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35 Tools and Resources to Absolutely Hack Your Freelancing Success

35 Tools and Resources to Absolutely Hack Your Freelancing Success

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.

1. Bitrix24

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.

2. Trello

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.

3. Glip

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.

4. iDoneThis

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.

5. Wrike

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.

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6. Cloud-Based Solutions

Whether you work with GoogleDriveOneDrive, 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.

8. Due

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.

9. Mavenlink

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.

10. FreshBooks

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?

11. QuickBooks

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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.

16. Quora — the place to learn everything you need and get answers to every question you have. One of the best questions and best answers on Quora is related to personal growth.

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.

22. Problogger.net

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.

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23. Onblastblog.com

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.

24. Copyblogger.com

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.

25. MarketingProfs.com

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.

26. FreelancerWay.com

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.

27. Upwork

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.

28. PeoplePerHour

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.

29. Hiive

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.

30. Designhill

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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!

31. LinkedIn

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.

32. ResearchGate

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.

34. WeConnectSocial

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.

Featured photo credit: Flazingo.com via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 18, 2019

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

11 Hard Skills That Will Land You More Career Opportunities

Are you looking to move up the career ladder? Or maybe you’re tired of having a “job” and want to start looking for a more permanent career?

Whatever your motivation, you are going to have to learn some new and different hard skills to broaden your opportunities. After all, there’s a very famous quote that says:

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

While the insanity part doesn’t really fit here, the overall message is a good one. If you are looking for a different result (career advancement, more money or even a career instead of a job), it’s up to you to make it happen. This is both the good news and bad news!

The good news is that because it’s up to you, you have complete control over it happening. The bad news is that change is hard. Humans are creatures of habit, that’s why we develop routines, and anything that disrupts that routine causes us anxiety. And we will do almost anything to get rid of that anxiety. The overweight person will calm their anxiety by eating that doughnut, the smoker will light up a cigarette to avoid anxiety.

What we want to do with this article is to give you the hard skills you’ll need to reduce that anxiety so you can move up that corporate ladder, make more money or have career instead of just a “job.”

The following hard skills are essential to learn if you want to advance your career. They may not be easy to take up, but definitely worth your effort of learning:

1. Cloud Computing

“Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, intelligence and more—over the Internet “the cloud” to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently, and scale as your business needs change.” Microsoft[1]

There are many different jobs available in the cloud computing world today. They range from architects and developers to data scientists, security pros. Each job is its own specialty and requires a high level of specification for advancement.

This is definitely a hard skill that requires education. But if the tech world and computers are your thing you can make cloud computing a lucrative career.

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2. Data Mining and Statistical Analysis

Again, these are highly specialized fields. Data mining is defined as using large sets of data to look for anomalies and other patterns that can be used to predict future behavior.

Amazon is probably the best known company to use data mining. Have you ever noticed that when you buy something at Amazon, you’ll see a little ad at the bottom that says “customers who bought this also bought…”and it lists 2-3 other items? All of that information comes from data mining, by examining the millions of sales amazon makes they can predict that if you buy item #1 there is a high likelihood that you will buy one of the other items too. T

his not only increases sales for Amazon, but it also serves as a reminder for you that you may need these additional items for your project. This is very valuable information and has a wide range of uses. Although it has a bad reputation and evil sounding name, it is a very useful tool for maximizing productivity and sales.

3. Data Management

All companies today deal with a ton of data! Being able to manage that data in an efficient manor is not only highly prized, but a necessity.

We all have these things on our desks called computers. Unless there is a need for a paper copy, almost all of our data is computerized. Meaning that, in theory it is all at our fingertips. Being able to organize that data so that it’s easily and quickly retrievable is why computers are replacing filing cabinets!

However, just like the old fashion filing cabinet, data management on a computer is only good if it’s well organized. You want to make sure that you are keeping your data well organized so that it’s easy to find when needed. This is a skill that comes easily to some people (are you a person that makes lists? Good!) but with others it will be a skill that needs to be practices. Make sure that this is a discipline you master.

4. Scheduling

Being able to make and keep to a schedule is a very useful tool in both business and life. Effective scheduling means that you can prioritize projects, understand the tools needed to get the job done on time and that you are organized enough to lead people.

An important point here is to write things down! Whether it’s in an old fashion daily or weekly organizer or in a PDA. Have a copy of your schedule available at your fingertips at all times.

5. Financial Skills

These are especially important when looking for that promotion. The higher up the ladder you go, the more you’ll have to deal with things like accounting, budgeting, financial planning and cash flow management.

While you may not need to be an expert at all of these, you should have a good grasp of all of them. This is where taking a few night classes at your local community college is a good idea. You don’t need to become an expert, but brushing up on these skills will help you tremendously.

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6. Research Skills

These are important in all aspects of life, but especially in your work-life.

Are you looking for that first job out of school? Nothing impresses a boss or hiring manager more than someone who has researched the company. Trust me, they deal with people walking in off the street everyday looking for a job, but managers and owners need to see the value in hiring (or promoting) you.

So do your research and have some company specific questions ready to ask. Show that you are interested in working for that company or that position and not just “a” job or the “promotion” because you have seniority or need the money.

If it’s a promotion that you are after, never bad mouth the previous occupant. Instead pick out an example that he/she was good at and explain how you would like to use or expand that policy and how it would enhance the policy changes you’d like to make.

If it’s a new job you’re going for, then make sure to have some company specific questions ready to show that you have done your homework for the new position.

7. Marketing Skills

While marketing a companies products or services has always been a highly sought after skill. In today’s world, it can take on several different forms.

Some of the marketing skills that are highly sought after today include, SEO, Search Engine Optimization, SEM, Search Engine Marketing and marketing campaign management. Familiarity with Google Analytics as well as Word Press are also valuable.

While traditional marketing and branding were focused on advertising and selling. Almost all marketing efforts now a days are focused on the internet.

8. Network Security Specialist

Again, this is a highly skilled position that requires specialized training. But the amount of data that all companies store is significant, and if that data is leaked or stolen, it can costs them millions of dollars in both lost revenue and lawsuits.

So, if you have an interest in network security you will find the field both lucrative and stable.

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9. Communication Skills

At first glance, communication skills may not look like it fits into the category of “Hard Skills” that can help you succeed. But in this ever shrinking world where companies can do business from almost anywhere, communication is more and more important.

Are you bilingual? It really doesn’t matter what language you speak, there’s a company out there looking for someone who speaks that language.

10. Computer Programming

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that computers are going to be around for a while! As both the hardware and software get more advanced, the need for computer programming is only going to increase.

11. Graphic Design

As of 2018, there were 4.37 million new websites launched.[2] A good number of them will fail because they just aren’t interesting enough visually. The use of templates and replicated websites is only making the problem worse.

Part of the way Google ranks sites is through originality, this almost ensures that replicated sites will never get ranked through Google. So the more original your site is, the more likely people will visit and actually spend time there.

That is what a good graphic designer does. Takes your basic idea and turns it into a website that people actually want to visit.

Embrace the Anxiety That Comes with Change

You know it’s going to be there, you know that you’ll want to give up as you’re learning these new skills but, you’ll also know that the end result is worth the journey.

Here’s a little trick when you’re feeling overwhelmed:

Have you ever met an ex-smoker who was sorry they quit? An ex-drinker or drug user that said life was much better before they quit? These people have gone through some of the most difficult challenges humans can go through including weeks, if not, months of intense physical withdrawal symptoms. They did it because they knew that the pain and anxiety they would experience would ultimately get them to a much better life.

Now what was that complaint you had about attending night-school?

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This is the part everyone hates, everyone thinks night-school, adult education and just generally giving up family and/or spare time. While those are certainly possible ways to develop the necessary skills, they aren’t the only way.

You’ll want to check with your human resources department because depending on the company, a certain degree maybe required in order to even be considered for a position. In those cases, night-school, on-line or some other form of adult education maybe your best route.

But as long as a degree isn’t required, then your options are wide open.

Let’s just say that you’re a sales person interested in becoming the sales manager but, the territory you’ve been given will never produce the sales figures that would make you stand out as a good candidate for sales manager. So how about you start your own side business (don’t compete with your company), but let’s say you enjoy golf.

In this day and age, there are plenty of places that will teach you how to sell products on-line and even set you up with your own website. So you start a site selling golf equipment and accessories (don’t worry, you won’t even have to carry inventory or worry about shipping).

Now, when that sales manager spot opens up, you can explain that even though other salespeople had better numbers than you, it had nothing to do with your sales ability, it was more of a consequence of the territory your were given.

And to prove it, you brought in some information about a side business, you started showing that you’re on target for a sales growth rate of 30% this year. And because you had to do all of the marketing for the business, you came up with some marketing strategies that you can bring to the new job (built-in experience).

The Bottom Line

We’ve put together these 11 hard skills as a way to give yourself a “leg up” on the competition. We’ve tried to make this a mixture of both skills that require a great deal of training, and also ones that you can work on and develop by yourself.

We know that not everyone is cut out to be a cloud computing expert, but we also know that working on and having good scheduling skills will make you a much more desirable candidate for the position!

We also don’t want you to discount the idea of a “side hustle“. Especially for people new to the workforce, having a business that you have started and run successfully shows potential employers that you have initiative, scheduling skills and ambition which can put you well ahead of your competition!

As usual, we hope you found this article both enjoyable and informative. If you did, may we ask that you share it with your family and friends through social media. It really does help us and is greatly appreciated!

More Skill to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Kyle Sterk via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Microsoft Azure: Cloud Computing
[2] Netcraft: December 2018 Web Server Survey

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