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Tricks of the trade: digital tools to enhance your self-employment setup

Over two million people in the UK have chosen to go freelance and this number continues to rise year after year. Working for yourself comes with a lot of DIY tasks and responsibilities but there’s a wide variety of digital tools out there to help you stay on top of them. Here are a few of our top picks that you might want to add to your business's digital toolkit.

Renovate task management

When you’re self-employed, staying organised isn’t an option - it’s a necessity! You need to keep on top of your email inbox, numerous projects, your accounts, as well as the other 101 admin tasks that come with running your own business.

As a starting point, consider bringing a few of those responsibilities together with a single set of tools. Google’s G Suite or Office 365, for example, combine email, documents, storage drives and an integrated digital calendar to help you keep all of your work in one place.

Next up, why not try diving into the world of digital to-do lists. These can be really handy for keeping track of recurring admin tasks separately from individual client projects. A couple of popular examples of task tracking apps are Trello and Asana. Both offer free basic versions and have simple, user-friendly interfaces that allow you to create ‘boards’ for lists and projects. They’re also ideal for collaborating quickly and easily with colleagues.

Task management aside, you may want help staying on top of the financial aspect of each of your projects. With FreeAgent you can track your invoices, estimates, expenses and time in separate projects so you can clearly see the profitability of each of the projects you're working on.

Construct a marketing strategy

Regardless of your business or industry, marketing can help attract new clients and retain existing ones. If you’re ready to invest more time and effort into your marketing strategy you might want to consider an all-in-one marketing platform. For example, MailChimp and Hubspot cover everything from email campaigns to social media management and more.

If social media is an integral part of your marketing strategy, a social media management tool can help you monitor and engage across different social media platforms. Using a dedicated tool can help reduce the pressure and immediacy that can come with social media and allow you to fit it into your busy work day. There are lots of great tools out there, but Hootsuite is a good choice if you’re looking for the full suite of social media capabilities; from scheduling to content curation, analytics and monitoring conversations. If you’re new to social media or not ready to invest in a full-scale tool, consider a simpler tool like Buffer, which focuses on scheduling and basic analytics.

If you’re looking for some guidance, check out our top social media tips for small businesses.

Cement your client relationships

Maintaining positive client relationships - and building new ones - is vital for business success. While you may still rely on email and phone calls to stay in touch, video meetings are another great way to add a personal element to your client communications. Whereby, Skype and GoToMeeting are easy-to-use and reliable tools for video meetings. The videos are high-quality and offer screen sharing, which is a great way of presenting and demoing products or services remotely.

One of the biggest challenges of being self-employed is late payments. How should you approach chasing late invoices, especially when you’ve dedicated time and effort into building positive relationships with your customers? One solution that can help is automated invoices! FreeAgent offers automated invoices that send and chase themselves, saving you from those difficult conversations, as well as helping you get paid on time.

Fortify your data defences

Whether you’re a small or large business, with the current digital climate today staying safe online should be a top priority. In this increasingly vulnerable virtual world, you need to be savvy with security, especially when it involves client data. As a freelancer, you have a lot to remember without the added pressure of memorising complex passwords and security steps - that’s where a password manager like LastPass or Dashlane comes in handy. They’ll both create unique secure passwords for you, store all your online passwords and even frequently update them if needed. For more helpful tips for keeping your small business safe online, check out our cyber security guide.

Maintain a healthy mind

There are invigorating highs and challenging lows when you’re self-employed, which is why it’s important to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. It can be easy to fall into the habit of working long hours and putting your health in the backseat while you power on through, but too much stress will ultimately take its toll.

Headspace is a great app to have at hand. Whether you’re experiencing stress, struggling to focus, dealing with anxiety or have a busy mind that’s keeping you awake at night, the app offers bite-sized guided meditations and exercises to help you relax and recalibrate. Headspace is also made for busy lives, so you can easily fit it into your packed schedule. The NHS have also put together a collection of recommended apps and digital tools designed to promote good mental health and wellbeing, for both your working day and beyond.

Reinforce your productivity with music

Listening to music while you work can help to improve your efficiency, creativity and happiness. When you’re self-employed, you may find yourself working alone more than most, so when you’re in need of some inspiration or a boost, music can be a great pick-me-up. Spotify shares hundreds of curated playlists tailored for different purposes or moods, so if you need to buckle down with a task, beat the Monday blues, or escape for a nostalgic afternoon, this is definitely one for the toolkit.

Podcasts are another great source of inspiration, news, industry insights and knowledge. There are over half a million podcasts available today, so regardless of your industry or interests, there’s something for everyone. Along with Spotify, Stitcher is another great app for streaming lots of great podcasts.

We know how much time and effort it takes to run a small business, so hopefully some of these digital tips and tools will help make your work life that bit easier!

To find out how FreeAgent can help take the stress out of managing your small business finances, why not try a 30-day free trial today?

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