Tracking down clients can be difficult, especially when you’re just getting started. Networking is a great resource, but why not go to where the clients are already searching? UpWork (formerly oDesk and in conjunction with eLance) is a great resource for all kinds of freelance work. It’s a global market place, so wages can be a little deflated (especially if you live in the US or the UK) but there are plenty of clients willing and ready to pay a fair wage for your skills. Build a great profile page and start applying–it’s free for the most part–and backed by lots of reassuring guarantees for hourly paid work. It also comes with a time tracker app built in–an essential freelance tool!
If you’re working on your own (which most of us are) sometimes keeping track of hours can be tedious. I prefer to bill on an hourly basis for a variety of reasons, and as a result I want exact accounting of how I spend my time. That’s where Toggl comes in. It’s a light weight desktop and mobile app (for tracking on the go, a feature I love for answering e-mails on the train, for example) that tracks your time. Simple as that! At the end of your billing period (which you can determine as you see fit) you can create reports based on clients, projects, etc. You can get even more done with Toggl Pro, including billing clients directly from the Toggl interface. Pricing is competitive and my experiences with the support team have been excellent.
Both you and your clients are running businesses–maybe you’re in different timezones, on different schedules, who knows. Making time to check in via video chat or phone calls can be really difficult. Acuity Scheduling makes booking times easier. If you have a lot of clients you make time for on a regular basis, you can setup an Acuity account and open set times at which you are available. When one client books in, their time will become greyed out. No more accidentally scheduling two folks on top of one another!
Streak has been a game changer for me. My inbox is insane. I manage multiple POP accounts in addition to my primary Gmail all in the same space (maybe not the best choice, but I can’t bring myself to change my system…). With Streak you can track and organize your client e-mails from initial contact to making the sale. Doesn’t matter what your end goal is, really! You can always rename your “stages” that e-mails funnel through. You can “box” e-mails related to a project together, you can see which of your messages are still awaiting reply, you can even see when clients read your e-mails. This is just scratching the surface of what Streak can do, and the best part is the basic version is free.
There’s more e-mail efficiency tools where that came from! Burning the midnight oil, but don’t want to look like the type of person who sends work e-mails at 3AM? Use Boomerang to delay an e-mail’s send time until at exact time later or use fuzzy logic to send a message “tomorrow morning”. Not getting a response for an important message? Set it to jump back to the top of someone’s inbox a few days later if you haven’t received a reply yet. Boomerang is a little basic compared to Streak, but still a great tool.
This is by far the most versatile of the freelance tools on this list. Got a task you need to automate? 9 times out of 10, Zapier can do it for you. You can check out some of their most popular “use cases” here, but honestly the sky is the limit. Great for capturing leads, scheduling follow up e-mails, populating documents, and almost anything to do with payment management. Some app integrations are considered “premium”, but generally the free version is sufficient for the average user. Need more? They’ve got a variety of monthly commitment levels available.
We’re supposed to keep swimming in this social ocean or we’re going down, shark style, right? But maybe you don’t have time to hop on Facebook twice a day and constantly reload your Twitter feed. Stay active on social media without being constantly distracted with Buffer–sit down at the start of the week, line up some posts, and don’t think about it until next Sunday. Curb the addiction to your phone and spend some time in the great outdoors. (Or at least go to the cafe down the street?)