If you are like most freelancers, finding the best ideas for how to get organized are worth their weight in gold. Tips are shared between freelancers on the best tools and software that will allow you to keep track of clients and concentrate on the work instead of the organization. When you work for a large company, these time and labour organizational tools come with the job. But when you freelance, finding the tools that won't kill your budget but will make you a lean organized entrepreneur is worth investigating. Here are five areas where we think that the right software could make any freelancers life easier and of course, more organized.
Your clients, the vendors that help you supply them and your subcontractors are probably right now all in one massive database. While it may be handy to have all the emails in Gmail, it is a smart idea to invest in a flexible database that will show you how to get organized and allow you to keep track of individual needs. EzPSA has a great module for this kind of task management that allows you to stay on top of details about clients, vendors and others. But there is much more to client management then just tracking software. Here are a few great tools we recommend for keeping communication open with your clients:
Dropbox – This "folder in the cloud" software makes it easy to share documents back and forth with clients, particularly large ones.
Skype – Some freelancers have actually said this has replaced a phone, especially if many of your clients are scattered around the globe. You can share screens, video chat or just use it like a phone. Yes, there are still a few issues with it, but when computer to computer is free it is hard to complain.
Managing Large Projects
Although I know quite a few freelancers who use online dashboards such as Basecamp to keep projects moving smoothly, they don't always allow the flexibility of integrating costs with milestones and similar project details. While we of course love to point out the project management modules that come built into our EzPSA software, there are other tools that can help any freelance project manager keep their hands on the details and show us how to get organized when that big project comes along.
SifterApp – This app is a wonder for software developers as it was designed specifically to track bugs in software. Any IT company, including freelancers, should be at least aware of it. We use this at EzPSA.
Mockingbird – If your business involves website design, this program allows all the team to work online to create your website mock-ups together.
Keeping Track of Billable Hours
Getting paid is of course what the freelance world is all about. But making sure that what you bill is both correct and has backup for it can be time consuming. While it is true that we are kinda proud of how easy EzPSA makes the invoicing and tracking side a snap for freelancers, there are still other sides of the financial picture. Here are some good tools for forecasting and even integrating personal and business finances for small freelancers.
WiseCash – Forecasting can be a tricky business, but if you freelance you need it to stay afloat. This is one that was designed with the small business entrepreneur and freelancer in mind.
Mint – Sometimes you just need to keep the budget for the business in one place. This is a simple, easy and free piece of software that tracks everything in one place. Better yet, it has a mobile tracking capability so you can watch the bank account when out with clients or getting supplies. If you have multiple accounts for your business, this is a great tool.
Networking and Marketing
While doing the job is paramount, networking to keep that business pipeline full is a big part of being a freelancer. The old tried and true local business association is a great place to start, but there are more opportunities out there for entrepreneurs and freelancers.
Meetup – Started as a way for New Yorkers to connect after 9/11, this has grown into an international organization to help people meet face to face with others. It connects everyone from knitters to square dancers so they can find like-minded individuals. One of the biggest growth areas has been business networking. Check it out in your area and find out where business owners are meeting tonight.
MailChimp – Email marketing continues to be the cheapest and most successful tool for freelancers today. Whether it is your own campaigns or your clients, this is an easy way to organize mass mailings, ongoing newsletter or marketing campaigns.
Invoicing and Bookkeeping
I don't know too many freelancers, outside of accounting freelancers, who like to do their accounting and bookkeeping. Freelancers tend to be of the shoebox variety of record keepers. They have a habit of putting off any thought of how to get organized on the financial side before tax time comes around. Well, the good news is there are some great easy-to-use tools out there made just for these kinds of business people.
Xero.com – This is handy cloud-based accounting that connects your banking, invoicing and everything else at your fingertips really easy, from anywhere. We happen to love this particular software because it works so well with our own EzPSA program. The nice thing about it is that you can export your invoices from EzPSA directly into Xero.
So, as you can see, there are a multitude of great easy and sometimes even free programs out there to help the freelancer figure out how to get organized and stay that way. As more and more people begin to use freelancing as an alternative way to earn a living, we will continue to see new tools to help them. In fact, EzPSA began because as entrepreneurs ourselves we saw a need for better administrative organization tools for software engineers and other IT businesses. Learning how to get organized and stay organized is always going to be a challenge for free thinkers like entrepreneurs and freelancers. But with tools like these, we can concentrate on the work before us and let the software manage the details around us.
What do you find is the part of your freelance life that needs the most help with organization? Is it the financial side, the marketing or some other aspect? Share your story here and let us know what works and doesn't work for you.