5 Free or Cheap Tools to Manage Your Business

Congratulations, you’ve joined the Gig Economy! You are an entrepreneur and life is good. (Or maybe you’re just toying with the idea, which at least deserves a non-sarcastic thumbs-up emoji.) In the Gig Economy, we control the hours we work, when we take lunch, what we wear, and choose our projects and clients. Most freelancers in today’s market sell their intellectual capital and are making a go of it by outsourcing their knowledge and talents, and there is a definite creative bent to most freelance work. But we also handle all the not so fun parts of running a business; the billing, the project management, the contracts, etc. Tasks firmly planted in the not so creative side of freelancing.

The business part of running a business is not my favorite. I’d rather use my sometimes limited brain cells and always limited time on the creative part of my job, not wading through dollars and cents, agreements and meeting locations. To put an absolutely hyperbolic point on it, the administrative side of things crushes my soul.

5 Free of Cheap Tools to Manage Your Business

If you are like me but maybe use a little less dramatic language, you probably find administrative stuff a little meh but know it is part of the territory. Take heart, dear Entrepreneur with good sensibility. I bring you good news. The Gig Economy is flourishing and with it the free and cheap tools available to entrepreneurs to help manage some of the more, eh-hm, mundane aspects of being a small business owner. Here are five tools you should check out if you have gone, or are planning to go, Gig.

  1. toggl (free basic/$5 per month Pro)- Since finding toggl my life has become a trillion times easier. That is why it is first on this list. Toggl is a time tracking tool that you can use on your desktop and smartphone to record and organize your time. When you upgrade to the Pro version, you have access to report downloads and the ability to set your rates for each project. I use it to record everything, even volunteer to admin time, and at the end of the month, I download PDF reports to attach to my invoices. Now my billing goes out every month on the first of the month (I’m embarrassed to admit how long it would take me sometimes before), and it only takes me fifteen minutes to pull them together.
  2. workfrom (free basic/$5 per month VIP)- If you are not a member of a coworking space, or if you work from home and don’t want your clients to see your collection of bad 80s movies every time you take a meeting, this website is a crowdsourced resource of work friendly locations. You can search using your zip code or turn on location services to find spots near you, and narrow results based on wifi strength, noise levels, even the types of beverages served on site. Granted St Louis is still a growing area for the app, but as more people start using it, it will only get better.
  3. Fiverr/Upwork (free account, prices for work vary)- Fiverr and Upwork are twofer deals. You can find people to design a logo, copyedit your work, help you edit videos, or just about any other work you need to get stuff done. But! You can also put yourself out for hire on the site and find some smaller gigs to pass the time between big clients or projects.
  4. Trello (free basic, $9.99/month+ for more functionality)- Trello is still a new one for me since I only recently discovered this project collaboration and management tool by way of the new monthly learning initiative SHE officially launched just yesterday (see the upcoming themes and read more here). It makes such a robust tool I wish I’d known about it before, especially with some of the big group projects I’ve worked on in the past. You can schedule tasks, brainstorm ideas, help other people you are working with getting unstuck, and the interface is extremely flexible so you can customize for your industry or even between projects.
  5. Dropbox (free basic storage, $12.50+/month for business)- I’m going to assume we all know about Google and Apple’s cloud storage, and recommend Dropbox. Think of Dropbox as HBO and cloud storage as the TBS. Sure they both provide a service, television shows or file sharing, but there is a definite difference in quality, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver or Lopez Tonight. As long as you aren’t Janice in accounting, it matters.

What have I missed? My soul could always stand a little less crushing, so please tell me what admin tool has saved your life.

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 1.46.54 PMAbout the author: Melody Meiners is a St. Louis-based freelance writer, editor, and ghostwriter for hire. When she isn’t writing or reading words, she spends her time devouring all of the pop-culture and theater. You can find her on Twitter (@cosmosgirl) when she really should be writing, and you can read her pithy jokes about her children on her blog (MrsSmartyPants.com).

Author: Melody

Melody Meiners is a freelance writer, developmental editor, and ghostwriter for hire located in St Louis, MO. When she isn’t writing or reading words, she spends her time devouring all of the pop-culture or teaching fiction writing and literature classes for STLCC @ Meramec’s CE program. You can find her on Twitter (@cosmosgirl) when she really should be writing, and you can read her pithy jokes about her children on her blog (MrsSmartyPants.com).


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