This blog post was contributed by Paul Morana, an ActiveCampaign Certified Consultant.
Time is the most valuable resource a freelancer can have, so I’m always looking for tools that can have a meaningful impact in my work.
The more time you spend on non-billable activities, the more your hourly rate is diluted. So using tools that help you spend less time on the housekeeping and more time on client work is a big win.
When I first started as a full-time freelancer, I quickly learned that I needed to create processes and systems to streamline routine activities like time tracking, project management, and invoice generation.
Here are some tools I’ve been using for over a year to lower my management overhead.
A Time Tracking Tool: Toggl
Are you tracking your time? You definitely should be!
Even if you are only casually tracking your time, this information can be very informative. Knowing how long a particular task or project took can help you estimate time for future clients.
I’ve also found it helpful to have a historical view of my productivity. I can run reports going back several years to view high level trends, and this can help me plan for slow seasons (or indicate the best time to take a vacation).
Toggl makes time tracking simple, and their basic version is free! You can enter your clients and track multiple projects for each client. It all runs in your browser and has a very simple interface.
If you want to upgrade, they have some interesting features for both individuals and teams that aren’t available in the free plan. Check it out!
A Project Management Tool: Asana
Once you have agreed on a new project with a client, it’s a great idea to break the project into smaller tasks so you can show your progress. In addition to helping you be more organized, the client will appreciate the regular updates on the project.
If you work on an ongoing basis, your client can submit tasks to you in Asana.
You’ll have the ability to comment and document the work process in the system. It’s much more organized than a long thread of back-and-forth emails, and you’ll be able to easily reference any part of the project, its status, and deadline.
The basic version of Asana is free and it works great! Their premium plans start at $9.99/month/member when billed annually.
An Invoice Generating Tool: Invoicely
Prior to using a dedicated system for my invoices, I was creating each invoice from scratch in Excel. Sure, I had a template that I followed, but I always needed to fill in the client’s contact info, the invoice number, date, and other information.
Although Excel is hugely flexible and customizable with macros, I wanted a more specific environment to manage my invoices. Invoicely provides some great options when it comes to generating and managing invoices.
You define your clients once, and then you can send invoices to them when necessary. Invoice numbers are tracked, as is information on which invoices are paid and which are overdue.
There is basic reporting which shows at a glance how much revenue you’ve received, and you can track your income over time.
One of the best features is the ability to email the invoices directly from the interface—you don’t need to download the invoice and attach it to a separate email, which is definitely a time saver.
If you are an individual, get started with Invoicely’s free plan, and definitely consider upgrading to unlock features such as recurring invoices, team members, and even time tracking (if you aren’t already using Toggl!).
Bonus recommendation: Google Keep
Google has a nifty tool called Keep where you can put notes, lists, sketches, etc. If you have a Google account, then you already have access at keep.google.com.
If I’m on a call and need to take a quick note, I’ll add it in Google Keep. You can also share notes with people, which is a great feature if you need collaboration (like making a shopping list with your significant other…).
Conclusion: Freelancer Tools Save You Time
This list is certainly not comprehensive, but these are some freelancer tools that have saved me a significant amount of time in the past few years.
I like to ask friends and colleagues about tools they might be using to simplify their life, so that I can stay current with all the new software on the market.
At least once a year, you should evaluate your business processes—and the tools you use to manage them. Maybe you’ll save enough time to finally take a vacation!
Do you have some great tools for automating your work processes? I’d love to hear about them.
Paul Morana is an ActiveCampaign Certified Consultant who can help you solve business challenges with marketing automation.