The Freelancer's Mobile Office: Systems and Tools Every Freelancer Needs
Updated: August 24th, 2023
If you’re a freelancer, you know the importance of having the right tools for your job. But with so many options, choosing which ones are best for you can be difficult. That’s where I come in! I've compiled this guide to help you find all the basic tools every freelancer needs to get going.
So, what exactly do I mean by “basic?” Well, these are the systems and tools every freelancer should always have – no matter what kind of work they do or where they live. They need them because their business wouldn't run as smoothly without them. And if something isn't running smoothly, things could get pretty ugly quickly!
You don't want ugly situations like those – trust me! So look through the list and see if anything strikes your fancy (or even sparks some ideas). Then go ahead and pick up whatever looks good for yourself today! It's time to start working smarter instead of harder – so why not give yourself an extra boost? The sooner you start using these tools, the better off you'll be in the long run. After all… aren't we always told, “the early bird gets the worm?” Right?! 😉
Your Basic Business Systems
Which ones you choose depends on the type of business you have. If you're starting, keep it simple! No single piece of software or tool is perfect so find ones that are easy for you to navigate through and meet most of your needs. Go down the path of least resistance!
You Need a Lead Generation System
How will people find you?
This is your home on the interwebs. Need a free one-page website or landing page to start? Check out Carrd. There is a pro plan that's pretty cheap if you need more features. Otherwise, look to build your little spot online with WordPress. Don't forget to choose a great host! Bluehost is cheap and is a great way to start if you don't need much. Kinsta is a better one as it can handle your business growth. Plans for Kinsta start at $30 a month.
Carrd can also be used to build a landing page. Your email marketing tool will probably have a landing page builder. If you want to start your landing page without a website, I suggest you look into Leadpages.
There are plenty of email marketing providers to choose from. I started with MailerLite because it was easy to use and packed with many features for the price. I tried ConvertKit, which was okay, but the last time I checked, the free version didn't include automation. What's the point?! Drip I didn't care for at all. I also dipped my toes in Flodesk but found that they were more design-oriented, and the features weren't as robust. Who cares if your emails look good if nobody reads them?
You can start here, but don't stay here. Without going on a full rant, remember the great Instagram and Facebook blackouts of 2019 and 2021. Social media channels are side dishes but not the main course.
You Need A Calendar System
This might be included in your task management system (next section), but if it isn't or you are just starting and need something simple, there's nothing wrong with just a good ol' calendar.
When in doubt, keep it simple.
You Need A Task Management System
Organize your projects and tasks.
I love ClickUp. Use the integrations and automation to set that thing on fire! It does have a bit of a learning curve, but if you're moving from Asana, you can pick it up rather quickly. For me, if it isn't in ClickUp, it ain't getting done!
If you're just starting out and easily intimidated by new software, get your hands on Trello. It isn't as feature-heavy as Asana or ClickUp, but it gets the job done. I started with Trello, and it took me about two years before I decided to move to Asana, and then ultimately landed on ClickUp.
*Paper or digital planner
Paper and digital planners still work! At least the last time I checked, anyway. My favorite app for digital planners is the notetaking app, GoodNotes. It makes it easy to export your notes into PDFs for later.
* I use a paper planner + a whiteboard before migrating the final draft of the schedule to ClickUp. it just makes things easier for me. This one by Blue sky is inexpensive and not full of clutter.
You Need A Customer Relationship System
Unless you want to be running around trying to figure out if a contract was already sent, if an invoice was paid, or the status of any project, I suggest you look into a CRM (customer relationship system).
This all-in-one system is perfect for anyone who wants a super customized look. Dubsado can easily replace many apps, so you don't have to worry about using Zapier and hope everything works. It has a bit of a learning curve, but you will be rewarded with an awesome tool that'll save you time.
Another great all-in-one system that is great “out of the box.” Easy to set up.
Both Dubsado and Honeybook ARE all-in-one systemS. YOU CAN CAPTURE LEADS, SCHEDULE CLIENT MEETINGS, SIGN CONTRACTS, send invoices (and process payments) and set up client portals. The differences are minor and it comes down to personal preference.
You Need A Financial System
You've done the work, and now you need to get paid. And more importantly, you need to track your expenses and all other financial gremlins.
You Need An Invoicing and Payment System
Stripe and Square can do this, but they are used slightly differently. With Square, you can use a card reader and have a payment terminal on your smartphone. This is a great way to start if you will be selling services or products and do not have a website set up just yet. I use Square for those one-offs and Stripe for everything else.
You Need An Accounting System
Another O.G. in the game. Quickbooks just works.
Xero is another QuickBooks alternative. Where Freshbooks caters to freelancers, Xero caters to product and service-based businesses that need a more comprehensive solution without the Quickbooks price.
You Need A Client File Delivery System
Now you need to get those deliverables to your client fast.
A quick way to transfer large files. The free version of WeTransfer allows you to send up to 2GB via email or a link that automatically expires in 7 days. With the PRO version, you can send up to 200GB, set passwords, set expiration dates, and have 1TB of space.
Dropbox has come a long way! The free version gets you 2GB of storage, and sharing files is easy. Of course, there are several plans to fit your needs. Also, did you know you can sell digital files directly from Dropbox now? This is perfect for someone who doesn't need a full eCommerce store setup.
If you're a photographer and need your clients to proof files first or buy prints directly from you, use a dedicated gallery like Cloudspot, PicReel, Pixieset, or Shootproof. I have Cloudspot set up because it easily integrates with Dubsado. easy peasy not as greasy.
Your Basic Office Tools
A dedicated home office can help you determine what to take when traveling. The following is more or less what I bring when I travel for work.
Choose a tote or backpack
Don't overthink this one. Either you're a tote person or a backpack person. If you're indecisive like me, get both. 🙂
Get a good and sturdy black leather tote without any (or at least minimal) gaudy logos. It'll look profesh and will take you far. I'm still rocking a Zara one (Mansur Gavriel dupe) from five years ago. If you're looking for a designer one, opt for a preloved one to save some coins without skimping on quality. The brands I can vouch for (in no particular order) are Céline, Cuyana, Givenchy, Bottega Veneta, Madewell, and Coach.
Find great preloved designer items at Fashionphile, TheRealReal, and Vesitiare Collective. For everything else, ThredUp and eBay.
When looking for a backpack, make sure that the straps are comfortable and that you have plenty of compartments. This way, you can forgo a cord + tech organizer.
I have a SwissGear backpack similar to this one, which has traveled well for ten years.
Don't get me wrong, the wired earbuds that came with my iPhone work just fine, but sometimes I just need wireless earbuds.
Get a small batch from Moo and keep them ready.
Business Card Holder
Your business cards need a cute outfit.
Point of Sale To Go
Collect your coin and go.
Go beyond a cute printed file folder.
Low-tech doodle and decision-maker.
Always have at least one nice-looking pen.
Cord + Tech Organizer
Organize your cords and save your sanity! Points if you label your cords.
Mini Office Supplies Kit
Just the essentials.
The Item You Probably Didn't Know You Needed, Until You Needed It
Your new travel BFF. Make a friend at the local coffeehouse.
USB Drive (at least 128 GB)
Another item that you'll need when you least expect it.
Blue Light Blocking Glasses
Your peepers will thank you.
Catch All Pouch or Case
Use for other items such as lotion, mask, sanitizer, mints, lip balm, eye drops, hair ties, medication, stain remover, and lint remover.
Hydrate to radiate.
bkr Little 16oz Glass Water Bottle in Jet Black – mine is in the color Tutu, but this jet black is gorgeous!
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