Advertising
Advertising

11 Unique, Useful Tools for Freelancers That Make You More Productive

11 Unique, Useful Tools for Freelancers That Make You More Productive

Freelancing is almost the perfect job.

I’m saying “almost” because it does have its own unique challenges, and isn’t exactly as joyful, stress-free of a career as many people believe it to be.

Freelancing can be tough. You need a lot of resilience, self-discipline, and an overall ability to work effectively on your own terms. In other words, you need to learn how to remain productive. If you’re not, your career will be short-lived.

That’s where various tools come into the picture!

But since you’re probably already familiar with the Evernotes and the Google Calendars of the productivity world, today let’s focus on some non-obvious tools. However, although they might be less known, this doesn’t make them any less valuable, which you’ll realize in just a minute.

1. E.gg Timer

eggtimer

    E.gg Timer is a very unique tool. Basically, it’s an easy to use and nicely configurable countdown timer. For example, to set the timer to 25 minutes, all you need to do is visit e.ggtimer.com/25minutes. Setting any other countdown is just as simple.

    Why use it?

    E.gg Timer is great as a Pomodoro clock (e.ggtimer.com/pomodoro) or for any other kind of task that requires you to take part in it for a specific period of time. Working with E.gg Timer is certainly a lot more efficient than constantly looking at your wristwatch.

    2. Toggl

    Advertising

    toggl

      Another time tracking tool, but this one is meant to help you keep up with specific work / projects / client tasks. To use it, just install it locally, click Start and assign a name to whatever you’re doing.

      Why use it?

      With Toggl, you can assign projects to given time slots. This lets you track the exact amount of time you’re spending working on individual client projects. Toggl also notifies you when you come back after being away from the computer, and asks if the time should be discarded or kept (in case you forgot to turn the timer off).

      3. Bidsketch

      bidsketch

        Bidsketch is the best client proposal tool available on the web today. With it, you can create, edit, and then send client proposals. After that, Bidsketch also notifies you if and when the client viewed your proposal.

        Why use it?

        It helps you figure out one of the most time consuming parts of the freelance business. Proposals and pitching clients your services are incredibly important for your bottom line. So why not use an advanced tool that can remove a lot of the headache from the equation and simply let you work more effectively?

        4. Trello

        trello

          Trello provides you with a visual way to organize various projects going on in your life. Trello works through what’s called Trello boards, lists and cards. You can re-align cards on each board through drag-and-drop, edit each card individually, add images, text, and simply let the board work alongside your own process.

          Why use it?

          Advertising

          Trello doesn’t force you to adapt to their way of organizing. The tool is flexible and can adjust to your own individual needs. You can use it to manage client projects, ideas, tasks for individual projects, and everything else you see fit.

          5. Grammarly

          grammarly

            Grammarly is an advanced grammar checker tool. Don’t mistake for standard spellcheckers you can find in Word though. Grammarly goes a lot further. It checks whatever you write against common grammar issues, style issues, and a lot more. There are actually 250+ types of errors that Grammarly can recognize.

            Why use it?

            This isn’t only a tool for freelance bloggers or writers. Grammarly works everywhere, which means that through a web browser plugin, it can also help you write emails, forum posts, blog comments, or whatever else. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how important it is to always send grammatically correct emails to your clients!

            6. Lightshot

            lightshot

              Lightshot is my secret screenshot tool. It works on Mac and Windows and it’s more than easy to use. It hooks up to your system’s native screenshot functionality (e.g. on Windows it’s the Print Screen key, on Mac it’s Command+Shift+9). So when I press Print Screen, Lightshot takes over and lets me select the area I want in the screenshot. Then, I can annotate things with arrows, borders, custom text. After that, I can save the image, share it on social media, or copy it to clipboard.

              Why use it?

              Taking screenshots is probably something you’re doing fairly often. Either you want to show something to your client, include an image in a proposal, or even post it on a blog, no matter what it might be, taking screenshots without a dedicated tool is a hassle. With Lightshot, it only takes a couple of clicks.

              7. Swipes

              Advertising

              swipes

                Swipes is a simple, yet effective to-do list app that somehow manages to stand out in a crowded marketplace. There’s more than enough such apps out there, but what makes Swipes different is its ease of use, and its integration with Evernote. You can create new tasks in Evernote and then act on them in Swipes.

                Why use it?

                The problem with to-do list apps is that they are only somewhat integrated with other tools. On one hand, you can export your things from one tool to another, but you can never be sure that some single task won’t get lost in the shuffle every once in a while. Swipes was built specifically to talk with Evernote, so the integration works without any hiccups.

                8. Ninja Outreach

                ninjaoutreach

                  Ninja Outreach is an advanced outreach tool. This means, it helps you discover people worth reaching out to (for various purposes), check their reputation, and then even contact them directly.

                  Why use it?

                  Outreach is an integral part of being a freelancer – no matter if we’re talking client outreach or blogger outreach. The downside of outreach is that it can take a lot of time. First you have to find a sufficient number of contacts, then evaluate their reputation, then find their contact data, and only then you can actually send them a message. With Ninja Outreach, each of these steps can be taken care of quicker and in a more efficient manner.

                  9. LastPass

                  lastpass

                    LastPass is the best free password manager on the market. As simple as that. In short, it lets you manage all your passwords (for apps, services, tools, etc.) and make them accessible to you through browser plugins and mobile apps.

                    Why use it?

                    Advertising

                    As a freelancer, you’re likely working on a couple of different devices and probably have your user accounts on tens if not hundreds of sites. Then, there are also profiles related to your client work, for instance, your profiles on their websites where you need to submit your work. You can’t have weak passwords set on those, yet remembering a complex one is impossible. This is where LastPass comes into play. It takes care of keeping your login credentials in a safe place and gives you access to everything through one master password.

                    10. CoSchedule

                    coschedule

                      CoSchedule is your top tool for creating and managing a publishing schedule and then setting social media updates for each publication you release. It offers a lot of advanced features that every editor will appreciate.

                      Why use it?

                      Granted, this one is more useful for freelance writers, bloggers, and businesses working with websites on WordPress. Where CoSchedule stands out is delivering you a smart scheduling feature that focuses on building a whole marketing strategy around the content you’re publishing. This is something your clients will surely be interested in.

                      11. Shopify

                      shopify

                        Let’s skip to the “why use it” part right away.

                        Shopify is perhaps a surprising entry, since it’s an e-commerce solution, but it can actually be very useful for a freelancer. Among its many features – just see the reviews – Shopify lets you sell not only products, but also services. This means that you can create a handful of standardized services that are the most popular with your clients.

                        During your proposal and negotiation process, you can send the client over to your Shopify store and let them choose the services they need. Keep in mind that you get to use all the standard e-commerce features here, which can help you improve your conversion rates. For instance, you can offer discounts, coupons, or anything else an online store owner would do.

                        What should find its place as the entry #12 on this list? Feel free to share your picks in the comments.

                        More by this author

                        Karol Krol

                        Blogger, published author, and founder of a site that's all about delivering online business advice

                        How to Stop Information Overload and Get More Done How to Steep a Perfect Cup of Tea Every Single Time 10-Email-Management-Skills 10 Email Management Skills Everyone Should Learn to Be More Productive How Not to Fall Into a Productivity Hole 11 Unique, Useful Tools for Freelancers That Make You More Productive

                        Trending in Productivity

                        1 7 Techniques to Stay Focused and Avoid Distractions 2 How to Set Short Term Goals for a Successful Life 3 10 Best Calendar Apps to Stay on Track in 2020 4 What Is a Habit? Understand It to Control It 100% 5 5 Key Traits of a Charismatic Leadership

                        Read Next

                        Advertising
                        Advertising
                        Advertising

                        Last Updated on December 9, 2019

                        7 Techniques to Stay Focused and Avoid Distractions

                        7 Techniques to Stay Focused and Avoid Distractions

                        The world has become a very distracting place, you don’t need me to tell you that. Where once we could walk out of our house or office and disappear into our own world with our own thoughts, we are now connected 24 hours a day to a network that’s sole purpose is to make us available to anyone and everyone at any time they choose to disturb us.

                        Of course, it is very easy to sit here and say all you have to do is turn off your electronic devices and just allow yourself several hours of quiet solitude; but the reality is far harder than that. There is an expectation that we are available for anyone whenever they want us.

                        However, if you do want to elevate yourself and perform at your best every day, to produce work of a higher quality than anyone expects and to regain control over what you do and when you will need to regain some control over your time, so you can focus on producing work that matters to you…

                        The good news: You do not have to become a recluse. All you need are a few simple strategies that will allow you enough flexibility in your day to stay focused to do the work that matters and still allow you to deal with other people’s crises and dramas.

                        Here are 7 ways you can stay focused and be less distracted.

                        1. Find out When You Are at Your Most Focused

                        According to research, brilliantly documented by Daniel Pink in his latest book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, our brains have a limited capacity to stay focused each day.[1]

                        From the moment we wake up to the time we turn in for the day, we are using up our brain’s limited energy resources and, depending on the time of day, we will be moving between strong concentration and low concentration.

                        This means that for most people, their optimum time for sustained concentration and focus will be soon after they wake up. For others, it could be later in the evening—a kind of second wind—but that is rare.

                        Advertising

                        Once you understand this, you can take time to learn when you are at your best and to protect that time on your calendar as much as possible. If you can, block it off and use that time for the work you need to do that requires the most concentration each day.

                        2. Get Comfortable Using ‘Do Not Disturb’ Mode

                        We have the ability to switch our electronic devices to do not disturb mode. Where all notifications are off and your phone or computer will not alert you to a new email or message.

                        Now after testing this function for a number of years, I can happily report that it does work.

                        When I sat down to write this article, I put all my electronic devices to do not disturb, closed down my email and began writing. I am safe in the knowledge that until this article is written, and I turn do not disturb off, there will be no interruptions or distractions.

                        Of course, it is not really about whether do not disturb works or not, it is whether you are willing to turn it on or not.

                        Most people believe they have to be constantly available for their boss or customers. This is not true at all. What has happened is because of your always available status, you have conditioned these people to turn to you first whenever they have a problem.

                        You are not actually helping them at all. You are preventing them from having to think for themselves and develop the skill of problem-solving. By not being so readily available, you help them a lot more.

                        What it comes down to is your boss and customers are going to be far more positive with you, if you deliver your work to the highest quality and on time than you being available 24/7. Trust me on that. I also tested that one.

                        Advertising

                        3. Schedule Focus Time Every Day

                        This technique is a lot easier than you may think.

                        First, you figure out when you are least likely to be disturbed. For me, that is between 6 and 9 am. for a lot of my clients, they find the first 90 minutes in the morning at their workplace is when they are not likely to be disturbed. This is important because you want to be building consistency.

                        Most people start their day by checking their email and other messages. While they are doing that, they are not going to be bothering you. Now there is no rule about when you should be checking your email. The chances are email is not going to be where you want to spend your most focused time, so you can decide to check your email at say 10:30 am.

                        Dedicate 30 minutes from 10:30 am to 11:00 am for email processing and use the first 90 minutes of your day for doing your most important work. You will surprise yourself by how much work you get done in that ninety minutes.

                        4. Plan Your Day the Night Before

                        One of the inevitabilities of life is there is always a plan for the day. The choice is whether the plan you have is a plan of your own making or not. If you don’t have a plan, then the day will take control of you. Other people’s priorities, urgencies and dramas will fill your day. As the late Jim Rohn said:

                        “Either you run the day or the day runs you.”

                        If you take control and make it a habit to plan out what you want to accomplish the next day before you go to bed, you will find yourself staying more focused on your work and be less likely disturbed.

                        Now when I say plan your day the night before, I do not mean you need to spend an hour or so planning and mapping out every minute of the day. Planning your day should only take you around 10 to 15 minutes and you only need to decide what 10 things you want to complete — 2 “must do” objective tasks and 8 “would like to do” tasks. What I call the 2+8 Prioritisation Technique:

                        Advertising

                        Do not be tempted to go beyond 10 tasks for the day. When you do that, you do not have enough flexibility in your day to handle crises and other unknown issues that will pop up throughout the day.

                        When you do not build in flexibility, you will soon stop planning your day. Only plan tasks that will have the biggest positive impact on your work and projects.

                        5. Learn to Say “No”

                        I am sure you’ve been told this before. We are wired to please and this results in us wanting to say yes to every opportunity that comes our way. The problem is we cannot do everything and every time you say “yes” to one opportunity, you are saying “no” to another opportunity. You cannot be in two places at the same time.

                        Jay Shetty shared an inspiring video on JOMO “Joy Of Missing Out”. Here’s the video:

                        Rather than allowing ourselves to be succumbed by FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out), we should replace that ‘fear’ with the “joy” of missing out. Because of our need to please, we say yes to things we really don’t want to do; yet when we do that, we miss out on doing things that bring us joy—creating something special, spending time educating ourselves and just having some quiet alone time with ourselves.

                        Learn to say “no” every time you get a notification to your phone. Ignore it. Learn to say “no” to your colleagues when they want to gossip. Learn to say “no” to volunteering when the thing you are being asked to volunteer for does not excite you. Just learn to say “no”.

                        By saying “no” to opportunities, distractions and interruptions, you are saying yes to better and more meaningful things. Things you do want to focus your attention on.

                        6. Create a Distraction-Free Environment for Your Focused Time

                        This has been possibly the most powerful tip I learned when it comes to focusing on what is important. Have a place where you do only focused, high-concentration work.

                        Advertising

                        Now this place needs to be clean and only have the tools you need to do your work. If it is writing a report or preparing a presentation, then it needs a table and a computer, nothing more. Files, paper and other detritus that accumulates on and around people’s desks need to go. A clean, cool and well-lit environment is going to do a lot more for your focus and concentration than anything else.

                        The dining table in our home is where I go for undisturbed, focussed work. I take my laptop or iPad, and only have my writing app open. Everything is closed down and the computer is in “do not disturb” mode. There is nothing else on the dining table just my computer and my water tumbler.

                        Because that is my designated focus area, I only go there to work when I have something that needs total focus and concentration. I am there right now!

                        7. Be Intentional

                        The reality is, if you absolutely need to get something done then you need to be intentional. You have to have the intention of sitting down, focusing and doing the work.

                        There’s no magic tricks or apps that will miraculously do all your work for you. You need to intentionally set aside time for undisturbed focus work and do it. Without that intention, you can read as many of these articles as you like and you still will not get the work done.

                        It is only when you intentionally set yourself up to do the work, turn off all notifications and do whatever it takes to avoid distractions will the work get done.

                        The Bottom Line

                        The strategies and tips I shared in this post will go a long way to helping you become better at focusing on the important things in your life. No matter what they are, you are in control of your time and what you do with it and where you spend it, never give that control away to anyone else.

                        Protect it and it will be your servant. Give that control away and it will become your master and that is not a good place to be.

                        More About Staying Focused

                        Featured photo credit: Manny Pantoja via unsplash.com

                        Reference

                        Read Next