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Going Solo

An average day in the life of a successful freelancer

Check out these 13 tools that any good freelancer needs to know

Freelancers know all too well that dealing with fierce competition, shady employers, and legal ambiguities are just another day on the job. But thanks to the good ole internet, today’s freelancer has countless tools to fight the good fight. Here are 20 essentials no freelancer should be without.

Time Management
If you spend all your time tracking your time, then do you have any time to track? Skip the metaphysics and check out easy-to-use time management software from FunctionFox or Harvest. Straightforward spreadsheets and analytic tools such as real-time views of billable hours and expense tracking make managing your hours easier than punching a time card.

Billing
Even the mafia takes no pleasure in tracking down a missing payment (or so they say). Avoid chasing down errant checks with invoicing software from sites like BillingOrchard and Simplybill. Their easy, clear interfaces allow you to email invoices and adjust billing by project or hour in any currency, all without a baseball bat.

Project Management
Lose the Post-Its and quit writing on your hands. Project management sites like Remember the Milk and ConceptShare allow you to organize, manage, and stay up to the minute on your to-dos. Streamline communication and optimize your creative operation with reminders and full customer support; after all, you should be spending your time making cash money, not remembering to remember.

Business Tools
You don’t have to go it alone. From creating business plans to securing funds, freelancers looking to take their self-employment to the next level will find a world of useful insight at Work.com and Freelancers Union (where it’s free to join 250k other members). You’ll find how-tos on getting your brand out there, an e-survey to gain new perspective, tips on not screwing up your taxes, and so much more.

Legal
Sure, the man who represents himself has a fool for a client, but you don’t have to hire a legal team to CYA. That’s what online legal resource hubs Docracy and Lawguru are for. Create, negotiate, and sign official documents online, or ask specific questions and hear back from real attorneys in specialized fields. Affordable, easy to use, and quick on the replies. The only thing better would be having your own law degree.

Marketing
Sure, you could photocopy a bunch of fliers and post them to street posts, or you can move out of colonial Williamsburg and into the 21st century. Sitescout’s marketing services promise to get your campaign onto over 20,000 sites. Do-it-yourselfers can create and optimize email-marketing campaigns with a little help from Campaign Monitor or MailChimp.

Sometimes it seems that just managing your freelance work is a full-time job in itself.

At least it’s getting easier. Now go forth (and break free).

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