As someone who truly loves her job, I would definitely argue that freelance life is the best life. I get to choose my hours and my assignments, and I can work from just about anywhere in the world. It’s no surprise to me that freelancers now make up 35 percent of the U.S. workforce. Freelance gives you boundless freedom and flexibility. Who wouldn’t want that?
Yet, freelancing comes with its own unique set of challenges. The biggest one for me? Keeping it all organized. As your own boss, you have to keep track of your deadlines, expenses, invoices, payments to the IRS and story ideas.
Not to mention, you really need to crack the whip on your own time management so you don’t get sucked into the endless void of Facebook or Twitter when you should be working.
But I’ve found some tools to help me better manage the business side — so I can focus on my hustle.
One of the biggest game changers for my freelance career was learning to manage my time. I used to work up against every single deadline (let’s be honest, sometimes I still do) instead of setting work hours for myself and sticking to them like a regular in-office job. It felt like I was working a lot, but once I started tracking my time, I realized I was wasting a lot of time browsing Facebook or refreshing my email every few minutes instead of maintaining periods of focused, dedicated work time.
Toggl makes it incredibly easy to track your time and increase your productivity. You set the timer when you start a project or activity and stop it when you are finished. It even allows you to identify which project and client you are working for so that you can better determine your hourly rate, which can be a godsend for freelancers who want to know which projects are really worth their time.
I particularly love their productivity pie charts, which help me break down my time and see where it’s going. Toggl helped me figure out that I needed to schedule more than just writing time. Pitching, emails, tracking payments and invoicing are all now part of my time logs.
Being a freelance writer means keeping track of tons of ideas and juggling lots of thoughts at once. It’s truly daunting to keep track of idea nuggets, fully formed pitch ideas, articles you want to read later, projects that need your attention before a looming deadline, new outlets you want to pursue, and so much more. Evernote is one of the only tools I’ve found that addresses the hectic mind of a freelancer and streamlines it into a sensible outline of creativity.
Evernote allows you to keep list after list, bookmark articles, set reminders, and organize all of this to your heart’s content. It generally keeps your freelance life moving forward in an organized fashion. I love using Evernote to separate online “notebooks” instead of sifting through the spiral-bound paper versions that litter my desk. It helps me keep all the important thoughts in one place.
Taxes are the bane of every freelancer’s existence. Personally, I struggle with keeping track of my work-related expenses, usually stashing relevant receipts in a desk drawer which I have to sift through come tax time. Anything without the paper trail? I’m usually making notes that get forgotten along the way. As an individual business however, it’s important to track every last expense, which is why Expensify is a truly great tool for freelancers.
Expensify lets you upload receipts by simply taking a picture with your phone, and it can sync with other accounting software, such as QuickBooks, so tax time isn’t such a pain. For freelancers who work with a team, Expensify makes it easy to reimburse for any on-the-job expenses, and its integrated travel tool makes travel expenses easy to account for.