6 Tools to Increase Your Self-Employed Productivity

By Michael Catford

April 26, 2016   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

appThe benefits of being self-employed are stunningly obvious to those who have decided to take the plunge. The freedom and flexibility it creates and the sense of being in control of your own destiny are a dream come true. For many, self-employment is an empowering and rewarding – both personally and financially – career move.

Sometimes, however, self-employment comes with downsides. Maybe without a manager breathing down your neck, you can get more easily distracted from the tasks at hand, or struggle for motivation. Perhaps being the only person to do the work makes you feel as though you have far too much work to do and far too little time in which to do it. Whatever your reasons, you may be looking for a boost in productivity.

Here are 6 tools that may assist you in delivering both greater quantity and better quality of work.

Link up your apps

How many apps do you have on your work phone? How many different feeds, calendars and messages do you have to keep up with on a daily basis? Over the last decade, smartphone applications have changed the game for self-employed professionals. Each app that you’ve deemed worthy of downloading brings with it a different way to make your working life easier, and you now work more efficiently than ever as a consequence. But now there’s even a way to streamline those efficiencies. Clever apps that take all of your other apps’ information and condense it into easily digestible (and actionable) packets are the next step in streamlining your systems. A service like Hootsuite brings together all of your social media platforms, allowing you to simultaneously post content on every one of your profiles, as well as checking and replying to any messages and notifications, all from the one application. Services like IFTTT (standing for If This, Then That), can take that app linking even further, by creating ‘recipes’ that automatically trigger an action on one app when something happens on another. Examples are endless, and can range from if I take new photos on my phone, then post them to a Facebook album, to if I arrive at work, then mute my phone (by clever use of the phone’s GPS function).

Time Management Software

Once you’re self-employed, you’ll realize that time management is far more than just an annoying corporate catchphrase that stops you from having a cigarette break every half hour. It is a vital part of ensuring your little business is running as smoothly and efficiently as possible. An old fashioned, hand-written work diary is a lovely piece of nostalgia, but there are ways of managing your time that are so much better than lugging around a hardcover A4 journal. Let’s get electronic. With mobile time management apps such as the Tempo Smart Calendar, you might as well have a personal assistant. You can construct a day plan and tee up meetings easily, and the app will fill in all the blanks. Things like how long it will take to get from your office to the next meeting, or what messages have been traded between you and the people at said meeting will all be handily displayed. For those that are more strapped to the desk, an app like Rescue Time might be more your style. It shows you your daily computer habits, and advises on how best to streamline your work day.

Text to Speech

What’s more productive than multi-tasking? It’s a skill that many of us unfortunately lack. Fortunately, assistance is at hand. Text to Speech is a technology that can allow you to set an email, a web page or a report as background music, reading it aloud to you and freeing your eyes and hands up to get other work done. Possibly the best exponent of this technology is iSpeech — perhaps most handily used in its chrome extension form. iSpeech offers simple digestion of information in a huge amount of languages and accents. Essentially, any written form of communication can be converted into a podcast for you to enjoy at your leisure!

Portable Scanner

Using paper may feel a little ‘old school’, but it is still a reality of most self-employed professionals’ workplaces. And when you need to make that document digital, a portable scanner comes in very handy. You can buy a thin, sleek, portable scanner from any office supply store, and a good model will be able to scan both sides of a piece of paper at once. Still, why bother with hardware if you don’t have to? You can turn your phone into a scanner with the help of apps such as TinyScanner. All you do is scan with your phone’s camera, and the image is automatically converted into a PDF document. No need to worry about the paper copy any longer!

What Time is it?

Many freelancers are children of the world. They work online, and their clientele are scattered worldwide. As heart-warming and ‘it’s a small world’ as this is, it can create issues. ‘I need this by close of business Friday’, writes your client from Saint Kitts and Nevis. ‘Okay’, you reply, ‘but where the heck is Saint Kitts and Nevis?’ For online freelancers who require a finger on the international pulse, and need to have an idea of what time it is (and will be) anywhere in the world, help is at hand. There are a host of world-time-tracking options available that allow you to quickly check the current and future times in different destinations all around the world. One of the better ones if the chrome extension FIO (Figure It Out), that gives you the option of customizing a heads-up display of a huge amount of time zones, and lets you know about any upcoming national holidays, helping you to never miss an international deadline again.

Time Tracking/Invoicing Software

If only trust was universal. Unfortunately, as if they were dishonest street urchins, most self-employed professionals and freelancers require a way to prove their work. They need to track their payable hours, and subsequently invoice them. Like everything else on this list, there’s an app for that. One of the best is Nutcache, which offers a paid Pro version, but also has a very well kitted out free option. It can track your time and invoice it, allows for collaboration between different users (up to a generous 20 on the free version), and can even track your expenses. Productivity is never more important as when you are the business. When you’re self-employed, you’re responsible for finding your own avenues to efficiency. These tools will get you headed in the right direction.

Michael Catford

Michael is a bearded Australian with a love of travel, that quickly developed into a love of writing while he was trying to document his adventures.

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