Using free tools for some of your freelance writing business activities can help you get the New Year off to a good start. Before spending money on expensive software and applications, try out some of the free tools available to freelancers. You’ll save money and get a clearer picture of what features and benefits you’ll need when you do choose to spend some money on things like invoicing and time tracking software.
Some of the tools I’m listing have a free version as well as a pro version that come with a monthly or one-time fee, depending on the application. A couple of them offer such amazing free versions, you may never need to spring for the professional subscription.
8 fantastic free tools to add to your freelance toolbox
Hourly Rate Calculator from FreelanceSwitch: One of the hardest tasks for freelance writers, when just starting out, involves determining an hourly rate to charge for their services. The calculator takes into account just about every imaginable business cost, amount of billable hours, and net profit desired. It’s simple, easy and pretty darned thorough.
Once you have some experience, you’ll need to take a more active part in determining your rates, but this calculator rocks for those just beginning their freelance journey.
Remember everything with Evernote: A favorite of both freelance journalists and writers, Evernote allows you to save ideas and things you in several formats –record things you hear, take video or photos of things you see, attach files of just about any type, and more. This free application works with almost every computer, mobile device, or smartphone available. It also syncs your information between your computer, smartphone or other mobile device, and your online Evernote account.
Manage your projects like a pro with Basecamp: A web-based project collaboration tool that works with Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. Use the limited versions for free and expand to professional versions if the need arises. You can download the various mobile apps that work with Basecamp so you can carry your to-do lists and monitor project progress when away from the office.
Create documents using Google Docs: A totally free suite of office productivity applications. Create text documents, spreadsheets, and presentations just like you would with Microsoft’s pricey suite of office products – all for free. You can share, upload, and edit any document or spreadsheet you create over the web. Since it’s a web-based application, you can access your documents when on the road and away from your office or at the local coffee shop on a laptop.
Find images on morgueFile: Find completely free images on morgueFile to modify and use in your personal, internal, or commercial documents. You can also upload your own photos to share with others. The site offers a diverse image collection for the busy freelance writer, looking for the perfect photo to enhance an article or blog post.
Invoice clients with invoicejournal: Geared to the freelancing business, the web-based invoicejournal application provides a great for you to invoice your clients, free of charge. They store all client information on private servers with a promise never to share any of your information with others.
This solution will work great for those just getting started as full-time freelancers. You might find you’ll need a more customized, tailored solution after the first year or so. For that, I recommend FreshBooks – created exclusively for freelancers of all types; and you can try it free for the first month. The software provides a robust collection of tools like time tracking, invoicing, billing, and accounts for contractors and team members.
File storage and sharing with DropBox: A prime solution for storing and sharing important documents and large files. You can share individual files, or batches of them, with clients and collaborators. Access files immediately from the Dropbox account without having to wait. This year, I’m keeping the editorial calendar for FWD in DropBox, so my team can access it and make changes to it as necessary. We won’t have to shuffle the file back and forth via email.
Send faxes free using FaxZero: You probably don’t have a fax machine in your office as a freelancer. Many freelancers don’t even have a traditional landline necessary to send a fax using a fax-enabled all-in-one printer. But the need to send or receive a fax arises periodically in the life of every business owner. Do it free with FaxZero – no strings (or fees) attached.
What free tools have you found for your freelance business? Share the good, bad, and the ugly with our team.