3 Free Tools That Make a Freelancer’s Life Easier (Plus Bonus Free Tools!)

Joe Pawlikowski
Joe Pawlikowski is a freelance copywriter with a background in SEO and affiliate marketing. Visit his site at JoePawl.com.
Joe Pawlikowski
Joe Pawlikowski
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Freelancer at home

If you’re not a freelance worker now, you very well might be in the near future. While full-time work has become scarcer, freelance work has grown in the last few years. Not only that, but according to a recent Elance report (PDF link), freelance wages are on the rise, too.

Sounds great, right?

Freelancer wages

Not so fast.

Yes, freelancing comes with many benefits. In almost all instances you can work flexible hours. You can work from home, which opens up more opportunities for people lacking the ability to drive. If you have the drive you can find more than one gig and earn even more income.

The catches? For starters, you have to find and pay for your own health insurance plan. In a system that still ties health insurance to employment, this becomes an increasing burden. There is also little job security. When a company hires you full-time, they make an investment. It costs them money if they fire you. Companies can hire and terminate freelancers with few added costs. Companies also don’t pay half of freelancers’ Social Security tax. No one realizes this until they’re no longer full-time employees.

So yes, freelance wages might be on the rise. But that’s only to correct for all the added costs freelancers have to bear.

Then there’s the other grim reality for freelancers: getting paid. No, even a half-decent company won’t stiff you. But there might be a gap between project completion and payment. So even if you’re earning a quality wage, you might run into financial troubles while you wait for a check.

As you might imagine, even with rising wages freelancers still need to be frugal. At the same time, they need certain tools to operate. A computer is a given, but there are plenty of applications that make a freelancing life possible. You can pay a fortune for these tools if you’re not careful. Or you can check out this list of free tools to keep costs down while your bank account builds.

Google Drive

Google Drive

If you don’t already have Microsoft Office on your computer, you probably know how much it costs. You’ve been to the sales page, seen the price, and decided that it’s just a bit too rich for your blood. I imagine that companies, not individuals, pay for the great majority of Office installations. The company that hires you as a freelancer won’t pay for Office.

Even with Microsoft’s new plans, which cost $150 per year, the cost proves prohibitive. Two years’ worth of payments is more than a single Office license. Meanwhile, plenty of people get by just fine with Office 2010. Open Office is one free alternative, but it might not provide everything you need.

Google Drive, formerly Google Docs, provides a viable alternative. You can open Office files within it — you can even upload Office docs and spreadsheets. It’s not quite as powerful, particularly the spreadsheets application. But it gets the job done with a simple interface. Combine that with gigabytes upon gigabytes of file storage, plus a quality suite of mobile apps, and you have a free solution.

You will even find many companies use Google Drive themselves to collaborate. Doing some freelance work for BuzzFeed? They use Google Drive for Work to coordinate and collaborate. But even if they don’t, you can get plenty of use out of it and avoid the high cost of MS Office.

FreshBooks

FreshBooks

One task freelancers will become familiar with that is foreign to full-time workers: invoicing. In most freelancing situations, if you want to get paid you have to send an invoice. It doesn’t end there, either. In many situations you’ll have to follow up and pester the accounting department to pay you. It’s not that they don’t want to pay you. It’s that they’re disorganized like the rest of us.

To take this one step further: freelancers likely need a total accounting solution. Full-time employees have it easy. They get a paycheck tat gets deposited into their checking accounts. Many companies still pay their freelancers with paper checks. Sent through the mail. Imagine the horrors.

Think you can process your checks on a simple spreadsheet? Then consider the tax implications of freelancing. When a company sends you a check, it doesn’t deduct any

taxes. That burden is on you. You have to pay the IRS every April 15, though they prefer you pay them every quarter.

FreshBooks offers a free tier solution that can work well for freelancers. It works best for freelancers working for a single company, since the free tier allows you to manage one client. If you need to manage multiple clients, the first paid tier is just $20/month.

Still think you can handle your accounts on a spreadsheet? You can still take care of your invoices using FreshBooks’s free invoice template. It lets you send and monitor your invoices. It even notifies you when the recipient has opened it, so you know when to follow up. Just as a heads up, you will get emails selling you on FreshBooks services. That’s the price of free, I guess.

RescueTime

RescueTime

When you work from home, you become a topic of conversation among friends. They’re curious about what that life is like. Most of them can’t imagine life outside an office. At some point, someone will say, “I could never do that. I’m just not disciplined enough.”

Let me tell you: when I started freelancing in 2007 I was the least disciplined person I knew. Instead of doing my work I’d hang out on baseball blogs and look up statistics. Then came deadline, when I’d have to go to the library just to block out distractions. Work that I could have spread over a 40-hour workweek I did in 20 hours over three days (Friday-Saturday-Sunday). You can imagine that this affected the quality of my work.

Most of the time when we’re distracted we don’t even realize it. Just a little bit of awareness can give us that jolt we need. Though I’m much more disciplined these days, there’s always room for improvement. I recently installed RescueTime on my machine, just to see my actual productivity levels.

If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought I was back in 2007!

RescueTime requires some setup. It doesn’t always know which websites are distracting and which are research. (For example, I never visit the Huffington Post unless I’m looking for information. RescueTime by default classifies it as distracting.) But once it knows your habits, it is brutally honest in its assessment of your behavior. Spending too much time on Twitter? Down goes your productivity score.

Perhaps the greatest aspect of Rescue Time: It lets you know how much time you’ve actually logged. It’s amazing how much time in a typical eight-hour workday is idle. It might not be totally idle, since everyone has some offline work to do. But seeing only six active hours during an eight-hour day might give you the jolt you need. As will seeing a productivity score in the 70s. No one wants to be a C student.

Bonus Free Tools!

These tools are the three I’ve found most helpful in my freelance career. Creation is key, so Google Drive becomes essential absent MS Office. Financial management is more complex as a freelancer than as a full-time employee, so FreshBooks and Free Invoice Creator give you the necessary tools. Discipline? Many full-time workers have never heard of it. RescueTime makes you aware and will turn around your behavior.

Plenty of other free tools make life as a freelancer easy. Here’s a quick list of my absolute favorites.

Evernote. I would have included this above, but everyone knows about Evernote at this point. Right? Read this Lifehacker article if you’re not already hooked on Evernote. You will be once you’re through.

Workflowy. To-do lists don’t work. The mere act of creating a to-do list gives you a sense of accomplishment. That’s pretty much the opposite of what you want. Then there’s the flip side: those to-dos are basically failures. They’re unaccomplished goals. Workflowy is a bit different. Instead of creating to-do lists, you create workflows. You can do this in dozens of different ways — any way that fits your style.

IFTTTThis is another tool that people have raved about. Set a trigger, using the dozens of integrated apps, and get automated tasks done. It can be a real life saver if you use it to its fullest.

Xmind. The only thing missing from this is a good mind mapper. Freelancers need a constant stream of ideas. The most effective way to come up with new ideas? Mind map them. Pen and paper work fine, which is why paying for mind mapping software is only worthwhile if you know it provides advantages. Xmind is free for the basic version.  

Comments

  1. Anoush Alexnder says:

    Well i have account on Elance but i am not getting the time to work on it. I had some doubts about it but you make them clear thanks for this information mate.


  2. Twitter:
    Evernote has helped me organize my stuff. The app however did not work so well on my old iPhone. The problem has been solved ever since I upgraded my phone. I like their ability to synchronize to the cloud to backup data. I sometimes get random ideas for new websites and even blog posts. These tool go a long way in retaining them and help me to work on it at a later point in time.
    Arun Chandran recently posted..MocospaceMy Profile


  3. Twitter:
    A well written article , does highlighted some useful tool . Being in the online freelancer industry ,I must say that industry in getting more competitive . I do believe that it is important to show show your advocacy in filed . Creating a social presence is also important in freelancer industry .
    Amrish recently posted..Kuch Toh Hua Hai Lyrics – Singham Returns | Tulsi Kumar,Ankit TiwariMy Profile

  4. George Meszaros says:

    I couldn’t live without google drive. I use Freshbook in my business and I love how is it is. I used to use a big name competitor that had clunky software.


  5. Twitter:
    I employ people all the time from elance, odesk and onlinejohs.ph, Those who work directly for me we use Time Doctor – I originally tried to use RescueTime, but it just was not the best when employing people who were originally registered with it.

    The 3 main things we utilize every day are with our virtual staff are: GoogleDocs, DropBox and Skype. As communication is the thing that makes a project success.
    David recently posted..Social Media Automation that Everyone Should ConsiderMy Profile

  6. I also have account on freelancer
    but i rarely used that .i usually works on odesk.

    And thanks for mentioning these free tools.
    I already use IFTTT but soon going to try all of remaining


  7. Twitter:
    It goes without saying that Google drive and Evernote are some of the best handy tools so far. And this is not just for freelancers. With every business comes the task of organizing and analysis. Apps and tools could well be a savior then! Thanks Joe for sharing this good information here!
    Kathy Mathis recently posted..You Should Date an Illiterate GirlMy Profile

  8. Hello Joe,
    I’d say that Google is one off the best thing that has ever happened to bloggers, freelancers, students…
    I love the Google drive because everything you do is in the cloud.
    During my days of freelancing, i was introduced to evernote, i never quite used it to its fullest but it was fun :)
    Thanks for the lovely tools to help freelancers job more easy.
    Babanature recently posted..How to Totally Stop Receiving Spam CommentsMy Profile


  9. Twitter:
    Hello Joe,

    You’ve got amazing tools here. Personally, I’ve used some and I can testify that life has indeed been easier especially with Google Drive and Evernote. And thanks to my iPad, things are also truly mobile in the truest sense of the word.

    It sad how ignorance can lead to stress!

    Always,
    Terungwa
    Akaahan Terungwa recently posted..HOW FEAR KEEPS YOU POOR – 5 THINGS YOU CAN DO ABOUT ITMy Profile


  10. Twitter:
    Hey Joe,

    Nice too. I was searching that types of tool but finally got it on your article. I am going to use it on my freelance career. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful list of tools.
    Shailesh recently posted..Different Summer Jobs For School TeachersMy Profile


  11. Twitter:
    Nice and very informative post

    Freelancing jobs have been increased very highly in last few months. Many people are moving towards freelancing jobs as it is a good and comfortable way of earning money . For such people time is every thing because they do not work continuously for 8 or 10 hours . They just spend a little time so for them tools are very important to mange their work.

    The above has posted few tools that are very helpful for freelancer workers.There are many tools in the market But I feel Google drive and evernote are the best tools that can help you mange your work every easily. These tools not only help freelancers but also for every professionals to manage their stuff.

    Thank you for sharing.
    Sagar recently posted..20 Great Tips for Making a Successful Career ChangeMy Profile

    • Anil sharma says:

      Yeh Sagar, I absolutely agree with you on the point that freelancers are increasing tremendously in past months and that may be due to freedom and flexibility they get. That’s why it is becoming even more tougher to get jobs or projects. For newbie its even tougher.

      But as talking the tools evernote is quite useful. I have installed it on my smartphone and managing my stuff from it. I also use rescuetime on my PC which is giving me proper time management.


  12. Twitter:
    Hey Joe,

    I didn’t know about “RescueTime” before, but it seems very effective tool to ensure your higher productivity and ensure lesser time waste. Would love to use it but I have one question here. Is it tool free?
    Pankaj recently posted..Mobile Recharge Software : IT FreelancingMy Profile


  13. Twitter:
    Working without these tools is out of question these days. They’ve become the lungs of businesses all across the world. Google Drive, Rescuetime, IFTTT etc are big time superheroes! :)
    Kathy Mathis recently posted..Autocorrect Gone Haywire : Funny InsightsMy Profile


  14. Twitter:
    Great collection of tools you’ve listed, I do use most of them myself and being a journalist, I also use an app called Banjo, which I find useful to see what is happening in my area so that I can get to a location nearby to report on it.
    Karen Woodham recently posted..MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Comic Con FootageMy Profile


  15. Twitter:
    Google drive is very useful tool and many freelancers using it. These tools are really very helpful. Thanks for sharing this post with us.
    Sudipto recently posted..Best Android Phone Under 7000My Profile

  16. I think that good and reliable hosting is one of keys to success. If you want to show your work to the clients (current and potential ones) you need to pick a hosting company you can trust.


  17. Twitter:
    Well written post , social engagement is also helpful in this scenario. No doubt these are some very useful tool which definitely helps the freelancer. Thanks for sharing nice information.

    Best regards
    Muhammad Mairaj recently posted..Which Black Hat Seo Techniques Should Be Avoided In BloggingMy Profile

  18. Hello Joe,
    Google Drive does all of my office work, even I don’t remember when was the last time i opened MS Office, after working on Google Drive – It saves our time as well any project we are working on, without any worry of data loss.

    rest i use evernote on my cell phone, even through am not a freelancer still the use of Google Drive and Evernote has become my routine and i found it much more convenient.

    A nice tools has been describe Joe, and all are useful except FreshBooks as have never used it in past… over to you!!!!!
    Aquila A recently posted..WhatsApp on PCMy Profile


  19. Twitter:
    Something free is always interesting for sure but because of that we may feel uncertain which is best. Thanks for this recommendation. I believe many freelancers will take the benefit
    Okto recently posted..How Fresh Content Can Influence RankingsMy Profile

    • You’re right Okto,
      Something free is always attracted by all. But I can say for this list that these all are very effecient for all developers.

  20. Very nice Joe,
    I first find RescueTime. It seems very efficient for me. I will use it.
    Thanks a lot.

  21. Manish gurjar says:

    Freelancer becomes freelancer to earn money or gain experience this all tools are very useful as they are free and very useful hope evry freelancer read this list and use all this tools,
    thanks,manish

  22. Evernote has helped me organize my stuff. The app however did not work so well on my old iPhone. The problem has been solved ever since I upgraded my phone. I like their ability to synchronize to the cloud to backup data. I sometimes get random ideas for new websites and even blog posts. These tool go a long way in retaining them and help me to work on it at a later point in time.

    Best Tool in the world
    lalina recently posted..Gmail Login – http://www.Gmail.com – Gmail Sign InMy Profile

  23. Completely agreed….Well written post , social engagement is also helpful in this scenario. No doubt these are some very useful tool which definitely helps the freelancer. Thanks for sharing nice information.
    lalina recently posted..Top 10 Best 9MM Pistols 2014My Profile

  24. kelly speca says:

    hey..
    read your very informative blog..
    but can you pls share if there is any starting fee for sign up on odesk..and how much it is.

  25. Trong Van says:

    Hello Joe,
    You’ve got amazing tools here. I’ve used some and I can testify that life has indeed been easier with Google Drive and Evernote.

  26. James Raj says:

    After using Google drive, my life is easier as a blogger, i can manage and store whole bunch of files and other docs at one place and can access anytime and that too for free….


  27. Twitter:
    hm very nice post about freelancer that now freelancer can make extra money and make their life easier.
    thanks again
    Best Regards and Happy Blogging
    Zaib Abbasi recently posted..How To Signup For Infolinks Affiliate ProgramMy Profile

  28. I better use DropBox) Many free space and gifts) In past year i buy HTC and they give me 25 GB for free)

  29. Bilal Ahmad says:

    Evernote is no doubt one of the popular and a must have tool for very blogger, internet marketer and freelancer. IFTTT looks a new tool. Certainty going to check this out. Thanks for the useful tools Joe.


  30. Twitter:
    Really nice tools. Google Drive is my favorite one. These tools have made our work life a lot more easier than ever before.
    Thanks for sharing the post.
    Kuldeep recently posted..How to Earn Money from Fiverr as a FreelancerMy Profile

  31. Google Drive helps me keep sync of my important documents, other than that these are some really useful tools. Thanks for mentioning them, I will use them too.
    Vikas Bhatt recently posted..SBI PO Clerk Result 2014 – Merit List Cut OffMy Profile


  32. Twitter:
    Hi Joe,

    Fantastic tools. I don’t use freshbooks before because I didn’t hear before about this tool. I think that this is wonderful tool that helps freelancer a lot.

    Usually Google drive solves my lot of problems as this tool is very common and it makes a work lot easy to solve.

    Thanks for sharing this informative article.
    Mustafa Gaziani recently posted..Free WordPress Plugin: Safeguard your Site from Spam CommentsMy Profile

  33. It’s good to know about all these life-saving free tools as it surely help a lot and make every blogger’s life easier.


  34. Twitter:
    As a freelance web designer myself (with web design an industry that is going more down the freelance route every day) I couldn’t agree more of the tool Google drive as it is so universally helpful. Although it may seen obvious I would also add to this list the ‘Social media channels’ ie Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and YouTube. For a freelancer these are amazing tools every freelancer should be actively using to drum up work for themselves, plus they are all Free.

  35. IFTTT is the best. I am managing a hell lot of things through the service. It autopost on my 10+ social networks automatically, schedule posts automatically and do a lot of extra help.
    Sonika recently posted..15 August HOT Wallpapers For PC in HD FREE Download (2014)My Profile

  36. Andy Brown says:

    I have to agree that Evernote is a fantastic tool to help keep track of sites I visit on a daily basis that I might need in the future. I also use a tool called ToDoist that helps me to create and manage to-do lists. By using these two services, I have been able to save a lot of time with my daily tasks.


  37. Twitter:
    Hello Joe,

    As a blogger/freelancer, we have to make use of these tools to make our work life easier. . . personally, i use and like Google Drive and Evernote. . other tools are new for me. . .

    Thanks for sharing this informative post! :)
    Adithya Shetty recently posted..iPage Coupon Code 2014: Get Huge discountMy Profile

  38. hello
    accordong to me google drive is best These tools are really very helpful. Thanks for sharing this post with us.will share it with my other friens too
    deepti recently posted..Best music player for pc | linux | Mac | pc softMy Profile

  39. Google Drive is one of the most useful tool, I use it a lot to keep sync of my important documents.
    Vikas Bhatt recently posted..Singham Returns Box Office Collection Report, EarningsMy Profile

  40. bob thortin says:

    I have alot of experience with both odesk and freelancer. Both have there pros and cons. I prefer odesk a little bitter then free lancer just my opinion tho. These tools are awesome tho!


  41. Twitter:
    Hello Joe,
    Nice thanks for sharing greatful post. I was searching that types of tool but finally got it on your article. I am going to use it on my freelance career. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful list of tools.
    Preet recently posted..Jailbreak iPhone with PanguMy Profile

  42. Nice article currently i used google drive for all my data and its work fine. other i never used. i definitely used it. thanks to share article.
    Hiren recently posted..SIDBI Assistant Manager Answer Key 2014 Download at sidbi.inMy Profile


  43. Twitter:
    Google Drive is not a real contender to Dropbox. Current limitations such as not following symlinks, and not supporting multiple accounts on the same folder makes it a non-starter. Thanks.
    Paul D. Mitchell recently posted..Rigorous TestingMy Profile

  44. In starting days of my freelancing I am not using Google Drive and storing everything in my Laptops but later on I realize that Google Drive is the one of the best tool to store your documents and everything. And you can access it from anywhere only Internet is the primary requirement.
    Thanks for adding other tools also; I will use it soon.
    Anna Smith recently posted..New iPhone 6 Release DateMy Profile


  45. Twitter:
    I know about Google drive only. rest are unknown to me. Thanks for this informative post.

  46. Evernote is my all time favorite. Will try Xmind and IFTTT as well on your recommendation. Thanks for letting us know new tools.
    Deepak recently posted..Apple iPhone 6 Price In India, Features, Specifications and VideoMy Profile

  47. definitely Google Drive helps me keep sync of my important documents, other than that these are some really useful tools. Thanks for mentioning them.


  48. Twitter:
    IFTT automate my boring task and gives me more time to focus on other stuff. I usually browse different recipe that I can apply to my day to day work. Another is pen and paper where I list all of the things that I have to do and crossed it out when I am done. I will try mind mapping and the others, thanks!

  49. I know invoicing can be a difficult thing, especially if you have more clients for whom you are working. Will have a look at the tool you recommended. I am curious to know how easy this really would be.
    Lena Gruber recently posted..EypoBet TestberichtMy Profile

  50. Great post, google drive is incredibly effective and has made my life a lot easier as a blogger. Thanks for mentioning some other tools, i will check them out.
    John recently posted..Teens Make Money Online!My Profile

  51. good post.
    Rescue time is something i always wanted.going to try it and will share my experience here.
    Hamza recently posted..keyword revealer review-a free alternative to longtailproMy Profile

  52. I love freshbooks and I’m not relly surprised to see it here. Another app that I thought would make it here is Todoist.
    Karan Labra recently posted..How to Download Hike Messenger for PC Windows XP/7/8My Profile


  53. Twitter:
    Thanks for sharing these awesome tools with us. Being a freelancer, i find them life saving.
    Frank Joseph recently posted..Happy Durga Puja Dussehra Wallpapers, Images, PicturesMy Profile

  54. My life as a blogger has become easier after using Google drive. Now i can store and manage whole bunch of files and other docs at single place and can access anytime and that too for free.
    Jess recently posted..Action Hero Salman Khan Movies ListMy Profile

  55. Kailash Chandra says:

    Hey Joe,

    I was already using Google Drive, particularly the Sheets which got fresh design and simple to use.

    But FreshBooks is new to me and I’ll be definitely trying that. Thanks for sharing, cheers :)

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