3 Upgrades to give your freelance business tools this year

The goal of every business is to make as much profit while spending as little as possible. With all the free tools available to freelancers, running your business on a shoestring is easy.

But that doesn’t mean it’s the best thing to do.

In fact, using too many free tools can actually kill your productivity.

If you’ve been freelancing a little while and your business is starting to see some income, it may be time to ditch the free tools for better ones.

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-4-20-42-pm This article is brought to you by our partners at AND CO who recently released The Freelance Contract —the simplest, safest way to ensure you’re protected as a freelancer. It’s free, customizable, and compliant with the upcoming ‘Freelancing isn’t free’ act. Learn more here.

What upgrades should I invest in?

After a little investigation, you’ll probably realize there are thousands of paid tools available to run your business. But how do you know what to pay for and what to keep using for free?

You’ll need to upgrade your business tools if you experience any of the following:

  • You are reaching the limit for free account use (your mailing list is above the maximum amount, you’re billing more than the monthly maximum, etc.)
  • It takes longer to use the tools than it does to do things manually (setting up workflows with an automation system)
  • You have to implement workarounds for problems that occur every time you use them

Having efficient systems in place is paramount to your business. If your tools are making it harder to manage or implement these systems, it’s time to change.

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Here are the three most common areas where switching from a free to a paid tool can make managing your business a lot easier.

Email Service Providers (ESPs)

Email service providers handle your mailing list subscriptions, newsletters and autoresponders. We’re not talking about Gmail or Roundcube. These programs are a little more sophisticated than that.

Many freelancers start with MailChimp, which allows you to have 2,000 subscribers for free. This is sufficient to start. But MailChimp counts subscribers differently.

It doesn’t count subscribers by their email address, so if you have the same person on more than one list they will be counted as separate subscribers.

If your mailing list has over 2,000 subscribers, or you need advanced features like autoresponders and drip campaigns, it’s time to look for something else. Some of these tools have evolved from email marketing to complete marketing automation systems.

Popular providers include:

Project management

When I started freelance writing I bought a day planner from the dollar store and wrote out my deadlines by hand. I quickly learned I had to write them in pencil. Things would constantly change and I would have to erase and rewrite them.

The great thing about project management programs is most of them are free. But I added them to the list because a good project management system is critical to your success.

If you’re actively trying to get more work, you need to know what you have going and how much time you have available.

Overbook yourself, and you’re headed for burnout. If you don’t add enough work to your schedule, you’ll starve.

My favorite project management system is Trello. I send emails to it, share boards with clients, create calendars, attach files and assign tasks to people on my team. The only drawback is there’s no database for me to keep client information in.

Other project management systems include:

Accounting tools

Most of us juggle multiple clients. Staying on top of finances is a critical component to your success. Like many other freelancers, I started by sending invoices through PayPal.

But as business grew, that wasn’t enough. Not only did I need to send invoices, I had to create proposals, track time to make sure I was billing appropriately, and enter expenses and create financial reports.

Signing documents by hand and getting checks in the mail isn’t fun. What if you could have a financial system that allows for e-signatures and electronic payments?

That’s where AND CO (this article’s partner) comes in. You get the ability to track projects from proposal through invoicing, as well as track time and remind clients when payments are due. Unlike other popular accounting programs, you’ll get a real live human to help you with your business needs (even with a free account).


If you’re drowning in inefficient systems for your freelance business, it may be time for an upgrade. Running a business shouldn’t be overwhelming. With a couple of smart investments, you’ll be well on your way to creating systems that work for you without breaking the bank.

What tools can you not live without? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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About Sharon McElwee

Sharon McElwee is a copywriter and freelance business coach dedicated to help people get better at making real money doing what they love. Check out her free e-course to earn an extra $1000 in the next 30 days.


  1. I highly recommend ToDoist for you project management because of its simplicity yet advanced tasks like sub-projects.

  2. Awesome article, so relevant for any freelancer or small business. Thanks!


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