When you’re just getting started as a freelancer, it can be hard to justify adding any new expense to your fledgling business. In the early months of going out on your own, it can take some time to become profitable (and get paid!) and at the beginning, your focus is primarily on making rent and praying that you’ll be able to eat more than oatmeal and ramen noodles for every meal.
Luckily, for many freelancers, this survival state mentality is only temporary. Eventually, you’ll get to the point where you’re wasting time and money by not adopting the use of some paid tools that make it possible to run your business more efficiently.
If you’re ready to scale up your toolset with paid subscriptions that will enable you to be more efficient with time, here are our top picks for any freelance business:
Image Source: Quickbooks
As you add clients and additional expenses to your business, it will become increasingly more difficult to keep track of these things without a system in place. The best bookkeeping systems include reporting features and the ability to search for individual transactions in need of follow up.
Using a tool like Quickbooks allows you to integrate all related financial accounts, like a business bank account, credit card, and/or Paypal account, so no transactions slip through the cracks. Most CPAs are very familiar with Quickbooks, which will come in handy come tax season when mistakes can result in numerous fees for your freelance business.
Quickbooks plans start at $10/month and scale up depending on the specific features your freelance business requires. An alternative paid bookkeeping option is Freshbooks, and a popular free option, if you’re still pinching pennies, is Xero.
Design Tools: Creative Cloud
It’s not the tools that make the artist, but the right equipment can help you bring an idea to life as it was intended. Whether design makes up the majority of your job or not, people in the creative space often find a need to access tools like Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, and Dreamweaver.
The barrier to entry is low now that Adobe has switched these applications to subscription pricing that starts at $19.99/month for access to a single app and $49.99/month for access to all of Adobe’s Creative Cloud apps.
Design Assets & Education: Envato Elements
The best design tools won’t get you very far if you don’t know how to use them. That’s why a subscription to Envato Elements includes access to hundreds of design ebooks and courses. Envato Elements also grants access to hundreds of thousands of stock photos and other graphic assets that will help you to distinguish yourself on your next client project.
Social Media Scheduling: Buffer
Image Source: Buffer
To continuously drive leads to your freelance business, you need to stay top of mind with your audience. Creating a solid social media strategy is an essential element of inbound marketing that can take an hour or less of your time each week—with the right tools.
Buffer is a social media scheduling tool that will allow you to batch out the task of content scheduling, with tons of useful features, like the ability to add content to a publishing queue (perfect for content curation efforts) and a built-in post time optimization feature, based on data from your own social profiles. Buffer’s free plan is pretty limited, so upgrade to their Awesome plan for just $10/month.
Conference Calls: Zoom
Image Source: Zoom.us
If you work with individuals, connecting to discuss project details is as simple as placing a call. But when you’re working with teams or companies where each employee works remotely, it’s a bit tacky (and potentially problematic) to be using your phone to merge multiple calls.
Zoom provides the perfect online/video/call-in conferencing solution. Free plans are available, but you’ll get cut off if a group call goes longer than 40 minutes. Zoom’s Pro plan costs just $14.99/month with unlimited meeting times for each call, for up to 100 participants.
Email Service Provider: MailChimp
Image Source: MailChimp
Offering services to clients is just one way to make money in your freelance business. Once you start to make a name for yourself, you can use the power of your influence and audience to make money with passive income opportunities: online courses, affiliate marketing, and the like.
In order to make these money generating activities work, you’ll need to be building your email list from the start. It all comes together with a good email service provider (ESP). MailChimp is a great ESP for beginners, as they offer free plans up to 2000 subscribers. Unlike many other ESPs on the market, they also offer free email automation capabilities.
Project Management: Basecamp
If you adopt just one app for managing client projects and contractors, let it be Basecamp. You can use Basecamp as a hub for everything relating to client projects, with features that allow for easy communication between parties and file sharing. If you work with contractors, a tool like Basecamp takes the most important information out of your head and makes it easy to document progress so that you have a larger available capacity to think creatively.
Basecamp offers a flat rate of $99/month with no limits on projects or users. Asana is another popular project management alternative that offers similar functionality with free and low priced premium plans.
Task Management: Todoist
If projects and business activities are made up of a lot of little tasks, you might instead organize activities using a task management tool like Todoist. Todoist operates on a slightly more bare-bones basis than the aforementioned Basecamp but is ideal for quickly assigning tasks to yourself or contractors. Deciding between Basecamp, Todoist, or a combination of these types of tools ultimately comes down to personal preference and your own ideal workflow.
Freelance Tools Worth Paying for To Grow Your Business
As a freelancer, you have to play most, if not every role in your business—including taking on administrative tasks you never thought you’d ever have to deal with. If your business is just getting started, you can get by with free tools and by patching processes together. Eventually though, you’ll want to enable your growth by investing in tools that can help you to be more purposeful with the time you spend managing your business.
What are your favorite subscription tools that have played an important role in your business? Tweet your thoughts at @envato and we’ll share the best suggestions!