Back in March I wrote a post on a few general tips about freelancing. After having more friends jump aboard the F-train, I thought I would touch more specifically on apps, software and processes I use on a regular basis that will likely come in handy for you too.
The A word that can leave bad taste longer than aioli. Accounting really doesn’t have to be as draino as you think, it’s only when you put off doing it for too long that it becomes a burden. How to avoid this? My advice is to stay on top of it as best you can. In the last post I spoke about finding a rhythm, but everyone marches to different beats or different drums—or whatever the expression is. Pick a day of the week, fortnight or month to be your get shit done day and stick to it. I set a reminder in my calendar for the first of the month, and smash out all invoicing, expense tracking and bill paying in one hit. BOOM.
To do this as quickly and efficiently as possible I am back to using Freshbooks and this time I’m all in! With the iPhone app to boot, it’s just so easy to add receipts and keep track of everything going on. In saying that Freshbooks is not without its cons, and it kills me softly sending out ugly AF invoices but this gal’s gotta prioritise between paid work and wasting time kerning numerals every month. You can sign up for a free 30 day trial if you want to try before you buy.
Other software out there that appear pretty good include Xero, Quickbooks and Wave, however after doing my research I felt they were a little more complex than what I needed.
Previously I was using TeuxDeux for project management but after using Trello at A Color Bright, have found it actually suits my needs better. Rather than a calendar-based app, Trello has project boards with task cards that make planning sprints solo or as a group a breeze. You can create different boards for different projects or keep it all on the same one.
It’s nothing new but for big deadlines I also usually punch it into Google Calendar to get an overview of my month, what’s coming up and of course it also syncs up with your phone to set reminders and notifications.
To Slack or not to Slack ... ugh. I have a love/hate relationship with this app and I’m positive I’m not alone feeling this way. Slack is a messaging app for teams and we use it every day at A Color Bright. It’s super handy for quick communication without interrupting people physically and much easier to keep track of threads compared to email. I personally however find it super distracting, sometimes feeling like it’s making me the opposite of what it promises: being less busy. All in all I think it is a great tool, but with great tool comes great self control.
Part of the reason freelancing is so great is the ability to work from anywhere. A lot of the time your clients will be in different countries, continents and timezones and the odd conference call is necessary. Most people would immediately turn to Skype, but I’d rather skip the awkward user name exchange that you made in high school and just send them a link to meet. Appear.in is great for this as you can send a customised link and no usernames are required. Brilliant if multiple people are calling in and also for one-on-ones.
This may seem like a no brainer but hot diggity I have seen document folders scarier than that TV show about hoarders. You really have to create a system when it comes to naming and filing documents! I've worked in different studios and all have had different systems. The one thing they all had in common is that I could start up Finder and immediately be able to navigate through the folders to find things. Treat it as a way finding—nay, way filing—exercise. Hint: naming files manifesto_version8_finalfinal_toprint_forreal.pdf and saving them in a misc. folder on your desktop is not cool.
I file in all caps, this weird detail I adopted at CD&CO because everything looks neater for some reason. I always include the client and project in the name, combined with the version or date so I can easily do a spotlight search. For example: ACB_SCENERYBRANDING_PRESENTATION_DE01.pdf can easily be found as the name itself implies the file path.
Dropbox is great for file sharing with coworkers, collaborators and if you work across multiple computers and devices. I pay $9.99 USD per month for 1TB of storage and actually don’t know how people work without it. For sending larger files to clients WeTransfer is where it’s at. Nothing chugs the ole inbox harder than a zip file of images so save everyone the trouble and use this stress-free service. You can send files as big as 2MB without it costing a thing. File sharing is caring, so cheers WeTransfer.
Trust me when I say baby back, back, back it up! A solid hard drive might set you back a few hundred bucks, but no where close to loosing a week of work. Own at least two and back them up at the end of every work day because there is no greater tanty than a wishing-you-had-backed-up-your-work tanty. The LaCie drive seems popular in studios, likely because they are sold at the Apple Store and because orange. I also save active projects into Dropbox if the horror of both hard drives failing was to happen.
A dead silent room sends me absolutely crazy! I can’t handle being able to hear every weird noise my stomach makes or if there is a moth breakdancing by the window. A little ambience goes a long way which is why I often work from co-working spaces and cafes.
I know I’m hardly breaking news right now but music is a great way to create ambience. I like to have mood inspired playlists on rotation ranging from mellow tracks with few lyrics for when I’m writing, to blasting 90’s hip hop when I’m brainlessly retouching. Tunes are definitely driven by the type of work I’m doing that day and Spotify means I can easily access a lot of music. Spotify cops a lot of crap for the UI, and rightly so. If you aren’t a fan there are obviously other music services that provide the same thing including Apple Music, Rdio and Soundcloud.
If you’re not up for music and literally just need some background noise, there are websites aimed at improving focus and boosting productivity. Noisli is just one that exists, so I’m sure you can find something similar if the combination of fireplace, seaside and Summer night isn’t doing it for you.
That’s all my tips for this round! This post isn’t meant to promote any particular service, just give some insight as to what is currently working for me. If you have any questions or suggestions feel free to tweet or shoot me an email. Hope it helps!
Drake knows I’m only kidding. Nothing is that sweet.