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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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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

We all have those days when completing our assigned tasks seems beyond reach. With the temptation of social media, mobile games, and the internet in general—not to mention the constant bustle of people in the office—it’s easy to fall prey to disruptions and distractions at work.

So, what can we do about it? How to be productive at work?

While we don’t have a foolproof system that can completely eliminate disturbances and diversions, we do have 9 ground rules that can be applied to help give your productivity levels a boost.

Keep reading to find out our tips on work productivity.

What Does It Mean to Be Productive?

How to be productive at work?” is the age-old question plaguing employees and employers alike around the world. Regardless of where you work and what you do, everyone is always looking for new ways to be more efficient and effective.

But what does being productive actually entail?

Completing more tasks on your list or working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. It just means you’re more busy, and productivity shouldn’t be confused with busyness.

Productivity means achieving effective results in as short amount of time as possible, leaving you with more time to enjoy freely.

It involves working smarter, not harder. It means refining processes, speeding up workflows, and reducing the chances of interruptions.

Productivity is best achieved when looking at your current way of working, identifying the bottlenecks, flaws, and hindrances, and then finding ways to improve.

9 Ground Rules on How to Be Productive at Work

1. Avoid Multitasking

Multitasking can give the impression that more tasks can be accomplished as you’re doing multiple things at once. However, the opposite is true.

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Research has shown that attempting to do several things at the same time takes a toll on productivity and that shifting between tasks can cost up to 40 percent of someone’s time.[1] That’s because your focus and concentration is constantly hindered due to having to switch between tasks.

If you have a lot of tasks on your plate, determine your priorities and allocate enough time for each task. That way you can work on what’s urgent first and have enough time to complete the rest of your tasks.

2. Turn off Notifications

According to a Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of US smartphone owners admit to checking their phones a few times an hour.[2]

Switching off your phone—or at least your notifications—during work hours is a good way to prevent you from checking your phone all the time.

The same applies to your computer. If you have the privilege of accessing social media on your work desktop, switch off the notifications on there.

Another good tip is to logout from your social media accounts. Therefore when you feel the urge to check it, you might be swayed because your page isn’t so easily accessible.

3. Manage Interruptions

There are certain disruptions in the office that are unavoidable such as your manager requesting a quick meeting or your colleague asking for assistance. In order to deal with this, your best approach is to know how to handle interruptions like a pro.

Be proactive and inform the people around you of your need to focus. Turn your status on as “busy/unavailable” on your work chat app.

If you’re on a deadline, let your colleagues know that you need to concentrate and would really appreciate not being interrupted for the moment, or even work from home if that’s a feasible option for you.

By anticipating and having a plan in place to manage them, this will minimize your chances of being affected by interruptions.

4. Eat the Frog

Mark Twain once famously said that:

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“if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

What this basically means is that you should get your biggest, most urgent task out of the way first.

We all have that big, important task that we don’t want to do but know we have to do because it holds the biggest consequence if we don’t complete it.

Eat the frog is a productivity technique that encourages you to do your most important, most undesirable task first. Completing this particular task before anything else will give you a huge sense of accomplishment. It will set the ball rolling for the rest of the day and motivate you to eagerly complete your other tasks.

5. Cut Down on Meetings

Meetings can use up a lot of time, which is time that can be used to do something useful.

You have to wait for everyone to arrive, then after the pleasantries are out of the way, you can finally get stuck into it. And sometimes, it may take a whole hour to iron out one single issue.

The alternative? Don’t arrange a meeting at all. You’ll be surprised at how many things can be resolved through an email or a quick phone call.

But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate meetings altogether. There are certain circumstances where face-to-face discussions and negotiations are still necessary. Just make sure you weigh up the options prior.

If it’s just information sharing, you’re probably better off sending an email; but if brainstorming or in-depth discussion is required, then an in-person meeting would be best.

6. Utilize Tools

Having the right tools to work with is crucial as you’re only really as good as the resources you have at your disposal. Not only will you be able to complete tasks as efficiently as possible, but they can streamline processes. Said processes are essential to a business as they manage tasks, keep employees connected, and hold important data.

If you’re the manager or business owner, ensure your team has the right tools in place.

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And if you’re an employee and think the tools you currently have to work with aren’t quite up to par, let your manager know. A good team leader understands the significance of having the right tools and how it can impact employee productivity.

Some examples of tools that could be used:

Communication
  • Slack for team chat and collaboration.
  • Samepage for video conference software.
  • Zendesk for customer service engagement.
Task Management
  • Zenkit for task and project collaboration.
  • Wunderlist for listing your to-do’s.
  • Wekan for an open source option.
Database Management
Time Tracking
  • Clockify for a free tracker.
  • TMetric for workspace integrations.
  • TimeCamp for attendance and productivity monitoring.

You can also take a look at these Top 10 Productivity Tools to Help You Achieve 10x More in Less Time.

7. Declutter and Organize

Having a disorganized and cluttered workspace can limit your ability to focus. According to researchers, physical clutter can negatively impact your ability to concentrate and take in information.[3] Which is why keeping your work environment well ordered and clutter-free is important.

Ensure you have your own system of organization so you know what to do when the paperwork starts to pile up.

Being organized will also ensure that you know where to find the appropriate stationery, tools, or documents when you need it. A US study reveals that the average worker can waste up to one week a year looking for misplaced items.[4]

Here’s a useful guide to help you declutter and organize: How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

8. Take Breaks

Taking regular breaks is essential for maintaining productivity at work. Working in front of a computer can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which can place you at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Even a 30 second microbreak can increase your productivity levels up to 30 percent.

As well as your physical health, breaks are also crucial for your mental and emotional wellbeing. That’s because your brain is like a muscle, the more it works without a break, the easier it is for it to get worn out.

Ensuring you actually take your breaks can prevent you from suffering from decision fatigue. It can also help boost creativity.

Take a look at this article and learn why you should start scheduling time for breaks: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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9. Drink Water

Although we know we should, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water during the working day.

Many of us turn to tea or coffee for the caffeine hit to keep us going. However, like taking breaks, drinking water is essential for maintaining productivity levels at work. It’s simple and effective.

Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration and also headaches, tiredness, and weight gain.

A good tip to avoid dehydration is to keep a water bottle at your desk as it can serve as a reminder to constantly drink water.

If you find the taste of water a little bland, add some fruit such as cucumber or lemon to give it a better taste.

You can also get more ideas on how to drink more water here: How to Drink More Water (and Why You Should)

The Bottom Line

The preceding 9 ground rules on work productivity aren’t the be-all, end-all. You and the company you work for may have other tips on how productivity is best increased and maintained.

After all, it’s something that can be perceived differently depending on the exact job and work environment.

In saying that, however, the 9 ground rules serve as a good foundation for anyone finding themselves succumbing to disruption and distraction, and are looking for ways to overcome them.

A good tip to keep in mind is that change doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and be consistent. If you slip up, just dust yourself off and try again.

Developing habits happens gradually, so as long as you keep up with it, you’ll soon start to notice the changes you’ve been making and eventually enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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Featured photo credit: Cathryn Lavery via unsplash.com

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