Published on 25th Feb., 2016

5 Free Tools to Help Keep Freelance Productivity High and Overhead Low

Hello, fellow freelancer! Congratulations on joining a growing revolution of freelance professionals who enjoy a more creative, open, flexible environment than a traditional workplace can provide.

While the freedom of self-employment is almost gift enough in itself, a freelancer also has to make money in order to continue living the dream.

Thanks to a plethora of apps and services geared toward increasing productivity and helping you to do-it-all-yourself, it’s easier than ever to keep freelancing costs low while producing high-quality, professional work. While many of these tools also have a paid option, the free versions can get you well on your way.

Here we’ve compiled a list of 5 free tools to help keep your freelance business overhead costs low and productivity high.

Google Docs

Finally, there’s a free word processing application that allows you to create digital documents that are compatible with a majority of devices and operating systems. Remember when you had to shell out hundreds of dollars just to create a text document or a spreadsheet that you could share with someone else? Sure, we had Wordpad, but a Wordpad document has never been considered an acceptable format for a final piece of work.

Behold, the Google Doc. A free word processing application that comes along with your Google (or Gmail) account, Google Docs is very similar to Microsoft Word and has very similar functionality. As an added bonus, you can easily share a Google Doc with another person without having to attach it to an email, as well as co-edit the same version of a document with a team of people in real-time. No more version control issues! Additionally, if you have a client who isn’t using Google Docs yet, you’re still compatible -- you can save your Google Doc in Word or PDF format and email it along just as you would a Word doc, and you can also view a Word doc within Google Docs.

But wait, there are more free Google gifts for you -- Google also makes Google Sheets (similar to Excel), Google Slides (similar to PowerPoint) and so much more.

Learn more about Google Docs.

2. Toggl

As freelancers, we enjoy the freedom of unstructured work time. But how do we make the best of that time? Toggl is a free online time tracking tool that assists with time management. Simply type what you’re doing and hit start, and the Toggl timer stays running in a tab of your browser or in the background so that you can easily see how long you’ve been working on a certain task. It’s fun and enlightening to see how much time (or how little time) it actually takes to get a task done. The timer function is also a great help when it comes to billing hours as well as estimating how long a future task might take to complete.

Learn more about Toggl.

3. Medium

A big part of the freelance writing game nowadays is blogging. Some of us are blogging pros while others may just be touching on the idea of creating a blog. Good news for all of us -- there’s a free, easy-to-use blogging platform called Medium, which was founded by the founders of Twitter. Think of Medium as a long-form version of Twitter -- you have the same advantages of building followership, but there’s no restriction on blog length.

Where Medium lacks in flexibility in regards to the format of your blog -- as you’re limited to the format that the platform’s creators think is best -- it makes up for in ease of use as it allows a user to create a blog in minutes. Medium is becoming more and more widespread in its use by individuals for personal blogs as well as by businesses for company blogs. Ever wanted to try your hand at blogging or see if it might work for a client of yours? With virtually no upstart time, you can have a new blog today.

Learn more about Medium.

4. HARO

Now that you’ve created a freelance writing empire based on free tools, it’s time to promote your work to the world. PR might not be your forte, but there are some very simple, free ways to gain valuable exposure for your work or for your clients without having to employ an agency. HARO, an acronym for Help A Reporter Out, was started by PR guru Peter Shankman to connect reporters with sources. It’s a daily email digest that comes to your inbox three times a day, listing press opportunities for TV, newspaper, magazine, website, blog stories and more. HARO also provides an email address so that you can pitch your work for a particular story.

As any good freelance writer knows, a compelling, relevant, well-written pitch is most likely to get a reporter’s attention. So although it’s not guaranteed that the reporter will pick your work for his or her story, a lot of great, free press has been secured through the use of HARO.

Learn more about HARO.

5. Journo Portfolio

You’ve done some great work. It’s time to show off that work in a modern way that will catch the eye of prospective clients.

Journo Portfolio is an online portfolio service that allows you to very easily and quickly create a personalized portfolio website to display your best work to the world. As they always have, prospective clients and employers want to see a writer’s best writing samples. But we’re starting to see the PDF files and Word doc attachment days fall behind us, and the online portfolio become standard. It’s never been easier to create one--even without website design experience. The free version of Journo Portfolio includes 10 free articles and a .journoportfolio domain, and it allows you to easily showcase your work and arrange your pieces in a sleek, clean, attractive format.

Learn more about Journo Portfolio.

The world of freelance writing is more rewarding than ever before. And although the ability to work on a flexible schedule instead of sit in an office cubicle is rewarding enough in itself, we can also make it profitable. With free tools like these and the many, many others out there, we can be our creative selves while also maintaining business savvy and keeping overhead low.

Mia McPherson is a freelance writing professional with 12 years of experience in writing, editing and marketing. Mia is an Essence Best-Selling author, MBA and currently specializes in technology content creation. She is passionate about community involvement and never sitting in another cubicle again.

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