• My freelance favourites for growing my business in 2015

    grow my freelance businessEvery few months or so, I like to share which tools, courses and books I rate as a freelancer. The ones that help me grow my freelance business. Below are a few of my current favourites. A few of them are affiliate links, which I’ve marked. I only recommend things that I have used and loved myself.

    Tools I use to grow my freelance business

    Freeagent for my accounting and invoicing (affil link). I’ve been using Freeagent for over a year now. I love that I can quickly and easily import my bank activity, send invoices in minutes (or automate them), input my expenses straight from my iPhone and even submit your Self-Assessment to HMRC.

    Opinion for recording and editing podcasts (read my guide for how to record, edit, upload and blog about your podcast in minutes from your iPhone here)

    Buffer for social media scheduling. I’ve tried so many of the social media management tools out there, and while I still use Hootsuite’s basic (free) package for monitoring my accounts, I love Buffer for scheduling up large amounts of content in one go then analysis what does best. You can also now schedule to Pinterest, something very few other services offer.

    Flipboard, Feedly and Bloglovin’. When it comes to keeping up with my favourite blogs, social networks and RSS feeds, these three are my favourites. They’re mobile-friendly, making them great for using with Buffer to schedule up content when you can’t get to your laptop.

    Get It Done. I adore this app for creating long-term, short-term and daily goals, as well as reflecting on my day.

    Evernote. I use Evernote every day to save documents, draft blog posts, record audio, scan any important documents and share content with team collaborators. The best advice anyone gave me about Evernote is that you have to go ‘all in’.

    IFTTT. Ever since becoming a mum, I’ve been relying on IFTTT more and more to get more done through automating certain processes. IFTTT does this brilliantly. Whether it be saving emails with ‘receipt’ in the subject to a spreadsheet for me to save for my expenses or saving my favourites tweets to Pocket.

    Courses I love

    Kerri Walker’s DIY PR club (affil link). I’ve known Kerri for a while now, and she has been a huge inspiration to me when it comes to running a business with a baby. Kerri is also a fantastic source of information and ideas for getting your business out there and doing your own PR. Her DIY PR club is perfect for anyone who wants to know how to grow awareness of their business.

    Denise Duffield Thomas bootcamp (affil link). Denise Duffield Thomas’s bootcamp is one of the most valuable money bootcamps I’ve ever taken. She tackles the kind of money blocks business women often face – whether it be a lack of confidence in their pricing, the belief that they’re not good enough to actually sell their product/service or that it’s greedy to want more. If you feel like there’s a mental block holding you back from working out how to grow your business further, or you’ve ever wobbled about charging someone for a service or product you offer, Denise’s course is a must-have. She’s got a bundle of freebies on her site too.

    Psst! Have you checked out The Freelance Lifestyle School of courses? It’s on the excellent Teachable platform, which you can find out more about here. 


    Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. If you want to read more about the psychology of habits, Gretchin Rubin’s book (and podcast) is a must. This is probably one of the key things I’ve read and implemented which has helped grow my freelance business.

    Jump Start Your Money Confidence: Personal finance confidence in 30 days for the overwhelmed and anyone who thinks they’re useless with money. Penny Golightly was one of the first few people I followed on Twitter back in 2009. Her blog posts, books and courses on money are realistic and practical. Her Jump Start Your Money Confidence book is the latest in her series and will make a significant difference to your money outlook.

    The Jump Start Journal: One small action every day to improve your personal finances and quality of life. Another book by Penny, perfect for kicking off 2016 with.

    ReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever. If you’re looking for a book that challenges the traditional ideas of how offices, businesses and the modern working world should run, this is the book for you.
    Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. If you suspect you might be introverted, this book really is an essential read. It made me feel like I could have control and power as an introvert – and that’s a very empowering thing indeed.

    Those are my 2015 favourites to grow my freelance business. What’s yours?

  • Freelancer’s Teabreak Podcast #12: Pen or tap? Paper or app?

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    What do you do when you’re struggling to get productive? Turn to an app, an online tool or some other form of tech? That’s my default method. I’m horribly addicted to my phone.

    Remember last week when I mentioned how many hours I’d racked up on my phone? But this week, I’ve shaken things up a bit and returned to an old school method – pen and paper. As if I needed another excuse to stock up on supplies from Paperchase. It’s not just me either – several members of the Freelance Lifestylers Facebook group are also huge fans of pen and paper.

    While I figured getting things down with pen and paper might help me clear my head a bit, I didn’t realise the impact it would have on my productivity. Or how passionate other people were about the benefits of using pen and paper.

    Pssst! Pen and paper enthusiasts – have you heard about the bullet journal method? It’s a great way to keep track of your To Do lists and more (and aside from the cost of a notebook, it’s free)


  • Freelancer’s Teabreak Podcast #11: Three essential freelance apps

    Freelance apps

    Last week, I did a little test on my iPhone using an app called Moment. It tells you how many minutes you spend actively using your phone, and how many times you pick it up and swipe it open.

    The results weren’t flattering. I spent almost SIX HOURS on my iPhone in one day. And 72 pick ups. A day where I was training for six hours, away from my phone. That’s almost half of my waking hours spent staring at a tiny, bright screen.

    I should be deeply, deeply ashamed of that, right?

    Um, no. Because if it wasn’t for my handheld treasure trove of apps, I’m not sure how the hell I’d manage to run my business.

    Pop the kettle on and listen to this week’s Freelance Teabreak podcast to find out exactly which three apps I couldn’t freelance without – then tell me in the comments which ones rock your freelance socks off!

    (Bonus points if you confess to what your results were using the Mention app!)

  • Five more apps for freelancers

    Back in May, I wrote a piece about 20 of the best apps for freelancing. Well, here’s an update with five more!

    1) OnTrees


    OnTrees is an app and website that brings together all of your bank accounts/credit cards and saving accounts in one place, showing you how you spend it and giving you a budget you can customise and receive alerts from. I initially tried it a year or so ago, and was impressed but had some issues adding certain accounts. This seems to have been sorted now, and they’re in the middle of adding lots of other features too. I’ve found it really hard to see how everything is going with personal and business accounts, as well as tracking my credit cards.

    One word of warning though – Rosie from OneManBandAccounting mentioned on Twitter that she’s not worried about their security but doesn’t trust the banks to not blame her if she had fraud etc, so it’s worth considering that.

    boxer app2) Boxer

    Last time, I told you about Mailbox. It seemed like a great mail app, but it gradually became slower for me. Boxer is now my mail app of choice, and is blowing both Mailbox and Apple Mail out of the water. Not only can I quickly check various accounts, but I can also quickly swipe through each message to delete it, add it to a To Do list, archive it, Liking it (which sends the other person a message saying you like it), Label it, stick it in Spam and send a quick response from the list of responses which you can customise.

    3) Haiku Deck

    Haiku Deck is an app Jennifer Begg, my new colleague and old friend, introduced me to. It’s brilliant for creating quick and easy presentations. If you like the Zemanta plugin, which comes up with suggestions based on what you’re typing, you’ll like this app. With Haiku Deck, simplicity is key. Choose an image, text to overlay on top or a graph. Modern presentations don’t need to be really wordy anyway – it usually distracts those watching the presentation.

    Below is an example of what you can do with this tool.

    Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

    Notability4) Notability

    When you’re in a meeting, it can sometimes be tricky to stay on track when things jump around a lot. Which is why I love Notability. This app is brilliant for university students too. Working best on an iPad (although it’s still pretty good on an iPhone), this app records the sound while leaving you free to type out notes, hand draw them or create diagrams.

    Sometimes, I’m dead jealous of how many useful apps students have now at their fingertips.

    5) Concept

    conceptappConcept is a sexy little app for making mind maps or diagrams. I’ve been using it for creating sessions in my day job, but it’s great if you prefer to dump your thoughts in mindmap format.

    What apps do you rate as a freelancer?

  • 20 of the best iPhone apps for freelancing

    A lot of freelancers I know, myself included, have a reputation for being surgically attached to their smartphones. The beauty and curse of being freelance is that you’re never far from a couple of taps from work. I’m not entirely sure how I’d even manage my business without my trusty iPhone, and the bundle of apps on it.

    When it comes to apps, I have a LOT on my phone.  There are a few in particular that are great for maintaining a great freelance lifestyle.

    In no particular order…

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    Pomodoro – Struggling to concentrate? Pomodoro is an app based on the popular Pomodoro productivity method. Set the timer for 20 minutes, then focus entirely on the task in hand. In fact, I’m using it right now to write this!

    Mailbox – The latest mail app on the block, this is an amazing app if you use Gmail. With a couple of swipes, you can delete, archive, file or schedule a reminder for later. A vital tool for hitting Inbox Zero.

    Bloglovin’ – Now Feedburner has announced its closure, a lot of people have jumped over to BlogLovin’. I’m still mainly using Flipboard, but I really like Bloglovin’ for finding new and interesting blogs.

    Podcasts – I listen to a lot of podcasts while I work, and Podcasts is my go-to app for subscribing and listening to them. They’ve recently added a function to create playlists of subscriptions – so I can have my meditation podcasts in one list, comedy in another and lifestyle ones in another.

    Dropbox – I really couldn’t function without cloud-storage app Dropbox. It desperately needs tidying up though…

    Hootsuite – For tweeting on the go, Hootsuite is a must-have. I look after several different accounts at one time, so Hootsuite is brilliant for this. Plus the scheduling comes in handy.

    Wunderlist – I make dozens of To Do lists, which is why I love Wunderlist. Freelancers tend to spin several plates at once, so Wunderlist is great for keeping track of several projects and what needs to be done.

    People Per Hour
    People Per Hour

    PeoplePerHour – The People Per Hour app works with the site to enable you to bid on jobs or tasks on the site. I often use this to browse late at night, so I can bid before others.

    Journey Pro – Freelancing and travelling goes hand in hand. While I prefer to stick close to home, when I do need to go out I like to use Journey Pro, to plan my journey from start to finish. Particularly handy in London, where I always get lost.

    GridDiary – This simple, but rather gorgeous-looking, app asks you a few questions at the end of each day. Questions cover who you’ve met, what you’ve achieved, what you’ve done for family and how you felt the day went. It’s basically a mini journal. When life passes so quickly, it’s handy to have an app that lets you take note of the little, important things.

    Flipboard – Ah, the app iPads were made for. This is usually one of the first apps I open in the morning, to catch up on my social networks, RSS feeds, Instagram and YouTube. It turns all of these into a magazine style format, so you can flip through it while having your breakfast. You can also now create your own Flipboard magazines of content that others can subscribe to.

    PayPal – Some of my clients prefer to use PayPal to pay me, so I often use the app to transfer into my bank account (or leave it there for my next eBay spending mission)


    SatNav2/Skobbler – I’ve tried many sat navs on the iPhone and iPad. Google and Apple’s map apps have both failed me since the latest update, but SatNav 2 is consistently brilliant. I also really like Waze, which is user-driven – like a sat nav social network.

    Spotify – Every freelancer needs a soundtrack to their day. Spotify lets me stream music quickly and easily – but it’s the collaborative element I love. I have a couple of shared playlists with other freelancers, filled with music to cheer us up, get us knuckling down or chilling out on a Friday afternoon.

    Mailchimp – When it comes to newsletter tools, Mailchimp is an easy favourite. While the Mailchimp app doesn’t let me create newsletters (yet…?), I can view reports for opening rates, click rates etc.

    Audible – Regular readers will know I’m a huge fan of the audiobook marketplace Audible. Until recently, the app has been a little disappointing, but a recent update has made it easier to listen to audiobooks and track how long you’ve spent listening to them. My only complaint is that you still can’t browse and download audiobooks from the app.

    IM+ Pro – Skype and Google Chat are my versions of the office water cooler. I don’t tend to use Skype that often for video, but it’s great for text chat – plus it’s easy to look back on previous conversations.


    Lift – An app to help create and stick to habits, whether it be hitting Inbox Zero by the end of the night or necking a green smoothie in the morning.

    Calm.com – I’ve got a bunch of meditation podcasts and app on my iPhone, but Calm.com is my current favourite. It’s super simple – choose a background scene and sound, then relax as the app talks you through a meditation session. It’s great if, like me, you’re not really into the spiritual “ommmmmmm” side of things.

    Happier – Well, this is a little slice of joy. In my ongoing quest to be more mindful and appreciative, I was recommended this app for sharing daily happy moments. It challenges you to share three happy things each day, with an optional photo. It’s social (what isn’t these days?), so you can view and like other people’s happy moments too. Sometimes, us freelancers are a modest bunch, so it’s nice to have a place to share what things have made us happy.

    What apps do you use all the time for freelancing?


  • Flipboard finally arrives on the iPhone

    This morning, I woke up, checked my emails and then opened the Flipboard app on my iPad to catch up on my favourite online spots. If you’re not familiar with Flipboard, it’s an app that brings together all the updates from your Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Tumblr, Instagram, Google Reader and from all your chosen websites and RSS feeds. Aside from being really useful, saving time and giving me a quick overview of everything at once, it’s also beautiful to view and use. As the name would suggest, you can ‘flip’ through pages, making it perfect for the iPad’s large screen. From within the app you can share content on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or various other accounts, email it to a friend, save it to read later and comment on a blog post or status without leaving the app. You can even post a status from within the app to your favourite sites. Additionally, viewing your Instagram feed is a joy in this app.

    Flipboard comes to the iPhone

    Have I sold you on it yet? Excellent, then you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s finally launched on the iPhone too. It’s been reworked for the small screen, so you ‘flip’ downwards rather than across. Most of the same features are there though – sharing, commenting and reading. The only think I can’t seem to do now is send a standalone tweet through it, but I tend to use Hootsuite for that anyway. This app syncs with the iPad version if you have it too, so you won’t find yourself re-reading old content.

    If you struggle to keep up with your Google Reader, I’d urge you to download this app as it makes it so much cleaner and easier – especially in terms of commenting (particularly with truncated feeds).

    I’ve put together a little gallery below of how various parts of it look, but it’s worth downloading it from the iTunes store (it’s free!) to try it first-hand.

    Are you a Flipboard fan?

    p.s Don’t forget you’ve still got a chance to win a gift from the Fairy Hobmother!

  • Five ways to blog daily

    It seems like a post pops up in my Google Reader every week raving about the benefits of posting on your blog every day.  And I completely agree with them. During the 30 Day Blog Challenge (which you can see here), I saw my traffic and subscribers rise substantially.

    But posting every day is hard. I write for eight or nine blogs, and I post on half of them daily. On top of that, I work three days a week as a social media and web co-ordinator, so finding the time to post daily on my own blog tends to slip down on the priority list.

    However, I’ve been working on a few ways to increase my posts on this site, at least to several times a week.

    Build an online scrapbook for ideas

    I often come across a post, image, infographic or video that I’d love to feature on the site…then forget all about it a day later. Now, I use Read It Later (a toolbar addon that allows you to save a page quickly to read later) and Springpad (to grab all sorts of urls and media for later use). This way, I save time and collect lots of potential post material.

    Both of these tools have iPhone apps too, and Springpad also has an iPad app.You can also view your Read It Later items on the personalised magazine app Zite for the iPad, and save items from Flipboard onto RIL.

    Calender for WP:RADIOWP, July 2008
    Image via Wikipedia

    Create a scheduled spreadsheet

    Popping all your posts into a spreadsheet is a bit like unloading your brain into something a little more organised. You can see what you need to publish that day, which gives you goals and targets to work towards. If you’re using WordPress, the WordPress Editorial Calender is brilliant for this. Otherwise, a simple Google Doc/Excel doc will do the job nicely.

    Set themed days

    If you find you’re lost for inspiration sometimes, it’s worth having themed days for your blog posts. For example, every Friday could be the day you do a mini-summary of your recent blog posts/activities, and Silent Sunday is also a popular theme (and quick too!)

    Posts don’t need to be long

    For ages, I’ve been fighting the mindset that a good post has to be a long post.  But some of my most popular posts are simple infographics, videos and images. Variety is key, so a mix of long and short blog posts makes your content look interesting and stops you going a bit mental about the idea of writing a 500-word post every day. You might also want to consider video blogging.

    Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
    Image via CrunchBase

    Write on the go

    Most of us have smart phones now, and with tablets becoming more and more popular, there are more opportunities to write on the go. Even if you don’t have the tech, you can still jot down any ideas or draft posts when you’re on the go. This is one of the few reasons why I like getting the train – it’s the perfect time to write a distraction-free post.

    Do you post every day? Any tips you’d like to share?