10 FREE tools to help creative freelancers get started
Going freelance is a liberating, brave career step. You’ve got a skill, and you’re ready to introduce it to the world! 👏
Freelancing isn’t without its risks and challenges though. Now you're going solo, your time is your biggest asset, so managing it well is really important.
If you’re new to it all, or want to refresh your freelancing tool kit, these 10 digital tools can help. They’re completely free (or have decent free versions), and can make your first months a lot less scary and a lot more organised.
What is it? Super easy task management.
Who’s going to love it? Those of us who like to keep it simple!
Bullet points on scrappy bits of paper might work for a while, but when your client list starts growing, you’ll need a smart place to manage them. Trello is a simple task management tool which helps you organise and order your jobs with clean, colourful cards and lists.
The free version has more than enough tools for a freelancer. If a deadline changes, you can move cards around. If you win a new client, you can create their very own list to keep everything in one place. It’s all dragging, dropping, and a bit of typing - easy!
Tip: Take it a step further and automate your work and productivity. Trello integrates with dozens of your favourite apps through its Power-up section. You can also create more complex automation using Zapier. Check out the integrations page here. 🤓
What is it? An app for connecting and collaborating with nearby creatives from different backgrounds and industries.
Who’s going to love it? People who’d love to network more but can’t always get to events.
The first mobile app dedicated to creative collaboration, SSSHAKE makes it easy to meet other creative minds in your industry and beyond. So far, the app has brought together creative freelancers across fashion, film, design, illustration and more.
According to the users themselves, SSSHAKE is great for exchanging experiences, meeting local people with the skills you’re missing, and finding fresh pairs of eyes for new projects.
Tip: Shake your phone and see what happens.. 😉
What is it? Free icons for everything...
Who's is going to love it? Anyone who needs to use icons or symbols for their projects.
Creating icons can be both time consuming and nerve racking, even if you’re a designer....and especially if you’re working against the clock on a project.
The Noun Project is a massive library that contains an incredible number of icons and symbols for almost any word you can think of... Yes, even hufflepuff. The site crowd-sources and catalogues symbols that have been created and uploaded by graphic designers from around the world. It has grown into a visual dictionary of universally recognised symbols.
Tip: If you’re a designer, upload your designs to feed the karma wheel (and your wallet as your icons can turn into profit)
What is it? Super handy online graphic-design tool for layouts
Who is going to love it? Non-designers who need easy mood board templates
Moods, feelings and visions can be difficult to communicate. Mood boards allow others to get inside your head helping you to express what you're thinking and feeling about a creative idea. From filmmakers to photographers, designers to illustrators, mood boards are an essential part of the creation of a project.
Canva uses a drag-and-drop format and gives you access to over a million photographs, graphics, and fonts. It’s super easy to use and offers loads of flexibility thanks to its numerous features.
Tip: Find mood board templates under ‘Personal’ > ‘Photo collage’ > ‘Mood board’ (yes, we know, it’s kinda hidden).
What is it? Free website builders
Who is going to love it? Freelancers who are fed up with using social media for their portfolio and want something a little more professional
Wix is really easy to use. You have the option to choose from the templates available or to start from scratch. Drag and drop your content, and have the flexibility to customise most of its components. It’s 100% free if you are happy to host it on their domain and keep the ‘powered by Wix’ on your website. When you are ready to have your own domain, you can simply buy one directly from the platform.
Webflow, another one of our favourites, is an extremely powerful tool for web development. You can build responsive websites in your browser, then host it with them or export your code and host it somewhere else. Just bear in mind that there is a learning curve before mastering the platform. So don’t hesitate to make use of the hundreds of tutorials available. Similar to Wix, if you are happy to host it on their platform, you can launch a website with 2 pages for free.
Tip: Use Wix if you want something quick and simple, and use Webflow if you want something completely personalised.
P.s: You can also use Squarespace to build your website, but we decided not to include it as they don’t have a free version. Feel free to check it out anyway!
What is it? A banking app that helps you keep track of your spending
Who is going to love it? People who hate, or are not so great at, budgeting and tracking their spend but know they’ve got to.
Emma aggregates your bank accounts and credit cards to give you a full picture of your finances. It acts as a personal finance adviser, keeping track of all your spending, any subscriptions, alerting you on overdrafts, tracking debt, AND it prompts you to save money. If you’ve been buying one too many flat whites, it’ll spot that too!
Tip: Add both your personal and professional bank and credit card accounts so you are always on top of everything.
What is it? A time management tool which integrates with all your favourites.
Who’s going to love it? Anyone that dreads time-sheets.
Track your time, break down the data, and turn time-sheets into reports. Clockify is really easy to use, and integrates with all the tools you’re already logged into - Gmail, Slack, Google Calendar, Basecamp, and 80 others.
Even when you’re not tracking time for your clients, it’s a helpful insight for you too. You’ll know where your time’s going and be able to charge for jobs more accurately. And it’s 100% free.
Tip: Clockify is available as a mobile app, desktop app, and as a browser extension, so you have no excuses.
What is it? A note-taking tool that’s as useful as it is #aesthetic.
Who’s going to love it? Copywriters or creatives with lots and lots of ideas.
Evernote makes sure no good idea gets away from you. Collect notes, images, sketches, and voice memos in one place, keep your mood boards organised, and store all your projects separately. With the plug-in, you can even take clips and images from web pages you like.
225 million people use it already to digitise their thoughts. You’ll love it too because it’s accessible from every device, stored safely in the cloud, and comes with easy-to-create to-do lists.
Tip: Add the Evernote Web Clipper extension to your browser so you can easily save stuff as you are reading them.
10- And last, but by no means least... Solna
What is it? Easy, smart, invoicing that does the admin for you.
Who’s going to love it? Freelancers with lots of invoices and no time to chase them
If you want to get paid on time, smart invoicing is the only way to go. Solna helps you create invoices, send automatic payment reminders to those annoying late payers, and track every invoice until it’s in your account.
It’s packed with smart features to protect freelancers whether they’re new to the game or not. You’ll get credit risk info on your clients, so you know who you’re doing business with, and make the best decisions when setting payment terms. No more chasing random accounting people either - all invoices come with read receipts.
Tip: Did you know giving your clients the option to pay you online could get you paid x3 faster? Solna lets your customers pay straight from the invoice. 🙌
Know a fellow freelancer who needs this list? Share it with them - they’ll thank you for it!