Every business owner needs the right tools for the job.
Freelance tools can help make your life easier and more productive, all while keeping more money in your pocket for you and your family.
But it can be super tempting to use free software when you’re first starting your business. And I totally get it. I love to run a lean business—I’m all about keeping my profits high and expenses low.
The good news is you don’t need fancy software to grow your business!
In this post, I’m sharing the exact four tools I used to scale my freelance business to $10k months in the first year without a team. And the best part? All these tools will cost you less than $40 per month.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a virtual assistant or Facebook ads strategist, you can use these same tools to run your freelancing business. But before we dive into how to use them, let’s talk about why you have to spend money to make money.
The Reality of Free Tools for Freelancers
Time for a truth bomb:
You could be wasting five whole working weeks a year switching between work applications and software.
Researchers from Harvard Business Review found that workers spend nearly four hours each week reorienting themselves after toggling to a new application. This “toggle tax” adds up to five working weeks over the course of a year!
So when freelancers, service providers, and virtual assistants ask me if they can just start out using a bunch of free software that doesn’t work together, instead of paying less than $40/month for software that does it all…
My question back to them ends up being, “Is 16 hours a month worth saving $40 to you?”
Now, I’m not knocking free tools. I’m about to walk you through some paid and free tools that made a huge difference in my business—but I am all about simplicity.
Because I truly believe that keeping things simple is the quickest way to get your business to six figures and beyond. And spending $40/month on client management software can stop us from over-complicating things.
So, let’s take a closer look at two of my favorite organizational tools for freelancers.
Dubsado or Honeybook: Client Management Software
I’m going to let you in on a secret:
My CRM runs my business. I don’t need to hire a virtual assistant to do it for me because the CRM is literally everything you need in one place. Believe it or not, this one tool takes care of my contracts, proposals, and meeting scheduler.
Seriously, it’s the lifeline of my business and how I manage all my clients.
Why do I say this? Because finding a good CRM can take away a lot of the backend tasks that you’re already doing, like invoicing and scheduling discovery calls with clients.
You might be thinking: “Brandi, I’ve been using free software for signing contracts and sending proposals or invoices. It works just fine.”
That’s where the “toggle tax” comes in.
Imagine that you’ve just finished an amazing discovery call with your dream client. Your next step to kick off their onboarding is logging into your free document signing tool, like HelloSign, to send the contract out to get signed.
Next, you have to invoice your new client. You have a free account with Wave, so you set up the invoice and send your second email to your new client with the link to pay their invoice.
Then you open up another tab with Google Drive to create a separate folder so your client can access all the different links they need for your project.
Oh my, that’s a lot to juggle!
By the time you’re ready to email your client the welcome packet to kick things off, they’re already having a really poor client experience because you’re all over the place.
Not to mention, you’ll probably start to feel just as challenged by the process as your business grows. The more clients you get, the more frustrating it becomes to spend precious time hunting for wherever the heck that contract link went when you have other people to serve.
Here’s the thing—time is money. Instead of spending your time looking for all these pieces, everything could be housed in one place.
Enter your CRM.
Dubsado is only $40/month on a monthly plan or less than $35/month on an annual plan, and your first three clients are free. (Enter “serve” at checkout to save 20% using my affiliate link)
Another option that I love is Honeybook for $39 per month. (If you’re interested in trying out HoneyBook, you can get 50% off for one year through my affiliate link.)
Both Dubsado and Honeybook are great options. (not sure which one is right for you? CLICK HERE to find out which option is best for your needs.)
I’ve personally used both CRMs at different times to automate my processes, but I started with Dubsado during my first year of scaling my business. It really just depends on what you need. Honeybook is super simple to use and set up, while Dubsado is more customizable.
You can try them both for free, so I recommend testing them out and seeing which works for you best before you commit to one!
For me, my client experience starts inside my CRM. From the very first intake form a client fills out to book their discovery call with me to the follow-up emails that remind them of the call and proposal signing. And the really cool thing is that once someone becomes my client, right away, they’re going to get:
- Google Drive access
- Scheduler for meetings
- Client portal
It’s everything they need with one link and a password. It really is that simple. Their client experience is amazing—they didn’t have to jump through a bunch of hoops to sign a contract or to find their proposal.
Everything is automated.
This streamlined process creates an incredible client experience, not only for them but for you too! Setting up my CRM played such an important role in helping me scale my business, which is why I recommend it to every freelancer.
Zoom: Free Tool for Freelancers
The second tool I used to scale my business was Zoom.
And as long as you’re not doing Facebook Lives or running webinars, Zoom is completely free. Almost all my conference calls, discovery calls, and client meetings happen in Zoom.
If you don’t want to use video on discovery calls, that’s totally okay. Your phone works too!
Personally, I feel like my discovery call numbers are pretty much the same whether I’m talking to clients on Zoom or the phone. But do I know some freelancers who have higher conversions when they use Zoom because they can interact with clients better and get more of their personality across.
I also know others who have better discovery calls on the phone. You just have to figure out what works for you.
One thing I love is that I can save my Zoom link right into my CRM scheduler, so when clients book an appointment, they automatically get the link to my Zoom meeting room in their confirmation and reminder emails.
Your tools are talking to each other—everything is streamlined.
Google Drive: Organization Tools for Freelancers
The third tool I used to scale my business is Google Drive.
For starters, every client gets their own Drive folder as part of my onboarding process. I do this because there are usually a lot of different assets in any given project. When I’m running Facebook ads, I may need things like copy, graphics, and testimonials.
So I link to their folder inside their Client Portal in my CRM. This way, clients can just drop all of the assets into their folder and we can all quickly access the folder whenever we need it.
Of course, I also use other tools in Google for my business, like Sheets for tracking stats and Gmail.
Can you see how all of these tools flow together?
At this point, I have Google, Zoom, and my CRM. The link to my folder is housed in Dubsado, along with their Zoom link details, which means my clients know exactly how to access everything they need for a successful project.
This makes the client journey so positive. If you want clients to refer you… or if you want them to sign on month after month… you’ll want to make sure that client experience is spot on.
Because I’ve streamlined my onboarding process, my clients love their experience with me. Clients never have to ask me where to find things—they know exactly where to go to get whatever they need from day one.
ClickUp: Freelance Project Management Software
Okay, so this last tool is pretty stinkin’ close to my heart.
And that is ClickUp. If you’re not familiar with ClickUp, it’s seriously one of the best tools for freelancers. If you’re familiar with other productivity tools like Trello or Asana, you’ll probably love ClickUp just as much as I do!
It’s as if Trello, Asana, and Google Calendar all had a baby.
ClickUp is basically my project manager. My clients aren’t in there, because I’ve never felt the need to have them in there, but all my daily tasks get assigned in ClickUp. That’s how I know what I’m doing for the day.
(Pssst! If you want to see how I use my Google Calendar, ClickUp, and a notepad to plan my week out every Sunday, this video walks you through my planning process.)
Heck, I even use ClickUp for my swipe files! I have my client tasks and my personal calendar in there—anything that needs to be scheduled in my life is inside ClickUp.
Here’s the deal:
A rock solid project management tool is a must-have for scaling a freelance business, especially if you don’t want to hire a team. But there’s a caveat to this.
I know some of y’all are already using project management tools to run your freelance business. If you’re using one that works for you, don’t feel like you need to switch. I’m obsessed with ClickUp and highly recommend it, but the only time you should consider switching tools is when it’s not working for you.
So if you’re a Trello fanatic, don’t switch to ClickUp! The only time we fix our systems is when they’re broken. These are the tools I used to scale my business, but the most important thing is that (a) you have tools that work for you, and (b) you keep it simple.
Now, if you’re running around using 20 different tools because you’re trying to save money…that’s when it might be time to re-evaluate things.
Because streamlining your systems will help you become more productive, spend less time in the backend of your business, and spend more time on money-making activities, like marketing minutes and client work.
More time for client work means you can take on more clients. Do you see how this leads to more sales and more profit?
Productivity Tools for Freelancers
So, let’s do a quick rundown:
- CRM: ~$40 per month
- Zoom: free
- Google: free
- ClickUp: free
This means you’re looking at roughly $40 per month to run an organized, systemized business. Of course, the exact price will depend on whether you go with Honeybook or Dubsado for your CRM, but both tools offer similar pricing plans.
But don’t get me wrong…
No matter which tools you decide to use, your systems won’t happen overnight.
It takes time to set up your processes, automate your scheduler, and figure out your project management tool. It takes time to organize your Google folders.
The easiest thing to do is pick one day and plan to tackle one system. I would start with your CRM. That way, you can finish your proposal templates, script your canned emails, set up your scheduler, and import your contracts.
Once you have that done, you’re going to be blown away by the amount of time you get back! Let me tell you, it’s crazy how much those little tasks really add up.
I love that with a few clicks of a button, I can have a client onboarded, a contract signed, and invoices paid. On my end, I’ve got money in the bank and I get to offer a great first impression to my clients with excellent service.
From the client side, they’re getting everything they need to handle their admin right away and an amazing customer experience. So they’re not going to leave me but they’re also going to refer me to other clients.
And that is what we truly want y’all!
Lastly, I would encourage you to check your systems. Are they working for you or is there room for improvement? What systems could you tighten up this week to make your business run just a little bit smoother?
These are the four tools I use to scale to six figures. Remember, don’t change your tools if they’re working—but if you systemize and simplify things, you’re on your way to a more profitable business.