11 Best Tools & Apps to use when you’re starting out as a Freelancer

9 MIN READ
Posted By Simon Kelly on

Something I see a lot with the WordPress consultants I coach, as well as something I experienced in the early days of my own agency, is that the wrong tool can do a lot of damage to the foundation of a business.
You might be thinking:

“Who has the time to research the best tools and apps though? I just need something that works for now.”

But there’s a trade-off. If you don’t create a stable foundation for your business with the right set of tools now, it will cost you much more time and money to replace them and repair your business down the road.
So, rather than waste what little time you have recreating the wheel, I’ve gathered up the 11 best tools and apps for WordPress freelancers. If you want more time to focus on what’s important (like building websites and making money), you need to start here.

11 Best Tools & Apps for WordPress Freelancers

This is something that comes up a lot in our private Facebook group. People want to know which WordPress page builder plugin is best. Or how to keep track of their income. Or whether they should be tracking time on jobs.
And they’re right to be looking for the best tools and apps. They’re the key to creating a solid foundation for business — something both you and your clients both need to succeed.
These are your essentials:

1. WordPress Themes: Astra and GeneratePress (Freemium)

Although you may be inclined to build WordPress websites with different WordPress themes, you’d be doing yourself and your clients a great disservice by doing so.
That’s because every WordPress theme has its own nuances: customisation options, theme variations, flexibility in design and development, and so on.

While that variation may seem like a good thing because it means more versatility in what you build, it doesn’t actually work that way. Because the more WordPress themes you have to memorise the layout and functionality of, the more time you spend readjusting to the given theme’s workflow every time you start a new project.

That’s why you need to commit to one or two themes.

The ones I’ve found WordPress freelancers have the most success with are Astra:

Astra - one of the best tools & apps for WordPress freelancers

And GeneratePress:

GeneratePress

Both are lightweight, responsive and highly customisable. They also work really well with the WordPress page builder plugins I’m about to talk about.

2. Page Builder Plugins: Elementor and Beaver Builder (Freemium)

While the WordPress editor may suffice for blogging, it’s really not ideal for building the pages of your website. And while you can leverage the beautifully made templates provided by WordPress themes, page builder plugins allow you to have much more control over the design and code.

There are a number of page builder plugins you’re going to run into. However, if you’re trying to use the best plugins to start, then there are two I strongly recommend. Choose one.
If you’re a web designer, consultant or other WordPress professional, Elementor will fit nicely into your workflow:

Elementor

In fact, it’s the theme that WP Elevation used to design this website. It’s also the plugin I use in most of my WordPress tutorials.
Beaver Builder, on the other hand, is going to be best for web developers that want more control over the code and functionality of their pages:

Beaver Builder

The debate between Beaver Builder and Elementor is a common one and for good reason. They’ve both been on the market for years and are well-loved by the WordPress community. If you have to start somewhere, they’re going to be your best picks.

3. Asana (Freemium)

It’s not just WordPress tools that are going to be crucial to the success of your business. You’re going to need various business management tools and apps to get everything else in line, too. Starting with a task management system.
When you’re first starting out, Asana is going to be your best friend.

Asana

Not only can you track and organise all of your clients and projects in this tool, but you can create templates so you don’t have to spend so much time on tedious tasks (like setting up projects or onboarding clients).
Then, if you decide to grow your business and build a team, you can upgrade Asana so you and your team can collaborate more efficiently within the same workspace.

4. Toggl (Free)

One of the tricky things about managing your time when you’re a freelancer is knowing exactly how much of it you need to get stuff done.

If you’ve been building websites for a while, you might have a good idea of how long it takes to get them out the door. But you’re going to have to be more precise than that. How long do your client kickoff calls? How about your content gathering and research phases? And how about QA?

If you’re not scheduling enough time for yourself in Asana, you’ll either end up working extra-long days to get it done (and risk burnout) or you’re going to miss deadlines (and upset your client). Neither situation is ideal.

To keep yourself sane and your clients happy, put Toggl to work for you.

Toggl
This time-tracking tool lets you capture how long you spend on whole projects as well as specific tasks. And not only will this help you better budget your time, but it’ll help you price your services more effectively, too.

5. Evernote (Freemium)

Take a look around your desk. Do you have sticky notes and notepads covered in details and reminders from client meetings? Now, take a look at your digital workspace. Does it have a similar vibe?
You can’t afford to leave your notes scattered around. You need to capture your ideas more effectively. With Evernote, you’ll not only be able to take down all of your notes in one place, but you can better organise your thoughts there, too.

Evernote

Even better, it works on all devices, so you no longer have to manually take notes anymore. You can dictate them by voice, link websites or save screenshots for reference and inspiration.

6. Call Recorder Lite App (Free)

Another way to avoid the burden of having to take notes by hand is to record your calls and meetings with clients.
A great tool that does that is Call Recorder Lite. It’s an app you install on your iPhone to record, export and save your calls.

Call Recorder Lite

That way, you won’t have to worry about missing any pertinent details from your client meetings later on. Even better, it will free your focus from the page, so you can pay closer attention to what your client is saying and really be engaged in the conversation.

7. LastPass (Free)

On average, how many tools and WordPress websites do you think you log into every day? That number will only grow as your business does. So, how do you keep track of your username and password for each application?
To ensure that you always use a strong username/password combination, you're going to need a password manager like LastPass to help you out.

LastPass

In addition to storing your login credentials there, you can use LastPass to create super-secure passwords for new tools. You can even share your credentials with others through this app, which will come in handy when you hire an assistant.

8. Accounting Software: Xero and QuickBooks (Premium)

Financial security is the dream for every freelancer. But it’s not something that will happen if you don’t know your numbers.

I get it. You know money is going out of your business, but you worry that you don’t have enough coming in. However, those numbers are the only way to confirm it, so you need to pay attention.

With accounting software, the responsibility of tracking your cash flow doesn’t ride on your shoulders. You can automate that piece and then spend your time focused on bringing in new business and charging rates that will bring your profits up.

Two of the best accounting software tools for freelancers are QuickBooks:

QuickBooks

And Xero:

Xero

Both of these tools grow alongside your business, too. So, if you only want to start with self-employed tools like budgeting and tax management, you can do that. Then, when you’re ready, you can upgrade the tools, so they do more for you — like manage invoices.

9. Spotify (Free)

This early in the game, you can’t afford to let distractions or stress slow you down. If you let them work their way into your workflow now, it’ll be hard to fight them off later.

That’s why I always recommend that freelancers find a Spotify playlist that keeps them calm and focused. The one I’m most fond of is called Jazz Vibes.

Spotify Jazz Vibes

Even if you’re not into jazz, that’s cool. Video game soundtracks, for example, are good for helping people focus, too. So, play around with it and find the genre or playlist that works best for you.

10. Runkeeper (Free)

It won’t take long before you realise just how hard it can be to maintain your health and wellness when you’re busy running a business or scrambling to get clients.

This is another one of those things you need to create good habits around early on. If you don’t, you’ll soon find that your lack of physical activity causes you to feel sluggish and unmotivated during the workday. That’s a major problem for freelancers whose sole source of income comes from the time they’re able to commit to building websites.

To keep yourself motivated and accountable to your health, I’d recommend you find the right health and fitness app. For me, it’s Runkeeper.

Runkeeper

With it, I keep tabs on how much walking or running I do each day while monitoring progress against my goals.

11. Canva or Xtensio

Use Canva to make your social tiles, banners, and even your logo if you're just starting out. There are plenty of templates ready for you to use. As well as Canva we found this great tool Xtensio that has a bunch of pre-built business templates and is super simple to use. 

Wrap-Up

There you have it. The 11 best tools and apps you’re going to need to make your life a lot easier as a WordPress freelancer. This is just the start though. Once you start to pick up steam in your business, there’s more to be done to turn your business into a lean profit-generating machine.

Don't miss Part 2 to find out what tools to use as your business starts to grow. 

And Part 3 where I share the resources you’ll need to turn your WordPress agency into a powerhouse. 

Oh, and if you want to see what other tools our WordPress community is talking about or have questions about ones not included on this list, join our Digital Mavericks Facebook group.

As you can imagine, it’s a hot topic around these parts.

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