Technology for Every Occasion: Tools to Keep Freelancers OrganizedElance_Keith | Feb 10, 2011
As an online worker, how would you evaluate your organizational skills? Are you a well-oiled machine or do you find yourself scrambling to manage your calendar, expenses, and maybe even your sanity? Chances are that, as an online worker, you work from your home office or on the go and untethered. You’re managing several different projects at any given time, communicating with several clients, and flying around trying to manage what is essentially your own business. Instead of letting the demands of the job pile up, try utilizing some of the fantastic new programs and applications designed to make your work a whole lot more manageable.
Of course you could use a cloud-based enterprise suite from Google or Zoho, but now you can opt for something more individually tailored to your needs. Are you always getting new ideas and having to scribble them down on napkins or random pieces of paper? Maybe all your loose papers are receipts that accumulate in a tray on your work desk? Or is your computer desktop the one that needs to be de-cluttered?
We’re here to share with you some very useful apps and software, most of which are very affordable (or free), that can keep you and each aspect of your freelance work humming smoothly and as efficiently as possible.
Evernote | Notes
Evernote is a really exciting web-based note and clipping organization program that you can access on your home desktop, smartphone, or traveling web access connection. In a nutshell, Evernote is set up to compile all of your text notes, website clippings (text and images), photos and screenshots and index them so that they are searchable by keywords, titles and tags. The software can even detect keywords from your scanned handwriting. There are limitless possibilities to the sort of tasks to which you can use Evernote, but the key thing is that it makes being organized fun, visual, and most importantly—something you won’t have a problem maintaining.
There are different pricing tiers depending on how much information you sync monthly, but most users won’t need to have anything more than the basic free account. Evernote is increasingly popular among the freelance community as its accessibility is perfect for workers who are often on the move who use different workstations in different places. Here Freelance Weekly offers some great tips for maximizing your usage.
Also see: Springpad
Tungle.me | Meetings/Scheduling
How tedious and frustrating can it be to coordinate meetings, especially between multiple parties? Too often there’s a back and forth of email exchange proposing (and rejecting) different times, mismanagement of time zone differences, and heaven forbid an accidental double-booking. Tungle Corp.’s Tungle.me eliminates those headaches by providing a simple, web-based solution that synchronizes with leading online calendar systems including Outlook, Google Calendar, and Apple iCal, and even better—doesn’t require vistors to sign up or register with the service in order to schedule meetings.
Also see: Doodle
Trillian | IM Clients
We know that in these times, communication isn’t limited to phone and email anymore. We all use a bevy of instant messaging applications and belong to even more social networks, but we hate having to open multiple programs and sign into multiple accounts. Enter Trillian, which can connect to IM chat programs like AIM, MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, and IRC services at once using a single interface. Additionally, Trillian gives you integrated access to your social networks like Facebook and Twitter, where you can watch your timelines and news feed and post universal status updates. Like most new apps, Trillian is designed to go wherever you go, so it’s available as a download for your desktop, access from the web, and even as a handy mobile app for your iPhone, Android device or (soon) Blackberry. Check out all 450+ Trillian features on their website.
Also see: Digsby, Adium (for Mac)
Xmarks | Bookmarks and Tabs
If you’re like me, odds are you use different browsers, maybe even on different computers, and you could stand to do a better job keeping all your favorite bookmarks in one place. Well, what started as a bookmark sync add-on made popular for the Firefox web browser has now grown into a very useful organizational tool across the major browser platforms. You simply need to install Xmarks on each computer you use, and then watch as it seamlessly integrates with any of the four leading web browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Safari) and keeps your bookmarks, open tabs and (optionally) passwords backed up and totally in sync. Want to keep your private bookmarks separated from your work bookmarks? The profile function in Xmarks lets you do that. Even when you don’t have access to your personal computer, you can log onto the Xmarks website, log into your free account, and access all your saved bookmarks from wherever you are.
Also see: Sync2It, Google Bookmarks
Shoeboxed | Expense Tracking
Do you find yourself constantly pulling out receipts from your pockets or purse, and then tossing them in a pile thinking you’re going to go through them one day? How many of us actually follow through on a consistent basis? If you find yourself struggling with the time to stay on top of your expenses (especially if you travel frequently), let us introduce you to Shoebox.
With Shoebox you can take all of your loose receipts, invoices, and even business cards, send them to Shoebox’s headquarters in a secure, prepaid envelope and they’ll scan them all and add them to your online account. There, you’ll have access to all your data in multiple formats (PDF, Excel, etc.) and then have the option of having your hard copies returned to you. Don’t like having to snail mail your documents? Snap a photo on your mobile phone or if you’re an iPhone user, fire up their mobile app.
Also see: OfficeDrop
Box.net | File Storage/Backup
If you’ve ever been a victim of having your computer completely fail on you, you’re thankful that you always back up your important documents and files. Now for those of us who live in the real world, we need a file backup and management solution like Box.net. Not only can it back up your important data, it can synchronize files between any number of computers so, if one croaks, you can have access to your files by accessing your Box.net account on another system. Additionally, you can install Box.net on your mobile phone, giving you access to your files even on the go—how about that for mobile freelancing? Best of all you get to try it out for free (up to 5 GB of data) and upgrade if and when you need more storage.
Also see: Dropbox, SugarSync
DocScanner | Mobile Document Scanning
A very handy device for smartphone users out there, DocScanner turns your iPhone, Android or Symbian phone into a mobile document scanner that does more than just email photos. It enhances our photos by applying additional functions, like automatically sharpening the image, removing shadows, and fixing the color balance. Once your photo is edited to your liking, you can perform OCR (optical character recognition) , send as a .pdf or .jpg file and even send directly to the aforementioned Evernote as part of its integration.
Also see: Scanner Pro
Use any of these products or one that wasn’t mentioned? How have they helped with your organization and efficiency? Please leave a comment below or head over to our Facebook Page to offer your suggestions!