Almost every day I’m asked what tools I use to stay organized, track my time, and collaborate with clients. I find the tools I use so valuable to my everyday work flow that I’d like to talk a bit about them here.
Freshbooks is an invoicing and time tracking life saver! I seriously don’t know what I’d do without it. It allows me to customize the design of my invoice templates (see below), set up different payment options for my clients (PayPay & Stripe are the options I provide as I love both services) and instantly determine how many hours I’ve worked for any given client — along with the cost.
Aside from invoicing, I also track all my business expenses here. Whether it’s a coffee meeting receipt I want to add or the cost of a new desktop monitor, Freshbooks lets me keep track of that. I can upload receipts for each expense and it then gives me a nice pie chart showing the breakdown of expenses by expense category. See below:
I recommend it to absolutely everyone. I’m sure there are other comparable services to them, but they’ve got me hooked! I even just recommended Freshbooks to my accountant! (Note: I have a paid account so there are some features mentioned here that you can’t get with a free account — but paying is completely worth it.)
As you might have assumed from the name, Focus Booster is a Mac app I use to track my time. It is a non-intrusive pop up on my desktop that counts down the time I’ve given myself to complete a certain project.
Let’s say I want to take 1.5 hours to write a blog post. I can set Focus Booster to 1.5 hours (see above) and hit the green ‘Play’ button. It’ll then begin counting down time while I work. This not only helps me feel a sense of urgency, but also keeps me focused (I don’t get up during this time period as I know time is ticking — literally, because the app ticks like the intro sound on 60 Minutes) and helps me track time spent per client for invoicing purposes.
The Pomodoro Technique, which Focus Booster was derived from, explains that setting your mind to one specific task at a time produces better quality work (which is my number one goal for all my clients), and doing work in spurts (even half hour time periods with 5-10 minutes for a break) helps you function more effectively. I absolutely believe this as I’ve seen it work tremendously for myself.
I don’t know how I could collaborate as effectively with clients if it wasn’t for Google Docs. By now, you’re probably familiar with Google Docs, if not using it by now, as it has superior collaboration features. And because it comes as a service for all Gmail users, pretty much anyone can use it — so long as they’re on Gmail.
For example, I love that I can write a blog post, share it with my clients, and work with them remotely (in real-time right) right in the document. We can comment back and forth, chat, and see each other’s edits as they’re happening. I’ll admit, seeing people type in the doc in real time is a bit creepy at first, but it’s extremely helpful.
Similar to Google Docs, Google Calendar is probably familiar to you as it’s another service that comes along with all Gmail accounts. I love that its tight integration with Gmail allows me to get notified by Gmail (among other ways) about my daily agenda and when events are about to happen.
I get a daily agenda email when I wake up so that I know what to get ready for that day. I’m also alerted 10 minutes in advance to a meeting so that I can prepare. You can also set up text messages or mobile alerts to notify you — whichever you prefer. The timing of alerts and agendas are completely customizable:
Evernote is extremely helpful to me in several ways. I’m constantly doing research on all things marketing to keep my knowledge as up-to-date as possible, and many times I want to save good articles I’ve just read. Evernote has a browser plugin I use where I can save any article, or a screenshot of that article, right to my Evernote account just by clicking on the plugin button.
I can then go back into my Evernote account at any point to re-read an article. The search functionality is very helpful as I save a lot of articles here, and sometimes it’s hard to find them.
There are several other services I use (from productivity to professional services and more) that I absolutely love, but these are the top ones that I use multiple times every day. I seriously encourage you to try them out if you are a freelancer/consultant and have the need.
Before I let you go — what services, aside from the ones on this list, do you use regularly and find helpful to your productivity? I’d love to know!
Kristin Dziadul is the Founder of KDMedia. You can find this blog post, as well as additional content on Kristin's blog located here. You can also follow Kristin on Twitter (@KristinDziadul) by clicking here.