The best things in life are free. If we didn’t believe that mantra before, then we sure do now that we work freelance. While freelancing allows most of us to build a living that is flexible, exciting and pays the bills, we’re not always left with huge amounts of cash at the end of the month. We’re also rarely blessed with hours of spare time in our workday (because time is money, remember, and even more so when you’re self-employed). The tools featured in this article are designed to address both of these needs: what are the apps and sites that can help us save time, without costing us anything? Hey – they don’t call us “FREElancers” for nothing!
Whether you’re a whizz with words or you would class yourself as a “visual learner” – everyone needs Grammarly. Grammarly is to spell check as Superman is to Clark Kent. It comes as a bolt on to your browser and does everything it possibly can to make your writing smarter, more accurate and more readable. If you run a design or tech business and words aren’t exactly your forte, don’t let your poor SPAG detract from your super skills. Whether it’s emails, pitches or website copy, Grammarly can help sort out everything from your commas to your clauses. Its features for tone and vocabulary suggestions are also great if English is your second language. Even for experienced wordsmiths, when you’re dealing with reams and reams of copy every day, things can slip through the net – and it’s embarrassing to have a client come back to you about an erroneous apostrophe when you write for a living. Get Grammarly and never feel that horror again.
We’ve been bowled over by Canva’s ability to make even the most artistically-challenged of us look like we know what we’re doing when it comes to graphic design. Whether you need an eye-catching visual to flash up on Facebook or a slick slide background for your presentation, Canva offers a suite of simple tools that give you all the features of a graphics suite with none of the fiddly bits. There’s even a mobile app so you can create on the go.
We’ve all done it – written a beautiful blog post for our website, or come up with a great concept for our next ad campaign and then been hit by the stumbling block – how do I illustrate this for maximum impact? If you’re handy with a camera, you might be able to take a photograph yourself, or if your budget can stretch to it, give another freelancer some work by commissioning some images. However, when we’re in a rush, what we want to do is just quickly Google and pick a nice-looking image to stick up. But doing this can get freelancers in big trouble. Just because images appear in a search doesn’t mean they’re free to use; most are subject to copyright and you can land yourself with a hefty bill and potential legal dispute if you use them without permission. That’s where Unsplash comes in. It’s a site curated from free-to-use images, all of which are breathtakingly composed and of professional quality. You can search for photos by keyword to help you find the perfect shot to illustrate your point. All photos are licensed to be downloaded and used for free, for commercial and non-commercial purposes, without requesting permission from the photographer. You don’t even have to credit or attribute them, though many photographers do appreciate a shout-out.
Managing your money as a freelancer can be tricky, to say the least, as your income can vary wildly from month-to-month. Your invoices sometimes don’t get paid on time, so money doesn’t come in when you expect it. But fixed outgoings like rent or bills still need to be paid. Available as an app for web or mobile, Money Dashboard is the ultimate way to stay on top of your finances. Using Money Dashboard, you can put all your accounts – business and personal – together in one place, to see how much money is in each and transfer if needed. Their bills tracker is a total gamechanger; see all your monthly payments in one place and get an estimate of what your balance will be once it’s all accounted for. It also helps you budget and see where you’re wasting your money, ideal if you’re trying to cut back the spending to save for a house deposit or a kitchen reno.
Whether it’s for your own social media or you manage accounts or content for clients, having a tool to help you schedule, plan, preview and manage content is a massive time- and sanity-saver. Hootsuite is one of the tools favoured by businesses and freelancers alike for its cross-channel capabilities and smart analytics tools, which help you drill down to see which posts are achieving the most traction and conversion. It covers all the major platforms, and you can schedule your posts into a calendar so that you don’t have to log in to multiple accounts or be at your computer when you want a post to go live. Most Hootsuite packages are paid for by subscription, but if you have two or fewer accounts to manage there’s a free version which is great for getting started with socials.
As a freelancer juggling multiple projects for different clients, sometimes it can feel like you’re just waiting to see which of your spinning plates is going to fall and smash. But it doesn’t have to be like this. If you’re struggling to manage your projects, why not try a tool like Asana? Asana is the digital version of having a PA come in and organise your workload for you. If you’re someone who likes a clean desktop and despises having multiple tabs open, Asana might be for you, as it gathers all of your key apps into one place – email, chat, documents, calendars, project timelines and task reminders. It integrates with over 100 third-party apps from Adobe Creative Cloud to Zoom. You can see where you’re up to in each of your projects and get a visualisation of your upcoming deadlines to help you prioritise your tasks. It’s designed with collaboration in mind, so you can invite your clients and their team onboard to give approvals or suggest amendments – ideal for remote working. The basic version is free, and you can collaborate with up to 15 team members through this entry-level package.
With a user-friendly interface, great campaign analytics tools and a sense of humour to boot, Mailchimp is our go-to when we want to create fast, fresh email campaigns. Whether you’re advertising a special offer or just filling your clients in on what you’re up to at the moment, with Mailchimp it takes just minutes to put together branded e-flyers and send them off to your contacts. You can run multiple “lists” so that you can target different audiences and even carry out A/B testing to see which subject lines create more clicks. The free version will see you good up to 2,000 contacts; if you need more than this you might want to investigate a paid plan.
Here at Dinghy, we’re always looking out for ways to save freelancers money. Like not charging any admin fees on our policies and allowing you to pay monthly at no extra cost. Like allowing you to pause your policy while you’re not working or on holiday. Like giving you £25 in vouchers if you refer a friend. For more information about our low-cost, low-hassle business insurance products for freelancers, pop over to our website. Quotes are no obligation and free, of course.
This is not a sponsored article and neither Dinghy nor our staff has received any kind of promotional gifts or payments for the websites or services mentioned in this article.