These four business tools will not only boost your productivity, but they will help you run a more efficient and less stressful Freelance business
Unlike a few years ago, Freelancers are expected to do much more with their time. The nature of the industry is such that, you either adapt and multi-task – or you perish. It’s as simple as that. Thankfully, as a Freelancer, you don’t have to do it all by yourself. These four tools can help you better manage and adapt to ever-changing business environments.
FreshBooks Cloud Accounting
As a Freelancer, you have better things to do with your time than generate invoices or pay bills. Tasks like sending out proposals, following-up on contracts, managing multiple ongoing projects, and marketing your services take priority. But while accounting isn’t top of that list, it still is VERY relevant. If you are unaware of the numbers, chances are your Freelancing business is in trouble (or will be headed that way soon!).
Staying on Top of Your Finances
So, what’s a happy compromise between Freelancers chasing their tails catching up on their accounting, and just leaving it all for your accountant to deal with come tax time? The answer: FreshBooks Cloud Accounting!
With FreshBooks, you get much more than many leading branded accounting packages offer – for a fraction of the cost, including:
- Professional-looking invoices that you can instantaneously generate and send
- Expense tracking features that help you record, classify, capture and manage day-to-day spending
- Time tracking that allows you to account for and quickly and accurately invoice for all time spent on a Freelance job
- Project collaboration tools that allow you to seamlessly work with others (team members, employees), while managing record-keeping and syncing all conversations and files to help keep your project on track
- Payment management features that help you monitor and expedite collections from clients – up to 11 days faster than you now receive payments!
- Powerful and easy to understand reporting
- Your files are continually backed up, so you don’t need to worry about losing data to a lost USB key or a busted hard drive
- Whether you run a single-person Freelance business, or a Limited Liability Company (LLC), FreshBooks is scalable – it grows with you as your needs expand
You have a choice of two flexible versions of the tool, FreshBooks or FreshBooks Classic, both of which offer additional optional add-on functionality from partners like Google, Apple, GoDaddy, PayPal, Gusto Payroll, Revamp CRM, 123 FormBuilder…and many more. These, and hundreds of other app and integrated tool providers, help you to expand and extend the powerful features that FreshBooks (and the Classic version) already offer.
Best of all, these features (and much more…!) are cloud-based and fully mobile-enabled, which means Freelancers never have to call their Accountant or do the eternal “paper chase” to know where they stand with their accounting. It’s safe. It’s secure. And most of all – it’s always available!
Canada-based FreshBooks isn’t just a “local” software company. The team behind it have received 6 Stevie awards in recognition of their world-wide customer service. And, they have clients spread out across over 160 countries. Freelancers will be in great hands with this tool.
Freshbooks also understands the "customer first" mentality. Did you know that every person that gets a job at Freshbooks must spend their first month in the customer service department answering phones and helping customers? This way, every department from accounting to web development knows the needs of the customer. I personally think that's why they'll continue to see success in their market.
They offer a 30 day free trial so you can make sure you love it before you subscribe.
MightyCall Virtual Phone System
As a Freelancer on the go, the one tool that can really save you a lot of stress is your phone system (or lack of one!). Instead of being tethered to your land-line (so old school, I know!) or constantly reaching for your smartphone to take calls, virtual telephony is becoming very common – and MightyCall is probably one of the best of breed virtual phone systems available. So, what can Freelancers do with MightyCall? The question is – what can’t you accomplish?
- Display caller ID and other distinguishing information on outgoing or from inbound calls, making it easy to know who calls you, or identifying yourself to those you call
- Forward your calls to any device, be it another smartphone, a VOIP telephone, your Tablet or laptop
- Prioritize how calls are answered within your organization – to a central number, to multiple numbers simultaneously, or in a circular pattern from one number to another
- Personalize your on-hold music and ring-back tones to make receiving and making calls a more pleasant experience
- Hold conference calls with up to 5 other Freelancers or team members to collaborate on a project
- Automatically record discussions so that nothing significant is lost during phone deliberations
- Have voice mail transcripts sent to you via email, or forward voice messages to others on your team
- You may not have access to a phone – no problem! Communicate with staff and business partners directly from the web (through your MightyCall profile page)
- Quickly glance at your voice mail dashboard to visually see who called, what time and when
As a Freelancer, you probably currently have a telephone number that you don’t want to give up. MightyCall lets you port that number straight into your virtual telephone world. You can even set up specific toll-free numbers (888, 844 etc.) at no extra cost.
One cool feature about MightyCall is the ease with which you can configure your call flows. What’s a “call flow”? Well, if you are a busy Freelancer with multiple irons in the fire simultaneously, you might like to segregate and control how calls from Web Development clients, Content creation clients, Sales calls and Support calls flow. For instance, you might want to handle “special” clients yourself, while pushing out calls from “regular” clients to your support team. With MightyCall, that’s a mighty easy proposition to configure!
As a Freelancer, virtual telephony is a great way not only to impress your clients, but to also streamline your internal and external communication protocols.
Northwest Registered Agent
As a Freelancer, you have a number of choices for organizing the way you do business. Depending on which form you choose, you might have more or less legal complexities to deal with, greater or less favorable tax implications, or more or fewer protections against liabilities arising from doing business.
Your choices include single-owned (Sole proprietor) or jointly (Partnership) managed companies, or more complex structures such as C-Corporations and S-Corporations. You could even operate as a Limited Liability Company (LLC), which is increasingly becoming a popular Freelancer entity of choice.
Before you set yourself up as a Freelance business however, you need to consider the pros and cons of embracing a specific type of structure. While Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships require fewer legal hurdles to create, and have lower tax rates (than say, C-Corporations), the tax liabilities trickle down to the individuals forming the company.
C-Corporations and S-Corps create a separate entity – the business – that help shield shareholders’ personal assets from creditors. In the case of C-Corps, you might face greater IRS scrutiny because your income “flows through”, leaving more room to misclassify or obfuscate earnings and expenses. LLCs, though entailing higher filing and incorporation fees, are a happy medium for Freelancers between sole proprietorships and Corporations, allowing flow-through benefits for taxation purposes, while protecting personal assets.
Expanding Your Reach
Regardless of what type of business structure you choose, as a Freelancer, if you plan on doing business across several states, or your expansion plans include serving clients locally (either personally or through other business structures), you are required by almost every states’ law to designate a Registered Agent contact. Some states call it Agent for Service of Process, others term it a Statutory Agent, and still other states have another name – Resident Agent. But at its core, you are required to provide the state with a designated local contact that they can use to communicate with your company during normal business hours.
If you are a Freelancer that operates across multiple states, Northwest Registered Agent, LLC, a company offering Registered Agent services across the U.S., is a service that is worth taking a look at. Here’s why:
- Registered Agent services is all that they do! Which makes them specialists in their domain
- As the #3-ranked Registered Agent company nationally, from a pool of ten, they are neither too large, nor too small for most Freelancers to work with. Being “right sized”, they’ll be able to cater to all your business needs
- All transactions on your behalf are handled directly by Northwest staff – not by 3rd-party contractors or off-shore agents. Thousands of documents, received from state agencies on behalf of their clients daily, are instantaneously scanned and delivered electronically – safely and securely
- They are committed and invested in their business. They’ve been here for seven years, and they have invested a lot – over @250K in scanners alone! – in office space, people, business processes and technology. As a Freelancer, that’s the type of commitment you want in a partner service provider!
- Best of all, professionally trained Corporate Guides™ provide comprehensive support to each client
In the absence of a Registered Agent, state agencies might not be able to communicate effectively with you locally, about critical filings, changes to rules of doing business, and most importantly on legal matters such as a lawsuit against you. Since you won’t receive timely notification of such developments, it’s likely that you could default on complying with the requirements.
That default can often be costly for you, in terms of associated proceedings and fines. In some instances, it can even impact the “good standing” of your LLC status. The veil of business structure, which shields you from favorable tax impacts, and protects you from business liabilities, might be lost. You could end up being barred from operating in a particular state – just because you didn’t have a Registered Agent to act locally as your official contact point.
Samepage Collaboration Tools
If you have a dispersed team, or regularly work with other Freelancers on multiple projects, then you probably know what it feels like to collaborate to get the job done right – and on time! That challenge is especially multiplied if you have a multi-disciplined team of professionals working with you, each with his/her own working style. And it gets exponentially complicated if you work across multiple geographies and across different time zones.
Freelancers looking to wrestle that challenge to the ground will find Samepage a useful ally in their fight against projects run amok! In one sentence, Samepage helps put Freelancers and their collaborators on the same page!
- Start collaborating on projects with teams and individuals within and outside your organization
- Use built-in communication features, like group chat, instant messaging, video or voice calling to instantly get in touch with others
- Hold scrums with the team at the drop of a hat, and work collaboratively on creating content based on everyone’s inputs
- Maintain and manage a central repository of all your project files and documents, making it easy for everyone to locate
- Create and manage powerful To-Do lists, assigning tasks and jobs to designated individuals and groups. You can even break-up your tasks into Sub-tasks and assign them to different individuals, and also create automatically-assigned recurring tasks
- Get visibility into how tasks are progressing, and be forewarned if a client’s requirements aren’t being addressed or are going to be delayed
- Share calendars across the group, create important event notifications, and schedule recurring events so everyone is in-sync with what’s going on with the project
- Expand Samepage document sharing and file management with integrated apps like GoogleDocs, DropBox, Microsoft OneDrive, YouTube…and much more
If you are relatively small Freelancing operator, you might want to start with the Free version of Samepage. While it comes with restricted functionality, it’ll help you get started down the path of online collaboration. Once you are confident that collaboration is the way to go, you may seamlessly switch to a paid version. Samepage is available in Desktop as well as mobile versions – so you can collaborate anywhere you go.
While many Freelancers are self-managed individuals, working for themselves, collaboration is required in almost every project. With Samepage, working together to accomplish tasks and entire projects will make your life that much less stressful.