10 free tools to help creative freelancers get started

Tiphaine Bruel
February 6, 2019

Going freelance is a liberating but gutsy career step. It also means you’ve got the skills, the passion and the drive to make a living from your art. 👏

Freelancing isn’t without its risks and challenges though. So it’s important you have smart, time-saving tools on your side now you’re going solo. The most successful freelancers are great at prioritising, managing their time, and keeping their clients happy. This means time is sacred, so the more you can automate, organise, and simplify, the better. There are plenty of gems out there with no monthly subscription costs and lots of clever insights.

We gathered our 10 favourite digital tools that are completely free (or that have good free versions) to make your first months a lot more organised and a lot less overwhelming.

1. Trello

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 and you can also create more complex automation using Zapier (check out 🤓

2. 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.

Tips: 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. 🙌

3. The Noun Project

What is it? Free icons for everything

Who’s 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.

Icons designed by Made

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 crowdsources and catalogs 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.

Tips: If you’re a designer, upload your designs to feed the karma wheel (and your wallet as your icons can turn into profit)

4. Canva

What is it? Super handy online graphic-design tool for layouts

Who’s 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.

Even if designers might hate it, Canva is a pretty cool tool. It 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.

Tips: You can find mood board templates under ‘Personal’ > ‘Photo collage’ > ‘Mood board’ (yes, we know, it’s kinda hidden).

5. Wix and 6. Webflow

What is it? Free website builders

Who’s 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 can choose from the templates available or start from scratch. You just have to drag and drop your content to get started.

It’s 100% free as long as if you are happy to host it on their domain.

Webflow, another one of our favourites, feels like an Adobe platform and 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 also have Squarespace if you want an easy website builder. We decided not to include it as they don’t have any free version but feel free to check it out anyway!

7. Emma

What is it? A banking app that helps you keep track of your spendings

Who is going to love it? People who hate, or are not so great at, budgeting and tracking their spendings but know they’ve gotta do it.

Emma aggregates your bank accounts and credit cards to give you a full picture of your finances.

It’s like your personal finance adviser, keeping track of all your spendings, 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

8. Clockify

What is it? A time management tool which integrates with all your favourites.

Who’s going to love it? Anyone that dreads timesheets.

Track your time, break down the data, and turn timesheets 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 over 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 really have no excuses.

9. Evernote

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.

Tips: Add the Evernote Web Clipper extension to your browser so you can easily save stuff as you are reading them.

10. And last but not least… SSSHAKE

What is it? A platform to connect creators with opportunities, either freelance jobs or collaboration between artists

Who’s going to love it? Creators who want to receive opportunities and be part of an international network of like-minded people

SSSHAKE is on a mission to get creative freelancers working to their fullest creative and commercial potential. We are entirely inclusive, make selecting the right creative need straightforward and cut out unnecessary middleman costs, all to make creative collaboration and freelancing easier and more profitable.

We are defining a new standard for creative freelancing. SSSHAKE is more than just bringing the right creators and projects together. We work as a facilitator to push all projects to reach optimal possibilities by supporting all levels of freelance practices and complimentary projects.

Tips: You can also find teammates for your passion projects 😉

Thanks for reading!

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