10 Must-Have Online Tools and Apps For Freelancers

It’s becoming increasingly popular for workers, myself included, to jump on the freelancing/self-employment bandwagon. And rightfully so.

The economy is harsh place for employees, but entrepreneurs seem to be thriving. Being your own boss means you have unlimited income potential and the ability to create a better foundation for our future (and family’s future).

Since accepting new business opportunities, I’ve been focusing on new projects I’m passionate about, while making some good money from building my freedom business.

As a business owner, I wear multiple hats and juggle lots of different projects at once.

The key to making money as freelancer is this: utilize the right tools and software, so you can make your job easier which enables you to make more money. 

That’s the goal of any freelancer! Below are my top 10 free must-have online tools and apps to make any freelancing career easier.


1. FreshBooks

FreshBooks is perfect for home businesses as well as freelancers and sub-contractors. One of my favorite features is the time tracking module that lets me “clock-in” and “clock-out” for each freelance job or project I’m working on.

After all my time is scheduled for the month, I can export my hours to an invoice with one click. Then I have the option of emailing the invoice or sending it via snail mail.

Clients or customers can pay using Paypal (with a flat $0.50 fee instead larger percentage) or a regular paper check. The basic plan is free for up to 3 clients and comes with an app that syncs to your phone.

2. Paypal

Even if you don’t own a small business or side gig, you can still use Paypal to securely make/receive purchases or payments online. Wikipedia states that PayPal is:

a global e-commerce business allowing payments and money transfers to be made through the Internet. Online money transfers serve as electronic alternatives to paying with traditional paper methods, such as checks and money orders. – Source

I’ve used Paypal for about the past 6 years and without a doubt, it’s a must-have for any online business like Etsy or eBay.

But I recently found out it’s an essential tool for any blogger or freelancer too. Many of my clients (and contractors) send/receive invoices and payments through my Paypal address.

3. Outright (now called GoDaddy Bookkeeping)

In the past, I’ve blogged about how you can simplify your small business accounting with GoDaddy Bookkeeping, but they just keep making it better and better. Outright organizes all of the expenses and income from small businesses like – eBay, Etsy, PayPal, Amazon, other banks and credit cards.

outright appAs a freelancer (and blogger) who sends invoices and receives payments through Paypal and Amazon – GoDaddy Bookkeeping is an essential tool.

I can easily see how much money I bring in, who my customers are and how what my expenses are. Plus I’ll be ready at tax time, with estimated taxes and the ability to import my expenses to a Schedule C (the tax form for self-employed taxpayers).

I spend less time on bookkeeping and more time on my business, which means more money for my biz. And isn’t that what we all want as freelancers? GoDaddy Bookkeeping is:

  • Safe and secure to use
  • Tracks business expenses
  • Prepare reports for estimated taxes
  • Send invoices and collect payments
  • Imports transactions from thousands of bank accounts
  • Completely FREE
  • Access to their FREE mobile app

4. SignEasy

This app is secretly my all time fav! As someone who works on the go, my “office” is almost always mobile, which means I can’t lug around a fax machine or scanner everywhere with me.

Thank goodness I found SignEasy (formerly EasySign)!

I can receive contracts and other documents via email, sign on the dotted line, save them using file sharing apps and return the signed form via email.

No printing, faxing or scanning required, which means I save a ton of money by not having to buy that equipment for my office. Your signature can be signed using your finger or imported from a signature photo you’ve downloaded from the computer.

5. Pocket

Haven’t heard of Pocket yet (formerly called Read It Later)? Whether you’re a freelancer or just someone who likes surfing the web, you’re missing out!

Pocket app

Pocket is a simple desktop app that syncs with your smartphone and tablet.

When you come across an article, a video, or an image that you like but don’t have the time to read it, you can save it to your “Pocket”.

See how it saves me 4 hours a week on work and makes me more productive!

6. Google Docs

What would I do without Google Docs! If you haven’t jumped on board yet, give it a try — you’ll be addicted shortly. I’m able to share docs, PDFs and spreadsheets with my team as well as freelance writing clients.

I can also create step-by-step guides for all my business systems and save them as PDFs for hiring VAs and contractors. It makes building a freedom business SO SIMPLE!

7. DropBox

I would be lost without DropBox! It’s a file sharing web and phone application that lets you share photos, documents and videos from anywhere in the world – so long as you have an internet connection.

DropboxThis has been a lifesaver for me when I want to do a blog post from my computer at work, then I can pick up exactly where I left off when I get home on my laptop.

Like Google Docs, this app is perfect for traveling entrepreneurs and freelancers who want to save money and time on the go. I also use it to transfer videos and photos to my friends and family without taking up all their inbox memory.

Bonus Apps:  I also use some other fantastic apps to keep my freelance business running smoothly. A few of my other favorites include:

  • Cheddar: a website and app that lets you organize your tasks anywhere and everywhere and syncs with all your devices.
  • CalenMob: an iPhone/iPad calendar app that organizes your meetings, deadlines and other important tasks all at a glance. It syncs with Google Calendar on your desktop.
  • Evernote: both a web and mobile application that saves ideas, take notes, captures photos, creates to-do lists and increases productivity.

Obviously there are tons more online tools and apps out there, but these are just the ones help my business on a daily basis.

What are some of your favorite small business or freelance apps?

About the author: Carrie Smith is the financial artist and editor behind Careful Cents. She helps creative entrepreneurs make a living with their creations, and reach financial freedom through systems and financial organization. She’s been featured in The Huffington Post, Glamour Magazine, Kiplinger Finance and several other business websites. In May 2013 she quit her full-time accounting job to pursue entrepreneurship and blogging. You can find her on Twitter or Instagram @carefulcents.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Mo' Money Mo' Houses July 12, 2012, 2:50 pm

    I think I’m gonna have to bookmark this post, these are some great suggestions (especially Outright, I’ve never heard of it before). Plus I love Dropbox!

    • Greg@ClubThrifty July 13, 2012, 1:50 pm

      “I think I’m gonna have to bookmark this post…” 

      I was thinking the exact same thing. I am just getting into Dropbox.  So far, I love it!  Thanks again for the great tips Carrie!

  • A Young Investor July 13, 2012, 11:59 am

    I’ve never heard of freshbooks before. Gonna have to check into that.

  • A Young Investor July 13, 2012, 12:00 pm

    But then again, Evernote is pretty useful.

  • Jeffrey Trull July 13, 2012, 9:24 pm

    Thanks for the recommendation on Outright! Just signed up and liking it so far.

    • Carrie Smith July 14, 2012, 9:04 am

      Awesome! If you have any questions let me know or you can of course contact customer service because they ROCK!

  • Andrea @ SoOverDebt July 14, 2012, 4:10 am

    Darn, I wish this was a guest post on CKTB because it’s super helpful! Don’t be surprised if I “borrow” the idea in the near future. :)

    I use a ton of apps to make my freelancing life easier. Sparrow for email (I also have Sparrow for Mac) that allows me to get mail from all my accounts in one unified inbox, Wordpress in case I need to post on the go, Weave to track income and expenses, Evernote, Dropbox, Shoeboxed (to keep track of business receipts), HostCP that lets me into my hosting cPanel, Splashtop in case I need to remote into my computer at home, Skype, name.com (for buying/researching domains), and SignNow for signing documents. I also have a number of design-related apps to edit images and create/edit color palettes, though I prefer to do that on my computer whenever possible.

    Okay, so much for writing a post – I think I just wrote one in your comment section! My phone is seriously my lifesaver and I don’t know how I’d survive without it as a freelancer!

    • Carrie Smith July 14, 2012, 9:04 am

      @sooverdebt:disqus Oh yes my phone is a lifesaver too, without a doubt! And feel free to borrow my idea for a new post :) 

      I also use Skype, Wordpress and Shoeboxed but I haven’t heard of the other apps, so I’ll have to check them out. Thanks for sharing, it’s always great to check out new ways to keep my business stuff organized – especially on the go!

  • Carrie Smith July 14, 2012, 9:05 am

    Thanks for the suggestion Dominic @twitter-268594868:disqus I’m always looking for ways to improve upon the tools I’m using now!

  • Modest Money July 14, 2012, 11:08 am

    Awesome recommendations Carrie.  I probably should get around to organizing my freelancing work a bit more.  I do everything the cumbersome way with excel spreadsheets and word documents.  Paypal is actually the only one on the list that I use.  I could probably be a lot more efficient with some of those other tools though.

    • Carrie Smith July 15, 2012, 10:45 pm

      I like using spreadsheets too @modestmoney:disqus but what I love even more is the convenience of using mobile apps that sync with several devices. It’s definitely a time-saver!

  • Budget & the Beach July 21, 2012, 7:14 pm

    I use a few of those. I LOVE freshbooks! I use yousendit to send my video files instead of dropbox. I really don’t know which one is better personally. I’ve just always used that one. 

  • Mystery Shoppers July 25, 2012, 2:36 am

    There are various payment gateways available, but I use PayPal even to buy a product from eBay. And most of my clients pay the invoices via PayPal

  • J.R. @ StraightFinancial.com November 12, 2013, 12:17 pm

    This is such a helpful list. I have been looking for ways to increase productivity and manage all of my future business opportunities. Bookmarking this ASAP!

    • Carrie Smith November 12, 2013, 1:59 pm

      Glad you found it helpful JR! Do you have any other apps or online tools you enjoy working with, to add to the list?

  • Anne @ Unique Gifter November 14, 2013, 3:08 pm

    Wow, so I’ve only heard of about half of those! Thanks for rounding them up for us!

    • Carrie Smith November 27, 2013, 2:10 pm

      Glad you found this helpful Anne!

  • Stefanie @ brokeandbeau November 15, 2013, 11:52 am

    I wish there was an alternative to paypal. I hate the fees, even though they’re minimal.

    • saulofhearts November 24, 2013, 5:37 pm

      Try Dwolla! All large transactions are $.25, and under $10 is free.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money November 24, 2013, 4:43 pm

    Google Docs, DropBox, and PayPal are the three that I use the most. I should use DropBox even more, but I haven’t yet since I bring my laptop with me pretty much everywhere I go. I actually got paid to develop some financial spreadsheets in Google Docs for a small business, so even though I love it for simple things like tracking transactions I would recommend NOT using it for anything complex. There are so many limitations with it.

  • saulofhearts November 24, 2013, 5:36 pm

    Have you heard of Dwolla? I’ve been using that instead of Paypal because, well, I like to support the underdog, but also they have MUCH lower fees. $.25 for all transactions, no matter how big. And under $10 is free.

    • Carrie Smith November 27, 2013, 2:09 pm

      Oh thanks for the recommendation Saul! I have heard of them but haven’t used their service. Will have to check them out. :)

  • Thijs Van Damme January 10, 2014, 10:32 pm

    I prefer Harvestapp for my Invoicing and time-tracking needs, but I need to check Outright… thanks for the great post!