For more and more of us, the freelance life is where it’s at. But just because indie work is the most flexible and fulfilling way to make a living doesn’t mean it’s easy. And even when things are going extremely well, the pipeline of relevant leads is flowing and being converted into a steady stream of paying gigs, the weight of self-employment responsibility can be considerable.
No matter what type of product or service you’re selling, when you work on your own, you end up taking on a lot more aspects of maintaining a business than you would in a more conventional, salaried position at someone else’s company. But you’re a designer, not a lawyer! You’re a tech consultant, not a banker! As such, it’s up to you to create business operation systems that make your life easier and your clients’ experiences with you as smooth and pleasurable as possible.
Staying organized with your files and procedural checklists can help a great deal. And thankfully there are plenty of awesome digital tools that make a big difference as well. We’re in the midst of a software-as-a-service (SaaS) renaissance. Tech is one of the biggest areas of growth for the freelance ecosystem, so it makes sense that developers would be familiar with and create products that address freelancers’ needs.
Let’s take a look at three extremely useful web-based products that render the freelance grind just a little bit easier.
- Create Scalable Killer Proposals with Bidsketch
Proposal writing is an art form of its own, and while many freelancers are great at the elevator pitch, not all of us are up to the challenge of presenting that pitch in a slick, fleshed-out presentation format. That’s where this web app comes in, providing a structure to build your proposal on. Populate and customize libraries of boilerplate sections that cover your business details, terms, value proposition and product line, add some drill-down into gig scope and specifications and voila – your proposal comes together right before your eyes.
Aside from the outputted proposal’s easy-to-digest format and impressively rich content, the presentation of your proposal says a lot about you and the service you provide. Bidsketch has a variety of professional, elegant yet eye-catching design templates to choose from, giving your proposal that extra boost and leaving an impression on potential clients.
Bidsketch was founded by Ruben Gamez as a side hustle in 2009, with the goal of helping freelancers to earn more by saving time. Their price plans range from $23 to $119 per month, making this an affordable option for solo operations and small teams alike.
- Customize Contracts with Freelancers Union
There’s nothing that ensures a mutually fulfilling work experience like clarity. And there is nothing that sours a work relationship faster than misplaced assumptions unfulfilled expectations. That’s why a contract outlining the service you provide and the terms surrounding payment you receive for said service is the golden ticket to a thriving business.
Freelancers Union offers a way for those in the ever-growing independent workforce to create customized contracts with a user-friendly interface. The advocacy organization’s Contract Creator tool guides you through the process of building your own personalized yet legally binding contract to fit each job. No lawyer fees required – just a free registration, which you should probably be doing regardless.
Indeed, the Union’s web-based contract generator is just the tip of the iceberg. The organization, which has been in operation for over 20 years now, is the brainchild of Sara Horowitz, who aims to serve the community of independent contractors with a diverse mix of lobbying, services and educational initiatives. Freelancers Union not only offers valuable tools and advice; it’s also a great platform for networking with the rest of the independent workforce.
- Understand Your Cash Flow with Cushionapp
One of the hardest parts of being a freelancer is the unpredictability of cash flow. We all have weeks and months that are more and less busy, and even when the gigs coming in and being turned around in relatively high volume, there can always be collection snafus. Clients have different payment timing stipulations, checks remain “in the mail” for weeks on end and so forth.
Jonnie Hallman, founder of the Cushion web app, saw a way to minimize these challenges common among the independent workforce by creating an app that only addresses the need to track and predict income, but to manage time and workload as well. His goal is to help freelancers manage their schedules and bring them peace of mind in a field that more or less necessarily provides unsteady income.
Cushion app offers the ability to track and measure your income and avoid over booking with a clean, easy-to-use interface and visualizations. It also has a variety of options so that you can customize your account, giving you the freedom to use a system of billing what works for you and your company. Cushion costs $8 to $10 per month, so it’s affordable and valuable, a combination that any freelancer loves to find.
Keep Your Toolbox Dynamic
Consider it part of your job to constantly be on the hunt for new, awesome tools that can make your business easier to manage. Every hour saved is an hour you can potentially spend working on more billable projects. And, of course, when it comes to getting paid for your work, feel free to check out how Invoice Ninja can also help make your freelance business operations as painless as possible.