When starting out freelancing there are a lot of things you need to do before you can start working and earning money. You can speed these up and make life a lot easier later on if you set yourself up with a good set of tools and applications.
Whatever industry you are in if you want to succeed you will need to be online (and if you weren’t – you wouldn’t be reading this) so email is essential. You will also need to be creating documents for proposals, invoicing, sales letters and more.
I’ve hand-picked a few of my favourites which I use on a daily basis to help improve my workflow and keep things ticking over with minimal effort.
Google offer a full range of office applications for free.
Google Mail has revolutionised the way I use email by providing an incredibly powerful and near instant search, as well as conversation view. Check back soon for a detailed article on how to setup GMail with your own domain, and manage multiple email addresses from one GMail account.
Google Docs makes it easy to work collaboratively on documents, spreadsheets and presentations with clients. They also provide a quick way to view and store almost any attachment received via email.
Google Calendar makes it easy to schedule appointments and deadlines, and hard to forget them. Email and SMS reminders can be set to send out reminders of meetings to make sure you leave – and arrive – on time. It’s also handy for remembering Birthdays!
After spending several years using various accounting systems from a simple Excel spreadsheet and invoices created in Word, to the likes of QuickBooks and Sage, discovering Xero was revolutionary.
Not only is their web site beautiful and easy to use, it actually makes doing the accounts enjoyable. It handles VAT, invoicing and integrates with your bank account to automatically pull in bank transactions on a daily basis (no more importing statements manually!). You can even set up user access for your accountant (if you use one), who can then login and view all your financial information, without the need to post or hand deliver paperwork.
With Dropbox all your client files, company accounts and resources are kept securely online, and can be automatically synchronised between your laptop and desktop computer. You can access the latest version weather you are working from home, on the move or with a client via their incredible web interface. Even without an internet connection files are still accessible – they simply sync up next time you connect to the net.
What’s more – Drop Box maintains a history of your files – so if you flatten a PSD and save over the original, or word corrupts 10,000 words of copy you have just prepared you can login to the web interface and restore the original. It also keeps all deleted files, like a giant on-line ‘recycle bin’.
Todoist is a very simple and easy to use online todo list – while it isn’t quite enough to micro manage every project, it’s a good place to keep track of your longer terms goals for your freelance business, and jot down ideas then check them off once you have carried them out.
While most people probably wouldn’t associate an application such as Spotify with productivity, personally I find music helps me concentrate while working, and Spotify provides access to a massive music library from the latest chart music to your favourite 80s classics. It’s well worth paying the £9.99 fee for the advert removal and higher bit-rate audio streams.
Know of any killer applications I’ve missed out? Let me know in the comments…