Freelancing can be a lucrative endeavor for talented professionals in just about any industry. This career path allows you to build skills and take on new and exciting work for a variety of companies.
So, what's the catch? Without strong organizational skills and a business strategy, it's dangerously easy to lose track of projects, damage your reputation and stop getting jobs altogether. The good news is, there are numerous apps, websites and software solutions out there to help you avoid these issues.
If you're ready to take your freelance business to the next level, here are six essential tools for managing your clients and workload. [12 Tech Tools for Freelance Success]
A public website/portfolio
The first step in marketing yourself as a freelancer is to set up a public portfolio outlining your services and displaying your past work. This can be as simple as adding a few links or documents to your LinkedIn profile, or, if you really want to look like a pro, you can set up a personal website to showcase your résumé and work samples. You don't even need to know a lot about Web design, either — you can find plenty of predesigned templates online that will get you up and running quickly and easily. While you don't necessarily have to purchase a domain name (many website builders allow you to use a free personalized extension of their URL, such as sampledomain.wordpress.com), doing so may boost your professional image.
Project management software
When you're juggling multiple clients with various projects and deadlines, you're going to need a system to help keep you organized. A handwritten or digital master calendar is a good start, but a good project management software will help keep you on track and monitor your progress so your clients know what to expect. Some solutions offer basic to-do lists and task grouping functionality, while others let you set reminders, customize organization methods and even track time spent on each project. Business News Daily's project management software buyer's guidecan help you choose one that's right for you.
An accounting system
All of your clients probably have their own deadlines and procedures for submitting invoices, but you need a simplified way to keep track of the money you're earning from each of them. Whether you use a basic Excel spreadsheet or opt for software, recording each project and payment as it's completed will ensure your financial ducks are in a row come tax time.
Cloud-based document management
No matter what industry you're in, you're going to be dealing with a lot of documents as a freelancer. Contracts, invoices, legal agreements, tax forms — not to mention dozens of files for each of your clients and projects — will all need a secure, easily accessible place to live. Choosing a cloud-based system means you can access your files anywhere, anytime. Dropbox and Google Drive are free and are fine when you're starting out, but as you accumulate more clients and documents, a more professional solution with enhanced capabilities may be better for you.
A permanent backup solution
In today's world, running a business without a data backup solution means risking the loss or corruption of highly important and sensitive information. Cloud storage isn't perfect, and it's not always easy to recover a file you accidentally deleted or saved over. That's why having an additional permanent backup of all file versions is important, especially when you're dealing with multiple clients.
Video chat/messaging service
Emails and phone calls are standard, trusted methods of communication, but there's nothing quite like a face-to-face meeting to build up a professional relationship. You likely won't be visiting the offices of each of your clients, but you can get the next best thing with a great videoconferencing software. Look for one with mobile options and chat capabilities, so you and your clients can connect whenever, wherever and however is most convenient.
For more tips on running a professional freelance business, visit Business News Daily's guide.