Working for yourself as a freelancer is perceived an idyllic career choice. Go wherever you want, given there is a Wi-Fi connection. Work whenever you want. Deal with clients you want to deal using only the best digital tools.
You are free. No boss. No more clocking in and clocking out, no more pointless meetings or team-building sessions, and no more work you have to pretend to care about.
As a lifestyle and career choice, freelancing is more popular now than ever. Since the recession, millions around the world have given up the traditional career ladder to go freelance. The barriers to entry are low, providing you have marketable skills you can sell to clients that create value. Finding clients is getting easier too: just set-up a simple website, social media profiles, and an account on a freelance marketplace, such as Upwork, Freelancer, PeoplePerHour, and dozens of others.
Providing you have an Internet connection and laptop, you can work from anywhere. Hence the “digital nomad” movement, which encourages younger (18–30), location-independent freelancers to travel and work on the move. Get away from it all. Do the work you love. Get paid to travel.
Sounds awesome, right?
Why not book a flight to Bali right now? After all, you could be working out of Hubud, a popular co-working space for digital nomads in Ubud, Bali. All you need is a few paying clients.
The problem is, once you have a few paying clients, you start to get pulled in multiple directions. On the one hand, you’ve got the work that pays the bills; on the other, you need to look after your clients. But there’s also a whole lot more to freelancing than meets the eye.
Managing your freelance work and lifestyle
Searching for “best digital tools for freelancers” will give you an idea of how many apps and software products for freelancers exist. Dozens of “best of” lists point to one app or another as the winning solution for a particular problem. There are hundreds of tools for every aspect of freelance life.
Managing freelance work, pitches, clients, finances, and admin tasks have created a micro-industry of apps and software companies that support freelance professionals. Many of these companies understand the pain points freelancers experience on a regular basis, as they may work with many freelance professional app developers, designers, and writers, both online and in-person.
Regular challenges freelancers encounter include creating pitches; managing inbox, portfolio, and time; keeping digital files tidy; collecting reviews; doing accounts and countless other admin tasks.
As every freelancer knows, you need dozens of tools to do the actual work — what you get paid for — whether you’re a social media manager, developer, designer, or video producer. A stack of apps and products that will help you create the work, get it to clients, receive feedback, make changes, and ensure the deliverables are signed off. Finding the right tools that get the job done, aren't too expensive, and are easy-to-use isn’t simple. List-style articles will promote one over another: how are you to choose the right digital tools for you?
How to find the best digital tools for your freelance business
#1: List what you need
Start with a list.
Write down what you currently need help with:
creating your pitch?
collaborating with clients?
Whatever it is, there will be a dozen or more apps and tools available.
#2: Search for apps solving those particular needs
Your search should lead you to a shortlist of apps that generally solve your particular challenges. Many will appear in blogs and articles. Look for the most credible and mainstream media, such as Entrepreneur, Forbes, and Business Insider.
Next, take a look at what the tech sector insiders are writing about. There are dozens of Mac-focused blogs and bloggers writing about the apps they use, and so are leading tech companies, such as Shopify, Buffer, and TransferWise. At this point, you should start to see a shortlist appear. An aggregation of the most popular, most reliable, easiest-to-use apps that get mentioned over and over.
#3: Read the reviews
Time to take more of an in-depth look at this shortlist of apps.
Start with the most obvious places first: Google, Facebook, Product Hunt. See how many reviews they’ve got overall, and how they score. Read what other users say.
When tech bloggers and industry insiders say an app is worth using, chances are, you're reading an unbiased review of a product from someone who either uses it themselves, or has given it a thorough trial run.
#4: Road test your final choice
Most apps come with a free trial period. Now is a great chance to sign-up to one or two you might want to use to get a feel for how it works, its user-experience, and whether it does what you actually need.
#5: Make the choice even easier
Another way to find the apps you need, for every job and problem you will encounter as a freelancer, is to subscribe to Setapp, the Mac app subscription service.
To create Setapp, industry experts have hand-selected over 100 apps, many of which are designed around freelancers’ lifestyles and careers, making it easy to get everything you need for the same cost as a couple of Starbucks coffees (even in Ubud, Bali). Get the apps that will solve your admin, time, and project management challenges, and dozens of other tools for every profession.
Going freelance involves considerably more organizational challenges than many people assume. With the right apps and tools, you can make your working life easier. Finding them, however, is tricky. We have so much choice that it can be hard to know which apps are right for you and your freelance business.
Conducting smart, in-depth searches, trusting tech bloggers and industry insiders, and customer reviews will point you in the right direction of the apps you need to make sure your freelance career can flourish, wherever in the world you decide to work.