Freelancing can give you an extraordinary amount of creative freedom and a flexible lifestyle many dream of having, but it can also create financial instability and a few stressful months. This is our guide to helpful freelance finance and budgeting apps which can improve your invoicing, tax, expense reports, receipts and even credit rating.
Whether you're a designer, illustrator, artist or animator – when it comes to the freelance lifestyle, there are a daunting number of things to juggle all on your own, but finance has to be the most important on the list. Online tools make this easier to handle, so you can become not only a good designer, but a good freelancer. Check out the best free and paid options below.
The newest entry to our list, Anna comes with some attractive and colourful branding from Alice Bowsher, and boasts an AI assistant that can pay and send invoices. This is done using email, which the AI can analyse to learn how much you’re owed, by whom, and chasing them (politely) when they’re due. Likewise, when users receive an invoice, they can forward the details onto Anna, which will prepare any payment instructions and fill in information like surnames and sort codes so that the payment is ready to be made whenever needed.
Anna itself is billed as a hybrid digital assistant, being an app, a card and business account aimed at supporting small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the creative industries. It's cheapest subscription comes in at £11 a month, with no free option currently available. All features can be used with any subscription level, though, and future add-ons will include extra debit cards, foreign currency accounts and 24/7 support. Creatives may also be interested to know that the first 2,000 customers to sign up will receive three years of Anna support for free.
Sign up to Anna here.
FreeAgent is both specific to the UK (with a UK-based support team) and – as you may have guessed from its name – freelancers. You can have as many clients and projects as you want with no extra cost, and you can set up and cancel your account with no extra fees.
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.
It’s been voted the UK’s number one accounting software for small businesses.
You can try FreeAgent free for 30 days. Subscriptions start at £9.50/US$27 + VAT per month (for the first six months, then £19 per month thereafter) for a sole trader.
Find out more about FreeAgent and sign up for a free trial here.
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 30-day free trial, rather than creating them from scratch.
The invoice system acts professional because 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 FreeAgent.
Subscriptions start at around £12/US$16 per month for five clients, but the most popular option is the ‘Plus’ version for US$25 per month, which gives you room for 50 clients. Or, save 10 percent by signing up to a yearly plan.
Sign up to FreshBooks here.
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.
The app also separates business and personal expenses easily, but can’t create invoices, data records or reports. You can complete HMRC self assessments, track mileage deductions and sort receipts, so this may be a good option to use for both yourself and your freelance work.
The self-employed version is free for 30 days, and then costs £6/US$8 per month for the first six months, with a discount for new users. 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.
Sign up to QuickBooks here.
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).
Like QuickBooks, the features are simple; unlike QuickBooks, Mint is free in both the iTunes App store or Google Play.
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.
Sign up to Mint here.
Expensify has met its noble aim of creating "expense reports that don’t suck". Simple-to-use and less expensive than others on this list, 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, you can fully automate direct integration with QuickBooks. Expensify users will receive 50 percent off QUickBooks online for 12 months.
For individuals, signing up to Expensify is free. This will give you 10 free SmartScans per months, the mobile app, unlimited receipt storage and email and chat support. For team and corporate options, see here.
Sign up to Expensify here.
Your credit rating is important, your customer’s credit rating is important – credit control generally is just important. Keep tabs on your customers’ credit rating (and not just once – times do change) so you avoid losing money through bad debts with Check Business.
Check Business allows you to look the credit and risk rating of every UK company, as well as millions of partnerships and sole traders for free. All you need to do is search a company name, registration number or VAT number.
You can now create a free account to actively monitor your credit rating and choose if you want your business page to show up in Google or if you’d rather keep it private.
Sign up to Check Business here.
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.
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 Shoeboxed’s pretty cool feature of letting you stuff a prepaid envelope with receipts, business cards and any other paper data, and then send it to them to digitise it all for you.
Subscription for freelancers who need up to 50 paper and e-receipts per month costs £10/US$15 per month. You can also try for free frist. Sign up to Shoeboxed here.
Sign up to Shoeboxed here.
Paymo makes project management easy – especially when it comes to time-tracking, and the best part is that it’s free for freelancers.
Paymo is all about creating a single tool for your workspace. You can capture all billable time, share reports with your clients, track tasks, record time spent on projects in your browser either at an office or on the go using Paymo Plus, create a workflow by moving tasks around, Adobe CC extension, and community support.
Paymo is free for one user, so its ideal for freelancers. For paid subscriptions, see here.
Sign up to Paymo free here.
TAXO'D is an app that freely admits tax sucks, and it’s specifically designed for "freelancers with better things to do than tax". Well, that's something we can agree with. The app is designed to do these things effectively: record income and expenses and watch your tax bill calculate live, It even files your tax return for you within the app, at the end of the year.
Like the best design, TAXO'D is simple and can be used across all your devices, and it was designed by fellow freelancers.
The TAXO’D free option allows for unlimited record entires and most features, but doesn’t let you use receipt capture and tax return filing. The ‘Hero’ option costs £69/US$94 per year, which will give you all features, is coming soon.
Sign up to TAXO'D here.
You might have heard of Invoice2go as a mobile app for billing and invoicing (admittedly, its name gives the game away on its own).
Now you can collect payments via credit and debit card through the app. Perfect for freelancers. This untangling from paperwork, apparently, gets freelancers paid 7 days faster on average and saves you three hours on average every week.
You can start a free 14-day trial, or pay for a ‘starter’ year-long subscription for £19/US$25. This gives you access to 50 invoices for up to five clients. For one user only.
Sign up to Invoice2go here.