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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

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    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?

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          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

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              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?

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                    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

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                        Last Updated on March 30, 2020

                        What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time

                        What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time

                        If you’ve got a big block of free time, the best way to put that to use is to relax, have fun, decompress from a stressful day, or spend time with a loved one. But if you’ve just got a little chunk — say 5 or 10 minutes — there’s no time to do any of the fun stuff.

                        So, what to do in free time?

                        Put those little chunks of time to their most productive use.

                        Everyone works differently, so the best use of your free time really depends on you, your working style, and what’s on your to-do list. But it’s handy to have a list like this in order to quickly find a way to put that little spare time to work instantly, without any thought. Use the following list as a way to spark ideas for what you can do in a short amount of time.

                        1. Reading Files

                        Clip magazine articles or print out good articles or reports for reading later, and keep them in a folder marked “Reading File”. Take this wherever you go, and any time you have a little chunk of time, you can knock off items in your Reading File.

                        Keep a reading file on your computer (or in your bookmarks), for quick reading while at your desk (or on the road if you’ve got a laptop).

                        2. Clear out Inbox

                        Got a meeting in 5 minutes? Use it to get your physical or email inbox to empty.

                        If you’ve got a lot in your inbox, you’ll have to work quickly, and you may not get everything done; but reducing your pile can be a big help. And having an empty inbox is a wonderful feeling.

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                        3. Phone Calls

                        Keep a list of phone calls you need to make, with phone numbers, and carry it everywhere.

                        Whether you’re at your desk or on the road, you can knock a few calls off your list in a short amount of time.

                        4. Make Money

                        This is my favorite productive use of free time. I have a list of articles I need to write, and when I get some spare minutes, I’ll knock off half an article real quick.

                        If you get 5 to 10 chunks of free time a day, you can make a decent side income. Figure out how you can freelance your skills, and have work lined up that you can knock out quickly — break it up into little chunks, so those chunks can be done in short bursts.

                        5. File

                        No one likes to do this. If you’re on top of your game, you’re filing stuff immediately, so it doesn’t pile up.

                        But if you’ve just come off a really busy spurt, you may have a bunch of documents or files laying around.

                        Or maybe you have a big stack of stuff to file. Cut into that stack with every little bit of spare time you get, and soon you’ll be in filing Nirvana.

                        6. Network

                        Only have 2 minutes? Shoot off a quick email to a colleague. Even just a “touching bases” or follow-up email can do wonders for your working relationship. Or shoot off a quick question, and put it on your follow-up list for later.

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                        7. Clear out Feeds

                        If my email inbox is empty, and I have some spare time, I like to go to my Google Reader and clear out my feed inbox.

                        8. Goal Time

                        Take 10 minutes to think about your goals — personal and professional.

                        If you don’t have a list of goals, start on one. If you’ve got a list of goals, review them.

                        Write down a list of action steps you can take over the next couple of weeks to make these goals a reality. What action step can you do today? The more you focus on these goals, and review them, the more likely they will come true.

                        9. Update Finances

                        Many people fall behind with their finances, either in paying bills (they don’t have time), or entering transactions in their financial software, or clearing their checkbook, or reviewing their budget.

                        Take a few minutes to update these things. It just takes 10 to 15 minutes every now and then.

                        10. Brainstorm Ideas

                        Another favorite of mine if I just have 5 minutes — I’ll break out my pocket notebook, and start a brainstorming list for a project or article. Whatever you’ve got coming up in your work or personal life, it can benefit from a brainstorm. And that doesn’t take long.

                        11. Clear off Desk

                        Similar to the filing tip above, but this applies to whatever junk you’ve got cluttering up your desk. Or on the floor around your desk.

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                        Trash stuff, file stuff, put it in its place. A clear desk makes for a more productive you. And it’s oddly satisfying.

                        12. Exercise

                        Never have time to exercise? 10 minutes is enough to get off some pushups and crunches. Do that 2 to 3 times a day, and you’ve got a fit new you.

                        13. Take a Walk

                        This is another form of exercise that doesn’t take long, and you can do it anywhere. Even more important, it’s a good way to stretch your legs from sitting at your desk too long.

                        It also gets your creative juices flowing. If you’re ever stuck for ideas, taking a walk is a good way to get unstuck.

                        14. Follow up

                        Keep a follow-up list for everything you’re waiting on. Return calls, emails, memos — anything that someone owes you, put on the list.

                        When you’ve got a spare 10 minutes, do some follow-up calls or emails.

                        15. Meditate

                        You don’t need a yoga mat to do this. Just do it at your desk. Focus on your breathing. A quick 5 to 10 minutes of meditation (or even a nap) can be tremendously refreshing.

                        Take a look at this 5-Minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime

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                        16. Research

                        This is a daunting task for me. So I do it in little spurts.

                        If I’ve only got a few minutes, I’ll do some quick research and take some notes. Do this a few times, and I’m done!

                        17. Outline

                        Similar to brainstorming, but more formal. I like to do an outline of a complicated article, report or project, and it helps speed things along when I get to the actual writing. And it only takes a few minutes.

                        18. Get Prepped

                        Outlining is one way to prep for longer work, but there’s a lot of other ways you can prep for the next task on your list.

                        You may not have time to actually start on the task right now, but when you come back from your meeting or lunch, you’ll be all prepped and ready to go.

                        19. Be Early

                        Got some spare time before a meeting? Show up for the meeting early.

                        Sure, you might feel like a chump sitting there alone, but actually people respect those who show up early. It’s better than being late (unless you’re trying to play a power trip or something, but that’s not appreciated in many circles).

                        20. Log

                        If you keep a log of anything, a few spare minutes is the perfect time to update the log.

                        Actually, the perfect time to update the log is right after you do the activity (exercise, eat, crank a widget), but if you didn’t have time to do it before, your 5-minute break is as good a time as any.

                        More Inspirations on What To Do During Free Time

                        Featured photo credit: Lauren Mancke via unsplash.com

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