17 for ’17: Productivity Apps for Gig Economy Pros
Freelancers face a number of challenges, including the need to find health coverage independently. On that front, Group Health has you covered. There’s still time to enroll in 2017 individual and family plans. For the day-to-day challenges of life as a freelancer, we’ve reviewed 17 mobile apps that can help you work more effectively, reduce stress, and make time for healthy activities.
The buzz about the “gig economy” is more than just hype. If you’re a freelancer, you’re one of more than 50 million in the United States, according to a recent survey. That’s 35 percent of the total U.S. workforce.
It can be rewarding to be your own boss, but freelancing takes some skills—and not just the ones you get paid for. Fortunately, there are more tools than ever to assist you in your work.
To nurture you in 2017, we’ve curated a list of 17 of the most popular and useful Android and iPhone (iOS) apps for freelance productivity. We’re hoping to save you hours of time browsing the app store and then testing options that may not even be right for you.
This list is organized around common life challenges faced by every freelancer — and the apps that can help you meet them.
- First, you need enough work so you can afford to buy the occasional fresh vegetable. That means you need to show lucky potential clients what you can do, which means keeping track of the work. (4 apps)
- Then you have to schedule meticulously to meet deadlines and have a life, including enough time to cook that vegetable and share it with family or friends. (4 apps)
- And as a one-person shop, you either keep track of your expenses and finances, or nobody does. See above regarding that elusive vegetable. (2 apps)
- To keep your clients, you’re also going to need to keep your communications secure. (3 apps)
- Most of all, with multiple clients and projects and everything constantly changing, you’re going to drown in stress unless you’re organized. (4 apps)
About the list:
- Star ratings 1–5 are based on user reviews. We rounded them to the nearest half star.
- When “free” is followed by an asterisk, that means premium features or other upgrades are available for purchase.
- If an app is not available for Android or iOS, we suggested a comparable alternative.
Ready to Tame Your Freelance Life? Check Out These Productivity Apps for iPhone and Android
Keep track of the work. Attract the clients. Make the money, buy the vegetables.
1. Google Keep
Google Keep is a strong, completely free alternative to popular apps EverNote and OneNote. It’s great for note-taking, to-do lists, and generally offloading your thoughts. It has a simple sleek interface and integrates cleanly with other Google apps such as Google Calendar. You can label your entries to categorize them, and use the search tool to find what you need quickly.
2. Google Drive & Google Office Apps
Google Drive is a convenient place to store all your files on the cloud. You can quickly store important work and personal files on your Google Drive, then access them on the go from anywhere. Drive also syncs perfectly with apps from Google’s Office Suite including Google Docs (word processing), Google Sheets (spreadsheet), and Google Slides (presentation maker like Microsoft PowerPoint). Google Drive’s easy integration gives it an edge over alternatives like Dropbox.
Journey for Android makes journaling easy with a smooth, user-friendly interface. Besides recording your professional and personal history, journaling is a great catharsis to relieve any kind of stress. Journey supports multi-device syncing so that you can access and add to your journal from any of your devices. Other practical features include automatic geo-tagging, the ability to swipe between entries, and integration with social media platforms to share your entries on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress blogs, and Tumblr.
iOS: free, Rating: 4 stars (Android alternative: Dear Future Self.)
Use HiFutureSelf to text yourself reminders, setting them to arrive at a predetermined date and time in the future. You can even send your future-self fun, motivational messages.
Schedule meticulously. Meet the deadlines. Have “you” time. Take care of yourself.
5. Free Time 2
Use Free Time 2 to see your free time and quickly share your availability. Compatible with the native iOS calendar, this app is useful not only for finding time for work related-appointments. It can also help you maintain boundaries between your work life and personal life, and make sure you find time to spend with loved ones or for some vital self-care.
6. Doodle Schedule Maker
Doodle automates the process of finding the best time for your meetings or other events. Instead of exchanging numerous messages, you send one poll with potential meeting times. As soon as participants respond, you are shown the best meeting time. You can follow up with an invitation right away. The app is completely free, and syncs well with the native calendars for Android and iOS.
7. QuickCal Mobile
Ever found that the native iOS calendar doesn’t have quite as many features as you need? QuickCal simplifies adding events, managing multiple calendars, and viewing all your upcoming items.
This is a great choice if you often find yourself traveling for business. TripIt shows all your travel plans together in one place. When you forward your travel itineraries to a TripIt email address, they are automatically added to your account, which you can access from a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer. You can also sync TripIt with your calendar so that your travel plans are visible alongside your other meetings and events. The premium version of the app can even keep you apprised of transportation issues such as flight delays, and help you find alternative flights if needed.
Track your finances. Know what’s going out and coming in. Always know when you can buy those vegetables.
Tracking expenses is one of the most tedious aspects of freelancing, but Expensify makes it simple. You can photograph your receipts, tag them with a category, and instantly log them. It also simplifies logging time and mileage. You can even sync your credit card statements with Expensify.
A calculator app may seem so mundane as to be out of place on this list, but Soulver has earned its spot. Use it to spread your calculation over multiple lines, label numbers in your calculations, and even calculate using natural language.
Keep communications secure. Let your clients know they can trust you. Get and keep the great clients.
Security-conscious professionals can sync email accounts with Inky and take advantage of end-to-end encryption for all email. Your clients will appreciate that you take privacy and security seriously.
Having to keep track of dozens of passwords is highly irritating and can have a real impact on your productivity when you forget one and have to spend time resetting it. Use 1Password to generate highly secure passwords, store them securely, and make them accessible with a single password that only you know. Access 1Password from any of your devices—from Android or Apple phones, to your desktop computer in the office.
Access any of your computers from your smartphone or tablet and run any of their programs remotely. All you need is a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. Note that only the first 14 days are free, and after that a subscription is required. Access to two computers is $149 per year.
Get organized. Don’t panic. Manage stress, stay healthy, have a great life.
While Google Keep is great for your own simple notes and to-do lists, Asana is a powerful manager of tasks and projects, including those involving a team. Asana is designed to track all your work, and provide a forum for your updates and conversations regarding that work. In addition to the Asana mobile app, the desktop version is an attractive, fast web application. It’s recommended that you set up your Asana account with the desktop web application, and then use the mobile apps for on-the-go access and updates.
Wunderlist specializes in to-do lists and task management. Create lists, categorize them, and share them across your devices. For each task in your list, you can set deadlines, the urgency of the tasks (so you can prioritize), and more. Wunderlist has a sleek, easy-to-use interface that’s helped make it one of the most popular to-do list apps on the market.
IFTT stands for “If this, then that.” It allows you to use logic-based “recipes” to interact with more than 300 apps and automate tedious tasks. For instance, you can create recipes to turn off your ringer when you arrive at the office, automatically log your work hours to a Google Drive spreadsheet, or save photos of receipts to your Dropbox account. The possibilities are practically limitless. It can take some time to learn how to create your own custom recipes. But once you unlock the power of IFTT, it’s unlikely you’ll regret the time you took to master it.
Habitica helps motivate you by turning tasks into a game. Input your daily tasks, goals, and good habits you’re trying to form. Then level-up your avatar by staying on task. As you get your work done, you can unlock armor, pets, skills and quests. Keep yourself accountable by battling monsters or even your friends’ avatars. (You’re not likely to win a battle if you haven’t been staying on track and leveling up your character.) Redeem points for rewards such as in-game equipment, or even an episode of your favorite TV show.
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