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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 October 15, 2019

                        Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

                        Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

                        Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

                        Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

                        There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

                        Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

                        Why we procrastinate after all

                        We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

                        Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

                        Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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                        To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

                        If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

                        So, is procrastination bad?

                        Yes it is.

                        Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

                        Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

                        Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

                        It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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                        The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

                        Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

                        For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

                        A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

                        Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

                        Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

                        How bad procrastination can be

                        Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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                        After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

                        One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

                        That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

                        Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

                        In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

                        You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

                        More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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                        8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

                        Procrastination, a technical failure

                        Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

                        It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

                        It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

                        Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

                        Reference

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