To a freelancer, tools greatly improve productivity and much better if they are available for free. Here is a list of simple, highly productive and FREE tools that I have been using in my various projects. I am sure these will help you too.
Skype is very commonplace nowadays, but I am surprised at a relatively low adoption rate. It is one of the best tools I have ever used, for Internet Calling. If you and your partner have a computer with a speaker and a microphone (or headphones), then calls can be made for virtually NO charge. This can greatly reduce your Phone bills (if you use phone extensively) which can be substantial at the end of a month!
Todoist is a very minimal Online “to do” manager and most of its feature are FREE for use. It is completely AJAX driven and there are NO page reloads when you use it (which I love with any application, by the way!). I have used other tools like Toodledo and Tadalist, but love Todoist for its simplicity. Features in the basic version include - Creating Task Lists, Grouping them as Parent and Sub Tasks, Printer Friendly view, Assigning priorities and Due Dates. A Premium version that comes at a very reasonable $3/month, enables you to set reminders to be sent on mobile phones.
Use this tool once you have identified the Tasks and Sub Tasks and assign due dates to stick to. Also you can take a print of it and keep it for your reference. Also, there is a FREE Firefox Plug-in to manage tasks without logging in every time.
Freshbooks is an online Project tracking and Invoicing tool, that works like a Pro. The interface is very simple and there are NO steep learning curves. You can try the product for FREE but it comes with a few hooks. Using the FREE version, you cannot handle more than 3 clients or customize the Invoice format. But nevertheless, following features are worth a try and possibly an upgrade to the Premium version at $19.99/month
- Create Multiple Projects and link with Clients
- Allow Clients to login and see the Project status
- Setup Team members and enable them to fill Time Sheets
- Desktop Time tracking tools to sync up with the online account
- Billing and Invoicing both through E-Mails and Snail Mails
4. Google Docs
Google Docs doesn’t need a lot of pre-selling. I am sure you already have it setup. I use Google Docs extensively for the following activities:
- Creating Requirements and Specifications document for Projects
- Creating Task breakdown Spreadsheets with Milestone dates
- Sharing these documents with Clients and making them as Collaborators
- Creating Forms and Questionnaires when the Clients are not exactly clear about Requirements
- and so on…
This way Google Docs is extremely helpful in my projects and the FREE price tag comes in very handy. Another useful alternative to try out is Zoho Docs.
5. Google Calendar
Google Calendar is another product that is extremely helpful for a freelancer. I use it primarily to:
- Setup SMS and E-mail reminders about – Project Milestones, Client meetings and Blogging Schedules
Personally, I also use it aggressively for reminders on Birthdays, Wedding anniversaries and other important dates. I really love the SMS reminders, as they make the “free” service extremely attractive!
Mindmeister is an online Mind Mapping tool, especially useful at the inception of a Project. This is a collaborative tool, that allows your Clients and other stakeholders to participate. Once the base Requirements are in place, use Mindmeister to come up with all related requirements and their dependencies, in the form of a Mind Map. Also, this can be used to identify some hidden or unstated requirements, that can be crucial for your projects at a later stage.
Now, Mindmeister also has an iPhone version, which I have not tried though. Basic FREE Version limits you to only 3 Mind maps, but you can download them as PDF once done. A moderately priced Premium Version (at $4/month) is available, if you need more features and flexibility.
Dropbox is a very simple tool to sync your files online across computers, store them securely and share it with anyone. Using the client application that is available for both Mac and PC, you can seamlessly sync and upload files for sharing. Also, you can invite people to view or download your documents or files with ease.
The FREE version comes with a 2 GB storage space, which can be increased up to 100 GB with the Premium account. Also available are the possibilities of Web and Mobile Access to your account. This is another indispensable tool, if you are a freelancer.
My list ends here, but the tools are a lot more. If you know of any better alternatives to this list or some new tools that can help a Freelancer, feel free to add them as comments. If suitable tools are mentioned, I will update the post with the details and give attribution to your Name and Website.
Photo Credit: CREEPETZ
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