When I started out as a freelancer a year ago, I didn’t want to spend big on tools. I wanted to make money first. I used free versions as much as I could. Or I signed up for trials, being careful to cancel once the trial period was over.
But I soon learnt some things are worth spending on. The amount of time a good tool can save means I can spend that time on client work or building my business.
Here are my favourite time and effort saving tools.
Note that the prices below are for monthly payments. But I tend to go for an annual subscription as it usually works out a bit cheaper. These prices were accurate as of January 2022.
Canva, Canva, how I love thee. I work with words. I’m not a designer, nor will I ever be. But with Canva, I can effortlessly drag and drop decent looking social media posts, proposals, presentations and even videos.
The free version is fantastic, and I used it for months. But the additional templates, images and graphics available with the Pro version are outstanding. I love how easy it is to apply my brand colours and fonts to any template. The social media scheduling planner is handy too.
It’s super easy to use and a must for every freelancer.
Cost: AU$17.99 per month
Rounded is invoice and accounting software aimed at freelancers, sole traders and the self-employed.
In the early days, the thought of managing the financial side of my business brought me out in a cold sweat. I was fresh from 20 years as an employee. My pay would always just appear in my bank account. And it had never been my job to issue or chase overdue invoices. I started off with two spreadsheets. Painfully recording each expense and invoice and faffing about with formulas.
Then I discovered Rounded. After giving the free trial a go, I knew it was worth splashing out on.
My dashboard shows me how my income and expenses are looking at a glance. I can easily see my top earners and my biggest costs.
Sending professional invoices from Rounded is so easy. Overdue invoices are tracked, and reminders can be automated. And it integrates beautifully with my business bank accounts, so everything financial is all in one place.
Goodbye spreadsheets! I don’t miss you one bit.
Cost: I use the Pro version for AU$24.95 per month, but if you don’t care about tracking GST or connecting your bank account, there’s a starter version for AU$19.99
Loom is a video messaging platform that allows you to record your screen and talk through a topic. When you’re done, you get a link that you can share with anyone.
I find this tool soooo good when sending complex content to clients. It means they can watch the video in their own time before they open the document. I use my webcam, so they can see and hear me talk through their content or comms strategy.
I like to give them a high-level walkthrough, explaining my thinking behind certain decisions. By sharing my screen, I can flick through to other reference material as I talk it all through.
Again I started with the five-minute free version, which was great. But the video length is limited to five minutes. Five minutes is fine for many bits of work, but some need longer.
Cost: US$8 per month
Yes, I write for a living, but that doesn’t mean I don’t make typos.
By running my words through Grammarly Premium, I get a quick proofread that picks up grammatical errors and gives suggestions for vocabulary enhancements. It gives me a slap on the wrist when I slip into the passive voice and tells me if something might be hard to understand.
It’s not perfect. I rarely accept all its suggestions. When it comes down to it, a machine can’t write as well as a human (thank goodness). But given I don’t have any colleagues to take a squiz at my work before it goes to a client, I like the reassurance and the final polish I get from Grammarly.
Cost: US$30 per month (but the annual plan is much cheaper at US$144)
How much time is wasted trying to find a time for a meeting between two people in different organisations?
“I’m free tomorrow from 4-5pm, Thursday between 9am and 10am, or anytime Friday morning.”
Sound familiar? It’s bloody painful.
Calendly syncs to my calendar and lets my clients book meetings through a link in seconds. It’s so simple.
The free version is good and probably works for many freelancers. I’ve been using the Professional version because it integrates with Stripe and allows me to collect payments for certain meetings.
Cost: US$12 per month (there’s also an Essentials version for US$8 per month)
More to come
As my business grows, I know I’ll need more tools to help me along the way. Next year, I’ll be looking at project managing tools and email/CRM platforms.
If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.