There’s no two ways about it: freelancing is a business. One that certainly presents its own unique challenges, but one that can be started on a budget. I started my freelancing career with nothing but a basic website, my email client, and a bundle of energy.
While, technically, starting a freelance business is easy, making sure it grows is the challenging part. Most freelancers will focus on a very specific niche service, and therefore will not likely have the time for all of the other tasks that come with running and growing a business. There are plenty of tools out there to assist you with this, however picking the right tools, and at the right price, is crucial for success.
In this post, we will have a look at 8 of the affordable tools, which should be part of any freelancers startup toolkit.
WordPress – Website
Whether you like it or not, every reputable business needs a website. And not any old website, it needs to be professional looking and functional. WordPress is a great platform to start with, which you can setup at virtually no cost. You will need to buy your domain name and hosting package, but then you’re good to go. There are plenty of free templates, otherwise a small investment of around £20-£50 will buy you a customisable “premium” theme that will be sure to give off an excellent first impression to potential customers, clients, or investors.
Google Analytics – Web Analytics
Now that we have a website, we need to start measuring, collecting data, and working towards improving performance. In my personal opinion, this is by far the most crucial part of small business marketing and growing any business effectively. We need to understand how many people are visiting the website, where they are coming from, what they are doing when they get there, and how we can drive more people to the site. Google Analytics is not only free, but is the best tool for measuring website performance.
Freeagent – Accounting
As a freelancer, a one man band, and master of all trades, we need to make sure the accounting software we choose reflects our needs. Unfortunately, most “small business software” is in fact really built for medium sized businesses. Not only does this usually mean a higher priced package, but also unnecessary features and functionality. As a freelancer, Freeagent is one of the best you can find. Designed with freelancers in mind, this relatively low cost software can handle all of your small business accounting needs; from expenses, time tracking, invoicing, and even the dreaded self assessment. What more could you need?
FastPrint – Business Cards
As an independent, remote, or home worker, it can be hard to meet potential clients, new business leads, or investors. That’s why it’s even more important to make sure you go to as many networking events, conferences, and events as possible. The first rule: make sure you have plenty of well designed business cards on hand to exchange with anyone you meet. FastPrint offers extremely high quality business card printing services at super low prices – perfect for freelancers on a budget.
LastPass – Password Manager
Even just using the 7 other tools mentioned in this post, that means you’ll have 7 usernames and passwords to remember. Hopefully, you don’t have the same password across all accounts. Trying to remember so many different logins can be an absolute headache. LastPass has been my best friend for several years now, an absolute lifesaver when it comes to remembering old passwords. This password manager is also a huge timesaver. With an auto form filler feature you simply open your chosen profile or website and click go!
Trello – Project Management
If you’re anything like me, you love lists. I couldn’t live without, or work without, a good list or two. Working across a number of different clients, and different services for each, I have an endless number of tasks to do. There’s no way I could manage all of this without a project management tool. And believe me, I’ve tried them all. My personal favourite for keeping organised is Basecamp, however Trello is a great free alternative. It’s perfect for any startup on a budget, and features the all important checklists, due dates, attachments, and a choice of adding different members.
Streak – CRM
A CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool is used to look after every interaction you have with your customers or clients. Whether it’s a new lead, a support email, or any other stage along the customer journey. I personally use Stream to track my clients. From new leads, to those I have pitched to, negotiating with, and won or lost. The beauty of Streak is that it’s cloud based and you can use it from within Gmail. As an added bonus it supports email tracking, ‘send later’ functionality, mail merge amongst other features. While there are plenty of other, probably more popular CRMs, as a freelancer you don’t always need the heavier software.
Toggl – Time Tracking
If you charge by the hour or often wonder how long it takes you to do a certain task, Toggl will help you keep track. You can start tracking your time with a click of the button ‘GO’. It’s particularly helpful in tracking hours spent on client work. You can easily set clients and projects, which will give you a good idea of which tasks take up the most time.
While there are plenty more tools you can use for general business or marketing purposes, these are good to get started with. But remember, no matter how good the tools are, and how useful I find them, they’ll only help your business if you utilise them properly. Make sure you do plenty of research to see if they are the right fit for you and your business. Plenty of the paid tools have free trials, so make sure you take advantage of this as it’s a great way to test out whether it’s a good fit.
I’d love to know what other tools you’d recommend, or are using, for your freelance business.
This is a guest post by Lucy Kirkness. Lucy runs a couple of small businesses: a digital marketing consultancy, and also a designer kids fashion magazine.