5 Tools That Help Freelancers Find Their Way

Being a ‘freelancer’ can mean a lot of different things in 2014.

Whether you’re a freelance writer, editor, web Toolsdesigner, or even a sandblaster, one thing is certain: you need help. I don’t mean you need a hand with your work, and I don’t mean that you should see a therapist (who am I to judge?). What I do mean is that without the help of some very handy tools, you will likely find yourself between a rock and a hard place.

So, why not make things easier on yourself? There’s no good reason not to.

What kind of tools are we talking about here? All kinds. Think big picture stuff. Accounting tools, project management tools, website building tools and the like. You may be thinking, “But, I can’t afford all this stuff on my freelance salary!” Don’t fret. Many of the tools I’m about to mention are not only cheap or very reasonable, but some are flat out FREE.

If you want to put the ‘free’ back into freelancer (see what I did there?) read on and let’s explore our options.

5 Online Tools to Make Freelance Life Easier

  1. Web Design Templates: From designers to niche copywriters, having a space where your contact info and the best examples of your work can live online is pretty much where it’s at. IM Creator has some incredible website templates to choose from, and they make designing a website as simple as a few clicks of your mouse. What’s even better? Their templates are free!
  2. Project Management Software: Here’s where it gets a little complicated. You have 5 different clients who want 12 different tasks done within the next week. Go ahead. Try simply writing it down and see where that gets you. Or, try Podio. This handy project management service lets you not only organize your tasks, but, in the event you need to hire an extra contractor (or two) to help you, it houses each project’s information and allows you to share it within the robust platform.
  3. Accounting Solutions: Most freelancers start out loving their independence, but they soon realize that one of the many constraints that will leave them reeling is a lack of organization, especially when it comes to invoicing. FreshBooks offers a simple (and cheap!) solution for many accounting needs.
  4. Google Docs (duh): If you haven’t heard of Google Docs, you might want to leave that cave you’ve been hiding in the last few years and hop online to see the world as it’s now known. Google Docs is literally a freelancer’s best friend. Share documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more with your clients. You can even work on editing them simultaneously.
  5. EchoSign: It’s amazing what you can do these days without a printer. Luckily, EchoSign is on board and they make it even easier to live your life without that seemingly obsolete hunk of junk collecting dust on your desk. Need a signature for that contract you’ve just entered into? Don’t hit print! You can e-sign it (and so can your client) for the exact same effect.

Taking Web Tools to the Next Level

Once you’ve started making a name for yourself and you’ve gathered up a good client/potential client base (something that might take years to do, so be patient!), you’ll likely start thinking about how to take your marketing presence to the next level. After all, if you’re bogged down doing all the day-to-day work for your current clients, how will you find time to go after new ones (something most freelancers must constantly do)?

This is something that many freelancers struggle with. Dividing time between going after new business and taking care of everyday tasks can seem mind-boggling. Well, relax! There are plenty of good ways to go about it. One of them is to employ an all-star email marketing strategy.

Depending on what kind of website you have or what kind of email provider you use, you’ll want to carefully plan out any mass email undertaking.

For example: Gmail has limits put in place regarding the amount of people you can forward any email to, and you can risk losing your Gmail account if you use it to send too many mass emails.

But, there are plenty of ways around this. MailChimp and Constant Contact are two services that not only provide convenient email marketing services, they’ll also give you data on how successful your emails are with respect to open rates, click-through rates and more.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Lachlan Donald.

Do It Yourself Web Design Done Right

 

Building a website on your own can be a daunting task to say the least. Many people have tried, and, where some Do it Yourself Webfind success through hard work and perseverance, others fail in the face of confusion and web jargon. Terms like SEO, CMS, HTML, web domains and hosting services can make green small business owners and other do-it-yourselfers red in the face before they’ve even thought about launching.

Well, rest easy, because we’re here to simplifying things as much as we can. DIY web design isn’t nearly as difficult as it used to be in years past. Why’s that?

It’s simple. These days, you need only do a little research, find yourself a trustworthy free website builder, and viola! You’ll be well on your way to designing your own website before you know it.

The best part? You won’t have to spend one red cent!

Why Build a Website From Scratch?

Ultimately, the reason for building a website will vary greatly from person to person. Some people simply want a public place to house their blog articles or pictures, while some are looking to launch an entire ecommerce web store.

There are DIYers out there who just want to make it easy for people to RSVP to their life event (think wedding, golden birthday, etc.), and some are merely looking to create an online portfolio of their work.

Needless to say, the amount of work you will need to put into building your website in the beginning will depend heavily on the reason you have decided to build it in the first place.

But regardless of what exactly you intend to do with your website once it’s built, here are the hard facts about how to do it right.

The RIGHT Way to Build Your Own Website

  • First things first. Start thinking about your domain name (the URL you want to use for your site). Depending on which website builder you choose to use (there are many out there) you may not have to worry about a domain name until a bit later in the process. But be careful! Some domains are more expensive than others. Note: this should be the only part of the process you will have to pay for.
  • If you’re smart and you’re looking for an attractive but relatively simple website, you should look around to find a web builder that provides free hosting services. They’re out there, and they’re great. Just imagine, working with only one company for all your different website needs. Sounds too good to be true—except, it’s not!
  • Now we get down to the good stuff: web design. This is where many DIYers tend to get a bit frustrated, and understandably so. If you’re looking at it from a freelance writer’s standpoint, for example, designing a website may seem akin to translating a book into a language you’ve never heard of. Picking colors and shapes is no problem, but making that come to life online? Um. Help. PLEASE. Make sure you find a website builder with a good selection of unique and beautiful web design templates that you can choose from. That way, you can pick one that suits you perfectly.
  • I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth it,” right? WRONG! Not in terms of your website editor. When it comes to editing your own website, the easier the better—TRUST ME. Choose a website editor that’s simple to use and gets you the results you want.
  • Whether you’re familiar with reputable SEO practices or not, finding a website builder that incorporates the latest web technology while also helping you implement appropriate SEO tactics with your website is a must-have in today’s day and age.

Consider Your Audience

Another important thing to consider with DIY website building is whether you want a site that reads like an infographic (one long page that provides all the information up front) or whether you’d rather build a site that has multiple pages dedicated to different features.

Obviously, you’ll need to ask yourself whether what you’re building your site for requires more than one page. An ecommerce website, for example, would never be able to get away with only one page to house the content, products, blog, and everything else that comes with that.

But, you’ll also need to consider the customer, your friends or relatives, or your potential clients: whoever your target audience is who you want to visit your site. Will they want to read one long text-filled page of information in order to figure out who you are?

Or, would they rather see images that relate your brand’s story? Perhaps a little of column A AND a little of column B will work best for you. However, you’ll never know until you get started.

Image courtesy of Flickr user SEOPlanter.