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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 November 12, 2020

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

  • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
  • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
  • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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Final Thoughts

If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

Reference

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