Did you know that marketers regularly use over 100 software programs!?
When I read this number I thought to myself: "That can't possible be true. There's no way that marketers use an average of 100 software programs!"
But as it turns out, it's true. I went back and looked at all the different pieces of software I've used over the last three months and this is what I came up with:
I've used 94 software programs!!
This list includes all the programs I pay a monthly or annual fee to have, free programs I have accounts with, and free options that just help me do business every single day. When all is said and done, to run my freelancing business, I use A LOT of programs, which means that there's a good chance you will need a lot of programs too.
While this average does specifically refer to marketers, and you might be sitting there thinking:
"Well, I'm not a marketer so this doesn't really apply to me..."
The reality is that you ARE a marketer. Maybe you offer writing, graphic design, and web design services to your clients, but how do you get those clients?
You MARKET yourself and your business.
Therefore, you're a marketer, my friend.
This means that as you're launching, building, and growing your freelancing business, you're going to have a lot of decisions to make when it comes to the kind of software you use to actually make your business run.
How do you choose between all the options? How do you know what you need and what you don't need?
In this blog post, we're going through five key pieces of software and tools that will help you in different areas of your business!
These areas will include:
These are five MAJOR areas you need to make sure you have covered in your business, and these are my software and tool recommendations:
Yep, it's without the letter "e."
Toggl has been my go-to tool for all things time management over the last couple of years and it has really put my time into perspective from a business and personal standpoint.
This platform is a simple and easy solution to help you increase your productivity, track your minutes and hours, send reports to clients (so they never question where you're spending your time), and stay organized with how much time you actually have in the day to get things done.
There's nothing worse than creating a to-do list only to realize that there's no way you can get through it all!
Some ways that Toggl makes it easy for you to keep track of your time is with their:
It literally takes one click to start the timer. AND, it keeps going even if you accidentally close your internet window!
PRO TIP: For the first little while, put a sticky note on your computer reminding you to turn it on. Like anything else, you need to develop the habit of always turning it on when it's time to start working.
If you're anything like me, sometimes that sticky note trick doesn't always work. We're human and we forget things. If you forget to turn on your timer, you have the option of manually inputting your time. So, if a client sends you an email and you forget to turn it on while you respond, you can just input it later!
Toggl allows you to integrate your account with other software you might be using in your business. This could be Google Calendar, Asana, and more! That way you're not always flipping back and forth!
Snag my Client Acquisition Framework and find out my best tips for landing your next client in just one week!
If you're sitting there wondering why you would use a platform like Toggl to track your time, here are some ideas:
Track your hourly for clients:
Clients want to know where time is going. Simple as that! They want to know that you're working on tasks that actually move the needle forward in their business versus the tasks that would just be nice to get done. They want to know the majority of your time is being spent on the "make or break" stuff in their business. That's where Toggl comes in.
You now have the ability to organize your time by adding tasks and projects to your different time entries. You can then pull a report for the two weeks, month, etc, that your invoice is for and provide it as proof to your client that you worked what you're claiming.
Be able to accurately quote your pricing:
One of the biggest challenges freelancers struggle with is knowing what to quote because they don't know how much time they will need for a certain task. Toggl helps solve that problem by allowing you to track your time for each task.
Once you have tracked your time, you will then know what to quote the next client. So, while you may need to "wing it" with the first client, the next one will be much easier because you'll know what to quote.
See where your time is going:
Do you feel that there aren't enough hours in the day? A lot of people do. One of the best ways to figure out where your time is going AND if you're actually spending your time on tasks that are going to help grow your business, is to take an audit of every minute of your day.
You can do this for a few days, or even a week, and then at the end of it you can sit down to see where your time is going. Write all of your tasks down and see where you're potentially wasting time and where you should put more effort into tasks that actually move the needle forward for you!
When working with clients, things can get a little hard to keep track of. You have them sending you emails with new tasks, asking for updates, and let's not forget that you have your own tasks to stay on top of for your business.
So, how the heck do you keep track of everything AND make sure clients stay updated without having to live in your inbox for hours every single day?
Asana is an amazing task management tool that helps you organize clients, their tasks, due dates, progress, and much more.
There are obviously multiple areas of a business and if you have a hand in multiple areas, you're going to have different projects to keep track of. The best part? You can add tasks inside of these projects. Your client can go into Asana to see what you've checked off as complete and what still needs to get done!
Gone are the days of someone claiming they sent you something when really they didn't!
Both you and your client can attach files and links to the corresponding projects and tasks, which helps do multiple things:
It keeps all information in one place versus multiple email threads
There is a paper trail of what has been exchanged and what has been left out
PRO TIP: If your client decides to send you a file or request a task via email, make sure you ask them to go to Asana and put it in there. That way, again, everything stays in one place and there's no confusion.
One of my favourite parts about Asana is the ability to go back and forth with clients right in the comments of a task. It's very easy to misplace an email or forget which thread holds what information. By tagging your client and including all comments, instructions, etc, right in the task that it's regarding, you can review information and know exactly what's needed without having to sift through dozens of emails.
No one has time for that!
As a small business owner, you're going to need to keep track of your income and your expenses. Tax time is no joke and the less organized you are, the more expensive it'll be when it comes time to file.
Quickbooks has been my go-to solution for keeping track of all my invoices and expenses. It offers multiple options in terms of features and pricing, and their customer service is amazing.
Quickbooks offers amazing templates that you can choose from to send invoices to your clients. This will help you avoid wasting valuable time creating invoices every single month because you will have templates to pull from and you can duplicate previous invoices! You can then just make a couple quick changes and send them off!
If you have clients on retainer and their payments are the same every single month, you can set up invoices to automatically go out on a certain day of the month. It's like having a mini Virtual Assistant send your invoices. Next thing you know, you'll have a paid invoice and you didn't even have to send it yourself.
Bank Account Link:
You can setup your Quickbooks to link to your business bank account and categorize your expenses. This will allow you to put all of your documents together for tax time in just minutes instead of hours.
When you make a purchase through your business accounts, Quickbooks will take stock of it and put it into the right category. You can then pull a report and provide the information to your accountant.
Snag my Client Acquisition Framework and find out my best tips for landing your next client in just one week!
At one point or another, we all need some kind of graphics created. Whether that is for our own businesses or for our clients, it's going to happen.
Canva is an amazing option because:
It is inexpensive
They have amazing plug-and-play templates
All your designs and uploads are stored for future use and edits
It's quite easy to use
While Canva doesn't have as many options as PhotoShop, you can't beat the cost of it AND it's ease of use. Canva is also constantly adding new features and updates to make creation better and faster for their users. Unless you are an experienced graphic designer who is offering high-ticket services, Canva would be perfect for all of your designing.
There are actually MANY people out there who specialize in Canva alone because of it's quality. One of the best people to follow for Canva tips is Nicholette over at Nicholette Styles!
She has fantastic tips on her social media, an amazing shop where you can purchase Canva templates, and a ton of additional resources to help you with your Canva designing.
The Content Library:
One of the best features Canva has is the ability to host all of your designs and previous uploads. This means that if there's a stock image you like to use over and over, it'll just be there for you to use whenever you want.
They also keep a backlog of ALL your designs, which means that you don't need to save a specific kind of file to be able to make changes down the line. You simply open up the file they have on their platform and make changes right there. It's seriously a game changer in terms of time AND space on your computer! I mean, let's be real, if you can host something anywhere else other than your computer, you're probably going to!
They are constantly adding new templates into their system that you can take and use! All you have to do is drag and drop your own pictures and change the words. Done and done!
The real reason I LOVE this feature is because sometimes you just can't think of a design. I will go into their template library and scroll through their designs for inspiration. I still create my own but it helps get the creative juices flowing.
If you want to give Canva a try, you can go ahead and use my affiliate link (https://canva.7eqqol.net/samanthastemarie)!!
Zoom has been my GO-TO tool for video conferencing with clients for years! The reason for this is because you should always be communicating with your clients regularly, but WITHOUT providing them with your private phone number. No client should have access to your phone number because:
No matter how much they tell you they respect boundaries and practice work/life balance, something will happen that will cause them to feel the need to text you at 9:00pm on a Tuesday
When a client steps over the line and tries to contact you outside of work hours, it immediately pulls you back into work mode. It's already difficult to work and live in the same space. Don't make it even harder in yourself
Zoom allows you to communicate with your client face-to-face on a weekly basis, or whenever the two of you decide to have meetings.
The platform is completely FREE as long as you only have two attendees. This means that you can have unlimited meetings with your 1:1 clients without actually having to pay for anything. #winning
Should you have more than two people on a Zoom call, the platform will still allow you to do the call but you will need to stick with 40 minutes or less! This is still quite a bit of time for a meeting and therefore you can often still get by with a free account.
Being able to share your screen is key when you're working with a client. You want them to be able to see what you're working on, troubleshoot an issue with you, etc. We are visual beings, which means that being able to see what someone is talking about can often be needed.
There's nothing worse than someone trying to explain something that you could easily just have look at and grasp in a minute or two. It's such a time saver!
Those are the five!
Whether you're just getting started or have been freelancing for a while, having the right tools for your business is key. Over the years I have tried hundreds and hundreds of tools. Both with clients and on my own! During this time, I've discovered what's actually worth using and what's just smoke and mirrors.
These five tools are the only ones that have truly stood the test of time! What do I mean by that? These are the only tools that I have used since day one of my business... and still use today!
**This blog post contains affiliate links that allow me to receive a small commission should you choose to purchase the item.**
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