To those working as employees, freelancing might seem like the perfect gig. You get to be your own boss and make up your own working hours. You decide which jobs you’ll accept, keep all the profit, AND work in your pajamas. What’s not to like?
As a freelancer myself I can attest that it is indeed a sweet deal. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its own share of issues. For one, you need to do everything yourself, including all kinds of mundane and tedious paperwork. Plus, being your own boss can be quite stressful. Especially since you can’t rely on a steady paycheck. Plus, it’s harder than it seems to find ways to stay organized at home!
In this post, however, we’ll have a look at some other common issues among freelancers. Namely, distractions, procrastination, and the resulting reduced efficiency. We’ll also suggest a few freelance tools to help you overcome those issues. So let’s dive in…
1. Take Notes
As a freelancer, you have a lot of stuff to juggle at any given time: multiple gigs, ideas, client information, To-Dos, shopping lists, and the like. If you’re anything like me, then they’ll be forgotten. However, there are always ways to write, organize and locate them when needed.
Fortunately, this is a need that has been catered quite well by software vendors this past decade. There are lots of freelance tools and services out there to help you do just that.
The two most popular ones are Evernote, by the Evernote Corporation, and OneNote, from Microsoft. Both let you create and manage text notes, organize them hierarchically, and add metadata and tags to them. Your notes can optionally include content in many other types (images, webpages, audio, etc.). These freelance tools also allow you to search through your notes blazingly fast. Last but not least, you can even sync notes to all your devices. Evernote and Onenote apps are extremely well built. The apps are available for multiple desktops, mobile operating systems, and on the web.
2. Manage your projects
With your note-taking needs covered, it’s time to organize your projects, deliverables, and deadlines. For that, we have gathered some great project management tool examples.
On Windows, Microsoft Project is the indisputable king, although it’s probably a little too much if you’re just running a one-man show. For Mac, OmniPlan by the Omni group is very popular and has a very well-made iOS companion app.
But perhaps the most popular option when it comes to project management is to do it online, through a web service. Options here include Smartsheet (a full-featured web-based project management service), Asana, and Wunderlist (recently bought by Microsoft). My personal pick is Basecamp, a clean and easy-to-use project management service that’s a perfect fit for the needs of the solitary freelancer.
3. Get things done
Just because you’ve kept meticulous notes of what you need to do for each of your projects doesn’t mean you won’t get sidetracked. Between email, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, YouTube, and the internet at large, there’s always something there to distract you. Suddenly you look at the time and it’s already seven p.m. — and you still need to deliver that damn thing by tomorrow morning or else…
Procrastination and distractions are two things that millions (billions?) of people suffer from. It’s not very surprising that there are tons of freelance tools available you help you in your noble fight against counterproductivity.
The GTD method
One of the most popular solutions to these issues is the so-called GTD (short for “get things done“) time management method, invented by productivity consultant David Allen and adopted by millions of enthusiastic fans. He also went on to write books, create apps, writes blogs, and even teach it in professional seminars.
The GTD method “is based on storing, tracking and retrieving the information related to the things that need to get done”, with a workflow that’s split into 5 stages: capture, clarify, organize, reflect, and engage.
If you’re read our note-taking and project management advice, you’ve probably already had all you need to implement GTD. Even some of the programs we’ve mentioned (e.g. Evernote and Wunderlist) incorporate tools to facilitate a GTD approach to project and task management.
You don’t necessarily have to fork out for a GTD app or service though — for the simplest GTD workflow you need nothing more than a pen and some paper. The extra niceties you get with GTD-specific software are not as important as the mindset and determination to stick to the “get things done” workflow.
4. Know your customers
Perhaps the most important part of being a freelancer is dealing with customers. It’s crucial to keep track of all the little details about them, who’s the contact person at each company, who owes you what, potential sales leads, etc.
Even remembering when it’s your client’s birthday and sending them an e-card can score you a lot of points.
For that, you’ll need a CRM (customer relationship management) tool. Almost all the major players in this place are web-based. We’ll ignore those meant for huge enterprises, which would be too overwhelming for your simple freelancing needs — not to mention pricey.
This leaves us with three picks. First, is SalesForce (the undisputed CRM market leader) whose eponymous CRM has plans starting from $5/month. Second, Nimble is a simpler affair that also includes a free plan that might just be enough for your needs. The third option, Pipedrive CRM is a fully customizable solution that provides a clear overview of your sales pipeline that offers several useful features.
5. Get paid with Elorus
We’ve covered beating procrastination, collecting notes and ideas, managing projects, and keeping track of customers and leads. In this fifth and final section, we’ll have a look at the software that helps you create and manage your invoices and keep track of your finances.
In fact, we won’t be looking that far in this case, as we happen to be the creators of Elorus, the industry-leading invoicing management service that’s the best and most cost-effective solution in this space.
With Elorus you can manage, edit and send invoices to clients, and accept online payments and credit cards. You can also schedule recurring invoices to be automatically generated. Of course, Elorus also keeps track of invoices, payment, cash flow, and tax reports from a single, intuitive, user interface. Oh, and there is extended reporting functionality thrown in for good measure.
But don’t just take our word for it. Take Elorus for a test drive now, and see for yourself how a cloud-based, invoicing freelance tool can help you eliminate tedious paperwork and bureaucracy and stay ahead of your finances.
If you’re just starting out or you only need to work with up to 5 clients/suppliers, our full-featured, non-expiring, free plan will let you do just that, with no hidden costs or strings attached. And when you need to cater to a larger clientele, you can always upgrade to one of our paid plans, starting from just $7/month.