Freelancers are the fastest-growing group of workers in the world. In the U.S., 34% of the workforce, or 53 million workers, participate in some form of freelance work. The number of freelancers in the EU labor market increased to 8.9 million in 2013. In Australia for example, as of 2015, there were 4.1 million freelancers, up from 3.7 million the previous year.
These continually rising numbers are one reason that there have been so many computer programs and mobile phone apps designed specifically with freelancers in mind. Nowhere is the old saying “time is money” more true than in the world of freelancing. Fortunately, there are a number of tools available that can help freelancers make the most of their time to achieve maximum profits.
Taking a presentation on the road used to require a lot of bulky equipment and even more set-up time. The newest innovation is IdeaUSA’s mini-projector. Incredibly, it weighs under a half a pound and is so small, it can fit on the palm of your hand. Even more incredible is the crystal clarity of the 120-inch picture. With vibrant colors and a longer operating life than most traditional projectors (25,000 hours), this is one of the best investments a traveling entrepreneur can make.
All the components for business presentations are getting smaller and more portable, including keyboards. The foldable, compact Bluetooth keyboard made by iClever gets high ratings for quality, convenience, price and performance. Its size is ideal for travel since it can easily fit in a car’s glove box.
Flash drives used for storing presentation materials are also getting smaller in size, yet bigger in performance capability. The Leef Supra 3.0 is lightweight, but powerful enough to serve as an external hard drive for backing up files. With 16GB of storage capacity, it transfers data with lightning speed. It even has an LED light so you can find it in the dark in a strange hotel room.
Mobile entrepreneurs conduct business from coffee shops, restaurants and even their cars. Not all of those places have WiFi connections, and those that do may not be secure enough for some transactions. The NETGEAR WAC730 ProSAFE Wireless Access Point provides a dual band of WiFi connectivity wherever you need it.
One of the benefits of many portable gadgets is that they operate on batteries, which means you can use them even if there’s no place to plug them in. That’s why it’s important to keep batteries charged. Of all the battery chargers on the market, myCharge gets among the highest ratings. It can charge up to 3 devices simultaneously and comes with a USB port, and both a micro-USB and a Lightning connector.
Message Management with Manners
While nobody wants to miss an important phone call or message, having your phone ring during a business meeting can leave a lasting bad impression on a potential new client. Ditto, manufactured by Simple Matters, is a tiny device that vibrates to alert you of an important communication. You can pre-program it to only accept messages from certain people during certain hours. You can also put it on vibrate, so that it doesn’t interrupt an important conversation. It runs on a watch battery, so it never needs to be recharged.
With keyboards, screens and gadgets getting ever smaller, our eyes often have to work harder. As we age, those tiny screens get more difficult to see. ThinOPTICS makes stylish, colorful reading glasses that come in multiple strengths and fit right into your phone case. With this solution, entrepreneurs can enjoy all the benefits that small portable gadgets offer without sacrificing their eyesight.
While technology still hasn’t solved every problem traveling entrepreneurs experience, the right combination of hardware and software can solve most of them.
One of the mostly highly rated and recommended time management tools is Rescue Time. It allows you to keep track of exactly how much time you spend on your computer as well as analyze just how that time was spent.
Wunderlist allows you to make, and share, daily to-do lists. Once they’ve been created, you can prioritize them by setting due dates and automatic reminders. You can also assign tasks to other users via email. One of the most useful features for freelancers is that it can be synced across all your devices.
FreedCamp rates high in ease of use, utilizing project templates that allow you to begin working almost immediately. It offers task lists, sticky notes, a calendar, 200MB of storage, and an unlimited number of projects. The cost is another attractive feature for freelancers with fluctuating budgets—it’s free. As your business grows, you can add other options for a small monthly charge.
Budget fluctuations are an excellent reason to utilize Mint, a financial management tool. Praised for its interface, the number of tools it offers, and the useful information it provides, this free service has gained considerable popularity since its launch in 2006. In fact, it gained over 1.5 million users within the first two years. It allows you to synch all of your financial information and make decisions based on the big picture.
Social Media Management
Social media is one of the most important marketing tools available to freelancers. Creating and maintaining a social media presence is necessary to remain competitive. Hootsuite can reduce the amount of time it takes to do that, so that you can focus on work. It allows you to schedule posts across several social media channels simultaneously, even a week’s worth. After posting, it tracks your stats so you know which posts were most popular with your followers. The limited edition is free.
As a freelancer, your business depends on secure storage and ease of access to your files. Many freelancers who utilize Dropbox quickly discover its limitations once they achieve enough success to need more storage space. If your budget and your storage space have both reached their limits, CX Cloud Storage offers an extra 10GB of storage space with their free plan.
The importance of internet security for freelancers can’t be overestimated. Loss of intellectual property means loss of income. Unfortunately, security means having to create, remember, and regularly change a growing number of passwords to access your data. Keeping track of all those passwords—and typing them in, can be time-consuming. LastPass allows you to store all of your passwords in a secure online vault for easy access.
Freelancing requires self-discipline, and when you’re working online, it’s easy to be distracted by interruptions like social media updates. Ironically enough, studies show that taking breaks and giving your brain sufficient downtime actually increases productivity. Focus Booster is an app that works according to the Pomodoro Technique, which dissects tasks into 25 minute increments, separating each increment with a 5-minute break. Taking regular breaks improves concentration. Standing up and moving frequently helps prevent many of the physical ailments associated with sedentary work that can lead to burnout.
By increasing their ability to develop and maintain lasting personal and professional relationships, these apps help make the lives of freelancers richer in every sense of the word. Now that’s real success.
Author: Philip Piletic is a freelancer, writer and traveler who loves to share his experience about business, marketing and tech. He thanks Unique Mobiles for their help with this article.