Starting a freelance business can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to setting up the right infrastructure to run it. And freelancers often end up setting up their business on a shoestring, so investing in monthly or annual memberships to things can be out of the question. Fortunately, there are lots of free tools available that can help you manage your business and stay organised. In this blog post, I’ll share some of the best free tools to set up your freelance business. With most of these tools, there will also be a paid option, so you can upgrade later on if you need to.
Notion – for project tracking, notes and generally creating a business hub
I bloody love Notion. Notion is a powerful project management tool that can help freelancers keep track of their tasks, goals, and projects. With Notion, you can create to-do lists, set reminders, and collaborate with your clients in real-time. Notion also offers templates that can help you get started quickly, including a dashboard that is designed specifically for freelancers. Here are just a few of the boards I have on mine:
- Pitching tracker (I’ve got a template for that in the Finding Clients course)
- A content planner (my team member Jo updates it each month with all the newsletters and content we have planned)
- A goal tracker
- Daily and weekly business routines
- All the bios and blurbs I use for various projects
- A list of the sales posts I’ve used
- And lots of personal ones, like a gallery of my favourite recipes, a meal planner, journal areas, a manifesting gallery, a Christmas planner and House info (suppliers, insurance etc)
Notion also has AI built in now, so you can experiment with that too. There is a paid version (which I use as I have a team now), but you can do a lot on the free one. There are so many options of how you can use it. I even know people who have hosted their course or membership on it, or used it to create sales pages! It’s such a flexible tool for your freelance business.
Asana and Trello
If Notion isn’t your bag, Asana or Trello might be. Asana and Trello are two popular project management tools that can help freelancers stay organised and manage their projects effectively. Both tools offer a visual interface that makes it easy to track tasks, deadlines, and progress. Like Notion, they have apps too.
With Asana, you can create projects, assign tasks to team members, and set due dates. Asana also offers a calendar view that allows you to see all of your upcoming deadlines in one place. Additionally, Asana integrates with several other tools, such as Google Drive and Slack, which makes it easy to manage your projects from one place. I think Asana works quite well if you’re more analytical.
Trello, on the other hand, uses a card-based system to manage your projects. Each card represents a task, and you can move the cards between different lists to reflect their status. Trello also allows you to assign tasks to team members, set due dates, and add comments and attachments to the cards. It’s a little more aesthetic, you’re able to add covers and images for the tasks, and I like that the cards ‘age’ when you haven’t dealt with them for a while, creating a visual reminder. It’s like if Pinterest designed a To Do list app.
Both Asana and Trello offer free versions that have enough features to get started. However, if you need more advanced features, such as custom fields and time tracking, you may need to upgrade to a paid plan.
I love Google Docs. It’s the easiest way to keep on top of all my documents. I have content planners with my clients, a newsletter template I complete for my team, and you can even host courses and trainings on Google Drive if you’re looking to sell a course/training without investing in a specialist platform.
Google Docs is a cloud-based word processing, spreadsheets, slides and more tool that is ideal for freelancers who need to create and collaborate on documents with clients. Google Docs makes it easy to share documents with clients, make real-time edits, and leave comments. There’s a LOT of extra tools you can use within Google Drive, from ones to create your animations, to PDF fillable forms. You can also access your Google Docs from any device, which makes it a great tool for freelancers who are always on the go. Also, if you’ve ever had a laptop die on you, you’ll know how important it is for your freelance business to have an online version of your docs.
If you haven’t got a website yet, you can create a landing page of sorts on Google Docs. I’ve noticed a trend recently for sales pages on Google Docs too.
The main reason you’d have to pay for Google Docs is if you need more space, but this is also really cheap.
Canva is a graphic design tool that can help you create stunning designs for your freelance business. With Canva, you can create social media graphics, presentations, logos, and more. Canva also offers a library of templates that you can customize to fit your brand. While Canva offers a paid version, the free version has enough features to get started. I will say though, they’re moving more and more of the free content into the paid area. This is one of the tools I do recommend is worth investing in at some point, as it’s so useful for social media, website graphics, forms and more. I especially love in the paid version that you can create a graphic, then automatically resize it for other formats e.g turn a social media graphic into an email footer, a reel or a Facebook group header.
Slack is a communication tool that can help you stay in touch with your clients and team members. With Slack, you can create channels for different projects, send direct messages, and make voice and video calls. Slack also integrates with several other tools, such as Google Drive and Trello, which makes it easy to manage your projects from one place. If you have a client who sends a LOT of emails, Slack is definitely worth downloading. Plus, it transcribes voice messages for you, which I find really handy so I can see how urgent something is at a glance! There’s an app which makes it easy to use on the go, but you can also update your status which is handy if you have clients pushing outside their boundaries.
Stripe is a payment processing tool that can help you get paid quickly and securely. With Stripe, you can accept payments from clients all over the world, and it makes it much easier for your clients to make a payment. Stripe also offers invoicing and subscription tools that can help you manage your cash flow and automate your billing process. Now it’s not a free tool, because they will take a small amount of your payments as commission, but there’s no upfront cost and it makes it so much faster and easier for clients to pay you. A word of warning though, the first few times you get a payment through it, it might take up to a week to pay you. Alternatively there’s Paypal.
Voxer is a messaging app that can help you communicate with your clients in real-time, like a walkie talkie. With Voxer, you can send voice, text, and photo messages, and make voice calls. I personally love it for offering Voxer coaching, but I know a lot of my clients use it in their freelance business for quick communication. Voxer also allows you to create groups, which makes it easy to communicate with multiple people at once. I’ve seen a few people run challenges through this! If you want messages to stick around after 30 days, or transcription of the start of messages, you’ll need the paid version, but you can start with the free version easily.
Zoom is a video conferencing tool that can help you communicate with your clients and team members face-to-face. With Zoom, you can hold virtual meetings, share your screen, and record your meetings. Zoom also offers a chat feature that allows you to send messages during your meetings. The free version lets you have 40 minute meetings for free. If Zoom isn’t your bag, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet are popular too.
I feel like MixMax is a little hidden treasure! It’s a Gmail Chrome extension that gives you access to tools like scheduling, email templates (for example, you might save your onboarding email templates in there), meeting booking (you can highlight certain dates from your calendar, and it’ll send it over with a button to book) and more. I’ve been using the free version for years, and I’m pretty sure I’ve only brushed the surface of its uses.
Otter.ai is a tool for freelancers for transcribing audio and video recordings, allowing you to quickly search through your recordings for specific words or phrases. I often use it for coaching notes, meeting notes and I also often stick it on when I’m in the car and have a dozen ideas I want to brain dump!
Talking of transcribing, Descript is one of my favourite discoveries from the last year. Upload an audio or video, and not only will it transcribe it for you, but you’ll also be able to edit the transcription, and it will edit the original audio or video for you! So for example, you could record a podcast, upload it to Descript, and go in and find in the text the bit where you fluffed up a bit. Delete it, and it’ll remove it from the audio too! It can also go through and remove all the ums and ers.
Want to collect testimonials? VideoAsk lets you ask three questions, and the participant can choose to answer in a video, audio or text format. It makes it much easier for them to give you a testimonial for your freelance business, and you’ll have a professional result after.
I have a feeling I’ll be adding more to this list! But if you want some more to dip into, I’ve got lots in my Favourite tools page.
And if you’re new to freelancing, I’ve got just the course for you!