drag and drop your file into the highlighted box, and it squeezes the file size down by up to 80%. Best of all, there is no discernable quality difference!
As a web designer, I use Tiny jpg for all my client images, as well as my own blog post images, videos, website graphics, and any other digital image work. It’s quite addictive watching that fat panda churn through files, cutting them down to a workable size.
TinyJpg is free to use, no sign up required.
Pixlr is like a free online version of Photoshop. Which is like, wow. I use it to edit photos, for example, to change a background. You can also manipulate vector images or create something new altogether, like a logo. You can choose between online and desktop, and the Express or Editor versions, depending on how much work you want to do on the image.
Using Pixlr is definitely easier if you've used a program like Photoshop before; it has a similar layout and tools. But there's also lots of support and videos online. Defintely worth checking out.
Pixlr is free to use, sign up required.
I recommend both Unsplash and Pixabay to clients looking for great quality, copyright-free images. They have thousands of generic images for non-commercial use (eg blog posts and websites). You can also choose from a variety of sizes so you won’t need to resize the image again, or to download a massive file when you don’t need to. Attribution is appreciated but not essential.
These are both great options for freelance websites and blog posts who can’t afford the big stock photo sites like Shutterstock.
Unsplash is free to use, no sign up required. Pixabay is free to use, sign up removes compulsory capatcha.
Finance & Legal
I’ve used WaveApps for many years. It’s financial software especially designed for small businesses. It has loads of features like accounting, payroll and financial reporting, and you can securely connect your bank account. Most importantly, you can create templates and send professional invoices to clients.
WaveApps is free to use, sign up required.
I’ve used PayPal as my go to online payment gateway for years. I’ve never had any problems with it. That said, clients rarely use this method to pay me. More recently, I started using Stripe as well. Neither requires a Paypal or Stripe membership, both accept credit card payments, and the fee structure is fairly similar.
It costs me next to nothing to use them so I’ll continue to do so. But they’re also only one of a list of 5 payment options I offer on my invoices. Whatever makes it easier to get paid promptly!
Paypal and Stripe are free to use, sign up ands bank details required.
I’ve only had one really difficult client situation and I turned to the popular debt collection app, CollectMORE, to guide me through the mire. It’s an Australian app with both free and paid versions where you input the details of your naughty client and it offers email templates and phone scripts to help you get paid faster.
They range from a friendly reminder to legal threats, depending on your situation. If all else fails, you can request CollectMORE take on the case for you, and their fees apply then.
CollectMORE has a $5.99 full version and or free Lite version.
Australian law now requires all websites to have legal disclaimers, privacy policies and terms and conditions where necessary. A lot of people still don’t realise this though and have no idea where to start. I recommend checking out Legal123 (affiliate link), an Australian company who have developed customisable online legal templates.
I like them because they’re straightforward and easy to use, you pay a one-off fee, and you get free updates if any of the legal mumbo jumbo changes. They’re recommended by several well known companies so it’s all above board. Definitely check them out if you don’t have your legal ducks in a row.
Legal123 offers individual and package templates.
What are some of your favourite freelance tools? Did any of these make your list?
About the author: Lilani Goonesena is a freelance copywriter and web designer for businesses and organisations. Based in Canberra, she delivers smart, savvy SEO copywriting and professional Squarespace web design. She also writes an awesome newsletter on small business marketing, social media, blogging, web design and "all that online stuff".