I’m of the opinion that your freelance business tools should simplify your life, not make it more complicated. I don’t love online project management tools or the idea of something like Evernote (if I like something I just write it down somewhere!). So I’m very picky when it comes the tools I use to manage my business.
The following online and offline tools made the cut. They have offered me loads of value since becoming a full-time freelance writer.
This post contains affiliate links, which means I may get a small commission if you choose to buy something through my link. I only recommend products and services that I myself use and LOVE and think you’ll love too!
Orange Circle Studio Do It All planner
Nothing beats good ol fashioned pen and paper in my book (ha!).
I had to search thoroughly to find something that satisfied my planner and project management needs. I found this gem at Barnes & Noble but you can order it online too.
The Orange Circle Studio Do It All planner has weekly and monthly sections; the weekly sections show each day laterally across the two pages (instead of stacking days on top of each other like other planners which just doesn’t fit with the way my brain sees time).
The planner is spiral bound and has an elastic to secure it shut (and save your spot at today’s date if you want). It has a pocket in the front cover and even a few pages of stickers to stick on special days, but I haven’t used either of those features much yet.
(The big label on the front cover in the Amazon picture peels off by the way.)
I would be such a mess without this thing! I know how hard it can be to find just the right planner. This is the one for me.
SiteGround & WordPress
Are you stressing out about making a freelancer website? BlueHost, Squarespace, Wix, HostGator…I know it’s overwhelming to try to make decisions. Let me make this easy: get SiteGround hosting use WordPress.org as your CMS. I use this combo for this blog and my freelancer site and nothing beats it.
SiteGround is an absolute dream to work with. Their customer support is out of this world, which has been great for me – I was a complete newbie to website-making when I started. I’ve never had any problems with downtime or server speed with them and if I have a question, I can pop into their live chat and they’ll help me out then and there.
In the first couple of months of freelancing, I realized I needed a better system for invoicing and taking payments. I scoured the internet and crowdsourced freelancer Facebook groups (more on those below) for the right solution.
Time and time again people referred me to Freshbooks so I spent a month on their free trial and fell in love.
Freshbooks is a one stop shop. You can track your time, do invoicing and collect payments, and track your expenses all in one place. You can easily invoice for 50% upfront, or however you structure your payments, all attached to the same invoice. (This was something I struggled with before using Freshbooks.)
Here’s the best part: I actually earn more money simply by using Freshbooks.
They have something called PayPal Business payments (for American users only I believe) that charges A FLAT 50-CENT FEE for payments instead of the usual 2.9% + 30 cents. Even accounting for the Freshbooks monthly service fee, I’m saving hundreds of dollars in fees a year. So there’s that.
Now all my sleuthing helped me understand that if you’re looking for a really robust accounting software, Freshbooks isn’t the Number 1 recommendation. But it outperforms in terms of invoicing and payments – by saving me money! – and that’s incredible value.
A5 notebooks from Wilko
If you’re American, you might be thinking Wtf is Wilko? and if you’re English you’re like Why…? That’s so random?
So yeah I kinda fell in love with these little plastic-covered pink notebooks from a store called Wilko while I was living in England. When I filled up the one I had, I went searching for a good dupe in the States. I couldn’t find one. I actually asked my friend who lives in London to SHIP ME more £2 Wilko A5 notebooks and have been using them ever since.
I use them mostly to jot down notes during client phone calls. I think the clickety clack of the keyboard can be distracting when you’re on the phone with someone so I try to handwrite as much as I can. Plus, as I’ve said, I tend to prefer everything to be on paper anyways. I’m
hipster old school like that.
I guess this wouldn’t traditionally be considered a “tool” but I use Facebook groups strategically to crowdsource questions, see what’s up in freelancer world, meet people, and find work. It’s pretty wonderful.
Jorden from the Writing Revolt also has a great list of Facebook groups for freelance writers and bloggers.
No more back and forth emails trying to schedule calls with clients or colleagues! I use Calendly’s free scheduling tool to generate a link that I can send to people. They can then view my availability in my Calendly calendar, which is synced with my Gmail calendar, to pick a time slot. Then it’s automatically added to my calendar – and theirs if they so choose.
You can configure blackout dates and specify different availabilities by the day of the week. When the other person views your calendar, it will automatically be in their own timezone so no one gets confused. Highly recommend.
I don’t love the idea of staring at a computer screen all day. But if you wanna be location independent and work from your laptop, that’s just one of the many sacrifices you have to make.
To abate eye strain, my optometrist recommended I use an app to reduce the blue light from my screen. f.lux is free and does just that. I actually used to have f.lux on my computer a long time ago but took it off because I was turning it off so often to watch shows at night I felt like it wasn’t worth it.
Well I’m back on the bandwagon with this one and so far I’ve been enjoying it. I have my computer set to dim the blue out slowly with the sunset.
There’s also a similar setting you can activate on your iPhone by the way!