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15 Handy Tools Every Freelancer Should Know About

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A freelancer wears many hats. Not only are you responsible for creating cool design work, you’re also in charge of the accounts dept and responsible for managing projects and keeping track of where you’re spending your time. Thankfully there’s a range of tools available that help you run your little business like a global empire. This post rounds up 15 of the most popular tools that are used and recommended by thousands of freelancers in the design industry.

FreshBooks

FreshBooks

What does it do?

FreshBooks is a comprehensive online invoicing, accounting and billing app. It combines all the features you would ever need as a small business into one piece of cloud based software.

How much does it cost?

FreshBooks offer a Free 30 day trial, then there’s a selection of paid packages from £19.95 per month depending on the number of clients you need to manage.

Pancake App

Pancake App

What does it do?

Pancake is an invoicing and project management app, but unlike many business suites featured in this post Pancake is a one-time-payment self-hosted application, meaning there’s no monthly fees and you have control over your data.

How much does it cost?

Pancake requires a one time payment of $49, with deluxe packages offering additional support.

FreeAgent

FreeAgent

What does it do?

FreeAgent offers painless accounting and helps manage your finances, estimates, proposals, invoices and expenses via an online dashboard. Plus it has handy features to assist with UK tax returns.

How much does it cost?

FreeAgent has three separate packages for Sole Traders, Partnerships and Limited Companies ranging from £15 to £25 per month.

CurdBee

CurdBee

What does it do?

CurdBee is another comprehensive online billing and invoicing system. It incorporates all the important features of an accounting app but has one of the best free packages that includes many of the features only available in the premium versions of other apps.

How much does it cost?

The free CurdBee package allows unlimited clients and invoices amongst other important criteria, but other features can be accessed through the Pro and Big packages at $5 and $20 per month.

TeuxDeux

TeuxDeux

What does it do?

TeuxDeux is a simple, designery to-do app. It combines a browser software with a portable iPhone app which both feature a crisp and clean interface design.

How much does it cost?

TeuxDeux offers a free 30 days trial, after which access is charged at $3 per month or $24 a year.

Toggl

Toggl

What does it do?

Many billing apps incorporate a basic time tracking feature, but tracking time is Toggl’s speciality. Instead of a browser based timer, choose to run the app on your desktop or mobile. It also syncs with popular tools such as FreshBooks and Basecamp.

How much does it cost?

Toggl offers just one $5 per month package which includes all features. A 30 day free trial is included.

Remember The Milk

Remember The Milk

What does it do?

Remember The Milk is one of the classic to-do apps and is probably the most versatile with official apps being available for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Gmail, Outlook, Twitter and Evernote.

How much does it cost?

Free!

Less Accounting

Less Accounting

What does it do?

Less Accounting is aimed at smaller businesses and therefore doesn’t include the unnecessary features that sometimes bloat larger accounting apps. One of its main selling points is its ability to connect and import your transaction details from your bank account.

How much does it cost?

Less Accounting offer a single package of $30 per month.

Pulse

Pulse

What does it do?

The main focus of pulse is to help you manage your cash flow. It’s packed full of features to track your income and expenses, view detailed reports and keep an eye on your balance.

How much does it cost?

The standard $14 per month package is limited to 3 accounts and users, so the $24/month package would be much more suitable for the average user. Also includes a free 30 day trial.

Blinksale

Blinksale

What does it do?

Blinksale allows you to create professional invoices and keep track of payments by sending automatic reminders and thank you messages. Blinksale is also combined with Blinkpay to allow clients to pay by credit card, rather than have to rely on services such as PayPal.

How much does it cost?

$15 per month grants you unlimited access to all Blinksale features. 15 day free trial available.

Ronin

Ronin

What does it do?

Ronin is a simple invoicing and time tracking online app for small businesses and freelancers. It features all the same tools as other apps, but can also be run under your own domain.

How much does it cost?

The recommended Team plan at $29/month includes all the best features of Ronin. 30 day free trials are available on all plans.

The Invoice Machine

The Invoice Machine

What does it do?

The Invoice Machine does exactly as the name suggests, it makes it easy to create great looking invoices without having to spend time setting up client and project details.

How much does it cost?

The Invoice Machine plans are based on the number of invoices sent each month. A limit of 30 is priced at $12 per month.

Basecamp

Basecamp

What does it do?

Basecamp is the world’s most popular project management app. It’s a crucial tool for any project involving multiple clients or team members to allow everyone to stay up to date and keep track of progress.

How much does it cost?

Pricing starts at $20 per month and increases as more projects and file storage is added.

Mint

Mint

What does it do?

Mint is a financial management app aimed at the public, but it would also be a great tool for freelancers working from home. It helps keep track of your money to see how your money is being spent, saved or invested.

How much does it cost?

Free!

Harvest

Harvest

What does it do?

Harvest is a simple online time tracking app that builds comprehensive time sheets so you can see where your time is being spent. Then bill for this time with invoicing and payment integration.

How much does it cost?

The solo package for freelancers is priced at $12 per month.

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Written by Chris Spooner

Chris Spooner is a designer who loves experimenting with new web design techniques collating creative website designs. Check out Chris' design tutorials and articles at Blog.SpoonGraphics or follow his daily findings on Twitter.

21 Comments

  1. Sounds nice. This article is worth reading. You have shared here very helpful and valuable information about various tools. Your post will be very useful for freelancers.

  2. Roman says:

    Don’t forget https://conceptboard.com for sharing and discussing your work with coworkers and clients. Especially great for designers…

  3. Sheila says:

    You forgot Wave – https://www.waveapps.com

    Invoicing, accounting, payroll, receipts, budgeting and personal all for $0

  4. Dan says:

    Pancake is amazing. I’ve been using it for about 5 months and have no real complaints. It’s got pretty much every feature a freelance designer or agency would need: proposals, time-tracking, invoicing, project management, and much more.

    I’ve been using the v4 beta and they just keep adding great features. I feel like the app is stil in its infancy and will continue to do great things.

  5. Rick Yentzer says:

    Pancake looks promising. I haven’t heard of it before. I have used Freshbooks, Harvest, and LetsFreckle for time tracking and invoicing. I’ve stuck with Freshbooks and the ChronoMate app for time-tracking and syncing with Freshbooks.

  6. Earl Varona says:

    I haven’t tried anything in this list before but I’ll definitely check them out. I’m currently using Billings by Marketcircle (http://www.marketcircle.com/billings/) for time tracking, invoicing, and reports. Good for time tracking and invoicing but not good with reports and account management. They also have an app but I haven’t used it so I can’t really say much about it. Great post though. Thanks.

  7. Chad says:

    Thanks for the post. There are a few there I have not discovered and will certainly be looking into them. Which one would you say is the best?

    -CR

  8. Thanks for this post!
    I use Toggl and integrate it with Freshbooks. They both work great. Toggl has some UX bugs, but has ALL and EXACTLY what a freelance designer needs so I highly recommend it! I started with the free plan but on the same day already understood what I’m dealing with and upgraded. I used to work with Freckle back when it was 7$ a month, and it’s an amazing service but now it costs too much.

  9. Ale says:

    One day, when i join at freelances’s world, this resources will be important! Thanks for sharing!

  10. John says:

    Personnaly, I use “Sale n’Go”, which give me all I need : managing my contacts and catalog, and create estimates/invoices in 2 clicks… System allows me to send them my ground mail or Internet and have the ability to auto send a mail to my clients for late payment (or SMS !). also, it manages recurring invoices, balances, and plenty of tools I can live without now !

    http://www.salengo.com

  11. I haven’t tried anything in this list before but I’ll definitely check them out

  12. Ash Menon says:

    +1 for Freshbooks. Also, for a time-tracker, I’d recommend Grindstone. It doesn’t sync with anything except its own proprietary Task Force system, which to me is a bit of a drawback, but the features are amazing. My personal favorite is how it tracks inactivity on your machine and when you come back to it, it will ask you what you did with the time. Brilliant stuff.

  13. Tom Chapman says:

    Chris, these are good. Most of these I hadn’t heard of and they’re going to really come in handy in the future.

    I’ve been following along with your blogs for a few years now, and finally worked up the courage to go back to college and finish my design degree, and also to start my own blog. It’s awful right now, but soon I hope that mine is half as good as yours are.

    Thanks for all of the inspiration!

  14. Maria Ahmed says:

    Great list, I’ve been using Curdbee for a while and can’t really bring myself to move to anything else, I have no reason to really, it’s the best value for money and makes my life a great deal easier!

  15. hutch says:

    Pulse is amazing!

  16. Priyanka says:

    Freelancers can also sign up for free on siteslike http://www.valuehands.com and explore the opportunities business owners have to offer.

  17. Ceba says:

    Handy Tools, But It could be great if you would have added few more free tools for freelancers. Though pancake has amazing functionality.

  18. Lance says:

    Wow, some of these systems will definitely come in handy. Going to be a challenge to find on that fits my needs but it should save a lot of time.

  19. Jay Benfield says:

    Thanks, Chris. That’s a good collection of resources. I religiously use FreshBooks and Basecamp.

    With respect to FreshBooks, while there may be tools that do niche stuff better (e.g., time tracking, invoicing, etc.) it has been a great foundation to build on. It became super-useful once I hooked with Stripe for credit card processing. It was very easy and has provided a lot of value to my clients.

    I’ve found that Basecamp is great for team/client collaboration on a project. But it doesn’t do the trick for my internal project and task tracking. For that I use a self-hosted app called qdPM. It’s not perfect and it’s not sexy, but it helps me keep tabs on things internally.

  20. Felix says:

    For freelancers, another handy tool which I want to mention here is Proofhub project management and collaboration tool. Have a look as well :)

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