I have tried out SO many tools and apps this past year to support my freelance lifestyle. I put my favorite ones into a list and am launching a 5-part series, revealing three at a time. If you are a self-employed creative, you may find this information helpful. I gravitate towards tools that fit the following criteria:
- Free (or almost free)
- Well-designed / Easy to use
- Mobile friendly
- Quickly make a positive impact on my business
Many are much more than that, but these all share those 4 qualities. If those things are important to you, then read on and enjoy!
Being my own project manager was a big struggle for me. Design great work....EASY! Find and build relationships with clients....EASY!* Figure out a reasonable timeline for not only one project, but ALL your projects to manage expectations, payments and quality level over a long period of time!? ((Shaking in corner))
Since I am a one-person studio, I find Trello to be the most helpful. I previously used Basecamp when I worked at an agency, but I found that was way too robust for my needs. Basecamp works well if you have to hand off assets or get feedback from multiple team members, but I don't need all that**. Also, my time is much more precious to me now and I can't spend time clicking around in a project folder, trying to find a lost asset! I get anxious just thinking about it!
I organize my Trello board according to an Agile Workflow, or SCRUM. Now I can see ALL my projects at a glance and focus my tasks one-by-one. I found this method about 6 months ago*** and it's been a game changer in my productivity. Trello has a mobile version, but I almost always use it on my desktop when I'm starting my work session.
You can also use different plug-ins that help you organize even more. I use the label plugin and the Scrum Plugin. Also, Trello connects to Toggl, a great app that helps you keep track of your time. More on that in 5, 4, 3, 2...
I. Love. Toggl. It is so simple to use and its FREE. This app can be linked to Trello so you can start your timer directly from Trello. I work all around my house, not just at my desk, so I find it helpful that I can start a timer as I start to sketch something while lounging on my couch, or start it while I start researching something on my phone before bed. This allows me to keep accurate track of my time without interrupting my creative process so I can confidently send invoices to my clients. Another perk of having accurate time records for tasks helps me estimate more accurately for future jobs.
This tool is not free, but I find it to be everything I need! I have tried many solutions for invoicing. My journey has been something like this: analog paper invoicing, Wave, Self-employed Quickbooks, Quickbooks desktop then back to Self-Employed Quickbooks. Now, thanks to my accountant, I realize I will end up paying MORE for this invoice service vs the desktop version because of the monthly payment, but its seriously worth it. It links to multiple bank accounts, keeps track of my mileage automatically and estimates my taxes in real time. I always have a firm grasp on how much money I have made so far, who have I sent invoices to, who needs to pay, who paid, just by looking at my phone.
Thanks for reading Part 1 of 5. More goodness to come!
*I have a lot of good advice on why this is easy for me. I look forward to sharing that info soon!!
***Thank you, Carissa!!!!