A whole new world of tools for freelancers is bringing tremendous opportunity and change. Thanks to the internet, people can live and work in new and exciting ways.
The best thing about these online tools for freelancers is that they make working for yourself a little less scary. Now you can find freelance work, manage your time and your finances, and boost your productivity and client list in even more affordable, efficient ways. Read on for our list of the best places to find freelance work and our favorite online tools for freelancers.
The changing world of freelance work
The days of being bound to a single career and working for one company are over, with more and more of us choosing to ditch the 9-5 for good. For better and for worse, traditional full-time jobs are being replaced by project-based, single-task, and hourly work done by independent contractors, remote workers, and freelancers. A 2021 study by Upwork found that 36% of American workers (70 million people) and 51% of post grad workers are currently doing some type of freelance work.
The most common reasons people freelance are “to earn extra money” and for the schedule “flexibility” , according to the Freelancing in America study. Other benefits of freelancing include being able to work from anywhere, (including from home and while traveling), and being able to choose work based on personal interests.
While this shift obviously comes with some downsides (fewer benefits, less security), studies also find that freelancers are happier with their new careers and actually feel more secure having lots of different clients rather than depending on just one large company.
Tools to find freelance work online
Many freelancers never meet their clients in person. Hiring, project management, delivery of work, and payments are all possible online. As well as creating your own freelancer website, there are hundreds of other places you can find freelance work. In this section, I’ll share a few of my personal favorites you may not have heard of. But first, a note about finding freelance work online.
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How much does it cost to find work on freelance sites?
While lots of people start out on freelance marketplaces like Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr, almost all high-earning freelancers have their own portfolio website where they’re in control of their content. This is because all the big third-party platforms take a cut of your earnings in return for you finding work through their site and it’s often “a race to the bottom” with lots of freelancers offering to work at unrealistically low prices just to win jobs. If you do successfully secure a client project, the exact amount you will take home when you’ve done the work will vary depending on the platform, their fee structure, and how much you earn.
For example, PeoplePerHour takes a 20% commission on earnings below £250 and 7.5% between £250 and £5000, and so on. Upwork uses a sliding scale, charging freelancers 20% on the first $500 they earn through each client, then 10% on earnings up to $10,000 and 5% on earnings above this amount. So on Upwork, it pays to keep working with the same customers.
That’s why most high-earning freelancers prefer to have their own website to find clients—and why we recommend making your own ASAP. With your own website, you can choose what to include in your freelance contract and how much you should charge for freelance work too. That said, freelancer platforms can still be a valuable string to your bow if you can justify paying their fees, especially while you’re just starting out. Just do your research so you know what to expect.
With this in mind, here are some of the most popular online marketplaces for finding freelance work:
The main PeoplePerHour site is a great place to find freelance work in design, website and app development, writing, editing, translation, marketing, social media, photo, video, and audio as well as research, accounting, and administrative jobs. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to pay a percentage of your earnings to them.
Envato is an entire ecosystem of sites where you can sell digital products and services including photos, music, video, website themes, templates, and more. There are two options, Envato Marketplace and Envato Elements:
- Anyone can create a profile and upload their work for sale on the Envato Marketplace. You can either sell your work as Exclusive or Non-Exclusive. Exclusive authors pay lower fees (12.5% – 37.5% of each sale) but according to Envato, this means that “you cannot sell, distribute, or even give away for free your items (or any related items) outside of Envato”—Envato owns the rights to it. The more you sell, the lower your fees but keep in mind: to get the lowest fee of 12.5% you need to make $75,000 worth of sales! You can list your work as Non-Exclusive but you’ll pay 55% in fees on every sale. Author payments are made once a month and you need a minimum balance of $50 to receive payments via PayPal or Payoneer, and $500 to get them via SWIFT. Note that you may also have to pay fees to these third-party platforms too.
- Envato Elements is a marketplace customers can subscribe to for a monthly fee. Creatives can apply to submit their work to the platform and if successful, receive a percentage of the revenue from each of their items that is downloaded by subscribers. This percentage is calculated using a “subscriber share” model so it can be difficult to work out how much money you might actually make, and you only get a percentage of the profits per download of your work.
Creative Market is an online marketplace where designers can create shops and sell their pre-made digital design products like fonts, graphics, website themes and 3D models. Unlike on Envato, there’s no exclusivity clause, so you can sell your digital designs elsewhere. Customers can buy licences to use your designs in their personal and commercial projects. Designers with shops on the platform pay around 40% of each sale to Creative Market but exclusions apply and this depends on taxes in your country. You can choose to receive your earnings by eCheck/ACH (free), PayPal or Wire, and if eCheck/ACH isn’t available in your country Creative Market will cover 100% of your PayPal fees so there’s always a free way to get paid.
Note: Fees and terms on freelance marketplaces are subject to change. And although we have done our best to make sure that the details above are correct at the time of writing, always double check on the marketplace’s website before you sign up.
Other freelance sites: Fiverr, DesignCrowd, WeWorkRemotely, and OnSite.
Online tools for freelancers
The following list of apps and online tools for freelancers can help you stay on top of your work whether you’re a location-independent entrepreneur traveling the world or an e-commerce website owner working from home. You can also check out our review of virtual assistants!
Marketing tools for freelancers
You can find work with online marketplaces, but it’s really important for freelancers to have their own websites, too. That way you always have an independent platform that you control, where you can attract new clients and share your skills. With Jimdo, it’s easier than ever to set up your own portfolio website or online store quickly and affordably. Just answer a few questions about your business and we’ll build a professional website that’s tailored to you—complete with text and images so you’re ready to go! The best part? With Jimdo, you keep 100% of your sales. Because it’s your work, not ours.
Need a bit of inspiration? Check out these beautiful examples of websites built with Jimdo.
Newsletters are a great way to grow your network. They help you keep in touch with previous clients, share updates about new services you offer and more. With the Goodbits extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, it’s never been easier to curate, create, and send newsletters. It works well with MailChimp and even helps you improve your marketing efforts with in-depth analytics.
Want to up your game on social media to get more attention from customers? Buffer is a social media scheduling tool that lets you schedule a batch of posts in advance so you can keep your social media presence up to date—even when you’re not online. Buffer works with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn (Pro users can schedule posts to Pinterest too) and you can manage up to three social media accounts on the free plan.
Looking for a creative way to stand out, say thank you, or just generally delight your customers? Biteable is a smart little app that lets you create quirky animated videos without any experience. Although you’ll need a paid plan to download and keep your videos, you can try it out for free and I’d recommend at least giving it a go. It’s a lot of fun and you’ll be surprised how professional the results can be!
If you sell digital products like ebooks, music, videos, or software, you need Gumroad. Just upload your digital products and they’ll take care of the rest, with secure payment processing and low fees.
For more branding, check out our review of tools to create a business card.
Financial tools and freelance billing software
Keep track of your billable hours, import and manage expenses, and send invoices in any currency with FreshBooks. You can even set it up to send your clients automatic payment reminders if they’re late. Best of all, you can use FreshBooks while on the go with their free iOS and Android apps. FreshBooks also integrates with many of the other apps and services you might be using for your business including PayPal, Envato, and Fundbox.
Wave has gathered a loyal following in recent years and is widely regarded as the best free invoicing tool for freelancers on the market. It’s a cloud accounting app you can use to manage your income and expenses, send invoices to clients, and take payments. Wave does have its limitations, you’ll need a paid plan to access features like payroll and bookkeeping, for example. But for a free app, it’s still the best solution out there for self-employed people and freelancers on a budget.
If you’re looking for a UK-based accounting app, this does it all—time tracking, invoicing, cashflow management, late payment reminders, tax reminders, and more. They also have a UK call center so if that’s important to you, then Freeagent is a good option.
Late payments from clients are unfortunately a common problem for freelancers. In the past, there wasn’t much you could do about it other than switch to ramen noodles for dinner while you waited for payments. But now you can get paid for any outstanding invoices instantly with an advance from Fundbox. Of course, there is a fee involved but if you’re in a jam and you need money fast, this is a huge help. Keep in mind that if you don’t pay the loan back promptly, you could end up being financially worse off than before.
Every freelancer knows how important it is to keep track of your time accurately, for your own benefit as well as for your clients. You can do that for free with Toggl’s popular time tracking software for freelancers. The best thing about Toggl is its simplicity, just sign up, download the browser extension, and click to turn on your timer when you start working on a project. You can record, organize, and view your time entirely by project, client, or team member (if you have them). The Reports feature lets you generate detailed reports and export them as CSV or PDF files—great if you’re working on an hourly rate for a client and want to give them an itemised breakdown of your hours. While you can upgrade to get more features, the free plan has all the functionality you’ll need to get started.
No matter how established you are, you need to be prepared for the ups and downs of freelance life. Without a guaranteed paycheck every month, managing your money is even more important when you’re self-employed. This budgeting app has everything you need to manage your money, pay off debts, cut your business costs, and save for the future.
Productivity tools for freelancers
With over 100,000 courses on its platform, Udemy has the world’s biggest collection of online courses. You take up pretty much anything, from learning basic bookkeeping to finding an expert copywriting course. While you might get training in a traditional 9-5 job, when you’re freelancing those costs (and responsibilities) lie with you. Online learning is a great way to upskill yourself and continue your professional development so you can win higher paying clients and offer more value to your existing customers. The best part? All courses can be completed at your own pace, from home. Prices start at $12.99 per course and they have regular sales too, so it pays to keep an eye on their site.
Expand your repertoire by learning new technical and creative skills with EnvatoTuts+ training courses, ebooks, and free tutorials. Training topics include business, computer skills, game development, web design, coding, and design. Access to paid training costs $15-$30 per month but you can try it out for free for 14 days.
Scheduling meetings with busy clients can be surprisingly time-consuming—and even more annoying if short meetings and phone calls start interrupting your work time. That’s why we love this online meeting planner. You start by setting your preferences (no meetings during precious morning coffee time, for example) and then share a link with anyone who wants to set up a meeting with you. Calendly takes care of the rest and automatically adds the meeting to your calendar, so you don’t have to deal with any of the back-and-forth. If you upgrade to a paid plan, you can integrate Calendly with payment providers like Stripe and PayPal so you can take payments for consultations or discovery calls at the time of booking. Great if you’re fed up of losing money due to client “no-shows.”
Another app to take the hassle out of meetings, Doodle helps you find a meeting time that works for everyone that needs to be there. Just sign up (there’s a 14 day free trial and paid plans start at $4.49/month) suggest a time, invite your participants, and pick a time that works for everyone. Done!
Figure It Out (FIO)
No more time zone confusion! Enter the locations you’d like to keep track of and FIO gives you the current time in all of them, every time you open a new tab in Chrome. This super simple Chrome extension helps make sure I never miss a deadline or meeting, no matter where in the world you’re working from.
Boomerang for Gmail
If you use Gmail, this free app is an absolute steal! Just add it to your Gmail (there’s a browser extension plus Android and iOS apps) to schedule emails to send later, set follow up reminders so you never forget to nudge a potential client, and filter your emails to keep your inbox clear.
Don’t use Gmail? Don’t worry! Unlike Boomerang, Mailbutler works with lots of different email providers including Mac Mail and Outlook. The free plan includes the amazing “Undo Send” feature (for anyone who’s ever pressed “Send” on an email only to instantly regret it—guilty!) but you’ll need a paid plan to get options like “Snooze” and “Send Later.” But the free option is worth downloading for “Undo Send” alone. Hallelujah!
This free screen recording app is an add-on for Chrome (Google’s web browser). You can use it to replace hundreds of rambling emails with a short, simple video recording of your computer screen. A great way to walk clients through a new design or piece of writing you’re working on, send briefs to colleagues or contractors, or create explainer videos instead of writing long, detailed documents. If you’re looking for a screen recording app with more features, check out Loom.
Full Page Screen Capture for Chrome
Not to be confused with Screencastify, this is a deliciously simple app that makes collecting work for your portfolio easy. Ever done work for a client—whether artwork, web design, or copy—watched it go live on their website, and proudly added a link to your portfolio, only to find the entire webpage has changed a few months later? Full Page Screen Capture lets you save a screen grab of an entire webpage (not just what you can fit on your screen) as a PDF or JPEG and save it to your computer, so you can immortalize your work for all of time! And if you have a Jimdo website, you can upload the file to your Image Library and use it as a portfolio piece on your website.
Looking for the best video streaming tools for freelancers or need to schedule a video call with a client? Check out our comparison of video tools for small businesses.
Freelancing is worth the risk
If you’re still struggling to make it as a freelancer, don’t give up. It may not be as stable as a traditional 9-to-5 job but the independence and freedom of doing the work you want, whenever and wherever you want, is worth the risk.