Starting out as a freelancer means learning to become a one-man-band of business, (like Dick Van Dyke at the start of Mary Poppins, but without the dodgy Cockney accent). We have to flex our creativity with one hand while balancing our marketing, finances, networking, other business admin with the other – all without the resources (or budget) of large corporate companies.
Fortunately, we live in a world full of apps, software, and websites ready and raring to help. So here are a few of the content creation tools to make freelance creators’ lives that bit easier.
Before you ask, this list is wholly unsponsored. It’s a collection of genuine recommendations from freelancers who find these tools valuable. But I do appreciate your cynicism.
Best for: Graphic design on a budget
Canva is one of those rare finds: a graphic design platform that’s easy to use (relatively speaking). The site has been growing fast and even the least tech-savvy freelancers can use it to create half-decent, professional-looking designs of all kinds, namely thanks to its huge stash of fancy templates. Social media posts? Sorted. Animated presentations? Yep. A swish new CV? Done. Newsletters? That too. It’s also rare in that, (at the time of writing), a lot of Canva’s features are available under its Free account so you don’t feel asif you’re constantly battling against ‘Upgrade Now’ notifications.
Top tip: If you’re struggling to find copyright-free images, check out Canva’s pool offree-to-use photos and graphics.
Price: Free (Upgraded accounts start from £8.33 per month)
Best for: Social media marketing
In a sea of social media scheduling apps, Later still reigns supreme for those freelancers looking to harness the benefits of their social media feeds. Originally designed solely for Instagram, Later now also lets you plan and schedule posts for your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and TikTok accounts – all from your phone or desktop. Laying out posts on a simple calendar set up, this platform leans heavily into the visuals of social media and lets its users preview how their different feeds will look. This is ideal for creators concerned with sticking to a consistent style or brand and for everyone else it’s one way toget on with work knowing that your social media is sorted.
Top tip: Scheduling a wordy post? Use Later on your desktop – it’s easier than typing on your phone.
Price: Free (Upgraded accounts start from £9 per month)
Best for: Videoediting novices
It feels like clients increasingly expect freelance creators to just know how to whip up videos – easy right? Not so much. Veed is a jumping off point for those creators looking to produce passable video content without needs to attend a course or pay out the nose.
Strictly online with no need for downloads, the site allows you to edit videos, fit them to different templates, and add basic graphics. While, yes, the web is packed with basic video editors, what makes Veed worth mentioning is its autocaption feature. Subtitles boost accessibility and engagement, but they’re also a pain to produce manually, so auto-generatingclosed captions saves a chunk of time.
Top tip: Want toup your video recording game? Invest in a simple ring light.
Price: Free (Upgraded accounts start from £10 per month)
Best for: Writers pressed for time
If time is money then transcribing is an expensive activity. Otter, however, helps slash that time by generating written transcriptions of audio recordings. This makes it a godsend to any freelancer working with interviews, speeches, or even podcast transcripts.
Using either the app or website, you can record directly into Otter or upload previous recordings. There’s even the option to connect Otter with your Zoom account. The transcript also includes the original audio,which will prove useful when you inevitably have to edit the write-up. Nothing’sperfect and, as expected, the clearer the audio the more accurate thetranscript.
Top Tip: The freeaccount is limited to 40 minutes of recording at a time – so watch the clock!
Price: Free(Upgraded accounts start from £6 per month)
Best for: Project juggling
While timetracking sites tend to have teams in mind, solo freelancers can also find them useful, especially when balancing different projects. Clockify lets creators track how they spend their time and build timesheets. How detailed those timesheets are depends – there are options to categorise each entry by project, task, or client as well as include notes, add tags, and mark whether it’s billable.
It’s smarter than simply jotting down hours and handy if a client wants to see your process. Plus, for freelancers starting out, reviewing how your time is spent and how long projects actually take is a great way tofigure out how much you should be charging, so you feel confident in your rates.
Top tip: If you struggle to focus, use the Pomodoro Technique. There are countless Pomodoro timers and Clockify has one built-in.
Price: Free (Upgraded accounts start from £2.87per month)
Best for: Free images that actually look good
WHAT: While more of a resource than a digital tool, Unsplash is an impressive online library ofphotographs that are high-quality, high-resolution and, (this is the best bit), free to use. Freelance creators will be familiar with the frustration ofspending hours desperately combing the internet for appropriate usable images.
Meanwhile, Unsplash holds more than two million free-to-usephotos produced by skilled photographers worldwide. You’ll rarely find imagesof specific people, (celebrities, royalty etc). Instead, it’s packed withgorgeous editorial images, ideal for newsletter, articles, social media ads,and all sorts of marketing and creative materials. Plus, you don’t even need anaccount with them.
Top tip: Remember to always include a photo credit, it’s the least you can do.
SEE ALSO: Pixabay