Joining the army of freelancers in any creative field is always a challenge. Your chops really need to be up-to-par with the growing market of artists and designers. Although freelancing is a difficult career path you can save a lot of time with online tools and webapps. Plenty of resources are available to freelancers who just want to get started working and earning a living from their creativity.
I’ve put together this post dedicated to the best tools for the modern freelancer. Online resources are by far the most useful because they can be used from any computer with Internet access. Many of them are also free and great for all freelancing jobs from coding to design. Take a look over this list and see if you can incorporate any of these tools into your freelance lifestyle.
One of the toughest parts about being a freelancer is knowing how much to charge. At first your skillset may be shallow and you’ll charge lower rates, but as time goes on your skillset will improve. This is where pricing gets tricky because each project will charge different rates for different skills.
With the use of a rate calculator it’s much easier to keep track of your prices. I recommend creating a brief spreadsheet or document which can behave as a reference guide. List the overhead costs of your freelance work along with hourly rates for each discipline(UI design, icon design, frontend development, WordPress development, etc).
Use a simple tool like Your Rate to figure out the costs. If you factor the price of living and how much you need to earn each month the calculations will go a lot smoother. Then you can even leave some buffer room and recalibrate prices based on your skillset.
If you’re more into products or individual sales then Stand To Make is another option. This is a more exact calculator which incorporates freelance sales along with specific payment gateway fees. If you work doing freelance and selling products then you might try both applications for calculating a potential budget.
Accounting & Time Management
There are lots of variables to consider within each freelance project. Organizing tasks by priority and keeping track of each project is simple at first. But once you start piling on work as a freelancer things get messy faster than a cup of spilled milk.
There are more than enough reasons why freelancers need invoicing tools. You can track both expenses and income while keeping a log of which money is spent on which project. But the even larger benefit comes when you connect an accounting application with project management.
If there’s any tool you need to check out it’s Minterapp. This is an online webapp that hosts project information in the cloud. You’ll have access from any computer and it connects into Basecamp. You’ll be able to send invoices through gateways like PayPal or Stripe, and each invoice is tied to an individual segment of a project.
The Minterapp free account is free forever so it’s your choice whether to sign up for a pro account. If you’re looking for a single tool that can handle invoicing & task management for various clients then definitely give it a shot and see what you think.
The relationship between client & freelancer is beyond a level of importance. It’s an imperative necessity that must prove strong enough that both sides can stay in free communication. To maintain a morally strong relationship built on trust it’s crucial to stay in contact and lend an open ear during the creative process.
The newest popular tool for communication is Google Inbox. This combines Gmail into one large place which organizes messages into topics and urgency. But it’s even more incredible because Inbox connects with Google Hangouts adding a small chat widget in the top menu.
Now you’ll be able to answer emails while also juggling chat messages with clients or potential customers. It should be obvious that the traditional phone call or in-person meetup is going to be more fruitful. However instant messaging is oftentimes satisfactory and Google is perhaps one of the largest communication companies on the market.
As a secondary option look into HipChat which has gained some recognition over the past few years. It behaves as both a video chat and IM chat application that works for any type of relationship. This could be a freelance/client conversation or even a group chat with various employees of a creative agency. Best of all HipChat offers a free plan just like Google so you can setup an account and get started right away.
Meetings, deadlines, and working sessions all need to be juggled simultaneously in the busy freelancer’s life. When you’re only working on 1-2 projects this may not be as stressful. But once you start managing a variety of clients there’s a subtle beauty in scheduling.
Granted some freelancers may stick to their own tools like Google Calendar or iCal. Both applications are free and even connect to your mobile device as needed. But remember that online tools can be just as helpful and provide even more features than you might imagine.
Take for example Harvest App which has been online for years. This tracking tool can organize specific details for each project like estimates, due dates, expense budgets, and project requirements. Everything you need to remember about each project can be organized into one convenient location.
Another great part to Harvest is the ability to connect into popular applications such as Basecamp. Harvest is even accessible from various smartphone apps on Android and iPhone. Their add-ons page is something to marvel at when deciding if Harvest is a worthwhile tool in your toolbelt.
There’s no doubt that success as a freelancer is obtained through hard work and persistence. Slow months and bad clients are almost unavoidable. But don’t let any of the negative stuff deter you from the freelance lifestyle. If you continue improving your skills then these tools will be there to support you all the way through every project.
Author: Jake Rocheleau
Jake is a creative designer, illustrator, and web developer. He frequently writes articles involving new-age design concepts and freelance management skills. You can find him in Google or follow his tweets @jakerocheleau