7 Essential Tools You Need Before Freelancing Online (Contracts, Invoices, Security)

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We are all about simplicity – It’s easy to overcomplicate it when you’re thinking about getting started freelancing or starting a new business, and that’s a common pitfall people get trapped in.

This never-ending ‘oh no… what tools do I need to get started.’

‘Maybe I also need that – and that, and that… and also that.’

You now have a list of like 40 tools you need before you begin. 

And so and so just said they love THIS tool so now, ‘maybe I should swap this tool for that tool.’ 

It’s a way of sabotaging ourselves from the beginning – and you do NOT want you to get stuck there.

So we want to give you only what you TRULY need to begin – ‘Our Choice’ the tools we use. 

This is just OUR opinion on these tools.

Tools are a very subjective matter depending on your priorities so if there’s something you don’t like there are many alternatives to choose from – the right fit for you is out there.

We’ll also share a few ‘nice to haves’ optional more advanced tools at the end but to get started, you only need these 7 tools…

💸 1. Money

The first and most important thing is some way to take money from your clients

You need to get paid. 

The client has to be able to deposit your payment to you in a safe, above-board manner. 

And you need to get this organized beforehand so that when it comes time to pay, your client can seamlessly make it rain on you.

Here are a few popular payment tool options:

Paypal

The easiest for most clients – but honestly, we don’t fully recommend doing this long-term.

You can do it when you’re just getting started but look to switch to another one soon because there are some issues with Paypal freezing accounts and the fees aren’t ideal. 

You can send invoices via Paypal directly to clients, which makes everything simple though!

When in doubt, you have this option.

With Paypal, they take a (bigger than others) cut of each transaction.

Stripe

Stripe is another easy one – you can send invoices via Stripe as well.

They can normally pay easily via credit or debit card that way.

With Stripe, they take a cut of each transaction too.

🏆 OUR CHOICE: Wise

Wise is what we highly recommend. 

It’s great for international transactions across borders.

The fees are really good.

Super easy to use – and hooks right up to your bank account easily. 

We have an affiliate link for it below if you want to use it – but you can also just type wise.com into your browser and find the info there. 

It’s awesome – we’d recommend it even if we weren’t an affiliate.

📄 2. Legal: Invoicing + Contracts for Freelancers

invoicing tools

🏆 OUR CHOICE: And.co – now Fiverr Workspace

It’s easy to use. It walks you through how to send an invoice to your client.

🏆 OUR CHOICE: Dubsado

Dubsado is a client management tool – it is free for up to 3 clients – whoop! 

You can set up contracts and invoices – you can also set up automations, client dashboards, etc – but that’s getting a bit more advanced. 

To get started, all you need is contracts and invoicing with Dubsado.

If you don’t like And.co or Dubsado, other options are Honeybook for our US peeps and Bonsai.

🏆 OUR CHOICE: HelloSign

HelloSign is a great tool to use to get documents signed. 

You get free documents every month so that’s awesome – and those are normally more than you need anyway. 

You can send contracts to clients via HelloSign – they sign it and then you download the PDF and you’re done.

Another option is PandaDoc.

LegalZoom is your one-stop-shop for all your (legal) business needs you can get legal documents, like contract templates, etc. 

If you’re looking for more contract help, The Contract Shop by Christina Scalera is awesome – she’s got loads of contract templates for freelancers like an independent contractor template which is all you need to start.

🗂️ 3. File Management Tools for Freelancing

management tools

So, of course, we need some way of storing all the files, documents, and all that good stuff online.

Your options are:

🏆 OUR CHOICE: Google Drive 

Love all things Google Drive – it has everything you could ever need

You can keep everything in one place in your Drive – and we like using all of the assorted products that are offered –

❣️Google Docs, love it.

❣️Google spreadsheet? Love it.

❣️Google slides? Love it.

❣️Google Drawings? Love it.

You can upgrade storage with GDrive for a fee but you don’t need to in the beginning.

Dropbox is another option – Not our first choice, we don’t really get it but you can go for it.

📎 4. Project Management Tools for Freelancing

Communication tools

Chances are, your client will add you into THEIR project management tool but if not, you may want to have some sort of project management tool of your own to keep track of things.

Your options are:

🏆 OUR CHOICE: Asana

The free plan is plenty – you can make a project for each of your clients and put all your to-do’s in there, assign dates, the whole shebang.

🏆 OUR CHOICE: Clickup

ClickUp is awesome as well – the learning curve is a bit higher so if you’re not tech-savvy or just want to get started faster, go with Asana.

Okay, and there is Trello.

Trello is also a good option, it’s a very simple system of just a kanban view – which both Asana and Clickup can also do by the way – but with Trello, it’s a little bit more minimalist.

So if you know you’ll get overwhelmed and then procrastinate with too many options, use Trello.

🗓️ 5. Calendar Tools

You need some sort of calendar system to schedule calls and keep track of important deadlines.

🏆 OUR CHOICE: Google calendar

Yep, google products again – love it – having everything integrated with your Gmail account is the bomb.com. 

So easy. All your meetings and calls go into one calendar system so you can keep track of everything in one place.

🏆 OUR CHOICE: Calendly

For booking calls, we really like Calendly – you can use it to schedule any type of calls – catch-ups, discovery calls, etc.

There’s a free plan, too.

If you don’t like Calendly or need something heavier duty, you can use Acuity Scheduling!

📲 6. Communication Tools

Yes – we have to communicate with our clients – I know, I know.

At a minimum, you’ll need a proper professional email.

🏆 OUR CHOICE: Gmail 

Most emails will work as long as it’s not your kitten_baby_cutie email from middle school.

🏆 OUR CHOICE: Slack

Aside from email… this one is kind of not super necessary to get started. 

But for quicker conversations, chances are your client will add you into THEIR communication tool of choice, if they don’t, you can also set up something like Slack to chat with your clients quicker.

It’s much better than email because you can go back and forth and not lose track of the conversation – Goodbye to getting lost in email threads.

Voxer for voice messages with clients is great – but optional too.

Okay – time for meetings.

Zoom and Google Hangouts.

Both are great!

Have an account on both as sometimes a client may send you a meeting invite from something other than Zoom, especially if they pay for G-Suite and get Google Hangouts with it.

🔑 7. Passwords Tools

Finally, you’ll need a tool to store passwords that you get from clients when they share access and login info.

Password tools

🏆 OUR CHOICE: Lastpass

Lastpass is our choice – it’s not perfect but it’ll do the job.

An alternative to Lastpass is 1Password if you don’t like Lastpass, but they do not offer a free plan.

If you would like to venture into the wonderful world of freelancing but aren’t sure where to start?

Check out our Free Masterclass all about how to work online as a digital business manager.

Want ALL the details on how to work online as a digital business manager?

Check out my FREE intro class which goes over what exactly a DBM does day-to-day, how much I make as a DBM, my 5-step plan to get you started and more!

🏆 Let’s Recap the 7 Tools You Need:

‘OUR CHOICES’ – here are the tools we would recommend you have to begin freelancing online:

  • 1. Wise – for getting paid
  • 2. Dubsado – for invoicing, contracts, and general lite client management
  • 3. GDrive – for file storage
  • 4. Asana – for project management
  • 5. Google Calendar and Calendly – for calendar management and scheduling of calls
  • 6. Email + Google Hangouts – for communication
  • 7. Lastpass – for storing passwords

That’s it.

…And a bonus? 

All of these tools have free versions that work great – you can start your freelance business with SO few expenses because of these free or cheap tools.

Do not create any other fake hurdles for yourself – you don’t need any other fancy tools or anything to begin. 

This is all you need to BEGIN.

💎 Optional Fancy Schmancy Advanced Freelancing Tools

So now here are some optional more advanced freelancing tools that you may want to entertain depending on your situation one day – if you’re just getting started, you probably don’t need any of these.

First up:

Time Tracker

This is a very helpful thing to do in the beginning to track your time and audit where your time is going.

We like Toggl or Harvest

Security

To protect your online privacy.

The VPN we like to use is Express VPN – It’s great.

According to its website, it encrypts all your web traffic, hides your IP, allows you to browse privately.

This comes in handy when you are in certain countries where certain websites are blocked that you may need for work. 

Plus it lets you watch different countries’ Netflix which is amazing.

I’ll bet you thought this was sponsored – but it’s not. It’s not.

TunnelBear is also one we recommend if you are looking for other options. The bear logo is the cutest and the animation is very entertaining.

Accounting

Not sure if this is an unpopular opinion but we believe when you’re just getting started as a freelancer, you can just keep your invoices in a folder on Google Drive and track any expenses in a spreadsheet. 

You don’t really need a proper accounting tool because chances are, you won’t have that many transactions.

BUT if you do find yourself needing one, later on, you can check out: Freshbooks, Quickbooks, or Wave (wave is freeee) 

Insurance

So, business insurance is a thing – believe it or not – *disclaimer this is not legal advice, it’s totally up to you.*

If you do decide you want business insurance, here are some options you can check out: Dinghy, Collective Benefits, Duuo

Client Relationship Management

If you want more heavy-duty client relationships and pipeline management, you can check out Pipedrive, Airtable (OUR CHOICE), or Streak.

Marketing + Sales

Yeah – bet you thought a website was a non-negotiable essential, nope. 

You don’t need a website when you get started at all. You actually don’t have to have a website until year 3 or 4 and even then what really is the point of it as a freelancer?

Again, it’s a personal preference, but don’t let not having a website yet hold you back!

Here are some website options to consider if you choose – WordPress, Squarespace, Showit

For social media or an organic content strategy

Lots of tool options here – all the social media channels plus you can use a social media scheduling tool like Smarter Queue, Later, or MeetEdgar to schedule out things for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, etc

Investing in these platforms is great as a website alternative.

Pitching

For pitching and selling, you can check out Hunter.io for cold pitching, Loom for quick videos, for proposals – Proposify or Qwilr (they put a lot of weird letters together)

There are way more here but we can save those for a dive into all things marketing and sales for freelancing another time. 

Okay – We hope that was useful.

If there are any tools that you love for freelancing that weren’t mentioned here, let us know here on Youtube, so we can all benefit from the learning comment circle.

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Want ALL the juicy details on how to work online as a digital business manager?

Check out my FREE intro class which goes over what exactly a digital business manager does day-to-day, how much I make as a DBM, my 5-step plan to get you started and more!

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Want ALL the juicy details on how to work online as a digital business manager?

Check out my FREE intro class which goes over what exactly a digital business manager does day-to-day, how much I make as a DBM, my 5-step plan to get you started and more!