When you work in an office environment, your company usually provides you with all the tools that you need in order to fulfil your duties, complete your tasks for the day and go home feeling that you have earned your pay check.
However, since I turned into a freelancer after retiring from my day job a few months ago, I realized that I am no longer supplied with those tools.
Now, I have to research and obtain on my own the tools that I need to do complete my projects and earn a living.
The good news is that I now have the freedom to choose my own tools and select the ones that I like and fit my work habits. The bad news is that there’s literally tons of resources out there in the interwebs. And many choices will usually lead to frustration, confusion and analysis-paralysis. Just google “productivity tools” and you’ll see.
Good thing that in the months that have passed, I was able to finally narrow down my list. The list was borne from different sources such as referrals from friends and fellow freelancers, articles, resource pages of blogs and podcasts that I follow and through my own trial-and-error methods.
And so I would like to share with you my 14 must-have tools, so that you don’t have to be confused like I was. These are the tools that I myself use heavily in my freelance business and will render me useless (and gig-less) without them. (Some of these contain affiliate links but rest assured that they will not have any effect whatsoever on the price and you will help me through the commission that I will receive. Thanks in advance.)
Being a location-independent worker, you need to be able to work everywhere and have your files and apps available in the cloud, so that you can access it anytime and anywhere there is an internet connection. Thanks to Google, most of the basic tools that you need is just one click away. Once you have created a Google account, you have they key to opening all the wonderful apps that freelancers love, namely:
- Google Drive – With Google Drive, you don’t need a hard drive, you can store up to 15 gigabytes of data and purchase if you want more storage. You can also easily share files with others by getting the share link, no need to attach it in your email. And it’s great for sending large files.
- Google Calendar – I not only use this for work but I also use this at home. What’s awesome about Google Calendar is that you can create multiple calendars and share it with your team or with your spouse, so you don’t miss your child’s recital or soccer game.
- Google Docs and Google Sheets – It’s simply MS Word and Excel that you can use directly inside your web browser. So, you don’t need to go to Greenhills to buy a pirated copy of MS Office or the buy the expensive original one. You automatically have them with your Google account.
- Google Chrome – If you are still using Firefox or Internet Explorer, you are missing out a lot. Apart from being one of the most reliable browsers, what’s great about Chrome is that when you save the Chrome settings (bookmarks, favorites, passwords, extensions, etc.) in your computer, you can then go to another computer and access the same settings. How cool is that. As long as you login with your Google account and configure it to remember the settings that you like, then you are good to go. Just remember to logout after if you are using a public computer.
2. Inbox (free) – Another Google App, Inbox is Gmail on steroids. At the same time, it’s more simplified and automatically groups your e-newletter subscriptions and pesky social media notifications in neat folders or “bundles” so that you experience zen while browsing your inbox. I also love how you can easily either click “pin”, “snooze” or “done” for each message so that you achieve “inbox zero” every day of your life.
3. Evernote (free or paid) – There are hundreds of note-taking apps out there but nothing comes close to Evernote. Aside from, of course, typing your notes, you can also capture todo lists, pictures, sound bytes, screenshots, websites, business cards, etc. and everything is stored in the cloud. You can also use Evernote to network at events. The free basic account allows a maximum of 60 MBs of data every month. I am currently using Evernote Premium (10 GBs) and you can also try it for FREE for 1 month (it will revert back to basic after one month if you don’t continue with the plan).
4. Invoice Ocean (free or paid) – After completing gigs for your client, you will appear more professional if you send the client an invoice as proof of the work that you have completed, even if the client didn’t ask for it. You can easily create your own invoice using Word or Docs but Invoice Ocean is this web-based invoice creation tool that not only easily creates one for you, but you can also track all the invoices that you created in it’s dashboard. Do you need recurring invoices? Invoice Ocean can. It can create recurring invoices and send it automatically to your client’s email address. There is also a basic (paid) version for better features like unlimited invoices.
5. Spotify (free or paid) – I love music, especially while I’m working. With Spotify, you can stream music from the app and create your own playlists or select playlists under different genres, especially curated by Spotify. With the free version, you will be interrupted from time to time by advertisements. If you want to make those ads disappear plus listen to music offline, then you can upgrade to premium, which costs only about P129 a month.
6. Uber (paid)– As a freelancers, we are not used to the traffic as our employee counterparts. So when I need to meet up with a client in the city, I fire up my Uber app from my smartphone and I sit back, relax and travel in comfort to my destination. It definitely beats driving my car, riding a taxi or taking public transportation. If you haven’t tried it yet, you can get a free ride worth up to P200 if you go to this link: www.freelanceblend.com/freeuber
Want to freelance as an Uber driver? Listen to my interview with an actual Uber driver. You can earn up to P2,000 if you sign up as an Uber Driver today by clicking this link: www.freelanceblend.com/uberdriver.
7. PayPal – If your clients are based abroad, you need an easy way to be able to collect payments from them. Traditional wire transfers are not only costly but unsafe. PayPal has been and still is the online worker’s or cyberpreneur’s best friend. You just need to link your local credit card or bank account and you are on your way to collecting your income and spending it as you wish. To date, it is free to withdraw from PayPal to your local bank account for amounts of Php7,000 or more and a PayPal fee of P50 for withdrawal amounts below P7,000. You may have to check if your local bank charges for PayPal withdrawals.
8. Payoneer (paid) – Another way to receive your freelance income is by using Payoneer. Payoneer provides you with your own MasterCard that comes from their office abroad, so expect about 20-30 days delivery of the physical card. So once your money has been transferred to your debit card, you can just swipe it at establishments that accept MasterCard, like supermarkets, airlines, gas stations and the like. Another cool thing about Payoneer is that they provide you with your very own US or European bank account number, so if you have American or European clients, they can just transfer their payment from their bank account to yours if they do not have a PayPal account. It also lets you avoid paying PayPal fees. Your only cost here is the annual fee of $29.95 plus foreign exchange conversion (since you will be paid in USD or EUR).
To get your first $25 free credit, sign up with this link: www.freelanceblend.com/payoneer.
9. Canva (free) – A web-based, graphic design tool for non-designers. Although I am a graphic designer and adept with Photoshop, I still find myself using Canva’s easy-to-use graphic design tool. There’s plenty of cool templates for blog posters, social media posters, invites, et al to choose from. You just need to select a template then change the text, colors and backgrounds as you wish. What’s great is that this service is free.
10. MailChimp (free or paid) – Internet marketers always say, “The money is in the list.” Freelancers and cyberpreneurs alike should always collect e-mail addresses in their websites to grow their list of potential clients. The best way to do that is to use an email service provider like MailChimp. I think MailChimp is one of the easiest and simplest email providers out there and that’s why I love it. It allows me to create an email collection box in my website and then link it to my MailChimp account to send out blog posts to my subscribers automatically. The service is free for the first 2,000 email subscribers.
11. PicResize (free) – Website speed is important for search engine optimisation as well as keeping your blog readers from leaving your site. If you upload big images to your website like me, then you will need to lower the file size using this web-based service, PicResize. You just simply drag and drop your image file, and in a few minutes, you file will be resized and ready to be downloaded back to your computer.
12. Small PDF (free) – Similar to PicResize, Small PDF is another web-based tool that drastically lowers the file size of your PDF documents. This is very useful, especially if you have a graphics-heavy proposal for your web design client. You don’t want to piss them off by sending a large file. Plus, it will save you space in your email box.
13. Snagit Image and Video Screen Capture (free) – This Google Chrome extension makes taking screenshots from any website a breeze. Just click the Snagit icon on your Google Chrome bar and you will be able to capture a web screen and annotate with text, shapes and arrows. You also have the option to download the image file or just copy the link and send the link to your client, which saves hard drive space.
14. Skype (free) – Communication is key in any business, especially your freelance business. Whether it’s with a client, a business partner, a fellow freelancer or even a loved one from another city, country or galaxy, Skype has paved the way for all of us to connect for free, an internet connection is all you need. You can even have a conference call with up to 2 persons and even share your computer screens with one another, Skype is the must-have tool for any work from home worker.
More tools and resources
For more tools and resources, kindly visit my Resources page here. I update that page from time to time, usually when I discover new and exciting stuff that I think you should try.
You can also download my free ebook “The Most Awesome Apps, Tools, and Resources for Freelancers” here.
Photo credit: Lachlan Donald