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5 Online Tools Every Freelancer Must Take Time to Learn

5 Online Tools Every Freelancer Must Take Time to Learn

“Are you available for a Skype call?”

“Can you submit your article in WordPress?”

“Please send your invoice through Freshbooks.”

These are only a few examples of instructions from clients that might leave you a bit confused, especially if you’ve never used these apps before.

What’s a freelancer to do? Learn fast.

For clients and freelancers alike, time is money. That’s why there are apps to help us do things faster, easier and even better.

If you’re a smart freelancer, then you know that staying ahead of the game involves adaptability and an open mind to new concepts, including online tools that clients ask you to use.

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If technology scares you, then freelancing won’t be an enjoyable experience for you. Clients may have second thoughts about keeping someone who still uses fax or snail mail to send their work. But don’t worry — you don’t have to be a computer geek to learn how to use technology to your advantage. The only requirement is a willingness to learn.

So what exactly does a freelancer need to learn about the technical aspect of running a business?

Here are a few of the most common ones:

1. Content Management Systems

A Content Management System (CMS) is a web-based software that manages content for a website or blog. A popular and widely used CMS is WordPress. Over 60 million websites have used WordPress to publish content on the web.

If you’re a freelance writer or photographer, you need to have some knowledge of how WordPress works. There’s a great chance that a future client may need you to submit your articles or photos in WordPress, so it’s absolutely a must to at least know the basic functions of this tool.

There are lots of free resources online for learning the basics of WordPress, starting with the Support section of the WordPress website itself. You can also visit WP Beginner and WP101 for more useful tutorials and how-to guides. If you want more detailed walk-throughs, you can search YouTube for tutorials from web developers and designers who build websites with WordPress for a living.

2. Social Media

Using social media for business requires more focus and dedication than managing a personal account. An active social media profile used solely for your freelance business means you’re serious about your work and you take the time to share it with others.

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Freelancers are expected to have a social media presence. In some cases, the number of followers you have is the key to landing a gig on top of your basic qualifications. A social community ensures clients that you are capable of building relationships online and that you understand the power of social media.

Social media tools like Hootsuite and Buffer help you schedule your posts and add all of your accounts in one place. These apps are essential if you want to grow a social media following and be more visible to prospective clients.

3. Invoicing apps

Are you still sending paper invoices to clients? Stop.

It’s 2015 and there are more than enough invoicing tools available online.

Clients are busy individuals, so you want to make their tasks easier, especially when paying you. Having a streamlined invoicing process not only makes it easier for both you and your client, it also makes you look professional and organized.

Invoicing apps like Freshbooks and Invoiceable help you create invoices in less time than it would take you to make one from scratch. Invoiceable is free while Freshbooks allow a 30-day trial after which a subscription plan is required (starting at $9.95 a month).

These apps also track your income, generate reports and link payment methods like Stripe and PayPal, which is a lot of functionality when contrasted against the average paper invoice.

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4. Apps for collaboration

Let’s say you want your client’s opinion on your proposed web design. How do you show it to them and get immediate feedback?

Again, the Internet plays an important part.

Online services like Basecamp, Slack, Asana and Trello allow users to share files, comment on them and assign tasks all within a web browser.

You’ve probably come across one of these apps during your stint with a client, but if you haven’t, get acquainted with their functions. Pick one app, create an account and see how it works. Most of these apps will have a tutorial as soon as you sign up, so pay attention to that.

5. Apps for Internet calls

Some employers require an interview through a video call, so it’s important that you know the technical aspects of being in one. You need to master this part so you can concentrate on acing the interview itself.

The most commonly used apps for Internet calls are Skype, FaceTime and Google Hangouts, although there may be others that your client prefers.

If you’ve ever video chatted with a friend on your smart phone, then you’ll have no problems going on a Skype call with a client.

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But if you’ve never used one before, get the app and have a trial run. Ask a friend who has the same app to try it with you.

You need a web camera, a set of speakers and microphone to make and take Internet calls, so be ready with these. Treat the call like a face-to-face interview, so dress up and look your best. It’s also best to take the call on your laptop or desktop computer and not your phone.

Learn as you go

Technology can be your most helpful and reliable ally when growing a freelancing career. If you’re not confident with a particular tool, it’s okay to let your client know that you’ve never used it before, but assure them that you will take the time to learn the basics and go from there.

Learning these online tools will reward you in the long run. You’ll be more confident in your work, gain your client’s trust and be one of the most valuable freelancers in your field.

Is there an online tool that you want to learn or have learned recently? Share them in the comments!

Featured photo credit: Mans Hands Typing On Laptop With Smartphone, Book And Coffee via stokpic.com

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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

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Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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