Freelancers are hot stuff today. No joke, Forbes said there were 3.3 million freelancers last year who earned over $100,000. I’m not one of them—yet—but there still might be hope for me. If you’re a freelancer, you do basically everything. You are a glorious one-man show, and you should be darn proud. Even solo performances need the right equipment, right? That’s why I’ve made this list of the best tools for freelancers in 2018.
It doesn’t matter if you’re still in pre-launch or if you’ve been in business for ten years, these are a must. Like, coffee in the morning must. I mean, you could try to go at it alone, but you’ll probably:
- Burn out quickly
- Disappoint a client
- Bring dishonor on your entire family
- All of the above
So if you want to avoid that dishonor nonsense, you’ve gotta get serious. I use every one of these personally, and I would be a flip-flopping mess without them. Well, I already am a mess, but I would likely self-destruct. Without further ado, here are the 10 tools all freelancers need ASAP.
I have been preaching the Good Word of Grammarly since the dawn of time, and I will go down with this ship. Let’s be real: we all suck at grammar and spelling. We grew up typing lky di$ 4real so it’s no wonder why we’re grammatically stunted. Grammarly is your 7th-grade grammar teacher hovering over your shoulder, only she doesn’t make passive aggressive remarks about your incompetence in front of the whole class.
The best part of Grammarly is that it’s entirely free, and it’ll configure with your browser to legit fix your entire life. No more awkward email mistakes. No more twitter typos. Yes, this just might be the solution to world peace we’ve been waiting for.
Recently, I splurged for Grammarly Premium. It goes beyond basic grammar and spelling and gives suggestions for punctuation, variety, style, and way more. While I don’t think the average internet user needs to opt for a $60+ annual plan, it’s definitely worth it if you do a lot of professional writing.
Pro tip: the regular price is over $100+ annually. Don’t pay for that. Sign up for their emails and purchase premium when they’re doing a 50% off promo which is like every day.
Here’s Grammarly in action using this exact block of text. Luckily, I already made the biggest changes so all it caught was my AOL-speak.
2. Hemmingway App
Yes, I’m out here with another writing editor. You might be able to guess that I write literally all day. All. Day. We’re talking 50k+ words a week nonsense, so I’m not messing around with my text editors. When you look at walls of information and blogs all day, they all blur together. Ya girl can’t edit her own work with that kind of stress.
Hemmingway App is Grammarly on crack cocaine. This is college-level writing center editing over here, and you need it in your life. Basically, it’ll make you feel like an idiot, even if you write for a living. This is good. We all deserve that kind of aggression sometimes.
Hemmingway is an online text editor. You can’t install it in your browser, and that’s probably a good thing since I think I would go into a downward spiral. It’ll show your readability level, adverbs, passive voice, unnecessary text, and hard to read sentences. While it’s not realistic to have NOTHING show up in its edits, you want it to be as easy to read as possible. (Unless you’re writing your senior thesis or something.)
Again, let’s see Hemmingway App in action using this same passage. You can see that it doesn’t like its own name, I’m at Grade 4, and I use NO PASSIVE VOICE. Someone give me a gold star. (Let’s ignore my ridiculously obnoxious not-at-all obvious adverb problem.)
3. Google Sheets
I consider the entire Google Suite to be the Holy Trinity of Cloud tech, but I am particularly grateful to Google Sheets. Not only has it completely eradicated Microsoft Excel from my life, but it’s helped me get my taxes in order. I pay quarterly taxes since I’m a super-professional freelance writer / full-time blogger. Quarterly taxes are basically the Tri-Wizard Tournament of the tax world.
Google Sheets is out here doing the Lord’s work with its free platform. I’m able to keep track of all my expenses, income, and deadlines in the same spot. Look, I’m not a tax professional. I’m not telling you this is the #1 best way to keep track of your money. Don’t call the IRS on me, please. But it works for me, and I’m sticking with it.
I create a new Sheet for every source of income: Blogging, Affiliate, Writing, etc. From there, I divide the lines into quarters. I have a final page for deductions and expenses, and another for my overall income/expenses. Is it a little messy? Perhaps. Does it get the job done? Yes. Here’s an example of my Google Sheets set up (with fake numbers, obviously).
Oh, PayPal, how do I love thee? Oh, let me count the ways: the mobile app, the easy invoicing, and the income reports.
My clients all work through PayPal, so I’m pretty much stuck with it. If you like another platform better, that’s cool. I won’t fight you on it. The main message here is that you need an easy invoicing platform. I like PayPal because it will format the invoice for you. You can make your own using Google Sheets or even Docs, but PayPal is legit. Not to mention most clients are already familiar with it.
Still not sold on the fees? Include them in your rate. Yep, charge your clients for them. Or be like me and just eat the costs because you hate confrontation. Check out the easy template below (ft. wishful thinking).
I’ve shouted it from the rooftops before, but I’ll do it again: you need a website for your business. I don’t care if your business only involves helping your Aunt Sally bag her groceries. YOU NEED A WEBSITE. Nobody will take you seriously otherwise, and it’s really cheap to get your own.
Please don’t just use a free website. These are just a giant billboard that tells the world you’re too cheap to afford a few dollars a month. I raised you better than this. Get yourself on over to my step-by-step guide for launching your own big girl domain for the price of a cup of coffee.
My entire online presence is my portfolio (oh god, I hope that doesn’t include my Harry Potter Tumblr). Even I have a website dedicated just to my writing portfolio and experience. It’s pretty simple, but it does have a few hints about my personality. (*ahem, ahem,* Jedi knight)
6. Turbo Tax
Remember when I told you I’m not a tax expert? I wasn’t kidding. Like I said before, I file quarterly. That basically means I send a nice wad of cash to the IRS every few months and pray it’s enough. During tax season, I have to complete my taxes just like everyone else.
As a freelancer, it’s all a mess of 1099s and MISC forms and I don’t know what the heck is going on. I’ve got student loans to pay, so I can’t afford a fancy tax professional to do it for me.
Turbo Tax has been rocking my independent taxes every year since I started, and it hasn’t steered me wrong. It makes it really easy to input all of your income sources, and it’s pretty affordable (under $100). 10/10 would recommend unless you have a fancy-schmancy tax pro who can do it for you.
7. Blue-Light-Blocking Glasses
Do you like seeing? If so, get yourself some blue-light-blocking glasses. Not only do they make you look super professional, but they’re also going to save your eyesight from that computer screen. Your laptop is not your friend. I used to get daily headaches from staring at the computer screen. I’m that girl with her phone brightness dimmed all the way down, my sensitivity is so extreme.
While you should also take regular breaks from the screen, these glasses will help ease that strain during those long stretches. They’ll also help you sleep better if you’re a late-night worker like myself. I got these $12 glasses from Amazon*, and they look so hip I wear them constantly. They remind me of the 3D movie glasses from middle school that everyone would pop the lenses from to take “nerdy” Myspace photos.
Here’s a photo of me rocking them. Notice how I don’t have a headache.
(*This is an affiliate link. That means I get a small percentage if you make a purchase at no extra cost to you. Yippee!)
If you’re not making contracts, well, you’d be like me a year ago. I was out here just taking peoples’ word for it like a complete noob. No matter how nice that client is in their first email, they’ll take advantage of you the second they get a chance. Save yourself the stress of tracking them down for $$$ and use a contract.
For contracts, I like HelloSign. It’s great for digital signing, and you can make a free account if you only need a few a contracts each month. Not sure how to make a contract? This guide has easy to use templates.
9. Spotify & Ambient Music
When you’re working at home, Spotify is basically your only coworker. She’s good company, so it’s okay. Unless you’re into ASMR like me, you probably like some kind of background music. Ambient music is sort of my kryptonite. I listen to it 24/7 like some kind of creep who can’t stand her own thoughts.
Unless you’re a crazy person who likes to work in absolute silence, you should try some of Spotify’s work mixes. I like this one with coffeeshop music, this one with Disney instrumentals, and this Parisian wonderland.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous and want to take a walk with me off the beaten playlist, I’ve got some untraditional recommendations. Work in the Gryffindor Common Room, inside the Millennium Falcon, or in a Scottish coffee house. Okay, I’ll go home.
(Yes, I have a playlist called My Inner Angst.)
Finally, you need a community to fall back on. These are the people you commiserate with, or even just the group you rant to about that client. You can find a local freelance group in your area, or you can take it online. I like to lurk in a few different communities online.
There are a few Facebook communities for self-employed freelancers, but I prefer Reddit. My favorite subreddits are /r/Freelance and /r/FreelanceWriters. Post your questions, listen to top advice, and hear other horror stories.
Tools for Freelancers
Whew, that was a lot. I hope this got your brain juices flowing with some good freelancer ideas. Your business deserves the best, so don’t make more work for yourself than you have to. From contracts to playlists, all of these small things add up to big income.
What are your favorite tools for freelancers? Are any of them on this list? Let me know what others you would add in the comments below. If you aren’t a freelancer yet, check out my guide for becoming a freelance writer or my list of best freelance gigs for recent grads. I get to work in my PJs, so you could say I’m living the American Dream.