Part 6: Tools
In part 5 I discussed my decision to focus on development instead of design. This helped to bring clarity to my business and helped me to define my target audience.
As soon as one begins to pick up freelance work and consider doing it full time, questions arise such as: How much do I set aside for taxes? How can I efficiently manage the money I make? Do I need project management software? Invoicing software? A professional email? And on and on.
So in this post I want to list a few tools that I have picked up along the way that have proven fruitful and efficient in my start as a freelancer. Hopefully this will bring benefit to you as well.
A Word of Advice
One caveat up front:
There are tons of apps and software that promise to make your life easier. There is a temptation to get caught up in the search for the greatest new app, instead of finding ones that meet your needs and utilizing them well.
Financial / Invoicing
I wrote a post recently reviewing the financial/invoicing tools that I have used in the past so I will not go into too much detail.
However, I will say that in my opinion it is beneficial to try and find a SINGLE app that will allow you to 1. Invoice, 2. Track your time, AND 3. Manage your money.
No need to look for three separate apps at the outset. Just find one that does all three and learn how to manage it well. I found all three functions in an affordable app called Zoho Books and you can read more about that here.
Now you will also want to set up a separate account for the money you make freelancing. It doesn’t matter if you start as a Sole Proprietorship or an LLC, just take my word and keep it separate.
I also recommend the strategy found in a book called Profit First. This book will help you setup the accounts you need, lay out for you how to keep these separate and how to allocate to each one, as well as how to see that your business actually creates profit.
Email / Storage
Another implementation you will want to make up front is to replace that generic gmail or yahoo email account with something more professional like firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, you will probably want to create an alias or two like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For these purposes I decided to go with G Suite. For $5/month you get a personalized email, aliases, a 30GB Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, Meet, and a few other helpful tools.
If only for the personalized email, $5/month is a great deal. However, the other features are in my opinion priceless in a freelance business.
If you decide to go with G Suite as mentioned above, you can keep organized with Google Docs and Sheets. Create a folder for each of your clients and allow them access if needed. Store your meeting notes and minutes here.
Zoom is another great option for online meetings, and it is free!
And then there is always Skype.
At first I did a trial of ActiveCollab and it was fantastic. Yet, once the trial expired I was reluctant to pay the $25 a month as I wanted to explore other alternatives.
That is when I realized there were about a million of them. Some were costly (Basecamp!) and some were free (Asana).
However, I came to the realization that at this point these were just novelties. I didn’t have a team. I wasn’t juggling multiple projects. And I didn’t really have the time to learn a new piece of software.
So I took a step back, decided to look for a free solution and a solution that had an easy learning curve.
Yep, it’s simple. It’s free. And it is all a new freelancer needs.
You may eventually move on to more robust tools like ActiveCollab or Basecamp, but hey, just start with Trello.
Conclusion already!? Yes. The reason I do not have an amazing comprehensive list for you is to remind you to keep it simple as you move into full time freelance work.
Remember, each new app takes time to learn….time that does not compensate you back.
Decide on your current basic needs and evaluate if there are efficient software solutions out there for you that will help and not hinder your immediate business goals.
Limit yourself to the apps that are necessary, not novel. There will be time in the future for those!!
What tools have you found to be essential as a new freelancer. I would love to hear about it in the comments below.
Other Posts In This Series:
1. The Beginnings
5. Oh No! I’m Not A Designer
- 6. Tools
7. The Exit Strategy
8. Some Final Words
Are you a CodeNewbie?Tell me about your journey below, I’d love to hear it!