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

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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.

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                        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 21, 2021

                        How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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                        How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

                        Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

                        Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

                        The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

                        Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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                        Program Your Own Algorithms

                        Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

                        Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

                        By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

                        How to Form a Ritual

                        I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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                        Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

                        1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
                        2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
                        3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
                        4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

                        Ways to Use a Ritual

                        Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

                        1. Waking Up

                        Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

                        2. Web Usage

                        How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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                        3. Reading

                        How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

                        4. Friendliness

                        Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

                        5. Working

                        One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

                        6. Going to the gym

                        If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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                        7. Exercise

                        Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

                        8. Sleeping

                        Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

                        8. Weekly Reviews

                        The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

                        Final Thoughts

                        We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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                        More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

                         

                        Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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