Let’s go over the story of a make-believe freelancer, let’s call her Daisy, who started working as a freelance writer not so long ago. Daisy started to notice that she was struggling to manage her freelance business operations. She would often find herself procrastinating or spending too much time on tasks that shouldn’t have been taking too long. As a result, she began missing deadlines and losing clients.
One day, Daisy decided to take matters into her own hands and made a list of potential systems that would help her manage her freelance business and work more efficiently. She started by setting deadlines for herself and breaking down large projects and goals into smaller, achievable tasks. She also created a daily schedule where she blocked off certain hours to work in batches – such as SEO research, writing, and editing – to help her stay focused and organized.
With her newfound focus, Daisy started to complete tasks quicker than before while meeting deadlines and gaining new clients. She also noticed that she felt more motivated throughout the day thanks to the structure she created for her day-to-day tasks. By taking control of her business operations and planning, Daisy successfully managed her workload and grew her business.
Daisy’s story is a great example of how taking the initiative and using productivity tools for freelancers helps to stay productive in managing a business. It’s important to remember that every freelancer has a unique workflow and schedule, what works for one freelancer won’t work for another. As such, it’s essential to find what works best for you. With some trial and error, you too can find productivity tools for freelancers that will help you stay on top of your to-do list and reach your goals.
I’ve rounded up the 12 best productivity tools for freelancers that I personally use to operate my business, so you can explore them and find the one (or all!) that works best for your specific needs.
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12 Best Productivity Tools for Freelancers
Best Productivity Tools for Business Operations
When it comes to business operations for a freelancer, it refers to the elements of running your business smoothly to complete tasks, manage invoices and payments, and gain and communicate with clients effectively. There is also the aspect of creating a process or procedures to ensure you can deliver quality services to your clients and keep them happy.
Business operations may include setting up billing systems, tracking payments, managing customer accounts, and more. Overall, your business operations should be organized and optimized to maximize efficiency and profitability. Here are a few productivity tools for freelancers you can use to start setting a system in place.
Trello is an online project management and collaboration tool that can enable you to better manage your client projects. You can use it to organize tasks by progress, set deadlines, and monitor progress. Trello provides you with a visual board with lists of cards for individual tasks which you can assign to team members or clients. You can also customize your cards following your writing process as seen in my screenshot example board below and add comments, attachments, and labels.
screenshot of an example of a Trello Board
As you complete each task, you can move the card accordingly. Trello also allows you to share boards with other collaborators and provides an interface for teams to discuss progress on projects in real time. Trello’s features can be used as a productivity tool for freelancers to stay on top of their work. It’s a great tool to help you maximize productivity, organization, and communication. Plus, you can even customize it to follow your brand personality.
Streak Basic – Gmail
Streak Basic is an embedded customer relationship management (CRM) and project management tool you can use to better manage your client relationships. The CRM allows you to create pipelines, track emails, store contact information, and schedule tasks and events in a centralized system.
Personally, I use Streak Basic as a Chrome Extension because it’s free and helps me track my cold pitch emails. It shows when an email has been opened and how many views it received. It changes its “eye” color to green as shown in the screenshot.
screenshot of “eye” for Streak Basic Extension
Why is this important? When you’re cold pitching to new clients, the first thing they will read is your subject line. You can study which email subject lines receive the most open rate to continue to imitate and which ones weren’t opened at all so you can improve. It also helps you determine when it would be a good time to send your follow-up emails.
QuickBooks Self-Employed is an online accounting software that can help you manage your freelance finances. You can track your business income and expenses, mileage, and invoices. Additionally, it helps you to generate and send invoices, pay bills, track mileage, and produce tax documents like Schedule C.
My favorite part about it is that it also calculates your estimated quarterly taxes based on your income and expenses. If you update to the Tax Bundle subscription, it lets you do online tax payments too saving you some time. I don’t have the Tax Bundle, so I mail my checks to the IRS. QuickBooks Self-Employed also has an App you can use to update on the go if needed.
Clockify is a time-tracking software and a super easy-to-use tool that allows you to track your hours and project progress. As a result, you can see how you’re managing your workload on a day-to-day basis. I use Clockify every day to help see how long it takes me to do certain projects or write a piece for a client. Plus, having the clock ticking away is a sure way for me, and potentially for you, to maintain productivity or get back on track when distracted by social media.
Clockify also offers some pretty nice features, such as setting an hourly rate for a particular project to calculate your billable hours. You can also view reports on total billable and unbillable hours, and create invoices in multiple currencies (this one at an extra cost).
Overall, Clockify is a great productivity tool for freelancers to use for tracking and managing their time and projects. With its easy-to-use interface and detailed reporting features, it can be an invaluable resource in helping freelancers stay organized while they work.
One of the best productivity tools for freelancers is Google Drive, a cloud storage and file synchronization service developed by Google. It allows you to upload and share files, and edit documents with clients or collaborators. I have used Google Drive with all of my clients to share projects and written pieces, it’s also a great way to showcase your freelance writing portfolio if you don’t have a website yet.
Google Drive also makes it easy for you to work remotely with clients no matter where you are in the world. You can use Google Drive to store your important data and documents securely, and access them on your laptop, desktop computer, or smartphone. Plus, when you’re collaborating with a client, multiple people can work on the same document simultaneously.
Best Productivity Tools for Search Engine Optimization
We use Search Engine Optimization, also known as SEO, best practices to increase the quality and quantity of website traffic and improve rankings in Google Search engine results. SEO helps to ensure that a website is visible in search results for relevant searches, thereby driving more organic (unpaid) traffic to the site. You will notice almost, if not all, job applications for freelance writers require knowledge of SEO practices, including SEO keyword research.
As part of my SEO best practices, I use some free tools that allow me to research primary and secondary keywords for different topics. These give me information about keyword competition, related keywords, domain authority, search volume, and what people search for on Google. Here are two main productivity tools for freelancers that help save time when doing SEO research. I use these two tools simultaneously.
What’s My SERP Chrome Extension
The What’s My SERP Chrome Extension is an amazing productivity tool for freelancers to use for free to help them optimize their website content for SEO, whether it is for a client or your website.
When you use the extension during a Google search, it shows you a snapshot of what keywords people use when searching for a topic and provides keyword suggestions and related keywords to help you refine and enhance your SEO strategy.
With this information at hand, you can identify opportunities for growth and make tweaks or adjustments to improve organic search results.
MozBar Chrome Extension
The MozBar Extension was developed by Moz and you can use it to see the domain and page authority within a Google search on a topic. For example, I did a Google Search using the following keywords: “best places to visit in Germany”. The first page of the Google results showed me different travel publications, such as Lonely Planet and Planet Ware, and using the Moz Chrome Extension, I can compare the competition as shown below:
I can see the page authority (PA) and the domain authority (DA) for each site. Domain authority is a metric developed by Moz to measure the strength of a website. It is also one of the main factors that search engine algorithms consider when ranking websites in organic search results. As such, a high domain authority site tends to rank better than a low domain authority one for competitive keywords. Knowing this information gives you a better idea about the keywords used by other sites. If a keyword is used by sites with low domain authority, then you have better chances of ranking for that keyword.
As a freelance writer, you will do a lot of research, create outlines, draft, edit, and send pieces to clients or publish them on your blog. There are some productivity tools for freelancers that you can use to help you through each stage before sending a piece to a client or posting on your blog.
The Grammarly extension helps you edit your work and it also operates as a browser extension, so you can quickly check spelling, grammar, and punctuation in any text editor, such as Google Docs, WordPress, Medium, and so on. The Grammarly platform also offers advanced features like vocabulary enhancement suggestions and sentence structure fixes that you can use. However, remember that Grammarly is only a tool to use to your advantage, and not all suggestions for editing will be applicable.
The Hemingway Editor is an online writing tool you can use to make your writing easier to read and understand. You will different highlights across the text to identify complex sentences, and it also suggests simpler alternatives and flags potential errors in grammar and syntax.
As a freelancer, you can use it to quickly check and improve your writing and see some helpful tips on how to keep sentences short and punchy.
Copyscape Plagiarism Checker
There are times when you may make accidental plagiarism without you realizing it, and even though there was no intention, it’s still a big no-no. Remember that the brain is amazing, and it will remember the research you read, so you may write a sentence almost verbatim without you realizing it. That’s why it’s important to check for plagiarism to make sure you’re correctly giving credit or citing your work.
The Copyscape Plagiarism Checker lets you find if any part of your written piece has duplicate content. It helps you find it so you can edit and credit sources as applicable.
Continued Education: Books and Courses
One of the productivity tools for freelancers, believe it or not, is continued education. Technology is always improving and to grow your business, you will need to stay up to date on the latest news. There are some books and courses that you can keep in your arsenal as they are updated from time to time, which may have new tools you can use to aid you to get work done.
WriteTo1K Course by Elna Cain
When I took Elna’s Write to 1K course, I was a bit skeptical because it was supposed to teach you how to make your first 1K as a freelance writer. I’m happy to say that it worked for me!
Elna teaches you the fundamentals of effective writing and provides tools and strategies that can be applied to any type of writing project. The course includes detailed instruction on how to craft compelling copy that resonates with your target audience and increase your earning potential. In addition, it advises you on how to find clients and walks you through creating your portfolio online, saving you much time.
Everybody Writes by Ann Handley is like a comprehensive guide to creating epic content for any digital platform. It provides you with tools and techniques to improve your writing craft, create compelling content that stands out, and produce effective marketing results.
The book covers different topics, including how to write effectively in different formats, how to develop a good “storytelling” style, and how to write for different social media platforms. Plus, the book is super easy to read with some fun stories.
Now you have a list of these productivity tools for freelancers, you can check them out and explore what works for you to operate your freelance business. I will leave you with some quick tips below to further help with your productivity and workflow.
Quick Tips to Help your Productivity and Workflow
- Break down tasks into manageable chunks.
- Set a daily schedule to work on different tasks.
- Work in batches doing similar work (for example, schedule a day for writing).
- Try the Pomodoro Technique to help you take regular breaks.
- Declutter your workspace to help you stay focused.
- Track your time to measure how much it takes you to complete projects and adjust accordingly.
- Keep acquiring new knowledge, ideas, and approaches to help you grow as a freelancer.