If you’ve ever freelanced, or even taken a vacation, overseas you know the panic that slowly creeps up as you’re preparing for your trip. You double-check
When you go from writing a few blog posts a month for the local community newsletter to concocting a business name and looking into private healthcare options and LLC costs, you’re doing what Obi-Wan Kenobi once called “taking your first step into a larger world.”
When freelancing moves from a hobby to a profession, things can get serious really quickly. Suddenly you’re managing invoices, paying taxes, maybe doing a bit of self-promotion, and all the while you’re also supposed to keep on doing the actual work you love so much.
Keeping all your new administrative duties up to date and streamlining them to give yourself the maximum time available to design, draw, code, or write is the difference between your business taking off and your business stalling on the launch pad.
Fortunately, there’s an app for that. Quite a few really, designed to help take care of the back-room tasks that your small business needs, but that you absolutely can’t expend your valuable time and energy on.
Harpoon – Harpoon isn’t just an invoicing system, it’s a whole financial advisor. Starting with the simple question of how much money you want to make this year, it develops a system of tracking screens that encompass what you’re making, how much time it’s taking, what you’re spending, and how everything balances out. This is absolutely essential knowledge to master if you’re a full-time freelancer; without it, you’ll never be able to make any sort of long-term financial commitments without a lot of second-guessing. The invoicing system and reminder service is the icing on the cake.
Levee – If Harpoon is the lynch pin in your business for day-to-day financial needs, Levee is the life preserver waiting to save you at the end of the year. Levee uses in-house experts to prepare income taxes for independent contractors and small businesses for a flat rate of $250. Taxes can be a very tricky thing for freelancers. Not only because you need to make estimated payments throughout the year to avoid penalties, but also because there are lots of deductions you can take advantage of. There are a wide range of deductions available to freelancers that don’t apply to the rest of the working world, things like writing off a portion of your mortgage and utilities for the year based on the size of your home office against the total square footage of your home. Going into tax season alone is a terrible idea for fresh-faced freelancers, make sure you have backup before the tax man cometh.
Dreamhost – If you’ve got a business where you design or create something, chances are you’re going to want a website to promote what you do. Being able to market yourself visually is enormously important in our digital marketplace, and you need a service that can stand up for itself and stay up without having to worry about outages, delays, bandwidth issues, or downtime. If you’re a coder or a programmer, this also gives you a virtual workspace to research new projects without worrying about available memory or the threat of someone swiping your intellectual property if you’re working in a common workplace.
ANDCO – How many times have you wished you had a personal assistant who could track your invoices, remind you about upcoming meetings, advise about upcoming deadlines, and the million and one other things you forget about while focusing on your actual creative output? Of course, if we had the budget for a personal assistant, we’d also have a nice office space at the local industrial park, a receptionist answering all queries, and fresh kolaches and donuts every morning! ANDCO provides an impressive combination of the latest technology with an actual, real live person. The CO stands for Chief Operator, the human factor in this free app. This employee, a freelancer themselves, has as much or as little access to your business profile as you want, and can be reached by phone or instant messenger to discuss responsibilities and projects.
Proposify – A lot of times, your talent alone will win you a job. Other times, you feel like you were clearly the most impressive candidate in the field. If you just had time to do some analytic work, you’re confident you could do the best job of preparing a proposal that would knock the client’s socks off. That’s where Proposify comes in. The app has a huge range of templates for all manner of jobs, and allows users to use a What You See is What You Get (WYSIWYG) interface that makes it easy to custom-design templates of your own. A beautiful bonus feature is the ability to use a cloud server to allow several people to collaborate on a single proposal.
As the rise of the small business and the independent contractor continues, more and more applications and digital conveniences will come online to aid the modern-day freelancer in his quest for automation on the back end to streamline business processes in order to concentrate on the fun stuff. Go create!