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Do I really need 50 tools to be a successful freelancer?
Freelancing is a growing trend globally. More and more people leave full-time jobs to be their own boss. In fact, we have several freelancers on the Roll team right now (including myself). That’s probably one of the reasons why we decided to release a free version of Roll specifically for freelancers.
Leading up to this decision, we did some online research to see what tools are out there for freelancers. What we found is a whole heap of articles titled “the best 12 free tools for freelancer”, “30 essential tools for freelancers” and “50 tools you need to start your freelance business”.
Do I really need 50, 30 or even just 12 tools to be a successful freelancer?
I can’t help but wonder; do I really need 50, 30 or even just 12 tools to be a successful freelancer? I mean it’s great that there are so many available (some even free) to help freelancers manage their work. But with so many applications I would probably end up spending more time managing my tools than actually doing paid work.
That sparked my curiosity. So I talked to a few of my freelancer contacts to find out what tools they actually need and use (vs. the ones they have accounts for but never really log into). Here is what I discovered.
While it obviously depends on the type of freelance work you do, there seem to be three key areas most freelancers use tools for:
- Productivity - managing work, projects, time and clients
- Finance - sending invoices, tracking payments, etc.
- Communication & collaboration - with clients, suppliers, team members, etc.
There might be others but those seem to be the three key things you need to have sorted to be a successful freelancer. The truth is that you could probably manage all of that with a basic excel spreadsheet and an invoice template. But given all the cool tools available these days, why not make it easy for yourself – and have some fun playing around with technology :).
For the last few months I’ve been managing my little freelance business with three main tools; Roll to manage my projects, clients and keep track of my overall financial situation, Freshbooks to track time and send invoices and Google for emails, documents and online storage.
Most freelancers use a very similar combination of tools. Here are the most popular ones.
Now I admit, as far as freelancers go, I’m probably one of the ‘simple’ ones, only working for 2-4 different clients at a time. But, turns out most of the freelancers I talked to use a very similar combination of tools. Here are the most popular ones I came across:
Communication & collaboration
Most of the freelancers I talked to only really use one tool out of each category, maybe 2. But I couldn’t find anyone who is actually using 12 (let alone 50) tools to manage their freelancer operation.
So what’s the conclusion? Well, I definitely don’t think freelancers need 50 tools to be a successful. In fact, I seem to be pretty much the norm with the three I’m using right now.
The more important question might be which three to choose (out of the 100s that are out there).
When I asked my freelancer friends what they like most about the tools they are using the recurring themes were:
- It helps me do things faster
- It makes sure I don’t miss or forget anything
- It makes it easier to work with others / keeps us all on the same page
- It helps me do something I don’t really know a lot about and/or don’t really want to do - not surprisingly, I heard this reason a lot in relation to accounting /finance tools…
If you struggle to explain why you’re using a certain tool, you’re probably not getting a lot of value out of it.
What was interesting is that it never really took anyone long to explain why they use a specific tool. If something is valuable to you, you know why. If you struggle to explain why you’re using a certain tool, you’re probably not really getting a lot of value out of it. So maybe that’s a way to select the tools you use for your freelance business. Try a tool and if you can’t summarise the value quickly and on the spot after two weeks it’s probably not the right tool for you.