I have been an UpWork freelancer for almost four years now; I started with zero investment and a free Elance Profile.
Today, BizProspex is among the top 3 firms in the USA for CRM Cleaning, I have travelled the world and have a wonderful team of 17 people today, doing one project at a time through Elance/oDesk (now UpWork). I can’t thank Elance enough for making this happen, but apart from Elance, I have used few other tools that have helped me shape my business the way it is today, structured, self-operated and a money maker.
I have shared 5 (paid) tools that saved me a lot of efforts, and I am going to do the same for you, if you are serious about freelancing full time, consider them. These tools cost ~50$/month collectively to help you earn thousands potentially!!
1. Working in different time zones with clients can cause a headache sometimes, not anymore with worldtimebuddy a free website which has a paid mobile app that helps you schedule meetings across time zones.Imagine you are sitting in Thailand, your business partner touring Russia and your client in the UK, it becomes a challenge to set up meeting across time zones, with WorldTimeBuddy you can do it in 15 seconds flat.
Pre-add all the timezones you work in/have clients in, select your preferred meeting time in the app or on their website and it will show all the respective times in your customers’ time zones. Consequently, click on share meeting schedule, and it will create an e-mail (through your default email client on your phone) and done!! It works in sync with almost all calendars out there, and the best part, it is $3 for the lifetime on any number of devices associated with your account.
2. Your clients are checking your social media profiles and your website before raising an inquiry, and they don’t expect to see an inactive social media account and an old internet site. 78% of people said that social media posts of companies influence their buying decisions. The stats and research paper here.
Buffer is here to rescue you; Buffer is simple to use social media sharing tool, be if from your phone or through your web browser, Buffer is highly robust and connects with almost all of the major social networks and helps you save money for a full-time social media executive. As a small business or a freelancer, it is impossible to hire someone to help you with social media, but with Buffer, you can manage up to 10 social accounts/Facebook groups/pages/LinkedIn pages, etc. with just $10/month. It can’t get any simpler.
3. Email automation is the need of the hour. It helps freelancers to educate customers and build your brand, start with an easy to use email automation tool, I prefer MailChimp for that matter; it helps me set up lead capture pages (basic) and collect leads from my website.
I’m personally convinced that there in no better tool to generate leads (especially B2B) than through e-mail automation.
Bring your clients to your site to showcase your work and use any lead capturing plugin (I use IceGram which has free modules and has all the excellent functionalities you might need) to educate and empower your customers.
Most small businesses/entrepreneurs think that they can save $10 from an e-mail automation tool. Hence, they send emails manually (through Mailchimp). Hence, I think one of the best decision I made in 2016 was to integrate an e-mail solution to our business.
4. Time management app like UpWork team app or TimeDoctor for your time tracking. You have to keep a tab on where you are spending your time. As one wise man once said-
“Science is organised knowledge. Wisdom is organised life.”
Most time management apps cost between $7 to $20/month and are worth it. Therefore, I pay $7/month to TimeDoctor for time management. You can use any other tool to manage and track time.
5. You need a CRM; you better realise it now, or it will be too late. Most small business owners and freelancers fall into the trap of thinking that they don’t need a CRM. The problem is this; you can work without a CRM until you a single person owned and managed company. Not when you start hiring remote employees and try and grow your business. A good CRM will sync with your e-mail automation tool, is easy to use integrations, for, e.g., I use Insightly at BizProspex which sync with my MailChimp/PandaDoc/Slack. I use PandaDoc for document management and proposals and Google for Business account to save manual data entry time.
I pay $15/month to Insightly to manage my business.
In conclusion, I hope this list helps you improve your performance and grow your business. In addition, do share your thoughts in comments about what tools you use and how they help you.
Furthermore, there are a few other tools that I use to run my business smoothly, to name some:
PandaDoc/LegalZoom/Slack/Trello/WaveAccounting /Canva (For image creation/PDF/PPT etc., trust me you will love this tool). Divi WordPress theme for my website and landing pages. Yoast SEO/Icegram for lead capturing on BizProspex website. UpWork for hiring freelancers for specific jobs. Grammarly for writing, Google AdWords and LinkedIn Ads to get clients.
PS: I’m neither an affiliate marketer nor do I get any money to write about any of these companies. Rather, I’m a heavy user of all these tools and feel they are worth it.