Freelancing is becoming the norm for 2016, offering both companies and individuals access to great talent that’s just one mouse click away. If startups, entrepreneurship, and a remote freelancer’s lifestyle are what your dreams are made of, then you’re going to love these tools and resources, which will absolutely allow you to hack into complete freelancing success.
Wondering About the Top Productivity Tools Out There?
To hack it like a boss, you will require great tools and talent in your team/organization. Here are my top 6 productivity picks for you to explore.
This tool definitely makes project management a cinch. My first experience with Bitrix24 was earlier in 2015. My team and I had just launched a fully remote startup model. I was in Bucharest and the founder was in Norway, plus two coaches in the US. I used the app in both the browser and desktop versions to document the launch, create sales strategies, keep in touch with our members, organize tasks, and just about everything else that was possible in a startup environment.
The app proved to have great group options, packed with a good CRM system that simplified communication for the team, as well as our clients. Task and project management options, group chat, video conferencing, workflow management and HR tools, a dedicated intranet, and social networking are just some of the options this beauty has to offer in its free plan.
Where to begin? I started using Trello three years ago for personal and professional projects. For me, the tool works best in project and workflow management tasks. While Trello doesn’t have a native time management system, external ones such as Everhour will do the trick. A nice touch is to add Google Calendar and file storage to it — a perfect duo. If you want to quickly access boards, simply add them to favorites. Trello allows you to have both private and public boards for that matter.
The tool is ideal for startups, remote teams, but also for freelancers — bring your clients on Trello and show them the mapped process of how you work on their projects. Or simply map your freelancing activity. Free, but comes with a paid option.
P.S. Brian Cervino, their Community Manager, is always happy to talk about Trello, so don’t be shy — connect with him on Twitter.
Glip is a new entry. Since their launch, these guys have been doing a splendid job at standing out as an alternative to the more popular Slack. Having recently partnered up with RingCentral, their users can now login using existing credentials for both platforms.
Glip offers project, task and team management solutions, with a freemium version available. Glip allows you to invite members and instantly start chatting with them. Plus, you can also organize your teams and provide custom access to the members of your organization. The app comes packed with features such as Calendar, Tasks, Links, Notes, Files, plus a never-ending list of Integrations (including Google Drive, MailChimp and Trello). All these option work seamlessly in helping you to manage your online activities remotely.
iDoneThis is pretty simple, and sometimes all you need is simple apps. What’s unique about this app is that after signing up, you receive an email every evening. You simply reply to that email, writing what you have done throughout the day and hit send. All information is stored in a Calendar app.
iDoneThis increases productivity by motivating you to map your daily activities at the end of the day. It has a freemium version for freelancing solo users, and a paid option for teams. Members can see their team’s daily activity reports. The level of transparency is admirable, so this app is aimed for open-minded transparent approaches. This app doesn’t increase only productivity; the transparency also increases trust.
Wrike is another project management tool. It comes packed with a free version that allows you to tap into file sharing, content creation, task management, and collaboration. All this is available for five users in the fremium version. It’s a good way for freelancers to keep notes on their own work, and stay on track and improve collaboration for their small team.
6. Cloud-Based Solutions
Whether you work with GoogleDrive, OneDrive, or others, it’s important that these cloud-based solutions address not only your task and project management needs, but also sort out communication. Look for a basic CRM, group chat, workflow management, private and shared storage, calendar and document management. Each of the aforementioned options will increase your personal and team productivity.
As UXC Eclipse stated recently in one of their CRM reports, “the easier it is for clients, solo-preneurs and teams to map their businesses, the greater the impact on their productivity KPIs. Workflow is shifting more towards online solutions, and we see a lot of remote teams, freelance agencies emerging in the trends.”
But you don’t just need productivity growth to hack the path to success, you also require other components. Such as…
Accounting Solutions for Freelancers and Entrepreneurs
Accounting might not be your best friend (yet!), but these options definitely help. Bottom line: even when you’re doing your shopping, paying the bills, or counting your profits, it still helps if you know your way around the books. Here are five tools that I personally recommend, which will give you a fresh perspective on accounting.
7. The Obvious: MS Office Excel
The newer version of Office 2013, and more recent versions, are packed with pre-defined Accounting and Bookkeeping options. Functions such as Revenue Received, Expenses, Total, and Profits make it easier for early-stage freelancers and entrepreneurs to keep an eye on their income streams. However, Excel is more of a bookkeeping option than an Accounting solution itself.
Due is an Accounting tool at its best, offering time management and time tracking options. To add more, the tool has project management, billing, and invoices systems that make accounting a piece of cake.
Among others, Due stands out with its payment tracking and integration of QuickBooks and FreshBooks APIs (powerful bookkeeping tools). Reports are available with one click. The solution addresses both freelancers and agencies in a browser version, with an iOS app in the making.
Seems like Due is an avid fan of its freelance users and came up with a complete Freelancing guide, available here.
Mavenlink launched years ago as a project management tool. My first experience with them dates back to 2010, in an attempt to enhance my freelancing business. The design was rather rigid at that time, but worthy as an asset. Mavenlink has come a long way since then. Nowadays, the tool addresses issues such as project accounting, resource management, business intelligence, and team collaboration. A game changer in the industry, I would say.
FreshBooks is the go-to accounting solution for non-accountants, or at least that is how the tool brands itself. FreshBooks works great for Freelancers for the same reason as Due: when you handle different clients, with different demands and different payment options, you need the “in-house” solution.
The tool offers features such as reporting, invoicing, time, expenses and payments tracking. No reason to argue why this tool would help hack your freelancing success, right?
QuickBooks runs in multiple languages and integrates with other tools, such as SafetyNet for online backups, Paypal for online payments, Receipt Bank for bank transfers and revenue streams, and Shopify for import/export of orders directly into your QuickBooks account. SMEs and NGOs can greatly profit by using this tool, however I don’t see a reason why freelancers and solo-preneurs shouldn’t give it a go — apart from the pricing.
Next stop: resources and online marketplaces.
Top Resources for Freelancers
Let’s start with a series of top resources to understand what freelancing is all about. If you know of any other resources, please reach out to complete this list.
12. FreelancersUnion is an online community that covers basic as well as advanced needs of freelancers worldwide. Start here and engage with the community, learn how to take action and what freelancing means.
13. Bidsketch is a place where you can always find information about freelancing and entrepreneurship, tools and resources. These guys put a lot of effort in writing and coming up with excellent content, in my honest opinion.
14. TutsPlus — Tutorials from the late FreelanceSwitch and the new Tut+ are surely to help you get a better understanding about design, IT, marketing, and more.
15. Rory Peck Trust — European-based Rory Peck Trust website is all about the reality behind the freelancing dream. There are a lot of resources, constantly updated, with good info on security, safety, insurance, professional development, immigration, and more.
17. Reddit — Well, Reddit is many things, but just like Quora, it can help you get some of the best resources and answers out there. It’s also a great way to signal to other freelancers and online entrepreneurs about bad experiences with clients. One of my favorite places on Reddit is the Entrepreneur subreddit. Here, you’ll find real-life examples from other entrepreneurs and freelancers.
18. StackOverflow — If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then this article is not for you. StackOverflow works great not just for programmers or tech entrepreneurs and freelancers, but also to anyone having to deal with a line of code or with data. The thing is, you’d probably need a website or professional page to showcase your portfolio and experience, so either way there’s a high probability to stumble upon tech issues.
19. StackExchange freelancing — A subdomain where you can get pretty much any question answered if it’s related to freelancing. A must-check resource if you plan on hacking your freelancing success.
20. Online communities — There are huge online communities with user-generated content where you can find threads that answer your every question. One of my personal favorites for Brainstorming is MyBlogU.com.
LinkedIn groups, Google+, and Facebook groups can work just as well. Our LinkedIn group dedicated to our readers, called Freelancer Way, is the place where former freelance ambassadors eagerly answer questions and teach people the right way to freelance.
21. Blogs about starting a blog — Now, the idea of starting your own blog is more related to that of having an online image, a website to showcase your potential, and a voice that clients can interact with. Not just words, but also visuals, audio, and videos.
Must-Read Blogs about Building an Online Image
Here are a couple of websites/blogs worth checking out — after you’ve spent some time with Lifehack.org, obviously.
Darren has been online since forever. Everything he shares, the people he invites on his blog, and even the job board is all about making money online and tapping into opportunities.
A new entry on the list, Matt’s blog is a guide on how to start a blog, step-by-step, and eventually to drive profits from it. It’s all about exploring potential sales funnels and finding opportunities in the market.
These guys are one of the top-mentioned blogs out there. While you might need a lifetime just to read everything they’ve written so far, I suggest you start with their ebook section and progress to their seminars and courses.
MarketingProfs.com, or should I say, marketing gladiators. These guys will teach you how to build an online brand, how to create your sales funnels, how to tap into industry opportunities — basically, everything you need to stay ahead of the game. If you can’t afford their paid courses, events, and materials, start with the free ones, as they’re good enough to build a foundation.
A personal project started with former freelance ambassadors, Freelancerway is a promising blog for beginners. While this recommendation might sound biased, I would just like to share that we’re working on a guide to freelancing (pre-teaser) that’s going to come out next year. Stay tuned for more!
Marketplaces and Online Platforms for Freelancers
There are general platforms and audience-specific platforms, which we’ll discuss further.
Upwork is the newest online workplace to join the freelancing industry in May 2015. The website is a total upgrade and facelift from the old oDesk platform. Not only that, but with the closing of Elance, elancers are asked to migrate their profiles to Upwork and aid in making history.
According to stats, “by 2020, 1 in 2 people will freelance online.” We can already see the trend in the US alone, where more than 50-million freelancers reside. With a Top Rated account on Upwork, I can say that there’s an endless stream of projects coming every week. It is tough getting there, but there are opportunities to at least build an online agency and work with freelancers in the platform.
PeoplePerHour has its own charms. The platform is targeted mostly on UK freelancers and clients, but there are European, Australian, Canadian, and US clients and freelancers who actively use the platform. PPH has made huge progress compared to its early stages a couple of years ago. They offer “Hourlies”, which are fixed-price packages that clients can access on a freelancer’s profile. Freelancers can make good use of their CERT system, which is a system to rank your performance on the platform. Currently, a CERT 5 and an inch away from Top 1000, I can tell you it is difficult to maintain — you need to get at least 1 new project a month or to have an ongoing gig.
Hiive is a network for professionals and startups alike. The UK-based web app allows you to register and find contract, full-time, or freelance opportunities across the United Kingdom at startup HQs. Startups and freelancers can create profiles and showcase why they are the best. As a fellow European citizen, it’s a real joy to see a place where fellow freelancers and startups can help build each other’s careers and business growth.
Designhill is a marketplace addressing freelancers who love to create beautiful compelling visuals, from logos to trendy infographics, promotional materials, and more. More than 25,000 talented freelance designers and illustrators have joined so far. It’s a great way to find unique projects that stimulate your creativity, which is a serious plus in killing the boredom that comes with doing the same thing over and over in freelancing (yes — routine happens in freelancing, too!).
For entrepreneurs and startup owners, it’s a great way to get your brand up and running when you know there’s a talent pool at your disposal. This audience-specific platform is definitely worth a look!
LinkedIn is not a place to merely showcase your professional experience and just leave it lying there like a dusty old CV on your desk. This social network has real potential to help you get noticed. As a starting company, you might find here some useful tips on how to start building towards success. If, on the other hand, you want to work on your personal branding as a freelancer, you have to pay a little more attention to it.
Research Gate is a research platform that provides opportunities and resources to young professionals, from Masters to PhD students, professionals, post-graduates, and basically anyone interested in working in research facilities, company departments, or university departments in both private and public sectors.
Usually, the platform is geared toward statisticians, psychologists, bio-medics, engineers, physicists, and mathematicians, but every now and then you might find opportunities for other audiences. If you are looking to build a more stable career for the next 6 months up to 3-4 years, there might be something for you there. In most cases, no remote opportunities are available.
33. WarriorForum and Forums in General
Forums such as WarriorForum, acquired by Freelancer.com a while ago, are a great place to get online gigs. Another similar model is used with CraigsList and other audience-specific forums. It works best with content writers, SEOs, and marketing, but possibilities are endless in the end. Just look for your industry’s top forums and get active. In some cases, a minor investment might be required (i.e. paid memberships), but as long as you get a consistent ROI, don’t let that stop your enthusiasm.
WeConnectSocial works both ways: it connects brands to social media influencers, and bloggers to online opportunities. I do recommend exploring both ends. The branding is great, as in you get the opportunity to be recommended to different audiences. The blogging and social media opportunities are also great, because you get a revenue stream for just doing your own thing. There are artists there that offer promotions on their social media accounts or their blogs, as well as brands willing to tap into the PR opportunities. Possibilities are endless.
35. Paid Contributors
This is more of a collective opportunity. There are websites (different topics, different industries) that want to pay their own contributors to deliver excellent content. There are big online magazines implementing this model of “freelance journalism” such as Forbes, PC Mag, and so on. If you have a talent for writing and sharing your experiences, a desire to teach or write tutorials and how-to’s, make sure to research and apply to any open position. It’s also a good way to build your personal brand and become a voice online.
Conclusions and Takeaways
It took a lot of time and effort to create this list with resources and tools, but in the end it’s all up to you: you are responsible for your success, and in this age and time, anything is possible. So there you go, I hope you will absolutely hack your freelancing success. Drop me a line on my Facebook page with your story or any questions you might have.
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