Top Business Tools Freelancers Need to Succeed & Grow

 

Business Tools Freelancers Need to Succeed & Grow - Just as a gardener needs tools to grow their garden, a business owner must have basic tools to grow their business to succeed. via tigerlilyva.com

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Just as a gardener needs tools to grow a successful garden so does a business. When you start out on your own as a business owner or freelancer, you’ll find the next best course that will help you succeed with your niche or sign up for an ebook that will answer most of your business questions. We all need tools and systems for business, however we should focus on the basics to really move our business forward. There are some top business tools freelancers need to succeed and it’s not that shiny sparkly object that you spend $2,000 on and wonder why you needed it in the first place. Tools that make work and life easier!

Without the essentials, you’ll find your freelance business wandering out of sync and that’s the exact opposite of what you want for your business. Business tools that will keep track of business essentials, such as: contracts, email communication, website, design, social media, project management, day-to-day communication, scheduling, invoicing, and online payment solutions.

Yes, we’ve got lots to go through so let’s get to it!

Top Business Tools Freelancers Need to Succeed & Grow

Contracts

Early on in my virtual assistant business, I found that contracts are extremely important for both myself and the client. Contracts set boundaries and provide details of what is to be expected by both parties. You can find many different types of contracts suitable for freelance work online, however you may find that some need additional clauses depending on the kind of work. I found my contract through a business coach and I only had to make a couple of changes, and it’s worked wonderfully. You can get the contract here.

When you do have your business contract ready for a client, how do you have them sign it? Gone are the days of faxing or emailing a contract for a signature. Everything is done electronic and there are many tools that can get this done quickly.

Here are a couple that are best for freelancers:

17hats (aff. link) is an amazing business tool and it doesn’t just help you get those contracts signed (you’ll learn more about them as you read on). This tool is an incredible time saver! It’s integrated with your email. Clients look at the contract and can sign immediately. Meanwhile you look like a genius!

17hats for freelancer contracts

 

HelloSign is great for freelancers, especially starting out, it’s free when you have 3 contracts to sign (per month) and then it’s $13/month for unlimited documents. It integrates well with Gmail and Google Drive.

 

Email Communication

Email is your lifeline. Not too many people pick up the phone to hire a freelancer and would you want to list your phone number out on the internet anyway? So yes, email communication is crucial. This is how you’ll get your gigs and market your business. First, make sure you get a personalized email address as your_name@businessname.com. This can be done through your website host or you can check these tips to learn how to do it a couple of other ways.

Once your custom email address is set, then you’ll need to start an email subscriber list to communicate with potential clients that are interested in your services. People love to receive free tips and advice! Be sure to provide valuable tips within your emails. You’ll need tracking and reporting on the emails you send out, this can’t be done with a Gmail or other typical email account. You’ll need to sign up to an email marketing provider such as these:

MailChimp (aff. link) is great to start off with as it is free, then when you’re ready to use more robust features like automation or your subscriber number increases then it’s $10/month or more. It provides tracking and reporting of who opens and clicks links on the emails.

mailchimp business tool for freelancers

Mad Mimi is also great to start off with because it’s free but then there’s pricing while you gain subscribers. It does the job of email marketing and you can track the campaigns. Colleagues who use Mad Mimi are devoted fans.

madmimi_square_150dpi

AWeber is a bit more of a monthly expense at $20/month but I hear a lot of people use them and love them.

AWeber_WeArelogo_blue

There are so many email marketing providers and if you’re a new freelancer, these 3 that I mention would be the best to use until you’re ready to upgrade.

 

Website

I’ve heard many freelancers state they started out working without a website but it doesn’t stay that way. You can’t rely just on social media to market your business. You need to have an online home. Think of it as your storefront. Eventually potential clients will want to know more about you to learn if you’re the person they’d want to work with. A website helps them make that determination. That brings me to your domain name. Be sure to grab your domain name of your business as soon as you can. GoDaddy is the most popular site to get that set up.

Here are a few website providers that can get you started:

WordPress.org is quite popular and customizable for any type of website. You’ll have to pay for hosting.

wordpress.org freelancer business tool

 

SquareSpace is a great option as well. Most people who are in fashion or lifestyle branding seem to choose this provider.

squarespace freelancer business tool

Wix is also popular and there’s no additional fee for hosting.

wix freelancer business tool

Take advantage of having your own website to display your portfolio, your services, and blog about your expertise.

 

Design

You may be thinking, “What do I have to design?!”. Well… there’s quite a bit that you’ll need to design because the online world is a visual one. You won’t need to be a graphic designer but be able to do simple social media designs to market your services.

Here are a few design tools that will make you feel like Picasso:

Canva is incredibly popular with more than 10M users and counting. You can create flyers, business cards, social media posts, brochures, social media banners, and so much more. It’s an amazing tool! Here’s a post to give you a little more insight on what you can do with it. Canva is free to use but the premium feature of Canva for Work has awesome tools to help keep designs organized thus more efficient and productive.

create a design in canva

Click on the + More button to access more designs.

Pablo is not as robust as Canva but it sure is easy to use especially if you use Buffer as a social media tool (which we will go over in the social media section. 😉 ) It’s free, it provides quotes, and photos. Of course, it allows an option to Buffer the image into your queue.

Photos in Pablo

I recently updated my Beginner’s Guide to Pablo – Click the gif above to read about it!

 

Snappa is also really easy to use, it is free to get started and you can upgrade to premium to create unlimited designs each month and connect up to 10 social media accounts. It provides photos, templates, and also integrates to Buffer.

Snappa is a social media design tool

 

Stencil is an easy and FAST social media design post tool! It provides quotes, high-res photos, and icons to choose from to create an amazing looking social media post for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram. You can share them directly to social media platforms, Buffer, or download them. I go through the details on Stencil in this post.

search quotes in stencil

This is just 1 amazing feature Stencil has – the quote search. Learn more about Stencil by clicking on the image.

 

Social Media

Buffer… I know I’ve mentioned Buffer quite a bit and finally I can let you know how it works. Buffer is a great social media tool that you can use to share all your blog content and other source content. The app has a web extension, so when you see an article of interest and it’s of value to your audience then you can click on it to add to your queue of shared content. It takes all the articles and can be shared by their suggested times throughout the day or whenever you’d like to schedule them. You can share content through Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. It’s free version does great however it’s limited to 10 posts per platform at at time. The upgraded version, Awesome, is… awesome at $10 per month, you can schedule up to 100 posts per platform, which is such a timesaver. The analytics are great, you can see how each shared piece of content is performing.

Buffer logo-dark

Edgar is another amazing social media platform! Edgar works a little differently in that it uses a library of content. You can fill up a category like all your blog posts then several other categories that you can label that your audience would find valuable. You can keep adding articles by using their app extension while on the article you’d like to share or add it directly into Edgar. You’ll keep a calendar of scheduled posts according to category.

The library keeps its stock and all you need to do it keep adding new and fresh content into it. Edgar does all the rest and it’s wonderful to share old pieces of content that may never get shared ever again however Edgar takes care of that by sharing it all over again. Your audience may not have seen that blog post more than a year ago and they may need that information at that very moment, so how cool is that to provide relevant content years after. I highly recommend this tool to all my clients as well. However if you’re just starting out you may want to upgrade to Edgar when you can, the monthly fee is around $50 per month. You can use Edgar to share to LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

Edgar_horizontal_logo

 

CinchShare is another great social media platform that really focuses on the images (I like that!) because images are most likely to get clicked. The user interface is quite appealing and easy to understand. Posting to Facebook groups and events is a breeze. The monthly fee is $10 per month for posting to Facebook and Pinterest.

 

cinchshare is a great social media tool

 

Project Management

Getting work done on your own is easy but collaborating with a client can be a little tricky in making sure all tasks are organized. This is when a project management tool is best and there are several that are easy plus free to use.

Trello is amazing for project and brainstorming! I think of it as a big white board with notecards on it. You can invite team members or clients to the projects. List each card according to it’s category and list away all ideas that you have and tag fellow team members for their thoughts. There are color labels for organization and attach links for further details.

trello-logo-blue - great project management tool

Google Drive is quite helpful since all documents can be stored within the Drive. Comments and links can be used on all documents. You can have a specific folder for a client with all projects and tasks within spreadsheets and docs. It’s easy access and it’s live editing, meaning you can both be in the project to go over changes.

google drive logo

Asana is great also and I know many people who can’t live with out it! It focuses on the tasks and completing one to get to the next task. Again you can invite and tag people in the tasks for collaboration. Link to details needed for ideas.

Asana Logo-Horizontal-Color

Basecamp is another great business tool and they offer a free trial. However it’s actually $29 a month and it’s gotten quite an improvement over the years. It’s more organized with sections for reports, to-do lists, message board, docs and files, and chatting.

basecamp-full-standard logo

Speaking of chatting…

 

Day-to-Day Communication

Okay so email is great but you already have about a billion emails in your inbox… and now you’re trying to find an answer to the quick question you had for your client. This is a complete time waster. That’s why you need a day-to-day communication tool that you can quickly ask a question and get an answer. This is where chatting or messaging tools are amazing!

Skype™ has been around since for a long time and it’s easy to use. If you need to do a screenshare it can be done quickly with Skype. If you need to share a quick file, link, or a happy note it can all be done through Skype messaging. Easy peasy.

Slack is becoming HUGE. Everyone seems to be using Slack now. It’s a bit different from Skype since it integrates with Google Drive, Dropbox, and other productivity tools. It’s all about channels. You can use private channels for clients and message them directly plus share files.

slack_rgb logo

Scheduling

Getting a scheduled interview on Skype or phone call is wonderful! What can go wrong, right? Your potential client has to change the call and you’re going back and forth with dates and times. Or you call the potential client and it’s the wrong time since you had the wrong time listed on your calendar (Doh! That’s never happened to me… okay yes it has.) These things happen! Well to avoid all of these mishaps. You need a reliable scheduling tool. Here are a few to check out:

Assistant.to is awesome! Love this scheduling tool. It integrates with Gmail and Google calendar so everything scheduled is perfectly on my time and it integrates with the potential client’s calendar. They select the times that are available from your calendar, which are automatically inserted into your email. It’s wonderful. If the potential client needs to reschedule they can go their appointment email and click on reschedule. Super easy. It also works great if you have Outlook.

Calendly is another great option. Very simple and sleek, you pick and choose what times work best for you and it offers it to the potential client.

 

Invoicing

This is a very important business tool for any freelancer because we’ve got to get paid! Here are a few invoicing tools to take a look at:

17hats… yes, I mentioned this tool in the contract section earlier! It’s quite versatile and has many features to help any entrepreneur. Since it handles the contract portion, it functions as a CRM, organizing clients with invoicing and workflows. You can have a questionnaire completed and once that’s done, a contract can be sent to the client and when that’s signed, an invoice can be sent to client automatically. Nice, right? The annual plan comes out to about $24 per month.

Freshbooks is a cloud accounting software and can be used mobile or on desktop. It has time tracking, customizable invoice to include a logo and professional look, tracks expenses as well. It starts at $12.95 per month and increases as you grow your client work.

freshbooks-logo-rgb

Invoice2Go is a wonderful mobile and web invoicing app. This is great for freelancers who meet with customers or are on the go quite a bit. The invoices can be customized with a logo and sent to the client directly via email. It has Apps2go which carries additional features for receipts, time tracking, mapping, electronic signing, scanning, and statements. The Starter plan is $49 per year.

invoice2go logo

Online Payment Solutions

This is SUPER important because obviously you’re looking to get paid!

PayPal is probably the most popular source to gain income directly to your bank account. People feel secure when using PayPal and clients will most likely use this tool to pay on invoices. The fees for selling is 2.9% plus $.30 per credit card charge.

paypal_h_rgb

Stripe is also a popular payment tool and can be integrated with invoicing. They charge 2.9% plus $.30 per credit card charge.

stripe Logo

Square is a mobile friendly payment tool that accepts payments through a tablet or phone. They charge 2.75% per swipe or invoice.

 

Over 27 Business Tools That Freelancers or Entrepreneurs Can Use

Wow! Let’s wrap this up. This list of business tools seems overwhelming however I like to give several options for each topic. Not all tools are for everybody. I can talk with one colleague and find they don’t like Trello or one person may not like Cinchshare because they do a lot of tweeting so it’s not useful to them.

Basically you need to find the best business tools that will work for you and not what everyone else says works. Hopefully this list will provide a stepping stone into the right direction to choose the basic tools needed to succeed as a freelancer or entrepreneur.

Which of these tools do you like or would you like to learn more about? Let me know in the comments!

Take care,

Lillian De Jesus blog signature

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Lillian De Jesus

I LOVE visual marketing! Any tools that help a business increase exposure and can help build a community I'm into it. I help people with inspiring personable teaching with 1-1 training sessions for awesome visual tools like Canva (a graphic design app for the “non-designer”). AND I'm a HUGE childhood cancer awareness advocate. #pediatriccancersucks
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Comments

  1. says

    Hi Lillian,

    That’s a great list of tools. My preferred auto-responder is GetResponse. I’ve switched a few times, but always came back to it!

    Buffer is excellent – I used the upgraded version and really pleased with it. Glad you reminded me about Pablo, because I keep seeing it in my Buffer dashboard and haven’t tried it yet. I’ve been using Canva.

    I like how so many of these tools are linking in to Buffer.

    Stencil looks like one I should be trying too, so thanks for pointing that out to me.

    A friend uses Edgar and highly recommends it, but it’s a little price for me at the moment.

    Certainly plenty of business tools to explore there!

    Joy – Blogging After Dark
    Joy Healey recently posted…Why You Should Start a Free Blog Now (Infographic)My Profile

    • Lillian De Jesus says

      Hi Joy!

      I got your message the other day and replied. Check your inbox or SPAM folder. Thanks for messaging me!

      Oh yes, GetResponse is another good email marketing option. There are so many out there! I only want to give 2-3 options to not overwhelm people.

      I’m so happy you use Buffer! I love it. You can only do so much with Pablo, it’s really an option when you’re in a big rush.

      Edgar is wonderful but pricey. I say if there is money in your budget then a social media tool like Edgar would be great but going with Buffer is a great option.

      Thanks for stopping by and take care,
      Lillian

  2. says

    Lillian, fabulous list of tools! My head is spinning, excited to try some out that I’m not familiar with!

    I, too, love Buffer! I don’t see where anyone has mentioned Buffer for videos? https://buffer.com/video. Have you tried this part of their service yet? I tried several other scheduling apps but I’m sticking with Buffer. Yes, Pablo is limited but at least it’s there if I want to post a quick quote. I have also uploaded some of my own images and can quickly add my logo.

    Tools make social media sharing so much easier. It’s hard to stay focused and I think it’s definitely worthwhile to sit down and figure out just what tools do you really need to make your day productive and then – research and try them out! The right ones will jump to the top of your list quickly.

    Thanks again for putting this list together! Glad I stopped by!

    Deborah
    Deborah A. Ten Brink recently posted…Your Business Focus Is About More Than Just Identifying Your PassionMy Profile

  3. Lillian De Jesus says

    Hi Deborah,

    No, I haven’t used Buffer for videos. When I share videos on social media I do it live but if someone has a short video that is a great option.

    Definitely take advantage of Pablo or Stencil to use your beautiful photos to add quotes to. They are such timesavers!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, Deborah.

    Take care,
    Lillian

  4. says

    Hi Lillian

    So much too for the Virtual assistant and I see some of them that can also help for Project management.

    I use Canva on a daily bases as it is a cool tool for designers. Mailchimp is used for my email and Buffer is incredible when it comes to scheduling posts.

    Thanks for sharing. Take Care
    ikechi recently posted…Why Focused Passion Makes The DifferenceMy Profile

    • Lillian De Jesus says

      Hi Ikechi,

      It’s true Virtual Assistants have lots to do and we have to find the best tools to keep efficient practices.

      I’m so happy you use Canva, MailChimp, and Buffer. All stellar tools for any business.

      Take care!
      Lillian

  5. Bakari Chavanu says

    Great list, Lillian. I use Buffer, CoSchedule, and MeetEdgar, but the latter is expensive for the ROI, so I might pause it for a few months and use the other two more.

    I would also suggest YNAB (You Need a Budget) for budgeting finances. It’s better than Mint, and it can actually help you grow your money if you use the budget to zero system.

    • Lillian De Jesus says

      Hi Bakari,

      I know what you mean about MeetEdgar but it definitely does a great job. A little birdie told me that Buffer will be moving towards a library too just as MeetEdgar so maybe the pricing will be a bit more reasonable. I tried CoSchedule but it’s not my cup of tea. I couldn’t find my groove with it for some reason.

      I never heard of YNAB… interesting. Mint, I know is a great finance tool. 17hats also has financing capabilities, I’m sure not as robust as YNAB or Mint but it’s there for tracking expenses and income.

      Take care,
      Lillian

  6. says

    Hi Lillian
    Great list of business tools.
    The one I would love to try is soundcloud. that you recorded your voice with.
    What a great idea! You have a lovely voice.
    I have used Get Response, eWeber, Buffer, Pay Pal, Skype, Asana, Google Drive, Trello,Canva, WordPress.org, Twix, Mad Mimmi, Hello sign.
    So some I haven’t tried. Great reference post! Thank you!
    Kathryn Maclean recently posted…BloggingMy Profile

    • Lillian De Jesus says

      Hi Kathryn,

      I’m new to soundcloud so when I saw how easy it was to use I just had to do an audio file for this blog post. I don’t think I’ll do an audio file for all my posts especially if there are a lot of images but for the lengthy ones. Thanks for the compliment!

      I’ve heard GetResponse is excellent as well. I’m glad you’ve had your hand at most of these awesome tools.

      Thanks for stopping by and have a great week,
      Lillian

  7. says

    I’ve just discovered Trello recently and am getting to grips with it. The thing I like about it is you can add people to your circle and share your storming with them. It’s brilliant for working on projects with people you don’t see face to face.

    Enjoy the journey!
    Mandy Allen recently posted…Creative Action And The Learning CurveMy Profile

    • Lillian De Jesus says

      Hi Mandy,

      I’m so glad you like Trello. It take a little bit to figure out the best way to organize the cards but it works out nicely.

      Take care,
      Lillian

    • Lillian De Jesus says

      Hi Robin,

      Nice to see you here again! Thank you. I’m glad you liked this list.

      Take care,
      Lillian

    • Lillian De Jesus says

      Hi Deborah,

      Sorry for the late reply! For some reason I thought I had responded already. Anyway I’m glad you stopped by to leave a comment. I’m happy that you like the list and do let me know of the new ones that you’ll be checking out.

      Thanks and take care,
      Lillian

  8. says

    Hey Lilian, it’s to be here on your great blog and what a fantastic resource you’ve shared here. 🙂

    So you’d mention a lot of tools that are capable in making the life of a freelance entrepreneur easier and I can tell you I have tried most of them and they are just awesome.

    For instance, years ago, I use Coreldraw to design stuffs for my client and I also use Dreamweaver to build site but since the advent of open sources such as Canva, WordPress and the likes, I have enjoyed my life and designing client’s creative has been quick, efficient, and time efficient.

    So you see, this post really make sense to me and I have not start using buffer, I will be sure to look into that one.

    Thanks for sharing this with us. Keep flexing and writing good piece. 🙂

    Sam

    • Lillian De Jesus says

      Hi Sam,

      Definitely look into Buffer! They’ve just opened scheduling for Instagram.

      Thanks for stopping by,
      Lillian

    • Lillian De Jesus says

      Wow Marquita! Seven years is a long time in internet years. 😉 I’m glad you see this as a resource for beginner bloggers. I know there are some tools that I really needed to know about early on when I started blogging.

      Take care,
      Lillian

  9. says

    Hi Lillian ,
    A great list of useful tools not only for a Freelancer.
    You always have a lot of helpful things to share with us.
    Since you introduced us with Canva I am using it and did
    also, recommend it to many . Here are some tools which I do
    not know ,but have a look at them .
    Thank you for always sharing something which makes things easier.
    Erika

    • Lillian De Jesus says

      Hi Erika,

      It’s true this list isn’t only for freelancers and I think most small business owners will find this useful. I’m so glad you like the list. It’s my pleasure to let people know about these awesome resources.

      Take care,
      Lillian

  10. says

    Hey, Lillian!

    How are you doing today? Hope you’re doing well.

    Well, this is the first time on your blog, but found the awesome content. You know? It’s so great to share the tools we knew related to business as the newbie always need to learn related to the tools we used.

    When first started an online business, I didn’t have even a PayPal account. I knew it was important for my business then I created one. However, PayPal not allows Cambodian account to receive money from other country hence I need a US PayPal account.

    You know what? Just only PayPal account, it took me up to 3 months to get one. I’m serious to recommend this to other newbies. LOL

    Actually, I love Stencil as I never try it. Thanks for sharing..
    Kimsea Sok recently posted…Attention: Why Majority Of New Blogs Often Die After Few Months Of Their Existence (How To Avoid Being A Victim)My Profile

  11. says

    Hey Lilian
    I appreciate the time and effort you put into this post, your suggestions are awesome!
    I wanted to ask you about other payment methods, do you have other suggestions than Paypal or Payoneer? ones with lower rates, thus, something that will help us entrepreneurs earn a little more money?

    Thanks

    • Lillian De Jesus says

      Hi Andrew,

      Unfortunately I have not come across any payment methods that have lower rates for their fees. If I do, I’ll be sure to update this post!

      Take care,
      Lillian

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