Self-Employed? 5 Ways to Save Time and Money With Online Tools
Freelancing comes with a lot of perks but also a lot of responsibility. Self-employed people have plenty to keep track of between tax preparation, deadlines, organization, and finding time to seek out new gigs. A recent study from Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk found that 34% of American workers (53 million people) perform some type of freelance work, and research suggests that number will continue to rise.
Flexible hours, being your own boss, and choosing your own projects are just a few reasons why so many people are willing to take on the added responsibility of freelancing. The availability of individual health insurance plans has also made things easier for the self-employed. Whether freelance work is your main source of income or you just do some consulting on the side, the Internet has likely become your best friend, with the many apps and online tools out there to help you keep track of everything. Here are some of the best types of tools to save freelancers time and money.
1. Accounting and money management
Keeping the books is one of the most important duties of a freelancer. Luckily, these days you don’t have to keep track of everything on paper. Recently, Intuit announced QuickBooks Self-Employed. The platform can be used to connect financial accounts, track deductions, calculate taxes, and even organize comingled business and personal finances. Mint, FreshBooks, and Wave Accounting have also been touted as great money tools for freelancers.
2. Project management
Freelancers usually have a lot of clients and projects to keep track of at once, so a solid project management tool can be invaluable. Freelancers Union recommends Evernote for its unlimited note taking and archiving capabilities, and Trello, a free web-based application that is visual, intuitive, and allows for easy collaboration between multiple team members. MindMeister (if you like mind-mapping tools) and FreedCamp are also worth checking out.
For the frequently confusing legal needs of the self-employed, Docstoc is a great online source for a variety of professional and legal documents to manage your freelance activities or grow a small business. You can upload legal, business, financial, technical, and educational documents and share them as needed. The mobile app Shake is another popular legal tool that allows users to easily create, sign, and send legally binding agreements. Contract agreements for freelancing, as well as non-disclosures and contracts related to renting, loans, confidentiality, and buying and selling are available.
4. Time management
No one knows better than a freelancer that time is money. If you want to get a lot accomplished and still have free time to recharge, a good time management tool can help you get there. Harvest, for example, is a convenient tool that compiles detailed reports of the time distribution for your work. It also helps you create quick invoices by pulling data on hours and expenses from your projects. Another popular tool is RescueTime, which helps you track and analyze how you spend time on your computer. Toggl and Timely are useful for time tracking, an essential if you are billing clients by the hour.
Distractions are the scourge of the freelancer. Being your own boss, unfortunately, means it can be easy to procrastinate. That’s where a software tool like Focus Booster comes in. Designed to help you focus on the task at hand, the app uses the Pomodoro Technique, breaking up work into 25-minute sections separated by 5-minute breaks. Productive people also know the value of a to-do list. Teux Deux, a free mobile app, is great for those who appreciate minimal design, while Now Do This emphasizes completing tasks with ease.