Six essential freelance tools that will save you time, money and stress

If you’re a freelancer, you’re probably always looking out for great freelance tools that will save you time and energy, allowing you to be more efficient with your time and to safeguard those all-important deadlines you’ve agreed with customers.

While there’s no substitute for knowing your discipline and being properly organised, having a set of tools that can save you time and effort can be a huge benefit. We thought we’d take a look at six essential freelance tools to save you time, money and stress.

Snagit

From Techsmith, the makers of the well-known Camtasia video editing toolset, SnagIt is a powerful screen capture application that allows you to record your screen and capture screenshots from any portion of one or more screens. Not only will it record your visuals, but you can record sound from the system and headset microphones too for a complete record of webinars, and other online presentations.

Its very reasonable cost makes it a must-have resource for any freelancer, especially if you’re using visual assets or communicating online with others.

Trello

If you’ve ever struggled with your workload when working with remote team members, then struggle no more. Trello is an online solution offering task management and organisation tools in the cloud that any member of your team can log into and see what needs to be done. Using Kanban-style visual workflow management elements, users can manage tasks on screen and move them from one status to another while ‘passing the ball’ to other parties in the team to alert them that input or action is needed.

The freemium model allows you a surprising number of functions and projects without a paid subscription and so this tool is well worth a look if you’re struggling to keep up with all the little things that need done, especially in freelance collaborative projects.

Beyond Compare

Ever needed to find the differences between two documents and decided that life is just too short? Spending hours with two windows open, reading paragraph after paragraph to spot the tiniest of differences is soul-destroying, but sometimes it just needs to be done.

This tool will save you hours, possibly even days, if that ever happens to you. Beyond Compare from Scooter Software is a powerful comparison tool that can take two versions of documents and very quickly visually highlight the differences in content and format. It’s great for using with PDFs and Word documents and will – genuinely – save you days of effort in the long term. At around USD$30 for the standard version, it’s money well spent.

You no longer don’t need to get annoyed at the one person on your team who refuses to update the filename when they change a document, or who never uses Track Changes because ‘it looks messy’. Just breathe, and install Beyond Compare.

Adobe Acrobat Professional

The PDF format has become the de facto format for supplying downloaded content, and for transferring completed documents and artwork between clients and suppliers. The simplicity of PDF makes it attractive as a delivery format and the fact that multiple reader applications exist means it offers a great solution to the compatibility issue. But how do you edit a PDF? Do you need to recreate the original document every time?

The answer is no, Adobe Acrobat Professional allows you to edit text, images and watermarks in PDFs as well as alter the page structures, saving you time and hassle when it’s a quick change that’s needed.

The drawback with Adobe products that many have already noted in recent years is the cost. This is not a cheap solution and we nearly didn’t include in this list of freelance tools for this reason, but you can take heart from knowing that it’s powerful and if you can’t do it using Acrobat Pro, it probably isn’t possible.

Inkscape

If you’re working with a graphic designer and you need to get their Adobe Illustrator output ready for use in your documents, take a look at Inkscape. Although Adobe Illustrator is fantastic application, it’s expensive and requires lots of experience and training to get the most from. Many freelancers just need to be able to open the files from graphic designers to resize or view them and so paying for Illustrator doesn’t always make sense.

Inkscape is a free application that lets you open and edit vector images. You can save and export them in a variety of formats for use on web pages or in documents. In recent years, MS Word has become compatible with the Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG) image format allowing you to have vector illustration in your Word documents, and Inkscape uses the SVG format as its native file output format. You can open and export other formats, so this free tool is a must for your freelance toolbox.

Hemingway App

If you struggle with words, you’re not alone. Some people find writing easy, others find it difficult.

When you’re writing for business, it’s important that people can understand what you mean at the first time of reading. HemingwayApp is a great tool to help you assess your own writing. You can paste text right into the web page and the site will colour-code your writing to show where it needs to improve, with suggestions for words you can change or miss out.

Your customers and business partners will thank you for clearer, more concise writing.

Tell us what freelance tools you can’t live without

Finding freelance tools that can save you time, money and stress can be a revelation. If you’re a member of The Microbusiness Collective, let us know in the MicroCommunity what tools you use and what applications save you the most time and effort.