3 Free Tools Every Freelancer Should Know About

It’s back to school time, and all the little kiddos are filling up their backpacks and messenger bags with the tools of the trade: pencils, notebooks, graphing calculators, etc.

Which got me to thinking: what tools should freelancers have in their arsenal to make it easier to attract new clients and run their business like a business?

After a little poking around I found these completely free, online tools that can help you get better results from what you’re already doing in an organized fashion:

1. FreelanceSwitch Hourly Rate Calculator: We’ve talked a lot about raising your rates, and sticking to your guns when overly-thrifty clients challenge them. But how exactly do you decide on an hourly rate that will truly help cover your expenses now and in the future? Well the clever folks over at FreelanceSwitch created just the tool to help you do that: In just 5-20 minutes, you’ll have a guideline for the necessary hourly rate based on your costs, number of billable hours and desired profit.

2. BranchOut: There are dozens of referral sites, professional directories, and networking communities available online. At this point, however, most of the people you know or want to know are already using Facebook, so why start from scratch? BranchOut is an application that effortlessly unlocks massive amounts of career data about your friends and friends of friends that was just impossible to get to before.

3. SimplifyThis.com – Tired of entering appointments into Google calendar, calculating billable hours in a spreadsheet, and then issuing invoices with a third tool? SimplifyThis (what a great name, huh?) is both an appointment book for keeping track of your meetings, and any of those that might be billable, as well as a full invoicing service with payment gateway integrations.

Share your favorite free tools for staying organized (and sane) in a comment!

Image Credit: Flickr –  L. Marie

4 Free Invoicing Tools For Freelancers

According to the first Global Coworking Survey, more than half of all U.S. based freelancers make more money after joining a coworking space. Since increasing monthly income is the goal of almost every freelancer, this is good news. However, in the immortal words of the Notorious B.I.G. “mo’ money, mo’ problems.”

A more robust client load increases not only the amount of enjoyable work you must complete each month, it also increases the number of administrative tasks to which you must attend.

For freelancers, invoicing is a necessary evil of owning a service-based business. If you’re tired of scrambling to work up professional looking invoices at the end of the month or project period, here are three FREE, web-based invoicing tools that can help you streamline the process.

Billing Boss: This tool is a product of Sage, a leading supplier of business management software and services to 5.5 million customers worldwide. Billing Boss was developed by a small dynamic, sugar and coffee driven team within Sage (sound familiar?) Unlike other free online invoicing tools – Billing Boss is free. Not “Free” for 30 days. Not “Free” until you invoice 3 customers. It’s Free. Unlimited invoicing to unlimited customers. They also offer a ton of paid add-ons that can allow you to take payments on your mobile devices, etc., but you don’t have to buy them if you don’t want to.

Invoice Journal: Like Billing Boss, Invoice Journal is one of those rare programs that exists only in a free flavor; no commercial upgrade is available. Unlike Billing Boss, Invoice Journal is the creation of a single developer (as far as I can tell) instead of a large company. This tool features unlimited invoices and clients, multiple currencies, E-mail support (send invoices directly to clients), unbranded e-mails, payment recording, PayPal support, support for taxes and discounts, and custom templates.

Billing Manager: Made by Intuit, a brand that many businesses trust for their accounting needs, this flexible tool can allow you to manage your billing process from anywhere–in the office, on the road, and even on your iPhone. There are both paid and unpaid versions of this tool, but free Billing Manager will allow you to: create customized, professional invoices, send invoices by email, track status, and send reminders.

Apptivo:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekqP7aXGNC8

BONUS! All of these invoicing tools are great, and can definitely make your life easier, but one thing they don’t do is help you track your working hours so you know how much to charge. Luckily, Cohere member and coding whiz-kid Matt Rose has created a time-tracking and invoicing tool that’s now in beta testing. If you’re interested in helping him work out the kinks, let him know you want to test it out next time you’re at Cohere!

Image Credit: Flickr – miguelb

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