Ahhh… apps! It’s hard to imagine life without them. I couldn’t imagine my freelance life without apps & online tools (particularly the free ones). But in a world where apps are absolutely everywhere is hard to pick out the good from the great! The bad to the ‘…don’t even bother’.

So, let’s face it. I’m a bit frugal… but who isn’t? I love free stuff. Especially when it helps me to be more productive. So here are my favourite FREE apps and online tools I use in my day-to-day life freelancing.

Fluid – This one is for those who work on Mac (like myself). Sorry PC peeps, you dip out on this one. Fluid is a lifesaver. It gives you the ability to create a real Mac App or ‘Fluid App’ out of any website or web application, effectively turning your favorite web apps into desktop apps. Awesome, right? Apps sitting in my dock are much easier to access than a bookmark AND you get the added bonus of receiving desktop notifications. Almost all the below mention apps I have created into an app. There is a paid version to unlock the full license but the free version does everything just fine.

Wave – My online accounting buddy. Wave gives you the access to do your accounting, invoicing, payments, payroll and so much more in one amazing online tool. It makes bookkeeping straightforward and simple. And the best thing – it’s free. Oh, and it has a mobile app so you can invoice clients and do all your accounting while your on the move AND it integrates with Shoeboxed, Etsy and Paypal.

Toggl – Like most of us we need to keep track of the billable hours worked for our clients. There’s heaps of time trackers around, but Toggl is the only one I’ve found which is free and still has relatively simple functionality. It also integrates with Asana and a few other productivity tools. There’s a desktop version and mobile app version for all platforms. Your time entries are synced in real time. Plus offline support allows you to keep track of time even when your out of WiFi or mobile coverage areas. There are monthly plans you can purchase with added features, but if you’re just after something that tracks the time and has a reporting feature the free version works a treat.

Asana – I’ve mentioned Asana before in my previous blog ‘My Top 5 Tips For Juggling Several Freelance Projects At Once’. Asana is my online organiser. It’s fantastic for listing all of my projects for each client and then prioritising them accordingly. It has amazing functionality and integrates with other apps. You can upgrade to a paid account if that float your boat. It also has a mobile app (iOS & Android) and of course – it’s free.

Spotify – An oldie but a goodie. I love popping on my headphones and tuning out while I’m working. If you’re not sure what Spotify is and the array of music they offer, then you’ve probably been living under a rock for the last seven years. Again, they have a really good free version for all platforms and a premium service for those hard-core music lovers.

Wunderlist – Is simply that – a wonder list. It’s incredibly easy to use, plus you can create multiple folders and collaborate with multiple people with a ‘chat’ for each task. It has some great features like reminders, due dates, notifications, print etc. It’s available over all platforms and the best feature is the browser extension, which comes in super handy. You can upgrade to the paid options but again the free version has pretty much everything you’ll need.

Zoom – is a video conferencing and web conferencing service plus so much more. Think Skype but on steroids and with a heap more functionality. You will have to download and install it on your device to use it, but it’s well worth it. Plus it’s available on multiple platforms. Zoom also has the capability to share your iPad & iPhone screens, which is fantastic for those meetings when you don’t want to carry your laptop with you. It has a heap of plug-ins, including a plug-in for Outlook which installs a button on the Microsoft Outlook tool bar to enable you to start or schedule a meeting with one-click. The mobile app is also great. Start, join and schedule meetings, send group text, images and push-to-talk messages on mobile devices. Oh, and there’s the Zoom extension for browsers which allows you to start or schedule your meeting with a single click from your browser or within Google calendar (currently only available for Chrome and Firefox). Zoom is the next big thing to make communication even more accessible and streamlined.

Dropbox – If you don’t have Dropbox your missing out. I use Dropbox on a daily basis. It’s like a staple tool I use. Without it my job would be a nightmare. Again, if you don’t know what Dropbox is you’ve being living under a rock. It’s web-based file hosting service, which automatically syncs to all of you’re devices it’s installed on. Ever had an attachment that’s too big to email? Dropbox it. Do you collaborate with someone and you need to access the same files? Dropbox and share the folder. Ever had to host some images or something online for a website? Dropbox it to the public folder. Being on holidays? Share a folder full of your photos to friends & family. And like I said, if you have something you need to add to the folder it syncs automatically to all your devices plus all of those who you’ve shared it to. Are you catching my drift as to how useful this online/app is?! It’s available over multiple platforms and devices. You can upgrade to a paid service should you require more space and a few extra features.

Insightly – Now there’s heaps of online CRM’s around, but Insightly is not only free (for up to 2 users) but it has so many great features. You can use Insightly’s cloud-based application to manage customer transactions, interactions, leads, proposals, opportunities and projects from any device at any time. Plus, it integrates with popular online applications like Google Apps, Google Calendar, Gmail, and Docs, Microsoft Outlook 2013, Office 365 Business Edition, MailChimp, Evernote, Box, Dropbox, QuickBooks Online and more. Other online CRM’s are somewhat overwhelming but I find Insightly to be fairly straightforward and user friendly.

Bitly – Is a URL shortening service, which is perfect for twitter (and other social media platforms). Short and sweet. Just like Bitly.

Of course, there’s all the standard social media platforms that we all know and love (to hate). But have you heard of Periscope? It’s the new kid on the block and it’s certainly making waves. Periscope is bought to us from the team at Twitter. Simply put, Periscope enables you to live stream via your mobile device anytime and anywhere. It can be used to capture the atmosphere among fans at an important game, to broadcast some exciting new product/service you’re offering or to experience what it’s like to walk down the streets of your neighbourhood. Periscope is an app that truly takes advantage of its mobile platform incorporating notifications and location as well as social sharing (on Twitter of course), live discussions and interaction. Now I know you’re thinking ‘How is this useful for my freelance work?’. But trust me, for PR purposes, it totally makes sense. If you’re not keen on broadcasting straight away, you can always just view others who are live broadcasting or watch playbacks of broadcasts that were made in the last 24 hours. But honestly, once you’ve joined a live broadcast it’s hard not to get involved in the conversation. Oh, and don’t forget to heart – lots of them. You’ll know what I mean when you jump on.

Ever stumbled across a website and fallen in love with the font/typeface? As a Graphic Designer I have a huge love for fonts and typefaces. Enter WhatFont & FontFace Ninja. These are both browser extensions and come in very handy when you find that perfect typeface but you can’t quite figure out what it’s called. FontFace Ninja even has an awesome feature which allows you try and download the font you’ve just fallen in love with. Again they are both free. FontFace Ninja – available on Chorme and Safari or as a bookmarklet. WhatFont – available on Chorme and Safari or as a bookmarklet. It’s also available for both iPhone & iPad.

Note: I haven’t been paid to mention any of the above apps & online tools. It would be awesome if I was! These are tools I’m other freelancers about because they’re super useful and help the workflow of my freelance life.

So, that’s my list of free online tools & apps. Let me know your favourite online tools and apps by commenting below, especially if they’re free.

Andrea Finch

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