Switching from my job as a cashier at a fast-food restaurant, a job where my working hours, outfit, and greetings were predetermined for me, to be a freelancer was an exhilarating moment for me. And I’m sure it was for you too!
But the excitement soon ended, leaving me with a burden of anxiety. What was I supposed to do? How do I organize my projects, keep myself motivated to work, discipline myself to keep working? Before, I had people do that for me.
Yes, being a freelancer is more than working from home—it’s a lesson in discipline. It’s not for everyone, but for the few of us that indulge in the freelance lifestyle, it’s important we strive to create the least-stressful area possible. Part of doing this means downloading the right software—software that can make your time as a freelancer a whole lot easier.
Finding these pieces of software is a lot easier said than done, unfortunately, but that’s why I’m here, writing a list to help you find the best software for freelancers.
Top 10 Tools for Freelancers
I just want to mention one thing before we hop into the list: not all of these tools will be useful for you. The tools I’ve listed are situational and may not be useful to you depending on what you freelance in.
If you’re a freelance artist, you may not have much of a need for a social media manager. If you’re a freelance writer, you may not need software that allows for one-on-one video calls. My objective with this list is to bring awareness to these tools so any freelancer can make their job a bit easier.
Being a freelancer requires tons of discipline and organization. And despite having the discipline and organizing everything, you can still easily find yourself lost, asking yourself questions like, “what was I working on?” and “What did I plan on doing today?”
If this sounds like you, I highly recommend downloading Todoist, software dedicated to being your personal to-do list. I know, I know, it doesn’t sound that useful, especially when you can make your own to-do list on paper, but trust me when I say it is.
Todoist allows your to-do list to be accessible from anywhere, offers you plenty of customization, and helps you keep track of your projects.
Speaking of keeping up with projects, let’s talk about Zoom. Zoom’s had a bit of a renaissance lately due to the recent coronavirus pandemic, forcing many classes and businesses to use the program as a way to keep in teaching and conduct classes and meetings.
Some projects may require you to keep in constant touch with the client, and this may also require you to conduct frequent video calls with them. This is where Zoom comes in.
Zoom does everything Skype does but…a bit better, I guess? It’s more modern-looking for sure and allows customizable backgrounds, includes better audio settings, and makes it easier to set up group calls.
But what if you need to stay in touch with clients and don’t need video chat? What if you just need a simple program with a clean interface that allows you to stay in touch with clients?
In that case, I’d recommend Slack.
Slack’s been growing in popularity over the past couple of years due to its easy-to-learn interface and group capabilities. You can create rooms dedicated to certain projects, split off a “server” into different rooms, and overall keep things organized.
I would compare it to Discord without the voice chat. Again, if you don’t need voice/video chat, you’re better off using Slack. But there’s always another option…kind of.
Asana and Slack share similar features and accomplish similar things. On the surface, you’d think they’re the same thing under different names. Look past the surface, however, and you’ll find that Asana and Slack work in beautiful harmony.
Whereas Slack helps you keep in touch with clients and teams, Asana helps manage projects. In fact, Asana’s main function is to help manage projects. You can set schedules for projects, assign people to specific projects, and can keep tabs on the progress of your projects.
Asana helps if you are part of a team or have multiple projects going at the same time. Otherwise, you’re better off using Todoist. However, I do like Asana, and it definitely has its uses.
6. Google Drive
All of this software sounds great on paper, but if you don’t have anywhere to keep your files, folders, and projects, you won’t have any use for them. And hard drives only have so much storage on them before you run out of space.
But don’t worry. Like most other aspects of the Internet, Google has your back with Google Drive. Similar to Apple’s iCloud and Microsoft’s OneDrive, Google Drive is a cloud-based storage solution that allows you to store all of your files and folders in one “drive”.
Not only that, but Google Drives comes with Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides—alternatives of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, respectively.
All of this comes free, so there’s no reason not to at least try Google Drive out.
Let us take a break from discussing productivity and start discussing security. Freelancers don’t have the privilege of staying safe under the roof of a business or corporation, where the networks are optimized for total security (hopefully).
No, it’s up to the freelancer to keep their data safe and their personal information under wraps. One aspect of practicing proper cybersecurity etiquette is making sure all of your passwords are secure, which you can do with LastPass.
LastPass is a password manager, software dedicated to keeping your passwords organized in a secure “locker” of sorts. It can also generate strong passwords for you automatically, so there’s no need for you to press a bunch of random keys.
4. A VPN
But cybersecurity concerns more than passwords; cybersecurity concerns your network, where you visit, what you’re doing, and basically how you do anything on the Internet.
And being a freelancer makes it hard to stay secure, especially if you’re like me and use public networks quite often. It’s nice to get out of the house, you know?
If you want to make sure you stay secure, download a VPN for your devices. A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts your data and information to keep it out of the hands of cybercriminals, hackers, ISPs, and et cetera.
I recommend using one whenever possible. It only takes a few seconds to set up and requires almost nothing from you except a small monthly subscription.
Now that we’ve discussed cybersecurity, let’s get back to productivity tools. Well, let’s first talk about Squarespace, a popular website builder.
You may be wondering why you need a website builder. Truth is, you might not need one at all! However, a freelancer should always build a portfolio filled with their work, and Squarespace offers one of the best ways to create said portfolio.
You can build a website dedicated to being your portfolio, with it showing off your work, contact information, and vice versa. All freelancers need a portfolio, and if you haven’t already built one, Squarespace is a good place to start.
Now we can get back to productivity. Some of us freelancers, we don’t necessarily write or draw or code. Some of us manage social media accounts. And if you’re in that line of work, you may find it quite difficult to keep up with the massive number of accounts.
In comes Hootsuite.
Hootsuite is a social media manager that allows you to manage multiple social media accounts at the same time. Scheduling tweets or posts, having to open an overview of your accounts, keeping up with the latest news: all of this is easy with Hootsuite.
What about us writers? Are there any programs dedicated to helping us write quality articles? Fortunately, yes, and its name is Grammarly.
Grammarly, the friend of many college students and budding writers, actively scans through your writing to find any errors or mistakes, from simple spelling errors to incorrect tenses.
The one downside to Grammarly is having to pay for Premium in order to get the most out of the program, but free does more than enough for the majority of people using it.
Many people romanticize the freelance life, believing it to be stress-free and easy. I admit I did it too. However, after a few years of freelancing, my perspective has changed a lot.
And if you’re in the same boat I was in just a few short years ago, don’t worry—many programs and tools are available to help you get situated. Whether you have issues with keeping yourself disciplined or have issues with making sure your devices are secure, there’s plenty of solutions available. Go ahead—try some of them out!