First of all, let me just say that tools are my favorite. As a social media professional, they simplify processes which give me more time to focus on other projects, grow my business or have a little down time.
But with a million different ones to choose from, it's hard to know where to even start. Since I'm trying to keep overhead costs low, I like to try and find free tools first. I'm fine with paying for tools I really love, but I also have to keep in mind that the feast or famine freelance life can sneak up on me anytime.
These tools are mainly for productivity and administrative tasks but I hope you'll find them helpful as well. As I mentioned, they are free (or have free trials) so there's no harm to your wallet to give them a try.
ONE. Wave is a free (yes, 100% free!) accounting and invoicing software. Each month, I can send recurring invoices to my clients, and they can pay online via credit card or bank account. It also integrates my bank and credit card transactions so I can track business expenses. Wave sends reminders for late invoices, receipts, and provides an overview of my business finances all in one place. The list goes on. It's truly amazing.
TWO. Toggl is a time-tracking software. Although I don't get paid hourly, it's a good way to know whether you're making $10 an hour or $100 an hour and help eliminate any inefficiencies or time-sucks. You can set up multiple projects per client and use a browser extension to start tracking the time you spend on each project with one-click. (P.S. I haven't used their new app Superday yet, but I'm sure it could be eye-opening.)
THREE. Buffer is a social media scheduling tool with a great user interface. It's simple to use, provides analytics and integrates with almost every social media platform (including Pinterest!). Buffer is technically free for two social media profiles, but the paid version is worth every penny. They did just raise their prices and got rid of some functions in the free version, so take a tour of the paid version for sure. I prefer it over Hootsuite any day.
FOUR. I use Asana to organize almost everything I need to do for clients. There are many other tools out there, but Asana is totally fine for now. I'm also not going to pretend like I'm organized enough to use a project management tool to its full potential, honestly. I still like physically writing down lists of my daily tasks.
I have a "project" for each client, and then organize tasks into sections, with reminders and notes for each. It's also okay for teams due to the conversations you can have within projects, but personally I find the multiple team member use a little clunky and hard to navigate.
Update: Since writing this, I've been using Airtable for project management and I LOVE it, especially the color-coded tables and integrations. It's free as well.
FIVE. Tracking performance of marketing efforts should be a priority for every single business, but there are a million reporting tools and they can get very pricey. Dasheroo is a reporting tool with integrations for a ton of platforms, like Google Analytics, Facebook Ads, Mailchimp, SurveyMonkey, Eventbrite, and nearly 100 more. Best of all, it's the most affordable reporting tool I've found (aside from Sumall). It's the best value for sure.
SIX. Streak CRM is a free Gmail extension tracks email views and schedules emails. Technically, it's a full blown CRM but I don't use that functionality. Previously, I was using Boomerang (which I also love), but recently switched to Streak so I can see when people read my emails. It's great for pitching or following up if a client hasn't responded to something yet.
I also enjoy scheduling emails to go out at certain times and scheduling emails to re-appear at the top of my inbox on a certain date.
SEVEN. HelloSign is a contract tool, but I also use it to fill out PDF forms because I don't have the premium version of Adobe. Basically, I draw my signature once and can quickly sign documents and send them back to clients. They can also sign via HelloSign as well for free. You get three documents a month for free.
EIGHT. Google Drive is truly a lifesaver for me. I thought this was more widely used, but I'm still baffled how many people use Dropbox instead.
It's a free version of Dropbox, and Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets are free versions of Word, Powerpoint and Excel, respectively. I love using it for sharing files and working on documents simultaneously with my team. You need a Google account to use it, but you can sign up for Google with your existing email address.