I love a good app. The way a fresh notepad might invigorate your motivation to take notes, an app that improves the way I create, compile, or communicate inspires me to do what freelancers do best— create, compile, and communicate. Hey. That's something—the three Cs of freelance. Maybe in the following article.
Today, I want to share some of the apps I use for my day-to-day operations. If you're new to the freelance game or thinking of taking the leap, this list is for you (or, hey, if you work in an office, you might find some of these apps helpful as well).
New freelancers often don't consider the responsibility that comes with a new client. The client will likely provide you with sensitive information like passwords and credit card numbers. As a freelancer, you'll also have your sensitive information to manage. Believe me, the number of websites you sign up for will skyrocket. It would be best if you had a safe place to store it all.
1Password is a password (and other sensitive info) manager that syncs to all your devices. I use 1Password every day and its helped me organize all my login info for my business and my clients' business.
Must-have feature: 1Password allows you to create "vaults," which organize your info by client or type of info. Whenever I gain a new client, one of the first things I do is create a new vault for them in 1Password.
Price: $3.99/month or $35.99/year
Get in the habit of documenting everything, not just meeting notes — step-by-step guides for solved problems, new processes you created, ideas for future projects. Write it all down. Future-you will need it one day.
Notion allows you to create anything from a company wiki to a lightweight database directly on the blank canvas. I use it for code documentation, project notes, Pixel Riot's knowledge wiki, and even onboarding instructions for new clients.
Must-have feature: You can publish a Notion page to the web and share it as a website. This is great for sharing important information with clients, like your onboarding process.
Price: Free for limited single use
Oftentimes, you'll need to purchase a subscription or asset on behalf of your client as a convenience. You do not want to use your primary credit card. Trust me. You'll forget your card is linked to your client's account, and you may end up being charged for something unexpectedly. Also, you'll likely have to purchase subscriptions for your business. Software as a Service (SaaS) companies have notoriously tricky cancelation processes. Given the opportunity, they will overcharge you.
Privacy allows you to create virtual credit cards, right in the app, for one-time use or a monthly subscription. When I set up hosting, on, say, Godaddy.com, for a client's new website, I will often purchase hosting on their behalf and bill them back. I can apply a single-use credit card from Privacy as the client's payment method. That way, I won't have to worry whether the client swapped out my credit card for theirs. The Privacy app is a must-have.
Must-have feature: you can create a single-use credit card with a spending limit. It's a perfect feature for when you need to sign up for a subscription but are unsure if you'll keep the software.
Price: Free tier or $10/month for premium
My top advice for any new freelancer— get used to your new role as a writer. Whether it's a blog post, website copy, or how-to article, you will write a lot.
Ulysses is the best writing app money can buy, in my opinion. It's void of clutter, simple to use, and syncs with all my devices reliably. Ulysses uses Markdown, which helps you format your text without clunky and distracting formatting menus. Ulysses has helped me focus on my daily writing with the app's word-count goal tracker.
Must-have feature: I can publish my blog posts to untetheredblog.com directly from the Ulysses app. I've written and published more than a few blog posts from my phone. I love it.
Speaking of your new role as a writer, how are your proofreading skills? Mine are horrible. An email littered with poor grammar and typos can, unfortunately, weaken your authority on the topic you're writing. Proofreading is essential.
Grammarly is not cheap, but it has saved me from countless embarrassing typos (some of which in this very post). Not only does it check your spelling, but it also helps you write in the active voice and suggests ways to clarify your writing. It even has a feature that examines your tone, which I find helpful. Without running it through Grammarly first, I publish nothing, not a blog post, not an email.
Must-have feature: I write on my phone and edit on my iPad. It's a weird process, but it works for me. Grammarly syncs up to all my devices and can be used directly in any app that I write in (like Ulysses).
Price: Free tier or $144/year for premium
Freelancers deal with large files all the time. It would be best to have a quick and easy way to share these files with your clients. You also need a reliable backup method for all your files with syncing abilities across multiple devices.
It might be a controversial statement, but— Dropbox is the best cloud-based file management software. It's not even close. Dropbox does one thing, and they do it better than anyone else— Manage your files in the cloud. Dropbox is so good that Steve Jobs tried and failed to purchase it when Apple developed iCloud.
Must-have feature: You can set up your Dropbox locally and use Smart Sync to determine which folders live on your computer and which live exclusively in the cloud. No uploading on a website is needed. Save it into a folder located in your Dropbox parent folder.
Price: $9.99/month for 2TB of storage
Even if you're not a graphic designer, you'll find yourself in need of a graphic design app every so often. For example, If you're creating a social media account for a client, you may need to design a quick default image with their logo on it. Or, perhaps, you might need to make a blog post image like the one on this post.
Previously named Over, Studio is a mobile graphic design app. I use it daily, from logo concepts to a quick meme. For a mobile app, Studio is powerful, and it meets my needs most of the time. Godaddy purchased Studio recently, so I'm hoping they don't fuck it up. So far, so good.
Must-have feature: Studio is freakishly good at removing the background from images and preserving the foreground.
Other good freelance apps
- Focus: an app made for the pomodoro technique, where you work in 25-minute sprints without interruption.
- Raindrop.io: a simple and free bookmaking app with the ability to tag and organize your links. I basically have the entire internet saved on my Raindrop account.
- Stash: save a bit of money, invest in the stock market. Stash makes it all simple. Their debit card gives cash back for every purchase, too.
- PayPal: I don't love PayPal taking a percentage of my hard-earned money but, It has helped me collect payments in a pinch. In the beginning, PayPal may be the only way you're able to collect payments. Set yours up sooner rather than later.
- Office 365: You'll likely work with clients who use the Office Suite. To this day, I use Outlook for my primary email client, Excel for spreadsheets, and PowerPoint for presentations. You may not need the suite on day one, but consider it when you're more established.
- Authenticator: Another layer of login security. Some websites offer the ability to sync with the Authenticator app (owned by Google), where you open the app after signing in somewhere, and you're given a six-digit code. Seriously, you can never have enough online security.
- Productivity Planner: this is a physical notebook, not an app, but I use it all the time to set daily goals. It's designed after the Pomodoro technique.
I hope this was useful! If you have an app that makes your life as a freelancer easier, let me know by replying to this email. I may make this an evergreen post and add more apps to the list as I discover or receive them.