Lists of the best mobile productivity apps for freelancers are nothing new. The ironic part of most of those lists is that they give you dozens of apps of every variety to sort through, which isn’t very… productive.
As freelancers and remote workers ourselves, our team has looked at and used hundreds of apps over the years. We’ve narrowed down our list to the apps we come back to over and over again because they save time and help us make more money.
To help you be even more efficient, we’ve broken the list down into phases from marketing your freelance business through sending that final invoice, and given you research-backed life hacks to get the most out of each of them.
Market Your Freelance Services & Get Leads
Unless you’ve been in business for years and are blessed with an endless list of personal referrals that convert to real project leads, you’ll need to market your business. These days, most of that marketing happens online through your website, email marketing, and social media. The problem? Unless your business is online marketing, you can spend hours of un-billable time producing mediocre results that don’t drive sales.
Enter three of our favorite marketing productivity apps for freelancers:
The IFTTT app makes managing marketing tasks you do over and over work auto-magically, saving your precious minutes and hours for higher value work. Added a new contact to your phone? Get a reminder to follow up with them tomorrow. Updating your profile pic on Facebook? Change it on Twitter automatically. Want to repost your Instagram content to Pinterest? Consider it done. With integrations for more than 600 apps, IFTTT connects the digital dots for your business. Make your own “recipes” for tasks you want to automate, or browse ones made by other users.
This app makes email marketing a cinch with simple integrations for the lead and contact forms on your website, beautiful and easy-to-brand templates, straightforward list management, and tons of helpful content on how to market yourself better with email.
Best of all? If your list of contacts is under 2,000, it’s all free. We’d recommend starting your set up on a computer, and then you can use the app to add a new contact you’ve just met, send an introductory emails to them in seconds, see how your email campaigns are performing, and more.
Posting regularly to social media accounts like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest is a great marketing choice for your freelance business. It can also be a huge time suck, since logging on to social media often means at least 30 minutes of distracted scrolling that’s probably not adding much value to your business.
A mobile productivity app like Buffer can help you manage your social channels much more efficiently, and save you time by helping you schedule and publish posts to multiple channels without having to log in to each one.
Life Hack Alert: Photography is often the reason businesses and freelancers put off marketing. If the thought of sourcing images for your website or social media accounts is keeping you from getting started on these channels, you need to check out Unsplash, a free resource for high quality photography. It’s what we use for the Workbase blog, and with a catalog of thousands of photos and new ones added every day, they probably have something to suit your business, too. Need another reason to click? Posts and web pages that include images receive 94% more views than those without.
Propose the Work & Seal the Deal
Writing project proposals can be an incredibly time consuming task for the freelancer — and if you’ve got paid work on you to-do list, it often gets pushed to the back of the line.
Proposify has streamlined the proposal process with well-designed templates for various types of projects, content you can reuse between proposals, team collaboration options, and a process for approvals (including the ability to accept a deposit). Try it free for 14 days next time you need to send a proposal to a potential client.
With their mobile app, you’ll get instant notifications when a client opens your proposal or signs off so you don’t have to keep that eagle eye on your inbox.
Manage Your Freelance Projects Efficiently
For the solo freelancer, Trello is a flexible and free project management tool that you can get started with in a matter of minutes. Create boards for each client or project with task cards, or go a little further and break things up into “Queued,” “In Progress,” and “Complete.”
If you’re a freelancer who regularly works on projects with others, like graphic designers, web developers, or photographers, Workbase gives you a one-stop spot to get everyone on the same page about tasks, timelines, and project progress.
Life Hack Alert: Know when to pick up the phone. Productivity apps are amazing and can save you hours of time, but you also need to be able to recognize when technology is getting in your way. Complex or nuanced conversations — such as navigating a disagreement on project scope — are best handled the old-fashioned way. In fact, research has shown that only 7% of a message’s meaning comes from the words themselves. So trying to use email, text, or in-app messaging for everything may leave you and your clients frustrated and lead to misunderstandings.
One of the biggest challenges of freelancing is managing your time effectively, which is different than just tracking your hours. Especially if you work from home, it’s easy to blend work time and personal time. Responding to client emails while you do the laundry or fixing a quick lunch might seem like a great idea, but unfortunately study after study has found that multitasking is a fast track to a lack of productivity.
So how do you organize your time and keep your work life and personal life from blending into one endless string of time? Use the Pomodoro technique. This simple system has you divide your day into blocks of time where you focus on one task at a time.
When a block of time (called a “pomodoro”) ends, you get a short break. Put together a few blocks, and you get a longer break. The Pomodoro technique is also great for getting started on a project you’ve been putting off since it gives you a small amount of time to focus on. By the time 25 minutes are up you’ll have made progress and it’ll be much easier to keep momentum.
Our favorite Pomodoro timer? The Pomodone mobile app has an oh-so clean look and the ability to integrate with other apps like Trello, so you can choose a task from your list to focus on, and track your work hours to it.
Life Hack Alert: Interviews with some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs show a clear pattern: the importance of a morning routine. So before you open any apps for the day, check email, or do anything else, spend some time mentally organizing. Taking just 15 minutes at the start of your work day to look over your to-do list to plan and prioritize the tasks that will do the most for your business will keep you grounded and on track throughout the day.
Invoice & Handle Collections
For many freelancers the money side of running a business is the most tedious. Transitioning from client service to collections can feel awkward, but managing project scope for fixed-bid work, and invoicing regularly for hourly work is how you keep your cash flow moving so you can stay in business.
One of our favorite productivity apps, Harvest not only helps you track time, manage project budgets, and create invoices, it can also send automatic payment reminders if an invoice goes past due. It’s like having an Accounts Payable department that politely reminds your clients about invoices on a regular schedule until they’re paid up, taking the burden of sending that awkward email off of you.
Life Hack Alert: Studies show your business is much more likely to fail if your payments are delayed past 30 days. Make sure to invoice clients at least monthly, even for fixed bid projects (just make your billing process and installments clear at the outset of the project). Having a steady invoicing schedule will help even out your cash flow, and smooth out one of the most challenging parts of freelance life — the lack of a regular paycheck.
Handle Tax Time Like a Boss
April 15 looms large as every freelancer’s most hated day of the year, but tax time doesn’t have to feel like doomsday. You should track things like income, miles, and expenses throughout the year instead of turning into an epic task you stress out and drop everything for once a year.
Plus, waiting for a whole year to tally up business expenses is not only inefficient, but it also probably means you’ll miss some receipts you could have claimed as tax deductions because you forgot about them.
Do yourself a favor, open a separate business bank account to easily keep your tax deductible expenses separate from personal purchases, and sign up for QuickBooks (plans start at just $5/month, which you can write off), download their mobile app and set aside 3-4 hours a month to reconcile expenses and miles.
Life Hack Alert: If you hate accounting, but can’t afford to hire an accountant to do your books, incentivize yourself to get it done by pairing it with an activity you like. Buy yourself that favorite fancy caffeinated beverage, or treat yourself to a glass of wine when you’re finished. Research shows that bundling activities we don’t want to do (exercise, taxes, getting up early) with a treat makes us much more likely to actually get them done.
When paired with a solid set of habits, mobile productivity apps like Workbase can be a major boost for your efficiency and the bottom line of your freelance business from marketing through tax time, so make sure you’re not missing out by heading over to your phone’s app store today.