Looking for the very best apps for freelancers? You’ve come to the right place.
I’m frequently asked for freelance software recommendations by HomeWorkingClub readers, so I decided to produce an epic article with them all in one place. The best part is that many of them are free, or offer a generous free trial.
The majority of apps and programs here are things I use personally. Some of them I truly wouldn’t want to live without. If there’s a certain part of your freelance business that doesn’t flow quite right, one of these freelance apps could make all the difference.
Let’s get straight into it.
General Productivity Apps for Freelancers
It’s perhaps a little “old school” to highlight such traditional office apps as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, but I make no apology for it.
Word and Excel, especially, are apps the many freelancers use almost constantly. And let’s not forget Microsoft Outlook, which can act as the foundation blocks of a freelance business, managing calendars, contacts, tasks and notes.
Office 365 really isn’t that “old school” anyway. Back in the day you had to pay hundreds for all of these apps. Now you subscribe for around ten bucks per month, and get the very latest versions of everything – not just the core apps, but handy extras like OneDrive and Exchange email too.
It’s a small investment in something that gives a small business “corporate quality” IT, and definitely one of the best apps for freelancers.
In the same way that people tend to be loyal to either iPhones or Android devices, they often split into Microsoft Office fans, and those who prefer to use the Google alternatives.
Instead of Word, you have Google Docs; Instead of Excel, Google Sheets; And instead of Outlook, Gmail and Google Calendars.
Google Apps / G Suite is all browser-based, and great for collaboration. The apps are freely accessible for personal use, and the cost to graduate to the commercial G Suite for Business is low (although it comes close to the cost of Office 365 for anything other than the “Basic” tier).
The choice between G Suite and Office 365 is largely one of personal taste. However, which ecosystem your clients prefer will play a part too. It does no harm to become familiar with both.
Best Apps for Freelancers: Project Management and Organization
I probably recommend Trello to readers more than any other product. For the vast majority of purposes you’ll be able to do all you need with the free version too.
Trello is a project management app, with a simple yet versatile card-based system. I personally use it to organise ideas, run a “pipeline” of articles for the site, and to manage tasks for current and future projects.
Trello can be as simple or advanced as you want to make it, and there are tons of integrations and add-ons. It grows with you, and with your business. Did I mention it’s free?
Asana and Trello often come up side-by-side in conversation, and they are very similar. However, Asana has a little more emphasis on team collaboration features. Trello has these too, but still feels like a very natural fit for an individual freelancer of solopreneur.
Asana offers a well-featured free version that’s more than enough to help take control of your small business. You can create tasks and sub-tasks, upload related attachments, assign them to specific people, and and manage things with various dashboard and calendar views.
If you’re in the market for a project management system, you might want to check out both Asana AND Trello. For what it’s worth, I personally feel the Asana learning curve is a little steeper, so that may impact your decision.
Paymo bills itself as a “work management platform.” If you’re looking for something to organise every facet of your freelance operation, it’s well worth taking advantage of the free version. If your business grows, you may want to graduate to one of the paid plans.
Paymo does a lot of the things Trello and Asana do, such as task and project management. It also introduces functionality around Gantt charts and critical paths – things that will be familiar to those with experience in formal project management methodologies.
On top of that, Paymo also covers time tracking and invoicing.
If you’re already established, it seems likely you’ll find some crossover between some of the things Paymo does and your existing freelance software. If you’re just starting out, however, this could be a great choice. It’s some of the best software for freelancers looking for something that will do everything.
One of the best things about modern freelance software is the wide range of approaches the developers take. You have apps like Paymo and Asana that pile on the features, then – at the other end of the scale – apps like Todoist that keep everything neat and simple.
Todoist provides enough power to manage lots of projects at once. Even the free version supports up to 8 projects and collaboration with five people. However, the interface is kept nice and easy, all centred about a “to do list” structure.
Todoist is also very focussed on modern, mobile working. As much thought has been put into the mobile experience as the desktop experience – great for those of you often on the move.
It’s well documented that some people think more in pictures than in words.
I have to admit that I personally love lists, when it comes to planning projects and organising my thoughts. However, for visual thinkers, and those tasks where you simply must see everything laid out in one place, mind-mapping is hugely useful. That’s where Mindmeister comes in.
Like many of the best apps for freelancers, it’s available in a free version, with inexpensive upgrades for heavy users. It’s a fantastic way to organise results visually, with great-looking output.
Diaries and Time Management
If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you will have experienced the frustration of going back and forth with contacts via email, trying to schedule meetings or calls. Add in some timezone differences and a couple of extra people and you’re looking at a huge time drain.
This is what Calendly sorts out. It allows you to define your available “slots” and leave people to book them. It handles multiple people too.
There’s a free version available for those with basic requirements. If you have a lot of calls or meetings, Calendly is a genuinely life-changing app!
This suggestion is a bit of a curve-ball. I’ve already included Microsoft’s Office 365 in this freelance software roundup. However, I genuinely feel that Outlook (part of the suite) deserves a mention of its own.
If you’ve worked in a corporate environment, the chances are Outlook was your platform for email, calendars and contacts. Personally, I feel that anything else feels like a step back. It’s a refined product, and if you hook it into Microsoft Exchange (included in 365 Business Premium), it allows for thorough and dependable syncing with all of your mobile devices.
The calendar view, which shows appointments and tasks all in one place, is also one of the most valuable organisation features you can possibly have. Unfortunately it’s only in the Windows version, so if you’re a Mac user, read on!
Of all the best apps for freelancers listed here, BusyCal gets one of my most emphatic recommendations.
When I switched to Mac from Windows, I must have looked at a dozen different calendar apps. BusyCal’s ability to show tasks and appointments in one view was the killer feature for me, but it does a whole bunch of other cool stuff too – and the mobile app is also great.
If you’re a Mac user struggling to choose a calendar app, make sure BusyCal gets a place on your shortlist.
Note-Taking Apps for Freelancers
Of all the recommended freelance apps here, this one probably wins the prize for being the most obvious – but hear me out!
Apple Notes is probably one of the most used utilities on my Mac. I use it for everything from rough ideas to article plans to shopping lists. You don’t have to use it in an organised way because the search facility is so good.
All you need to do is remember one word in the note you’re looking for, stick it in the search box, and there;s the note. And if you’re bought into Apple’s ecosystem and syncing things with iCloud it’s on your phone and your iPad too. It’s super handy.
Apple Notes does do a bunch of other stuff too. You can add images, attachments and rich formatting nowadays. I don’t. This is just simple, pure note-taking, and it works brilliantly. You soon end up with hundreds of the things!
And now we go from basic note-taking to note-taking that gets as comprehensive and complicated as you want it to!
EverNote aims to organise your digital life, and succeeds in doing just that for many people. There’s a well-featured free version and lots of extra bells and whistles for those who buy an (affordable) subscription.
Although EverNote is great for text notes, you can also snapshot web pages, catalogue screenshots, keep copies of emails, collaborate with others, and a whole bunch of other things. If you feel your life is lacking organisation, I’d highly recommend starting with the free version and seeing if EverNote changes things.
Microsoft’s OneNote remains a part of the Office 365 suite, but you can now get it on its own. It’s FREE, and available for Windows and Mac, and as a mobile app.
If I used Windows rather than Mac, OneNote would be my first choice for a simple note-taking app. It offers the same easy searching as Apple Notes. If you have a touchscreen device or laptop, it’s also great for taking notes with proper “writing.”
Screenshots have become a really big deal in recent years. Many people take screenshots on their phones to share things they’ve seen, or to copy photos or snippets of messages. Skitch (sadly for Mac only) makes it super easy to use this functionality on a computer.
You simply use a keyboard shortcut, drag some crosshairs over what you want to copy, and then drag the screenshot file away from the app. It takes SECONDS. Once you get used to it, you use it literally dozens of times each day.
Need a snippet of a web page for my blog? Skitch. Want to show my wife a Tweet? Skitch. Want to forward an error message to a support department? Skitch.
Seriously, if you have a Mac, this is one of the best apps for freelancers you will ever find. Get it now. If you don’t have a Mac, read on.
When I (briefly) swapped from Mac to Windows in early 2019, I desperately missed Skitch and needed another screenshot tool. (While operating systems do have basic screenshot functionality built in, it’s really not the same).
Greenshot is a great screenshot tool for Windows. It’s also open source and FREE. It’s not quite as polished and user friendly as Skitch, but with that comes more functionality. It’s still highly recommended.
And, just in case you think you don’t need a screenshot tool, please believe me when I say it’s the kind of thing you don’t know you need until you have it.
Skype is pretty much an essential app for a freelancer, and we get to it later in this article. However, if you want to take your online meetings to the next level, I highly recommend Zoom.
If you need to hold meetings with multiple people, include people who are on site or on the phone, record your meetings, or use fancy collaboration features like whiteboards and break-out rooms, Zoom has you covered.
It’s also, like so many of the best apps for freelancers, available in a free variant. The free tier is generously full featured, with the main restriction being that group meetings can only last 45 minutes.
Slack markets itself as an “alternative to email,” and it certainly can be. I’ve worked with teams who use Slack for almost all of their day to day communications. However, I see it more as a turbo-powered version of the instant messaging functionality that I once largely used Skype for.
You can set up teams, channels, and subject-specific discussions. Slack’s great at making everything easily searchable, so you can find past discussions. Most instant messaging platforms are TERRIBLE at this!
There’s ton of integrations and add-ons, and the mobile app is slick and functional too.
As is clear from this article, Skype has been rather left behind by more modern apps. Zoom does more with conferencing, while Slack does more with instant messaging (and supports voice and video calls, for good measure).
Despite this, Skype still earns a place in this round-up. First off, almost everyone has a Skype account, so if you find yourself needing to “jump on a call,” it’s often the path of least resistance for all concerned.
Also, in fairness to Skype, it gets the basics right. You usually get a good quality video call, and the screen-share is basic but slick. It’s not cutting-edge, but it’s still a helpful app to have on your machine, even if these days it’s probably less used than it once was.
Apps for Writers
You’ve probably seen the YouTube ads for Grammarly. The ones that say “if you write anything on your computer, you need Grammarly!”
It’s certainly well worth having, especially as the free version is enough to save you from plenty of embarrassing mistakes. (Spelling “writer” wrong in a pitch for a freelance writing gig some years ago was a personal highlight of mine – true story).
The chargeable version does much more, and can generally help you improve your writing and break out of bad habits. It’s particularly useful for novice writers and people writing in English as a second language.
Hemingway is often seen as an alternative to Grammarly, but it actually has a slightly different focus. If these apps were people, Grammarly would be a proof-reader, where Hemingway would be more of an editor.
Hemingway focuses on helping you to make your writing snappy, advising you when to remove superfluous words and where to switch to less complicated alternatives. It’s available as both a web-based and desktop app.
If you write, use a Mac, and often get distracted, WriteRoom could really help you out.
It’s a super simple app that removes all the distractions. It’s like typing on an old-school word processor, right down to the monochrome, green screen feel. I sometimes use it for blog posts, when I want to focus on the words and nothing else. It’s not an advanced app (and one negative is that it’s not been updated in a while), but it has a simple purpose – and it works.
FocusWriter is what you need if you’re looking for a distraction-free text editor, but use Windows instead of Mac and can’t use WriteRoom. In fact, it’s available for Mac too, as well as Linux.
FocusWriter includes optional bells and whistles, including timers, alarms and even typewriter sound effects(!) However, at its heart, this is an app intended to help you concentrate on writing and nothing else – and it does that job perfectly.
Blogging and Social Media
As discussed in our detailed review, CrowdFire has changed over the years, and has had to drop some of its features in order to comply with Twitter’s rules. Thankfully, it’s evolved into a very useful tool for managing multiple social media accounts.
With support for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more, Crowdfire is one of the best freelancing apps for people who want to be all over social media, but who don’t want to spend their entire day managing it all.
There’s a free version available, then various chargeable tiers with extra features. If you’re a social media manager, you can use this to manage work for all of your clients.
I’ll always have a soft spot for the Mangools SEO tool suite. It’s one of the first investments I made for HomeWorkingClub, and I still use its tools every day.
The core tool is KWFinder, an invaluable app for researching keywords and online competitors. The supplementary apps allow you to track your site’s performance, analyse other sites, and track your links.
It all adds up to a perfect toolkit for running a blog, and I recommend it all the time. It’s not incredibly cheap, but when you compare the cost with its nearest competitors, such as AHRefs and SEMRush, you realise it’s actually very good value. Highly recommended – and there’s now a free trial available.
Finance and Invoicing Apps
It’s hard to get too excited about accounting software, but it’s a must for serious freelancers. FreshBooks makes it as exciting as it can be, by baking in features like time tracking, online payments, and a facility to produce attractive proposal documents.
As well as offering a free trial, FreshBooks often has deep discounts in place for those willing to skip the trial and subscribe straight away. If you’re committed to improving how you manage your freelance finances, it could well be worth making use of one of those offers.
If FreshBooks is the new player in small business accounting, Sage is the old pro.
Sage offers accounting products for everyone from individual freelancers to enterprise-level businesses. It’s long been the go-to product for accountants, so yours will likely be delighted if you can submit your records in Sage format.
A “real” accounting package is a must for long-term freelancers. But what about if you’re just starting out and testing the water. What about if all you need to do is issue a very occasional invoice?
That’s where Invoice Home comes in, and we have a full review here. It’s completely free to use, although you have to start paying if you use it for a large volume of invoices. You can produce attractive invoices, take payments, and track who’s paid and who hasn’t. For many fledging freelancers, that’s all you need.
Time Saving Apps for Freelancers
TextExpander is definitely one of those apps that changes your life. Something you didn’t know you needed until you have it!
The premise is simple: Instead of typing things over and over, you set up “snippets” that you can trigger with a text shortcut. On a simple level, this can be something simple like “br” for “Best Regards,” but you can have FAR bigger snippets. As explained in my full review, I’ve configured it to create entire, detailed emails with just a few keypresses.
I URGE you to try an app like this if you’ve not used one before. It saves a HUGE amount of time.
TypeIt4Me does exactly the same thing as TextExpander – it allows you to save masses of time by not repeatedly typing the same things again and again.
There are a couple of key differences: TypeIt4Me is Mac only, so if you’re on Windows, get TextExpander instead. It’s also sold for a one-off payment, whereas TextExpander is sold on a subscription model. I’ve used both at various times and been happy with both – perhaps you could try both and see which you prefer?
Procrastination is a big issue for many freelancers. RescueTime is a well-designed app that will help you to nip it in the bud.
Akin to the “screen time” feature that Apple added to iPhones in 2019, RescueTime helps you categorise the time you spending on different activities, both manually and automatically. But it goes much further than that. You can block sites that distract you (goodbye Twitter!), set yourself targets, and even work out when you’re most productive throughout the day.
There’s a free version available, which is more than enough to get you started. You may well find that a paid upgrade is a worthwhile investment in creating more billable time each day.
Utilities and Security
I talked all about the benefits of using a VPN in a recent article on keeping your data safe. I won’t repeat all of it here, but – in short – a VPN can massively boost your privacy and security. It can enable you to use public Wi-Fi safely, access content that’s usually blocked in your country, and hide your browsing activity from prying eyes.
There are lots of VPN services out there, but quality varies hugely. Some are outright scams that put your data at more risk than NOT using them. ExpressVPN isn’t the cheapest, but it’s an established player and the winner of plenty of awards. A MUST for travelling freelancers.
MalwareBytes is one of those apps that everybody should know about. It’s not the same as antivirus software. Instead MalwareBytes is software that looks for more modern malware and spyware threats – the kind of things you can easily pick up by visiting malicious sites or clicking dodgy links in emails.
If you’re a regular reader of this site, you’ll know that IT support is one of my own freelance activities. I’ve lost count of the number of times MalwareBytes has rescued a client by finding something their antivirus had missed.
There’s a free version of MalwareBytes available for personal use. If you’ve not given your computer a good scan in a while, I’d suggest trying it out sooner rather than later!
I think we can all agree that the number of passwords we all have to remember nowadays has become unsustainably ridiculous. As numerous reports show, a lot of people make things easier for themselves by using the same passwords for multiple accounts, or ignoring sensible advice around using complex passwords.
There is an alternative to this foolish risk, which is to use a password manager. LastPass is a market leader in its field, and strikes a great balance between strong security and a friendly user experience.
There’s a free version available for individuals, and upgrading to the extra features on a paid plan only costs a few bucks. If you’ve been meaning to get your passwords in order, grab the free version now and get started.
Do you think I’ve missed anything out on my list of best apps for freelancers? Tell me! You can leave a comment or contact me here.