As a freelancer or self-employed individual, being able to make the most of every minute of your day is an essential part of the success equation. Not only that, but you also need to be able to communicate and share easily with your team members, contractors and clients. Streamlining your internal systems through the use of mobile and share-friendly software is an excellent way to meet the goals of today's entrepreneur. If you've been looking for a more effective way to manage your time away from your desk, take a look at these featured apps and services geared toward helping self-employed business owners make their day-to-day lives easier and more productive.
While people may be preaching that email is dead, it certainly is still the most effective way to communicate between clients, team members and other B2B relations you may have. When you're trying to become more mobile, switching to a more mobile-friendly email client may make more sense for your business. For instance, with Gmail, you can set it up so that all of your email accounts are sent to your Gmail address AND you can send from Gmail using your email account names. That way, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, you haven't changed anything in the way your email is handled. However, internally, you can now access your email from any computer, tablet or phone that has a browser and internet access. There are also a number of other features Gmail has going for it, namely its integration with other Google apps such as the calendar and documents services. For some great tips on how Gmail may help you with your business, Daren Rowse over at ProBlogger created a nice write up about his experience with his switch to Gmail.
When you need an instant reply or need to make a long distance call, Skype is a great application for going mobile. Skype allows you to instant message, file share and even have video and voice calls to anyone else on Skype for free. For a fee, you can also use Skype to call mobile and landlines worldwide and have group video calls with up to ten people. As a cost-cutting method, using Skype for instant message and voice calls is great way to keep in touch with team members, contractors and vendors on a daily basis.
Evernote is probably my personal favorite app for business. This program allows you to write “notes” and access them via the Evernote app on your computer, phone or tablet. As long as the person sharing has a premium account ($5 a month) you can also share your notes with anyone who uses Evernote and allow them to make changes as well. This service is used by freelancers every day in a variety of ways, from coming up with design boards for design clients to using it for brainstorming ideas, keeping track of expenses and even CRM tasks.
To stay mobile, you need to be able to access your files from anywhere. One of the easiest ways to do this is through Dropbox. In the simplest sense, Dropbox is cloud storage that you can share with anyone easily. Using the service, you or your team can access and edit any files from anywhere you have Internet access. This can dramatically simplify team projects and help keep you working no matter where you are. It's also a lot quicker than trying to send large files through email. There's really no limit to how you can use this service, in fact, MacWorld has come up with 62 things you can do with Dropbox to help get you started.
Google Drive (formerly Google Docs)
Similar to Evernote, Google Drive is a more robust document sharing software. It allows you to create documents (think Word or Pages functionality on your browser), spreadsheets, presentations and forms right in your browser. In addition, you can share all of these documents with your team or client. This sharing ability allows you to have a truly collaborative experience, especially when it comes to drafting copy or marketing materials. For many freelancers, stat reports are part of the client relationship. Using the Google Drive spreadsheets, you can provide reports that your clients can access whenever they wish.
Having access to all of your files wherever you are is an essential part of the mix of going mobile, however, keeping track of everything should also be a high priority. Project management services such as Basecamp are a great tool for fulfilling this need. With Basecamp, you can create projects that are assigned to specific team members, vendors, contractors or even clients. You can also keep track of to-dos, discussions, files and more in one central place. The calendar functionality lets you see everyone's schedule at a glance, so nothing is getting overbooked and you can plan deadlines and milestones more accurately. To help create an overall seamless experience, you can also integrate Basecamp with a number of other apps and add-ons. To see if Basecamp is right for you, they offer a 60-day free trial.
TIME TRACKING & ACCOUNTING
If time tracking is an issue for you or your team, you may want to consider a time tracking software such as Harvest. With their various apps, you can access Harvest in a variety of ways from your phone, tablet and computer and even integrate the software with your other favorite apps such as QuickBooks, Salesforce and Basecamp. The plus side to Harvest is how easy it actually is to use. In addition, it allows you to not only track time, but also record receipts and create custom invoices. The report system is quite robust and tracks everything from projects, tasks and employees to billable, non-billable, employee or contractor hours. You can try Harvest with a free 30-day trial, however, if you are a small startup or an entrepreneur you can enjoy their FREE FOREVER plan.
If you need a more robust accounting and time management system, Freshbooks may be your answer. Advertised as a cloud accounting service, you can access your account via the computer, phone or tablet, making it a true mobile application. In addition to time tracking, Freshbooks allows you to accept online payments, provides late payment reminders and provides expense tracking (including image and PDF receipts). True to its full-service accounting functionality, you can also use Freshbooks to run profit & loss reports, expense reports and balance sheets. As an added bonus, they also offer a 30-day free trial to see if this is the right service for you.
What are your thoughts? Is there an app or service that was missed? I'd love to hear your comments in the section below!