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Technology has made it possible for you to get more done in less time. Are efficiency and productivity always a good thing?

Freelancer

Technology and telecommute: Two fabulous words that start with the same letter, and one is very much dependent on the other. The “tele” in “telecommute” certainly isn’t short for “telepathy” – though imagine how telepathy would impact professional relationships! On second thought, don’t.

The professional world changes and evolves, of that, there is no question. No longer is physical presence a requirement for staff, as more organizations migrate to a distributed workforce. What has become clear in the last decade is the location is no longer as important as the output. The focus on productivity is essentially a focus on the individual and catering to the needs of the one for the benefit of the whole. This individual-centric mentality seems counterproductive, but it’s quite the opposite. It would be impossible to cater one office building or workplace to the needs of many individuals for whom environmental factors differ. One requires silence for concentration, while another works better with loud music playing. Does one wear headphones? This is one option, but if this method stifles even one professional, the sacrifice may not justify the means.

One practice that more Americans are embracing is freelancing: individuals contract themselves with a person or organization to offer their time, skills and expertise in exchange for money. The person remains an independent contractor, and the organization is released from any legal obligations, like payroll taxes or insurance benefits. This is a cost-effective way for a business to meet their needs without taking on the full responsibility of onboarding.

There are estimates that more than a third of Americans participate in independent contract agreements. In fact, according to the Internal Revenue Service, over 10 million Americans rely on freelancing for more than half of their total income stream. That translates into more than 10 million Americans essentially being their own brand, running their own organization, and being a one-person operation while managing all sales, marketing, and accounting tasks. By the way, “accounting” also means handling their own payroll and other practices a business would otherwise task a Human Resources department to oversee. These freelancers operate like sole proprietors and CEOs of a business and take on great responsibilities to manage their time efficiently.

In juggling these processes, are freelancers losing time due to inefficiency? Lost time directly results in lost earnings. The best thing a freelancer can do to protect their time is finding the right combination of technology to help maximize productivity and minimize downtime. The great news is, with the incredible technological advancements in recent years, there is a huge variety of productivity apps available for this exact purpose.

Running your own business can be time-consuming, and you don’t have time to waste! Here are apps to help.

Apps to Get Paid

You have a multitude of options for processing payments now. From to to to, small business owners have a variety of apps catering to simplified payment processes, whether the purpose is sending or accepting a payment.

  • Due is a free problem solver when it comes to the need to process payments online. With a simple user interface, Due boasts encryption for secure data and transactions.
  • You’ve seen Square, the little white square box that plugs into a tablet or smartphone and uses a data connection to process a transaction. Square is limited to the transaction process, but they also offer Square Register for a point-of-sale system.
  • Start a Wave! Wave is like an all-in-one solution for tracking sales and expenses, processing payments, keeping track of payroll and customer invoices, you name it. The app is free to download, but like with any other transaction-based solution, there are fees for credit card processing.
  • FreshBooks has a name much like its well-known competitor but approaches payment processing with a “Fresh” outlook. Freshbooks acts much like a basic accounting platform with built-in functionality for transactions, but the invoicing and customizable reporting are a nice feature, too.

Apps to Get Organized

If only one app could do it all for you: email, scheduling meetings, maintaining files, the list goes on. Actually, the way you need to look at an app isn’t if the app can do it all for you, but if it can do it well! Sometimes, all you need is a little integration – and more apps are recognizing this need.

  • Basecamp has long been an industry darling for businesses: Collaborating, setting up projects, connecting team members, and offering a centralized location to chat about the projects but also a one-on-one privatized chat option for less public matters. Email communication and built-in customizable notifications are a great feature, too!
  • Slack is a far more economical option than Basecamp, but keep in mind that you get what you pay for. High on communication and organization, Slack is what most newer platforms were designed after. Slack is idolized by techies and creatives alike, but for freelancers and small business owners that have another focus, Slack may not be the best solution.
  • Asana is right there with Slack, offering the lower entry price point for a collaborative option, and even integrates with Slack if there is ever the need for both.

Apps for Communication

We already mentioned Basecamp and Slack, which offer exemplary communication tools in a collaborative workspace, but there are other apps to increase productivity with a focus on communication for freelancers and small business owners.

  • For small teams or large groups, Fuze offers real-time communications with voice, messaging, and perhaps its strongest offering, high-definition video conferencing.
  • The famous G Suite: The go-to suite of apps for productivity for professionals everywhere. From email to document storage, from calendars to shared documents, and integrated with Hangouts, the video conferencing solution, Google’s G Suite has earned its reputation. With the lowest entry price point around, seamless integration with Microsoft’s Office 365, and the simple user interface everyone has already been using for years now, what else is there to say?

Apps for Automation

Find ways to automate processes and require less of your hands-on attention.

  • If you use Gmail or Outlook for email and scheduling meetings, to is a fantastic free solution for arranging meetings in a single email. No more back-and-forth emails on what times work on which days – install the extension and grant access to your calendar!
  • Microsoft Flow is an amazing automation tool that lets a user automate processes using connectors for integrated apps. Establish your parameters, and voila!
  • Zapier is a simplified Microsoft Flow and has a cult following that sings its praises. Zapier follows much of the same practices as Microsoft Flow, so check both out and see which works better for your needs.

Who doesn’t love a little extra help? There’s always room for more when you’re running the show on your own. While the ideal answer is to clone yourself, the reality is there’s only one you. Try a few of the apps here to give yourself a hand. Spend less time on the workflow and more time on the work you’re getting paid for – in billable hours!