According to Forbes, freelancers will make up to 50% of the labor force by 2020.
This is huge.
That means that you'll have to "fight" with your competitors for client's attention and money. And that also means that you won't be "just" an accountant, or "just" an engineer, or "just" a manager of any type.
No. You'll also be an entrepreneur!
Beside your own work, you'll be responsible to find your clients and convince them to hire you, instead of your competitor.
The best way to succeed in that new economy is to prepare on time. To use proper tools. To adopt a proper mindset.
To work smart, and not hard.
And here, I'll share with you my top 8 tools that I use in my everyday work, and that can help you achieve new level in your freelancing career (whether you are a freelancer already, or you plan to start.
1. Harvest - tool to manage your time
Poor time management is one of the major threats to your success as a freelancer. To avoid wasting time, and thus having more time for friends and family, you have to learn how to manage your time. For this, you can use Harvest. With this tool, you can schedule your time to work, log your work time, and create invoice. Keep your professional and personal life balanced. Otherwise, you won't be happy. And you won't be successful.
2. Dropbox - organize your files and access them anywhere
No matter what type of freelancing work you do, you'll probably have bunch of files and documents. So, it would be good idea to keep those files somewhere where you can access them at any time, and any place. And also so you can share those files with clients, if needed. Best suggestion is to use Dropbox. It has free and paid version.
3. Focus Booster - keep your focus during work
It's hard to keep focus for several hours straight. But, on the other hand, you need to work more, in order to earn more, right? WRONG! It's not about longer work. It's about smarter and more productive work. One of the best techniques for more productive work is Pomodoro technique. Basically, this technique says that you should work only 25 minutes without interrupting. After that, you take 5 minute break. And every 4 sessions you take a longer break, 15-20 minutes. Use Focus Booster as help.
4. Shake - protect yourself and your clients with a contract
Most of the times, you'll work with honest, fair people. But sometimes, you won't. To avoid unpleasant and stressful situations, it's always a good idea to seal the deal with a contract. Always consult with a lawyer about this stuff. But, if that's too expensive to you, you can use Shake and their templates to create, sign and send legally binding agreements. And beside it's useful, this will make you look more professional in your clients eyes.
5. Wave - manage your finances so you don't run out of money
Don't go broke. What's the point of working for yourself and be free, you run out of money to support that freedom. And your family. Learn how to manage money. And track where does your money goes, and where it's coming from. To track your finances, incomes and expenses, you can use online finance tools, like Wave. I know that „money management" sounds boring, but that's the key to financial success and freedom.
As time passes by, you'll have more and more clients. And if you don't manage your projects the right way, you'll be in a big problem very soon. There's a big chance you'll forget something important, like some additional feature that client asked for. Both Trello and Evernote are free tools, so you can manage projects, take notes, set deadlines, etc.
7. Mailchimp - build mailing list, and never run out of clients
Having a mailing list is like having a license to print money. When you have a mailing list, you can build relationship with that list. The better relationship, the bigger the trust. The bigger the trust is, the better chance you have to get hired. To build your email list, you can use Mailchimp, Aweber, or any other email marketing tool you find handy. And the process is simple. You get people to your website through your blog posts and/or Facebook ads. At the end of post, you offer them something useful for free, if they leave their name and email (something like this checklist, for example). Then, you keep providing value to them through that list. And when you need a client, just email them and say that you have a spot open, if they want to hire you.
8. Showcase - create portfolio website to present your previous work
Don't just TELL that you can do something. SHOW that you can do something. And the best way to show that you can do the things you say you can, is to show your previous work. That's why you need portfolio website. It's the best way to pre-sell yourself and your work to people who are looking for the types of services that you offer. If your work is visual (design, web design, etc.), just put the images. If your work is not visual (SEO, development, writing, etc.) provide links to the things you did, or maybe some numbers and stats, or a testimonial from a client. Or all of that. If you need a WordPress theme that is specifically designed for portfolio websites, check Showcase.
And there you have it. These are essential tools for you, whether you are already a freelancer, or you're just starting your freelance career.
Now, all you have to is to use them.
Remember, nothing works unless you do.
Mladen Stojanovic is an online marketing engineer and a blogger. He's written three e-books so far: Freelance Success Mini-Guide, Web Design Basics for Bloggers and How to Get Blog Post Ideas in Any Niche.