When I started freelancing I spent a lot of time researching tools to run my business. I'll save you that time and share 7 free tools to use when freelancing.
My favorite free tools I use to run my freelance business
Calendly is an online appointment application. It makes it super easy for potential clients to book appointments with me. I use to send emails with my availability and wait for my clients response to add them to my calendar. With Calendly I send my client a link to my calendar which shows my available time slots. Then they can pick a date and time that’s good for them. Once they book an appointment it loads right onto my Google Calendar. It’s super easy, professional and saves me a lot of time. Here are screen shots to show you how Calendly works:
I send clients my link and it opens to this page:
They choose a day and time. Then hit confirm:
They are taken to a confirmation page and fill out my form:
Then we both receive a confirmation email. It’s that easy.
Calendly has a free or paid plan. I use the free plan. Here are some features I use:
- I set specific days and times for clients to choose from. For example I only meet with clients on Monday’s and Thursday’s between certain hours.
- I created event types. An event type is tied to a specific link. I have a 15 minute meeting link, a 30 minute meeting link, and an hour meeting link. (See screen shot below). Depending on the client's project I send them one of my three links with the appropriate time they can choose. That way they can’t book a 2 hour meeting on my calendar. When running a freelance business it’s important to set time limitations. If you charge a project rate instead of an hourly rate then long meetings are costing you time and money. Setting and capping time expectations upfront is key. That’s why I love this feature in Calendly.
HelloSign is an eSignatures tool. Freelancers need contracts. To make things easier and faster I send my clients contract through HelloSign. Instead of making my clients print out the contract, sign it, scan it and send it back to me they can instead sign it online with HelloSign.
I simply upload my client contract into HelloSign. I write the name/email of the recipient. Then I create a box in my document for my client to sign on. Lastly, I write the subject line and email message and hit request signature. The contract gets sent to my client via email to sign immediately. Here’s a screenshot of the HelloSign userface:
Wave is a free small business online accounting software. I keep track of all my bills, expenses, and invoices in one place. I absolutely love it. It can be used as a free tool or you can choose to accept credit cards when you send invoices. I use the accounting for free and turned on credit card payments. It’s just a small fee of 2.9% + $.30 per transaction. Totally worth it. I can send invoices and clients can pay by credit card. It’s so easy to use and it makes bookkeeping easy. I don’t know where my business would be without it.
Buffer is a social media management tool. On the free plan I used Buffer to schedule my tweets. You can schedule up to 10 posts for free. I love how Buffer automatically shortens links. Buffer also let’s you set a schedule for each platform. This is what I love most about Buffer. I originally used Hootsuite (which is also free) but it was time consuming. I had to shorten all my links and try and remember a schedule when entering a time for each post. In Buffer I have 5 slots a day and use optimal times based on my top performing tweets. I just type my post in a certain time slot and Buffer shortens my link. Such a time saver.
If you’re looking to schedule more posts than the $10/monthly plan is still really affordable. That’s the plan I am on now. You can link up to 6 social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram) and schedule up to 100 posts.
Google Docs is a free web-based application in which documents and spreadsheets can be created, edited, stored, and shared online. It’s basically like having Word or Excel online. I can access my files from any computer with any browser. All you need is a gmail account.
As a freelancer I switch between my desktop and my laptop often. I often start writing a blog post in Google Docs on one computer then access it/finish the post on my other computer. I also use it to share client documents. There are so many uses for Google Docs. Definitely give it a try.
MailChimp is an email marketing tool. You can easily create stunning email templates with their drag and drop interface or you can code your own emails. You also get free reporting on every email sent. On their forever free plan you can have up to 2,000 subscribers and send 12,000 emails per month. It’s an amazing deal.
You can also set up an RSS campaign for free. For example, MailChimp automatically sends out an overview of my blog posts to my subscribers every Thursday. I set up the campaign once and bam the email sends every Thursday morning. It is a great free feature. Additional free features are forms and pop-ups for your website. Growing an email list is important for your online business. MailChimp’s free features make growing your list easy.
OfficeTime is a time tracking software. Believe me when I say I have tried every time tracking software out there. Nothing is as good as OfficeTime. My biggest complaint with other time tracking software is that they track my time in decimals. Who keeps time in decimals? It’s confusing. Or they don’t create invoices. OfficeTime allows me to track my time in hours and minutes. Plus I can create PDF invoices effortlessly.
OfficeTime is not a web based software so you have to download it onto your computer. But they did create an app for your phone to track your time if you are away from your computer. Another great feature is that it pauses my time if I’ve been away from my computer for more than 5 minutes. Sometimes I’ll get up to answer the phone or get lunch and forget to pause my timer. OfficeTime alerts me that I was away when I get back to my computer and asks if it should delete the time spent away. By far the best feature! No other time tracker can do that!
OfficeTime offers a 21 day free trial. After that it’s a one time payment of $47.00. I added it to my free tools because for everything you are getting it’s basically free. No monthly or yearly payments ever. It’s really just a one-time fee. I promise! You can also upgrade the app on your phone for $7.99 and it syncs to your desktop. Perfect for keeping track of your time when you have an off-site client meeting or if you’re working on your laptop.
Running a freelance business can be stressful. Having tools and systems in place helps your business run smoothly. When you are just starting out or if you're like me and love keeping your expenses at a minimum than free tools that make freelancing easier are a great find! I hope I saved you some time and money with my list of free tools.
Tell me - what free tools do you use for your freelance business?