Contractors work across all sectors, which means that they need access to a broad range of tools. As well as industry-specific kit, contractors have different administrative needs depending on whether they’re working through a limited company or an umbrella company. Although contractors can adapt many freelancing tools, contracting often refers to a specific style of working that’s less ‘team focused’. We’ve taken a look across a wide range of online tools and picked out those with the best potential for contractors – and what’s more, they’re free!
Time management: Ronin
Time management is something that most contractors can benefit from, especially if you charge by the hour or by the day. The right app can maximise your productivity by analysing your working patterns. You then use this data to work time efficiently, benefitting both you and your client. Ronin is an integrated time management and online invoicing app that also includes the Zapier project management tool. The app work best for one person as the free version only allows for two clients. However, as contractors tend to work with one client at a time, this make it an excellent streamlined option that could fulfil all your needs without having to upgrade.
Social media organiser: Buffer
Social media offers contractors a valuable means of promoting themselves to potential recruiters. These days, the more social media platforms you use, the more visible you are to talent hunters. While Twitter and Facebook are great for quick-fire updates and keeping in the loop, they can also act as funnels to your professional LinkedIn profile, online portfolio or website. Managing all your social media accounts can be time-consuming. Buffer helps you easily schedule posts, track the performance of your content, and manage all of your accounts in one place. It also has a popular queue function and it’s free if you have just three profiles to look after, which should suit the needs of most contractors.
Grammar check: Hemingway
Whatever kind of contracting you do, it’s likely you’ll have to write something. Whether it’s content, business correspondence or social media posts, well-crafted words are still one of the most important and powerful professional assets you can have. The Hemingway app is a free grammar-checking tool that offers a number of useful insights into the written content that you create. As well as making sure all your commas, apostrophes and semi-colons are in the right place, Hemingway has more advanced capabilities. One of the most interesting of these is its ability to judge the engagement ‘level’ of your writing by analysing the words and sentence structure that you’re using. This can make it a useful reference tool for professional writers who want to check the readability of their content for a particular audience.
This handy little tool lets you add an element of organisation to your research notes, ideas and creative thinking. Trying to keep everything you need to know stored in your brain can cause major overload. Use a tool like Evernote to organise your thoughts into actionable (and searchable) note format. You can also organise notes into notebooks (for different clients or projects) and add tags to make it easier to find related information. Evernote is a simple app but it’s invaluable for organising creative thinking, writing blog posts, and taking notes on the move.
Online communication & video conferencing: Zoom
Contractors must often work offsite or even across time zones, so a reliable and versatile means of communication is a priority. Although Skype is a good all-rounder, if you’re looking for a fully functional videoconference tool, Zoom beats Skype every time. With features like breakout sessions and individual meeting URLs, you can customise your videoconference experience. Zoom’s free plan allows you to host up to 100 participants in a video call, along with other basic communication features including meetings of up to 40 minutes. The app also gives the user personalised support to make sure you get the most out of its functions.
Organisers: Lastpass & Pocket
Two handy apps for your online toolbox are Lastpass and Pocket. Lastpass lets you keep track of the passwords for all your websites and accounts, making it easier for you to create a secure and usable database of this information. Meanwhile, Pocket lets you save all the articles, videos and links that you come across for you to reference back to later. The advantage over bookmarking in your browser is that Pocket allows you to access this information across all your devices from a centralised location.
While we’re not suggesting all contractors should turn themselves into creative gurus, it’s increasingly useful to know a little about making things look eye-catching. Research shows content that includes an element of graphics can significantly increase engagement; whether it’s making your social media profiles stand out or adding professional looking photos to an article you’ve written, using Canva can add polish. Straightforward to use, the app has become synonymous with the idea of creating beautiful graphics without a background in graphic design – check out this tutorial for more information.
There are many free online resources that contractors can use to their advantage. Podcasts are a great way to improve your knowledge and plug into hot topics that could affect your sector. For out top selection of apps, read our article here.
Contractingwise offer information on a wide range of contracting issues, to speak to a member of our team call: 0203 642 8679