As a solopreneur, you juggle many roles—administrative assistant, accountant, project manager, marketer and more—any one of which can rob you of time spent doing paid work. Fortunately, there’s a wealth of tools out there that can help you streamline the daily tasks that keep your business running. Here are six that belong in any solopreneur’s toolbox.
Designed for freelancers and other businesses of one, Solo helps you plan, track and evaluate your business from one elegant interface. It provides the tools to execute every project phase from maintaining client lists to putting together quotes, managing project timelines, tracking billable hours and invoicing. Solo even distills business analytics so you can determine the profitability of your clients. Solo costs $14 a month or $140 a year—money well spent if you maintain a heavy client/project load.
The service will scan, organize and archive your receipts in a searchable database you can access from anywhere. Download the mobile app, and you can capture receipts on the fly as well as track your mileage from your iOS or Android device. You can even connect the service to your Gmail account so receipts you receive via email are automatically imported into your archive. Best of all, your Shoeboxed receipts are accepted by the IRS thanks to the service’s verification system.
Regardless of the nature of your business, it’s inevitable you will at some point run into conflict with a client over payment, ownership of work or some other thorny legal issue. Contracts are the easiest way to mitigate conflicts like these, but having one drawn up by an attorney can quickly break your budget.
Shake, a free app for iOS and Android, makes creating a binding legal document as easy as, well, a handshake. You just answer a few questions to define the terms, sign and send the document to the other party to be countersigned. Shake comes with preinstalled templates for independent contractor agreements, NDAs, buying and selling of goods, renting or lending property and lending money. You can also create your own from scratch.
Writing proposals is one of the more time-consuming tasks business owners have to tackle. Bidsketch is a web-based proposal generator that lets you shave the process down to mere minutes. It walks you through the process, from selecting an appropriate template—“consulting estimate” or “web design proposal,” for example—and customizing the sections and language, to outlining your services and setting your fees. Once all the pieces are in place, you can skin your proposal with one of Bidsketch’s designs or create your own. The service costs $29 a month for a single user.
You’re already planning your day, if not your week, so you might as well log those hours at the same time. Unlike other time trackers, which require you to log hours as you go, Timely records them right from your schedule. Add meetings and other appointments directly into Timely or integrate it with your favorite calendar. You can also track hours as you work. The service is free for one user and up to three projects; paid plans start at $14 and expand the usage options.
6. QuickBooks Self-Employed
Financial management can be one of the toughest tasks for self-employed solopreneurs. Between separating business and personal expenses, creating financial reports and filing taxes, keeping your financials in order can steal valuable time away from work that actually drives sales and revenue. QuickBooks Self-Employed will help you manage your finances throughout the year. And when tax time comes around, your books will be organized, your deductions will be automated, and your tax filing will be a breeze.
Want even more tips to boost your productivity? See our article on eight ways to be a better freelancer.