Thanks to the Internet, freelancing is a lot easier than a few years ago when you had to pound the pavement to find clients or run up your telephone bill trying to network. The Internet has made it possible for freelancers to offer their services and work remotely from almost anywhere in the world. What makes it even nicer is that there are many free online tools readily available to help you expand your freelance business. Following are 5 essential online tools that you should use as a professional freelancer.
Google Free Tools
Google offers a wide variety of free tools that are quite comprehensive and impressive for running your freelance business. Sometimes when you think of free tools you think of “inferior” tools. When it comes to Google however, nothing could be farther from the truth.
Google Apps are free applications from Google that function like an office suite (i.e. Microsoft Office) and include business applications such as Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, and Google Docs. With those applications, you can email, chat and organize your freelancing business all in one location. Even better, everything that you do is stored online, so you can access your documents wherever you go, as long as you have an Internet connection.
Google Calendar provides a way for you to organize your schedule. You can share your schedule with your colleagues and access your calendar from your mobile phone. You can also set up Google Calendar to alert you when you have a deadline or commitment.
Google Docs provides a complete office suite of Web-based productivity applications that allow you to collaborate with clients in real-time. Google Docs provides access to a spreadsheet application, a word processor, and a presentation application. The applications allow multiple users to access the documents at the same time. One caveat however is that those applications remain relatively basic and are not as advanced as Microsoft Office.
Social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are a great way to network with other professional freelancers and find new clients. When you set up a free social networking profile on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter you can feature your area of expertise and join professional groups related to your freelancing business. As you become involved in the community and offer useful input, you will gain expert recognition in your field.
If you choose to use Twitter, you will find that there can be a lot of power behind 140 character messages. In the event that you choose to offer valuable practical information, you will develop a list of followers in a relatively short period of time. What is also nice about Twitter is that if you need an answer to a question, you can have your answer within minutes of posting the question.
If you offer your services online and have a client base that knows no boundaries, one of the must haves is Skype. Skype is a voice over IP (VoIP) service that allows you to talk over the Internet to other Skype users worldwide.
It is free to set up an account with Skype. All you need is a set of headphones equipped with a mouthpiece and a broadband connection. If you have a web cam you can actually hold face to face conversations with anyone worldwide. As long as the user on the other end has a Skype account the call is free. If you want to upgrade to other packages that allow you to dial landline phones through the Internet you can sign up for a nominal fee that can be as low as $9.95 per month.
If you have developed a mailing list to keep in touch with your client base Mail Chimp is an online tool that offers a free subscription that allows you to run up to 6 email campaigns each month and provides a way for you to monitor and track your email campaigns with a view to making future improvements.
Many freelancers use Mail Chimp to send newsletters to their clients. If you want to increase the number of mailing campaigns or if your client base grows you can upgrade to another package for a small fee. Mail Chimp allows you to customize the design of your campaigns, split test two different campaigns, and view reports on the status of your email campaigns.
WordPress is an impressive open source content management system (CMS) for setting up blogs or websites. It is free to download. All you need is a Web host that accommodates the WordPress configuration. Although it is primarily used as a blogging tool you can also use it to set up and maintain a website.
With WordPress you can easily change the theme of your site through a wide selection of templates. In addition, developers and other WordPress users constantly come up with new “plugins,” which are features that you can append to your WordPress blog to add more functionalities to it.
These are only some of the essential online tools that freelancers should use to run their business. If you explore the Internet you will find a host of other nifty online tools that can make running your business faster and easier.
by John Sylo