Freelancing can give you an extraordinary amount of freedom to reach career extremes - from financial lows to more welcome creative highs. Here’s our guide to helpful online freelance money tools to prevent the bad times, so you can strengthen the good.
When it comes to a freelancing, there are a daunting number of things to juggle - and finance has to be up there as one of the most important. Online tools make these often overwhelming tasks easier to handle, so you can become not only a good designer, but a good freelancer.
Never underestimate the importance of invoicing regularly (late payment is a serious problem), scheduling payments at the right points in the design process, profit and loss reports, drawing up tax plans, working out your likely billable days…
I could go on. But I won’t, because using this list of online tools will keep you up-to-scratch with all you need to know, and leave you more time for what you really care about - your work. Just because you’re a freelancer doesn’t mean you have to always do it totally alone.
Freelance money tools: FreeAgent
FreeAgent is both specific to the UK and - as you may have guessed from its name - freelancers. Like FreshBooks, it can send recurring invoices to make sure late-paying clients don’t get a break until they actually pay you; offers expense tracking, which can be particularly helpful when it comes to the daunting matter of paying tax; it then can help you with that tax return; set up automatic bank feeds; and has comprehensive bookkeeping software.
With subscriptions starting at around £19/$USD27 per month, it is slightly on the pricey side. But you can see why, as is accounts support unlimited users, clients, projects and invoices (in other words, unlimited everything).
Freelance money tools: FreshBooks
If you’ve delved into the world of online invoicing tools for small business, you’ve probably heard of FreshBooks. Have a go at creating “professional looking” invoices with its free trial, rather than creating them from scratch. Subscriptions start at around £9/$USD12.95 per month.
The invoice system acts professional as well as looks it - as you can accept credit cards, check when someone’s viewed your invoice, generate reports and create estimates and quotes. And you do all this from an app. It is all very intuitive to use - but doesn’t have quite as many tools as competitors such as FreeAgent.
FreshBooks claims it saves customers an average of two days a month from everyday accounting tasks. Two days spent creating and making more money, rather than counting it up, sound pretty good to us.
Freelance money tools: QuickBooks Self-Employed
QuickBooks is a great way to stay on top of tax in particular, as it tracks income and expenses through its link to your bank accounts, and also quarterly estimates taxes - and can do so from a phone app. It can also separate business and personal expenses easily, but can’t create invoices, data records or reports.
Given QuickBooks is one of the better-known online accounting solutions and very popular, it is no surprise that it also offers accounting for small business and enterprises. The self-employed version is free for a month, and then costs £7/$USD9.99 per month. Simple-to-use, but limited, QuickBooks is great if you don’t need the full range of features and want to concentrate on distressing the process of paying tax.
Freelance money tools: Mint
From Intuit, the makers of QuickBooks, Mint largely targets those who want to manage their personal finances - though it works just as well for freelancers. Create budgets, track your credit score - and all your expenses - and pay your bills. Then view all that data in a host of clear, handy ways (by category, month or year etc.).
Like QuickBooks, the features are simple; unlike QuickBooks, Mint is free. It is probably worth trying the QuickBooks trial for a month to see if, for you, it’s worth the extra money over Mint – with Mint you’ll lose benefits such as customer support. Bear in mind you can connect Mint to QuickBooks Self-Employed.
Freelance money tools: Expensify
Expensify has met its noble aim of creating “expense reports that don’t suck”. Simple-to-use and cheap (with subscriptions starting at around £3.50/$USD5 per month), you can easily create reports, track expenses (even ones paid by cash, by taking a photo of a receipt via SmartScan or manually inputting data), pay taxes - and transfer that data to other services such as QuickBooks.
It works very well on mobile – simply and quickly – and, given its focus on tracking expenses, would fit very well in tandem with FreshBooks, which focuses more on invoicing.
Freelance money tools: Check Business
Your credit rating is important, your customer’s credit rating is important – credit control generally is just important. It is important to keep tabs on your customers’ credit rating (and not just once – times do change) so you avoid losing money through bad debts.
Check Business allows you to look the credit and risk rating of every UK company, as well as millions of partnerships and sole traders. Signing up – for £19.95/month – means you can also monitor your own credit rating (so if anyone checks you out, you can make sure they’re suitably impressed).
Freelance money tools: Shoeboxed
Shoeboxed is an expenses and receipts specialist. Like many of its competitors (such as Expensify), it allows you to take a snap of your receipt with your camera, and can also connect with QuickBooks. Subscriptions start at £7.05/$USD9.99 per month.
Tracking your expenses through Shoeboxed gives you a designated email address, so it’s easy to receive information – whether about expenses, recording miles travelled or your business contacts – that gets directly downloaded into Shoebox. You can keep up-to-date with all this on the web or on the mobile app.
Unfortunately, if you are outside the US, you can’t use Shoebox’s pretty cool feature of letting you stuff a prepaid envelop with receipts, business cards and any other paper data, and then send it to them to digitise it all for you.
Freelance money tools: Paymo
Paymo makes project management easy – especially when it comes to time-tracking. Paymo prices itself as £3.49/$USD4.95 per user per month – so it favours lone freelancers.
With the goal calendar letting you set your priorities, the client portal which means clients can see their invoices and reports, desktop monitoring allowing to track exactly what you’re doing with your time (and therefore better work out your billable hours) and for how long – well, with all that, you’ll be on top of your time and, therefore, your money.
Freelance money tools: TAXO'D
TAXO'D is a new app that freely admits tax sucks. Well, that's something we can agree with. The app allows self-employed creatives to easily keep track of their comings and goings, and calculate a real-time tax bill. It even files your tax return for you at the end fo the year.
Like the best design, TAXO'D is simple but powerful - and it's not made by accountants, but by freelancers, for freelancers. The app will be available on 6 April - but, if you register by 5 April, you can use TAXO'D to file your 2016/7 self-assessment free of charge. From then, TAXO'D is £6/month.
Freelance money tools: Invoice2go
You might have heard of Invoice2go as a mobile app for billing and invoicing (admittedly, its name gives the game away on its own). It was simple and easy-to-use - and now it's even better, as it's recently launched the ability to collect payments via credit and debit card through the app. Perfect for freelancers. This untangling from paperwork, apparently, gets freelancers paid 8 days faster on average.
Its invoicing templates are pretty beautiful, as are the charts and reports on your business. You can try the service for free or subscribe from £35/$USD50.31 (though it might be tricky to convert data from the free version to the paid upgrade).