10 Tremendous Tools for Freelancers & SMEs
I’ve been undertaking online research and speaking to friends who are freelancers or have taken the plunge and set-up their own small business to find out about the tools which help them do their job. After all, when bodies are in short supply, anything which frees up time to focus on the important job of servicing clients, winning new work and growing the business is hugely valuable.
Many are available on a freemium basis, so their usage can be scaled as your business flourishes. Resourcing and cashflow are perennial challenges for any small businesses, so a tool that costs, say £10 a month, yet helps free up another billable hour pays for itself very quickly.
Here’s a breakdown of tools I’d recommend for freelancers and SMEs.
If you’re a freelancer or SME you’re going to need a website, so I’d recommend that you buy yourself a WordPress theme, domain name and hosting. You can pick a professional looking theme for around £50 and the domain, mapping and hosting will be around £30 per year. A website can act as a fantastic portfolio or shop front to your business. I’d advise you to pick WordPress as it boasts a fantastic community of developers who continually improve its offering. It’s low cost, high quality and easy to use.
As your business grows it’s likely you’ll accumulate email addresses of potential clients. Email marketing is a fantastic way to keep in touch with customers, market your business and generate leads. MailChimp has loads of great templates, but more importantly segmentation functionality and full analytics. They offer a ‘Forever Free’ package that lets you send 12k emails per month to up to 2k people, as well as pricing plans that scale nicely.
I use Podio virtually everyday and find it a good tool to get work done more efficiently and have it stored in a centralised place. This reduces the number of emails I receive and subsequently have to respond to. It can also be used for project management or any collaborative work, and I find myself using it for a combination of both. Podio boasts loads of apps to make life easier, as well as the option to create your own. In terms of costs, Podio Lite is free and lets you have up to five staff use the tool, otherwise you’re looking at around £10 per user, per month. If you’re a small business anything which frees up time is a worthy investment.
- Google Apps (email, calendar and documents)
I’m not yet convinced you can run a business without Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel (OpenOffice is a potential cost-effective solution), especially if your clients use these programs – but you should definitely consider using Google Apps for email, your calendar and Docs for internal collaboration. The prices are very reasonable too. Depending on the level of security you want, you can pay a couple of pounds per month, per user, up to just £10.
Every business needs a server to safely store its important documents and work. An onsite server can be very expensive for a small business, so it’s worth exploring options such as Box. The whole idea is you never have to email files again. There are concerns to do with security in the Cloud, but Box offer a good value solution. You can start with a free account of up to 5GB of storage, but realistically you may have to spend around £10 per month if you have lots of users.
Eventbrite lets you easily set-up, organise and promote events, as well as issue tickets and take payment. There’s a range of analytics so you can view who has seen your invitation, signed-up for a ticket, paid and attended. Payment is really straightforward too; for free events you don’t pay a penny and for every ticket sold you pay 2.5% of the ticket value plus 65p per ticket and a 3.5% processing fee.
As your business grows you’ll need a CRM tool to help you manage your customer interactions. Having spoken to lots of people, Nimble seems like a fantastic tool. SalesForce is undoubtedly the industry leading CRM software, but for those with smaller budgets, Nimble is a really easy to use contact management tool. To get the most from Nimble you’ll need to subscribe, so expect to spend around a very reasonable £10 a month per user.
If you’re a freelancers or SME owner, you want to spend your time servicing clients and bringing in revenue, not getting bogged down in paperwork and invoices – that’s where Invoiceable comes in. The tool enables you to free yourself from accounting and automate the whole invoicing process. It’s completely free, and for £49 you can opt to have a link saying Powered by Invoiceable removed from the bottom of the invoice.
If you’re looking for the additional functionality of creating timesheets as well as invoicing, then check out MakeSomeTime. This tool lets you keep your time organised by client, project and task. Not only will this keep you organised, but it lets you run reports to identify potential resourcing opportunities, issues or bottlenecks. It’s good value too and you can expect to pay around £20 per year for the tool.
Your website should be considered as a place to sell products or enable prospective clients to get in touch. That’s why you need to be tracking your search rankings each month. Quite simply if you can improve your website visibility, you’ll find yourself generating more leads. Positionly lets you quickly and easily track the performance of your website with an easy to use dashboard. Expect to pay around £10 per month for this tool.
If you’re a freelancer or SME owner, I’d be interested to hear what tools you find particularly useful.