31 Essential Tools & Resources for Freelancers
Whether you're starting out or well on your way, these awesome 31 tools and resources are essential for every freelancer. From project management and SEO to social media and video, here are the tools and resources freelance business owners need in 2018.
Project Management Tools
Google Drive is a super flexible product with all the Microsoft Office equivalents - Docs, Sheets, Gmail, Forms and Presentations, plus templates to make starting new documents even easier.
Drive is great for creating private, shared folders and as a file management system for all your work. You can upload files via drag and drop, and download files in a variety of formats.
Google Drive is free to use, sign up required.
Dubsado helps manage your project workflow. It's designed for creative freelancers - writers, designers, VAs etc which keeps it quite niche.
It 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.
Dubsado is free for your first 3 clients and $US20/month thereafter.
Asana is a popular project management tool for small and big businesses. If you love checklists, you’ll love Asana. You can set up a project timeline for each of your jobs and assign tasks to other team members. Or, to your client, or just to yourself.
Asana is a great way to simplify a lengthy project to do list, keep it on track, and make sure you never forget a step.
Asana is free for teams of 1-15 people.
Photo and Image Editing Tools
Pixlr is very like a free online version of Photoshop. You can edit photos, manipulate vector images, or to create something new altogether, like a logo. There are both online and desktop. Using Pixlr is definitely easier if you've also used a program like Photoshop. It has a very similar layout and tools. But there's also lots of support and videos online.
Pixlr is free to use, sign up required.
Pixabay is a copyright-free image website with thousands of high quality images for non-commercial use (eg blog posts). Pixabay allows you to 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.
Pixabay is free to use, sign up removes compulsory capatcha.
Unsplash is another site for top notch quality images. It has a very American-European focus, as opposed to Pixabay which is more global. Unsplash is particularly popular for work images and you’re sure to recognise their images in a lot of blogs and websites.
Unsplash is free to use, no sign up required.
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.
Canva is free to use, sign up required.
Tiny jpg is an amazing image compression site that’s so easy to use. You 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!
I use Tiny jpg for all my blog post images, videos, site images and graphics, and any other digital image work. It’s quite addictive watching it churn through the file, cutting them down to size.
TinyJpg is free to use, no sign up required.
Quill Engage is a simple but powerful tool for understanding your site's analytics. It scoops up all your Google data and summarises it in an weekly email. You find out about popular pages and posts, where traffic comes from, and whether readers are new or returning.
It's perfect for anyone who has ever despaired at understanding Google Analytics.
Quill Engage is free for a single website, sign-up required.
Answer the Public
Answer The Public is a fronted by a crusty, old, knitted-jumper-clad fellow who "seeks" out questions around your topic. Type in your topic and get a list of the most commonly questions asked on your topic on Google. This is hugely helpful for business blogging inspiration.
Answer the Public is free to use, no sign up required.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is the standard measurement used to check the health of your site. On GSC you can verify your site, add your sitemap, check for site errors, and crawl any new content or pages. And don’t worry about “breaking something”; it’s fairly robust!
Google Search Console is free to use, sign up required.
RELATED POST: How To: Get Your Website Noticed By Google
Test My Site
Test My Site is a quick and easy Google tool to check your site speed on a mobile phone. Like any “how well is your site doing” 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.
ABCya is fun, free word cloud tool. Actually it’s a school resource so the interface is simple and friendly. It’s great for checking your ideal keyword proximity within your page content. Basically it creates word clouds based on the number of times you use particular words. It helps you to see if you’re sticking to the main keywords in your page. And it’s pretty!
ABCya is free to use, no sign up required.
RELATED POST: How to: Set Up Keywords That Will Rock Your Website SEO
Writing & Blogging Tools
If you’re a writer, you probably already know and love this site. Hemingway App is 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.
CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer is an addictive online tool that assesses your headlines based on searchability and engagement. CoSchedule rates headlines against their use of emotional, common, uncommon and power words, word length and structure. It’s really quite fascinating!
The Headline Analyzer is free to use, sign up required.
Social Media Tools
Facebook Debugger is a powerful yet little known tool that’s part of Facebook’s Developer tools. You drop in a link and “scrape” the page. It then pulls up a preview of how your link will look on Facebook. Often you can also choose a different photo to display your post.
Using it also means you’ll never get that frustrating “image not available” message when you post a link. I use it for my blog posts or articles that I want to share on my Facebook pages.
Facebook Debugger is free to use, no sign up required.
Buffer is a social media scheduling tool. You can link up to 10 accounts across multiple platforms including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. You can choose the time and day for posting on each platform with reference to your audience analytics. Buffer also lets you repost anything so your content can run multiple times.
Buffer’s Individual Plan is free for 3 accounts and up to 10 posts.
Facebook Pages Manager
The Pages Manager is a mobile app that helps page admins to be really responsive and speedy in monitoring their pages. Which is the type of activity that Facebook really loves. With this app, you can post, comment and respond to messages as the page, rather than your personal identity. You can also check insights, boost posts and write drafts.
Pages Manager is free to use, download from the App store.
Freedom is the app you need to press the pause button on social media. It blocks other apps, programs and internet distractions when you’re working. No more email icons bobbing up and down or Facebook notifications rolling in.
You can choose which applications to block and syncs this across all your devices. So you can get stuck into your work and have no idea that anything else is happening.
Freedom’s cheapest pricing tier is under $US30/year.
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Accounting & Finance Tools
WaveApps is 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.
Google Sheets is part of Google Drive. If you’re familiar with Microsoft Excel, you’ll easily manage Sheets. There are templates to help you create easy business spreadsheets ranging from budgets to calendars and project timelines. It's a simple way to keep track of work and finances.
Google Sheets is free to use, sign up required.
Toggl is a time tracking tool. It will give you a simple overview of how you spend your week with 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.
Video & Animation Tools
Lumen5 is a fun video creation resource that makes professional videos for social media, blog posts, websites or whatever you like. It’s very easy to use. You can start with an existing blog post or other text, then easily upload media (images and videos), music and logos.
Lumen5 is free to use, sign up required.
Biteable is a free online video maker. Like Lumen5, it follows the slideshow layout. There are different templates depending on what type of animation you’re creating, from business ads to family videos. You can customise the colours and audio too.
Biteable is free to use, no sign up required. Paid version allows direct downloads.
QuickTime is a simple little app for creating voice and screen recordings. It’s really easy to use and there aren’t many bells and whistles which is good for beginners. I use QuickTime to create instructional Squarespace videos for my website design clients.
QuickTime is free to use, no sign up required.
Lumyer is a simple IOS app that creates cool animated effects on your photos. It’s pretty cute for making quick social media giphys using your own images. You can start editing straight away. There are a bunch of free effects and you can also pay 99 cents per extra option.
Lumyer is free to use, no sign up required, logo removal costs $4.
Mute Video is a smart phone app that cuts out unwanted noise from a video. Cut out all the background noise, conversations etc for a quick and ad hoc video, before posting it online.
Mute Video is free to use, no sign up required
Email Marketing Tools
Mailchimp is the world’s most popular email marketing service. It’s particularly popular with bloggers and small business owners. It integrates easily with most web platforms with a big knowledge base and drag and drop templates.
Mailchimp is free to use for the first 2,000 subscribers.
ConvertKit is a more sophisticated, up and coming email marketing companies. They emphasise gaining subscribers through opt in forms, content upgrades, email sequences and list segmentation. Its email style is minimal and clean and a single account can be used for multiple websites.
ConvertKit is a flat $US29/mth. Annual discounts available.
I use ConvertKit for my newsletter opt ins. See below and sign up! Note that the above is an affiliate link.
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MailerLite is a cheap Mailchimp alternative that prides itself on a clean interface. It’s relatively easy to set up with lots of templates, drag and drop features, photo editing and analytic reporting. It also has features to help grow your email list via popups, landing pages, subscribe buttons and opt in forms.
Mailerlite is free to use for the first 1,000 subscribers.
Website Design Tools
Squarespace is my website platform of choice because of its beautiful, professional and functional templates, and ease of use. The backend interface is easily identifiable and intuitive. Squarespace is also an all-in-one platform that includes domain name, hosting, security, updates and 24/7 customer service.
Squarespace website packages start from $US144/year.
Tell me, what are your favourite freelancer tools and resources? Leave a comment with your tips below!
About the author: Lilani Goonesena is an Australian freelance writer, SEO copywriter and Squarespace web designer based in Vientiane, Laos. She loves boosting freelancers and small businesses with web design, SEO content and digital marketing strategy. She writes an awesome weekly newsletter on digital marketing, social media, blogging, web design and "all that online stuff". Lilani also blogs at the delectable Eat Drink Laos, just for fun.