The further into my new freelancing adventure I go, the more I come to realise just how much I depend on certain tools and apps.
Beyond the usual tools of the trade, there’s a whole bunch of apps, programs and other little things that I need, often just to get me from one end of the day to the next.
From blocking out background noise to dumping ideas, here’s the first part of what I consider my essential tools for freelancing.
1) Google Drive
I don’t know where I’d be without my Google Drive, nor do I intend to find out. Along with draft blogs, articles and plenty of other stuff, 100% of my freelance copywriting business is carried out on Drive. I use docs for producing content, proposals and invoices, Google Sheets for work schedules, budgeting and other data-centric tasks.
There’s a few things I love about this. I love how easy it is to create, edit and download documents. I love how how I can batch download in a zip file if I’m producing lots of pages for a client, and I love that Google has very generous storage limits, meaning very little of what I do ever eats up my allowance.
I do have Open Office installed on all of my machines, and it comes in handy some times, but Google Drive remains my platform of choice for managing my freelance work and much more besides.
Words can’t describe how much I value being able to set a timer on Google. I first discovered this by accident during the first stages of my recovery from knee reconstruction surgery. I needed to be at my laptop getting stuff done, but I also needed to commit much time to the painful-yet-necessary process of physical therapy. It occurred to me that if I had a regular timing device on hand, I could blast through work whilst it counted down, then step away when my time ran out and dedicate a few minutes to rehabbing my knee.
It did the trick, but it also did more besides. In keeping with the principles of the Pomodoro Technique -something I’d read about long ago but never really bothered to use- I found I was working harder, creating better results, and avoiding the seemingly inevitable headaches and fatigue that come from being chained to a laptop all day.
There are lots of other timers of course, but what I like about this one is that I don’t need to do anything more complicated than opening a new tab on my browser and typing ‘Set a timer for 40 minutes.’ Google does the rest, and let’s me know that it’s time to take a break with a handy -if somewhat annoying- alarm.
I was more than a little bit late to the Evernote party. I’d heard about it years ago, back in the days when I was first starting to look at how to improve productivity and kick some ass at my job. I even gave signed up and gave it a run, but for whatever reason, I never really found much use for it.
Today, it’s an essential part of my freelancing tool kit. I use it for daily to-do lists, to draft ideas for blogs and articles, to store research for client projects and make lists of things I’ll need to get round to doing some time in the future.
Outside of work, I’ve also found that having the Evernote iPhone app is really helpful if I’m suddenly struck with an idea for a story or poem whilst out and about. I fire up the app, use the voice function, and use it to capture a few lines of rhyme or basic plot points.
Whilst Evernote is really helpful for more structured notetaking and planning, I find that good ol’ fashioned Notepad is practically indispensable when it comes to just dumping all kinds of stuff that I need throughout my day.
If you told me right now that I had to leave three of these tools behind and only ever use two of them for the rest of time, I’d pick Google Drive and Notepad; that’s how valuable I find it.
It’s one of the first things I open in a morning, and one of the last things I close down at night. In between, it’s used for everything from stripping the formatting from documents, copying and pasting quotes, code snippets and countless other things, making temporary lists, and even doing research.
In the case of the latter, I find that if I need to pick up key points from an article or web page, the easiest way to do this is to open the browser in full, grab my notepad and reduce its size that I can easily use both on the same screen.
I know that Notepad++ exists, and I think I may have even tried it once, but so far my plain little dumping ground has been my best friend.
The £5/6 monthly fee I pay for Spotify Unlimited is by far the best money I spend in any given month.
One of the drawbacks of working from home is that other people live here, and depending who’s around, it isn’t always the quietest place to be. That’s where a good pair of headphones (more of which in Part 2) and a Spotify account come in handy.
Like Notepad, Spotify is one of the first things I open and the last things I close down, and I use it constantly throughout my day.
I love the playlists the team put together, especially the ones designed to help you focus and concentrate on the task at hand, like the Brain Food playlist pictured above. I’ll talk more about my favourite Spotify playlists in future posts, but for now, all I know is that the likes of Brain Food really help with drowning out everything around me and giving me all the fuel I need to work productively.
Rumour has it that the company are phasing out their Unlimited plan, which is a shame if true, but for now, this remains one tool I don’t think I could live without.