This article focuses on web tools and applications to increase productivity. These tools could have a major impact on the way you operate as a freelancer. Some, if not all, may not be relevant to your specific line of work. However, it is still fascinating to know what’s out there…
Social media is free and a quick way to post updates directly to people who are interested in your services. Starting with no followers is challenging, but with regular updates, people will be encouraged to look at your website and eventually, your list of followers will grow. Start off by setting up a Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn account. Whilst Google Plus is often disregarded due to its poor usability, it may be a good idea to create a profile because it can help with your overall presence on Google. Hootsuite is a clever app that allows you to schedule your social media posts. It is free but there is an option to pay for the more advanced service.
Whether you design your website, or you get a professional to do it for you, I recommend you have it built on the WordPress platform. If you are not familiar with WordPress, learning the basics, such as uploading a new page and new blog post, is fairly straightforward. Watching YouTube videos is a great way to grasp the essentials. There are hundreds of features that can be taken advantage of, as well as customisable plug-ins. WordPress is regularly updated, helping websites look sharp and up-to-date.
Emails are as important as ever, and having access to these when out of office could be a vital part of your success as a freelancer. The Outlook app makes it a synch to view emails and reply with either a simple message or attachment. Gmail is just as user-friendly.
If you need to make contact with a client, have you considered using Skype? It is now available on your smartphones – just make sure you have a decent internet connection, or the video quality will be sub-standard. Skype is generally considered more professional than FaceTime, a feature that comes with iPhones and allows you to video call other iPhone owners.
Cloud storage has two main benefits. Firstly, it is a great way to back up your resources and access them when outside your office. Secondly, due to email size limitations, providing a cloud account for your clients to upload documents to can save precious time. If you are using an Apple product, iCloud is available and the basic usage is free. For Android users, Google Drive is the standard cloud platform to use because it comes pre-installed on a majority of devices. Dropbox is another highly regarded Cloud storage option, and it is very user-friendly. Do a little research – customer reviews are the best way to gauge the quality of cloud storage facilities.
Online Accountancy / Banking
Keeping on top of your accounts is very important. Within the last couple of years, mobile banking has become an important method of transferring funds and checking balances. Most leading banks have their own apps, which are well worth downloading, free of charge.
Cloud Accountancy Software
Our sister company K&B Accountancy Group has recently established premium partner status with FreeAgent, which has resulted in every K&B client having access to the FreeAgent cloud portal (there is also an official app). You can login into your account when on the move and update expenses, create invoices, view contacts and send important information. It can also be linked to your online banking for a direct bank feed. FreeAgent is the one stop shop to manage your bookkeeping and accounting records, whilst K&B Accountancy Group check and prepare your accounts in the background.
If you regularly make payments or need to receive card payments, take a look at the PayPal app, which they describe as your “digital wallet”. That reminds me – if you have an iPhone, don’t forget to set up Apple Pay. There is something very satisfying about paying at a counter without a card or cash in hand!
There are so many useful apps available on both Apple and Android that are designed to help you get organised. Evernote is a wonderfully useful tool designed to encourage you to brainstorm and keep a detailed schedule, as is the app Wunderlist. If you struggle with your personal timekeeping, download Toggl for an easy to use time tracker. Google have their own version of organisation app – Google Tasks. This is free and provides an incredibly simple “to do list”. For just £0.99 you can download iScanner – an app that allows you to take a photograph of any type of text and save it as a PDF file – especially useful for invoices and receipts. Your phone/tablet may come with a PDF viewer pre-installed. If not, download the Adobe Acrobat app, free of charge.
Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint are all available as a download on Apple and Android devices. There is a monthly fee but they could prove very handy if you are regularly on the move. There are free options available too, such as Google Docs, Documents Free and Documents Pro 7. In my opinion, nothing beats Microsoft office. If you are unwilling to pay, why not use a free app and simply copy the content you have created into an email and upload to a Word document when at home?
Travel by car? Commute via rail? Have a trip abroad? However you travel from A to B, you can bet there is an app to help make the journey easier. Here are a few useful apps to download for when you are on the go:
Road travel – Live Traffic Info by the Highways Agency will keep you up to date with traffic incidences in your local area. This is perfect for planning ahead, as well as carving a new route if you find yourself held in a queue (remember to pull over safely before using the app). If you require a taxi and are in a supporting location, Uber is the new, trendier and cheaper way of calling a taxi. It allows you to pay by a registered card – perfect when you’re short of cash to hand.
Travelling abroad – EasyJet, Monarch and British Airways are just some of the airlines that have an app allowing you to book flights, check departures and arrivals, and show your boarding pass. If you want to compare airlines and make sure you’re getting the best deal for the time you’re flying, check out the Skyscanner app. Don’t forget to download the free XE Currency app to get the latest international exchange rates.
Accommodation – when looking for accommodation, either local or abroad, the Booking.com app is a popular option. This app is especially useful because of its easy navigation, allowing you to search based on comfort, customer reviews, price, and many more. It includes all types of accommodation, from city centre hostels to cosy B&Bs.
Rail – If you need to buy tickets or just need to check availability, the Trainline app is worth a download. This easy to use app provides all the information you need, including updates on train delays and journey durations.
Hopefully, these suggestions will inspire you to review some of the apps above, or have a fresh search and see what is available. If there is an app you use that I have missed, or if you have any questions, I can be contacted below. The prices in this article are accurate as of the date it was written. The views shared in this article are my own.