Time Saving Tools for Freelancers

time saving tools. Picture of someone working on a computer

When it comes to running your own business, you probably find yourself wearing many hats. If you work solo, it may also feel overwhelming to handle all the tasks needed to run a business. We are always trying to save time and money. So here are my favorite time saving tools for freelancers!

If you have not already read it, I highly recommend checking out Carrie’s article on Time Management Strategies for Virtual Assistants. She discusses some great techniques and practices in that article. It is a wonderful place to start.

What else can you add to your toolbox though? There are so many tools, websites, and apps out there! In my line of work, I have a few favorites I have come across and would love to share with you, along with some additional suggestions for using your time wisely that you may not have thought of. 

Time is Money

When you are an independent contractor, business owner, or in a sales position, you know time, is in fact, money. Time is also one of the things we all have in common. We each have the same 24 hours in a day.

So how do you maximize that time? Does it ever feel like you are getting less done than the person next to you? Or do you wonder how someone gets everything done they do in a day? I definitely have had this feeling! What you may not realize, is that person probably has help (aka is outsourcing), and they are working smarter, not harder!

Outsource what you can

Start by making a list of what your tasks are. Include both your professional and personal obligations in this list, because all of these things take time out of your day. When you look at that list, are there some things that make more sense to outsource to someone else?

If you are just starting a business, you may be thinking “I cannot afford to outsource”. On the surface level, this may be true, but remember—time is money! In the few hours it would take you to clean your house for example, would you be able to make more money than it costs to hire someone to clean for you? If so, outsourcing your house cleaning is more profitable than doing it yourself. (Best money spent in my opinion!)

Are there items listed in your professional category that someone else could do faster than you? Or are there tasks someone could do for you, while you spend that precious time making more money? Then hire a freelancer or a virtual assistant for those items!

When considering this option, think about the things only you can do, what you do best, and what is the most profitable. Then, look for help for the rest.

Use pre-made templates

As a Type A person who tends to be particular, I had a hard time letting other people do things for me at first. Then I remind myself of what we talked about above. I also came to realize the plethora of resources that were already out there for me!

Chances are when you are working in your own business, you will need certain documents, such as contracts, proposals, spreadsheets, trackers, etc. You could spend time creating these, or you could use templates that are already created for you.

If you are a virtual assistant or freelancer, we have assets for you! Our assets include an independent contractor agreement that you can download and use over and over. A simple Google search had me looking at eForms, which also looks like potential option, but another Google search shows me that it’s not actually free. So be careful where you find your forms, though you shouldn’t have trouble finding something. If our resources do not match what you need or are looking for, send us a request!

Let technology be your friend

So far we have covered some time-saving tips, outsourcing, and using templates that are already created for you. Now let’s talk tech! Depending on your age and expertise, using websites and apps for your business may either be second nature or intimidating. Once I jumped on the technology bandwagon, I was hooked.

Using tools and apps can help you be more organized and efficient. There is a plethora of websites, services, and apps out there, and what will be most helpful for you may vary based on your business. (Mine is focused on design, branding, and social networking.) I am going to share my Top 3 picks that have helped me stay more organized, efficient, and focused.

1. INVOICING

When I started freelance design, I created my own invoices and emailed them to customers. I kept track of what had been invoiced, sent, and paid on a spreadsheet.  This involved more work (and time) on my end, and I do not know why it took me so long to go digital.

Some of the most popular invoicing services are incorporated into websites you may already be using for your business, such as Quickbooks, Paypal, and Square. These services allow you to easily create, send, and track invoices.

One of my favorite features of Square, for example, is the ability to schedule reminders if the invoice is not paid. I can set it, and forget it! I also love that you can add your own logo, messages, discounts, or fees to invoices. Another feature I love is the ability to request a shipping address, which is great for my online jewelry business!

2. CREATING GRAPHICS

As a designer, I have a love-hate relationship with Canva. I love it because it makes creating digital and print graphics easy and accessible for the general public. I hate it because I am sure it has taken away some of my freelance design business—that is how easy it is to use!

Canva offers pre-made templates that you can edit and download. There is a free version and a paid version, depending on your needs. The paid version, or Pro as Canva calls it, offers premium content and extra design tools, such as erasing the backgrounds, creating Brand Kits, access to stock photos, videos, and more.

If you have multiple people working on a project, you may also want to check out their Canva for Teams option.

3. SOCIAL MEDIA SCHEDULING

In my line of work, a large part of my business is online, specifically on social media. Not only am I planning and creating content for myself, but I also need to share it with others.  All of this became so much easier and more efficient when I discovered Cinchshare!

When I started my social networking business, I was creating content on a whim. Having a resource such as Cinchshare helps me plan ahead. By focusing about an hour of my time, one day a week, I can sit down and schedule my social media content for the whole week, or more. It helps me focus, plan, and get it all done efficiently, allowing me to spend less time on social media and more time on other priorities.

Cinchshare is also wonderful if you have a team, especially in the social networking/direct selling industries. You can set up entire online events, including photos and content, and share with others! If you want to try it before you buy it, there is even a 14-day trial.

Which app or service are you most excited to learn more about? I encourage you to always be open to learning new things. While it can feel intimidating at first, learning about the services and technologies out there can save you time in the end!

Quit calling yourself a freelancer

Should you call yourself a freelancer? There's probably a better term you could use!

I might be aging myself, but when I hear freelancer, I think hippie. Even now that I know I’m a freelancer, I still think it.🤷‍♀️

If you’re a freelancer, please don’t be mad! I’m a freelancer – it’s a stigma we need to get past!

Since people still think like I did (do?) we need to shift our mindset.

Bottom line: You need to quit calling yourself a freelancer!

What is a freelancer?

Let’s start here. What is a freelancer? A freelancer is someone who works for themself as an independent contractor.

Oftentimes, people go into freelance work for freedom and flexibility when it comes to the work they do. While that notion seems brilliant, sadly, one of the things commonly associated with “freelance” is inconsistent income, and presumably, a lack of business savvy. But that couldn’t be further from the truth!

My mindset story

I have always said that I became a virtual assistant when I SAID that I was a virtual assistant. It was my attitude. It was the perception that I conveyed when talking about my new endeavor.

Actually, I didn’t speak as though it was new. I spoke as though I was in the thick of it, when in fact I didn’t even have a client yet. But I had the experience, so I felt like I was doing it all along!

That was my mindset.

Freelancer to Virtual Assistant

Change your mindset to change the perception

If the association with “freelance” is less than desirable, then don’t call yourself a freelancer.

A term I’ve recently been using is “independent contractor”. I feel like more people understand that means I work for myself. As in, I don’t have an employer. I like the connotation of that, and that’s just what I’ve found myself saying.

If I get into a discussion about what I actually do, that’s when I say that I’m a Virtual Assistant, which usually leads to describing what I do for my current clients.

So let’s find a better “name” for what I do. What do I do for my ideal client? Well, my favorite task is to respond to customer emails. I want to solve their problems!

What does that do for my clients? It provides a superior experience for their customers. Everyone wants to be heard – to receive a response. When customers are attended to, they feel important and that makes them happy.

And when customers are happy, they remain customers. And they refer their friends!

So what could I call this? A customer coordinator? Customer experience manager? In simple terms, I say that I manage their inboxes. 🤷‍♀️😂 While it’s true, if you were trying to find a better title, you might pick something like Customer Experience Manager.

Actually, I like that one!🤔 Oh! Customer Experience Expert! Yessss!!!

What other professionals have to say about mindset

Don’t take it just from me. I mean, anyone can write on the internet! 😂 Here is what some others have said about the topic…

I like how Borja Moya describes the freelancer mindset in this article. It basically says that you become a freelancer when you think about yourself and act as a professional. It’s your mindset that takes you to the next level.

Brennan Dunn of Double Your Freelancing advocates finding a better name to describe what you do. Brennan’s course, Double Your Freelancing Rate, revolves around a mindset shift that needs to take place so that you are properly valuing yourself and your services.

Go to his website and right off the bat you can get a FREE 9-day course tailored to you! Click the big blue button to get started!

Raelyn Tan is a list-building expert. On her website, she has online courses to help you build your email list. I love her List Building Incubator course, but scroll past that and you’ll find some free downloads! She calls herself a Profitable Visibility Specialist. Isn’t that a jazzy way to say, list-building expert?!

Does your degree or professional designation change anything?

Umm, I mean, sort of. And not necessarily. 🤷‍♀️

If you have some letters after your name, it’s a credibility that you earned and you should use that to tell people what you’ve accomplished! Realistically, they’ll figure it out if you’re legit or not.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have any letters! This is not to say that you need them to be a freelancer!

But definitely use your professional designations. People with letters after their name can usually command higher rates because of the perceived authority that comes with the education required to get those little letters!

Actually, I think this is a whole other conversation, so I’ll be circling back to it in the coming weeks: how to go from a professional employment career to a freelance/independent contractor gig.

Actionable activity

Grab a piece of paper, or open up a Google Doc. Describe what you do for your clients.

Don’t have any clients? What is it that you want to do for your ideal client? What have you done for clients or customers in the past (think past life, like employer situations)?

What outcome do they (or will they) experience as a result of working with you?

Try using short, bullet statements. Look through your bullet points and start combining words like I did above. “Customer Experience Manager”, “Customer Experience Expert”.

As you’re pulling together the different words, certain words will start to sound right. They’ll POP. Notice that I gravitated to Customer and Experience – these words were popping for me! But the 3rd word wasn’t exactly right.

Keep stringing the words together in a different order. Say them out loud. Hopefully, you have a big Ah-Ha moment like I did when you strike the right combination!

I would love to hear what you come up with!

 

I hope this article and the exercise help you to shift your mindset to a place of greater value and help you find a different way to describe yourself! Because what you do is surely valuable!