If you are a freelancer, you already know the pains of wearing a bunch of hats all at the same time. Unlike with teams and bigger organizations, there aren’t people assigned to take care of certain tasks while others focus on what they do best. Nope, you’re alone and most probably taking care of everything from your finances and communication to day-to-day project work all by yourself.
What follows is a list of apps that can ease that pressure a bit — they’ll take care of some of those menial tasks while you spend your valuable time and energies on keeping your clients happy.
One of the most important qualities to have, especially when you are working by yourself, is good task management. If you are in the market for a dead simple, but effective todo list app, Holly might work. It lets you create pure text based task lists and organize them by nesting tasks. You can use keyboard shortcuts to quickly get into the app, edit your list and get back to whatever you do best without a hassle. Absolutely worth a try, especially if you are a pure text and keyboard shortcut junkie like me.
If long, hierarchical lists are not your thing and you prefer to organize tasks by when you need to get them done, you might want to give TeuxDeux a try. Instead of focusing on the lists of tasks, the app focuses on when you need to get things done. What you get is a grid or 7 columns, one for each day of the week. Simply select a row under a day and start typing what you need to do. List items can be moved around as your schedules change and can be struck off as you get them done. There are also open ended lists for things that you need to get done but are not linked to a date.
It is important to get paid, right? Invoices are the universally accepted mode to seek payments from clients for services rendered. Problem is, manually managing invoicing is extremely painful and most good web based invoicing solutions have monthly subscription charges attached which may be overkill of you invoice rarely. For such occasions, there’s Minute Bill — simply go to the page, change the text as you need, add items and prices, and export as PDF. No hassle of registration, monthly fees, etc. Perfect if you invoice once in a while and don’t mind the attribution in the footer.
One of the ways freelancing is different from a full-time job is that your workload can vary pretty dramatically between projects. For those times when you are not terribly busy with client work, getting into a sideproject might be a good way to keep those creative juices flowing. WeekendHacker can help you find and participate in such projects. Anyone can join in and either post a requirement for talent on a side project or maybe find one in the listings that interests you. This can also be a great way to build your network beyond the usual.
Writing is an inherent part of doing any business, more so when it’s your core skill or when you don’t have a dedicated coworker assigned to writing stuff. If the bulk of MS Word overwhelms you or you are simply in the market for a simpler solution, writing using the Markdown syntax can be a good middle ground between full fledged formatting and plain text. Markable is an web app that lets you create documents using Markdown while simulataneously showing you a preview of the final formatting as you type. You can then export the document to whatever format you need to send it in or simply save it in your Dropbox or Evernote library.
Like the idea of writing in plain text, but not a fan of the side-by-side preview? Prefer a distraction-free environtment to focus on your writing and nothing else? You might want to chec out Quabel then. Apart from Markdown support, an interesting feature in Quabel is the ability to set goals — number of words, speaking time, etc. — and the app will help you work towards that goal with a progress bar that displays along the top edge of the page. Once you are done, you can either export the document or share the URL to let others read it directly off the web.
Everyone needs a blog — or at least, everyone seems to have one these days. The real question is, how many of us actually blog frequently enough? If you are one of those occasional bloggers and don’t want to spend a lot of time and energy putting a whole website together, Throwww might be for you. Simply write what you want to communicate, post it and share the URL. No database management, no themes and templates, not even a formatting toolbar. Simply write your stuff with Markdown syntax and Throwww will spit out a nicely formatted document ready to be shared with the world.
Writing e-mails is a necessary evil in any work scenario — more so when you are a freelancer. Although simple formatted mails through Gmail are fine for one-on-one communication, you ever so often need to send a nicely laid out message to a bunch of people. A dedicated newsletter service may be overkill if you are not going to use it often. Enter HTML Mails, a simple way to quickly put together an HTML e-mail using a WYSIWYG editor and send it out without worrying about compatibility issues. You can even use Google Docs to easily send customized messages to a group.
When working by yourself, simply managing tasks may not always be enough. You also need to manage your time as efficiently to be able to get as much done as possible. The Pomodoro technique allows you to focus on your work and make the most of the time available by focusing on a task for a set amount of time, followed by a short break, rinse and repeat. Pomodoro.me is a web app that can help you use this technique in your work. It might seem extremely simple, but can be an effective way to focus on work and overcome procrastination.
Even if you’re not into the whole Pomodoro thing, everyone needs timers at one time or another. Sure, you can use your phone to set up a stopwatch or a countdown timer, by why even leave the browser if you spend most of your time in it anyways? Timer Tab is as simple a web app as they get. You get three time functions — a countdown timer, an alarm clock and a stopwatch — right there in a broswer tab, ready to swing into action and as when you need them. You can even set a YouTube video as the alarm to wake you up from sleep or a hard day’s work. Your call.
So there we have it, 10 apps that are small, free, yet immensely useful — and not just for freelancers, I may add, since they’re great no matter what your profession. Go ahead, try them out and let us know in the comments if you think we’ve missed something you swear by.