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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 April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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