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, working 9-to-5 for one company are over. 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 recent study by Freelancers Union and Upwork found that 36% of American workers (57.3 million people) and almost 50% of millennial workers are currently doing some type of freelance work. Their research suggests that by 2027, more than 50% of the US workforce will be freelancers and contract workers.
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. And the freelancing tools below definitely help contribute to that peace of mind.
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. In addition to the large, well-known freelance marketplaces like Upwork (developed from a merger of oDesk and Elance), Freelancer, and Guru, there are hundreds of other places you can find freelance work. Here are a few of my personal favorites that you may not have heard of:
PPH recently announced a new SuperTasker tool for “Digital tasks, super fast!” PPH users must apply separately to become “taskers” for SuperTasker. 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.
If you’re a graphic designer who’s not scared of a little healthy competition, this may be the perfect place for you. Rather than submitting bids for open projects or offering an hourly rate, designers submit their designs for specific contests and are paid if they win. It’s a great resource for branding, design work, and even web design.
More than just a freelance marketplace, Envato includes an entire ecosystem of sites where you can sell digital products and services including photos, music, video, website themes, templates, and more. Envato sites include ThemeForest, GraphicRiver, CodeCanyon, VideoHive, PhotoDune, 3DOcean, AudioJungle, ActiveDen, and Envato Studio (formerly Microlancer.com).
Sevendays aims to connect startups and nonprofits with freelancers. They currently don’t charge a commission or any other fees, and you don’t have to bid with other freelancers for the jobs, so they’re worth checking out for design, marketing, writing, editing, and other startup-centric freelance work. You can also upgrade for their Fastlane service, which guarantees that you’ll get 10 relevant job invitations per month.
Online tools for freelancers
As freelancers, we frequently need to handle our own accounting, legal issues, project management, marketing, and other tasks related to our business. And we all know how important it is to find the right balance between doing things yourself and outsourcing them to others. 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.
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’s new AI-driven website builder Dolphin, it’s easier than ever to set up your own website quickly and affordably. The system focuses particularly on the needs of creatives, freelancers, and small businesses, and can pull in a lot of your existing online information automatically and blend it together into one beautiful, professional website that’s sure to attract clients.
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.
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. They also have a great widget so you can put the Gumroad tools right on your existing website.
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.
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.
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 Due’s popular time tracking software for freelancers. The company also offers integration between your time tracking and invoices, and you can even use it to request and process credit card payments (Due will take a 2.8% fee). Time tracking is definitely one of those tasks that you shouldn’t have to pay for (a stopwatch or clock is free, after all), so if you’re looking for a longer list of legitimately free time trackers for freelancers, check out this comprehensive post from Capterra.
Productivity tools for freelancers
Expand your repertoire by learning new technical and creative skills with Tuts+ 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.
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 I’m working from. I’m currently in Thailand and I regularly work with people in the Philippines, Argentina, Guatemala, Ohio, and California.
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.
If you have found any other tools—online or otherwise—that have helped you as a freelancer, let us know in the comment section below.