In today's fast-paced, always-on work environment, getting and staying organized is crucial to setting up and maintaining your success as an independent contractor. Unlike a traditional employee, operating as an independent contractor means being responsible for all facets of your business management, from billing and accounting to IT and online client collaboration. Thankfully, many free and paid organizational software solutions are available and designed to help you manage your business. From simplifying scheduling meetings and streamlining client communications and projects to note-taking and more, there are a seemingly endless number of new and established digital tools that can help stay productive and work more seamlessly.
As new organizational websites and apps for organizations emerge frequently, keeping up with the latest options, examining your workflows, and finding the most effective tools can take time. The upfront investment in your attention can pay off in the long run by improving your productivity, freeing up your time to tackle more billable tasks. In this post, we’ll share suggestions on organizational apps, outlining their pros and cons to help you get started in determining the best solutions to better your business.
What Are Organizational Tools and Why Do I Need Them?
An organizational tool is an app or software developed to help you enhance your daily tasks and performance. While there are many different types of solutions available to help meet different personal and professional needs, they all have one thing in common — the ability to help you find efficiencies in how you manage your day-to-day responsibilities.
Which Tools Should I Start With?
While every individual business need is different, improving the financial management of your business, automating how you track your time, securing cloud-based storage solutions, evaluating task management options, exploring note-taking apps, and establishing communications tools are just some of the more common organizational solutions that can help you stay organized.
Accounting Software Options
As an independent contractor, overseeing your accounting needs, including invoicing, expense tracking, and tax payments can be a time suck. Look for software solutions for self-employed employees and small businesses that offer customer invoicing, organize billable expenses, track time and mileage, and help you maintain the separation of your personal and business finances. Some popular options include:
FreshBooks is a small-business accounting software product that is best suited for freelancers and independent contractors looking for a user-friendly platform to manage billing and accounting.
- User-friendly interface with intuitive navigation
- Efficient time-tracking and invoicing features
- Easy integration with popular payment gateways
- Offers financial reporting and expense tracking capabilities
- Limited customization options for invoices and templates
- Higher pricing plans may be expensive for small-scale freelancers
- Lacks advanced accounting features compared to some other tools
QuickBooks Self-Employed is an online accounting tool designed for freelancers, independent contractors, and sole proprietors who do not have oversight of other employees or inventory.
- Easy to use, with automatic mileage tracking and expense categorization
- Powerful accounting features, including tax calculations and deductions
- Generates reports for easy tax filing and financial analysis
- May be overwhelming for users who only need basic billing features
- More expensive than some competitors
- Some users report occasional syncing issues with bank accounts
Wave is a financial management platform best suited for freelancers seeking free accounting and billing software with essential features as well as very small businesses with 10 or fewer employees.
- Unlimited income and expense tracking
- Unlimited invoicing with customizable templates and payment terms and automated payment reminders
- Provides basic financial reports for business insights
- Lacks advanced features such as time tracking and project management
- Less scalable features and functionality as you grow your business
- Limited customer support options for free users
Automating how you track your time can make it easier to gain valuable insights and make more informed decisions on how you estimate your time, pricing, and resource needs for projects.
Toggl is a popular time-tracking tool that allows users to track and manage their time spent on various tasks and projects. It is best suited for those seeking an easy-to-use and flexible time-tracking solution.
- Simple and intuitive interface for effortless time tracking
- Flexible tracking options, including manual entry, timer, and browser extensions
- Detailed reports and analytics for tracking productivity and billing clients
- Integration with other tools and apps for seamless workflow management
- Limited features in the free version, with restrictions on team collaboration and project management
- Steeper learning curve for advanced reporting features and customization
- Lack of automatic idle time detection and reminders for tracking accuracy
Harvest is a time tracking and invoicing tool designed to help independent consultants manage their time and billing efficiently. This tool is best suited for independent consultants who require more robust time tracking and invoicing capabilities.
- Easy time tracking with manual entry, timer, or integration with other tools
- Flexible project and task management for tracking time spent on different activities
- Advanced reporting and analytics for better insights into productivity and profitability
- Seamless integration with popular project management and accounting tools.
- Higher priced option when compared to other time-tracking tools
- Invoicing features may not be as comprehensive as dedicated invoicing platforms
- Steeper learning curve for advanced features and customization
Clockify is a free time tracking tool that offers basic time tracking features and project management capabilities for independent consultants. This tool is best suited for those seeking a free and simple time-tracking solution.
- Free plan with basic time tracking features and unlimited users
- Easy-to-use interface for effortless time tracking and project management
- Basic reporting and export options for tracking and analyzing time data
- Integration with other popular productivity tools for seamless workflow
- Limited features compared to more advanced time-tracking tools
- Lack of advanced reporting and analytics features
- Invoicing and billing capabilities are not included
Cloud Storage Solutions
Cloud storage solutions offer remote workers the ability to securely store important client files including business data, videos, and images. This type of storage also makes it easier to work from anywhere and collaborate more seamlessly with teams online. Options include:
Google Drive is a cloud-based storage solution that allows users to save files online and access them anywhere from an internet-connected device. This solution is best suited for independent consultants and freelancers who heavily rely on collaboration and real-time document editing with clients or team members.
- Large free storage space offering (15GB)
- Affordable paid plans
- Seamless third-party integration
- Real-time collaboration in documents, spreadsheets, and presentations
- Strong search capabilities and advanced file organization options
- Limited offline access to files
- Sharing large files can be challenging due to storage limitations
- Security concerns have been raised regarding data privacy; lack of password-protection offering for shared files
Microsoft OneDrive is a cloud-based service that connects to, stores, and protects your files while allowing you to share them with others as well as access them anywhere on all of your devices. This solution is best suited for independent consultants and freelancers who heavily use Microsoft Office applications and require seamless integration with their cloud storage.
- Deep integration with Windows and Microsoft 365, making it easy to access and edit files
- Strong collaboration features, including real-time co-authoring and comments
- Affordable pricing plans and generous storage options
- Advanced security measures, including file encryption and data loss prevention
- Less free storage than some competitors (5GB)
- Some features require a Microsoft 365 subscription
- Syncing issues have been reported
Dropbox is a cloud storage service that allows you to upload, save, and transfer photos and files to the cloud and is best suited for independent consultants and freelancers seeking a user-friendly cloud storage solution with robust file-sharing capabilities.
- Easy-to-use interface and intuitive file organization
- Seamless file syncing across multiple devices and fast upload speeds
- Advanced sharing features, including password-protected links and expiration dates
- Integrations with thousands of applications and popular productivity tools like Microsoft Office and Google Docs
- Limited storage space for free users compared to competitors (2GB)
- Higher pricing plans compared to some alternatives
- Collaboration features are more basic compared to some other tools
- Limited search functionality may make it harder to find specific folders and files
Task Management Tools
Organizational tools can help you stay ahead of deadlines and keep track of everyday business and at-home needs by making it easier to assign and organize tasks as part of a larger project. Most software solutions offer the ability to break larger tasks into subtasks as well as reporting tools so you can analyze the life cycles of tasks and improve your productivity. Check out these tools to find the right solution for your business needs:
ClickUp is a category leader in project management that combines task management, collaboration, and communication tools and offers a wide range of features. It is best suited for independent contractors seeking a scalable, all-in-one project management platform with strong collaboration offerings.
- Comprehensive, customizable, and feature-rich
- Provides customizable project views and templates
- Great for remote collaboration and offers internal chat messaging
- Offers a Forever Free plan for small teams who need basic project management capabilities and don’t require all the features of a premium plan
- Can feel overwhelming due to the number of available features
- Most security features are limited to high-priced plan options
- Automations are limited per month on all plans
Trello is a popular visual project management tool that uses boards, lists, and cards to help you organize tasks and projects effectively. Trello is best suited for independent consultants seeking a highly visual and flexible task management system.
- Intuitive and user-friendly interface
- Supports collaboration with team members and clients, allowing for real-time updates and comments.
- Offers customizable boards, lists, and cards, providing flexibility to tailor the workflow to individual needs
- Integrates with various third-party apps and services for enhanced productivity
- Advanced features, including Gantt charts and time tracking, as well as security features, require paid subscriptions
- Lack of built-in time management features may require the use of additional tools
- More limited reporting and analytics capabilities compared to dedicated project management tools
- Managing multiple projects on low-tier plans may be difficult
Asana is a powerful work management tool designed to help teams organize, track, and manage their projects effectively. It is best suited for independent consultants and freelancers working on complex projects with multiple stakeholders.
- Easy to use and navigate
- Robust project management capabilities, including task dependencies, subtasks, and milestones
- Supports team collaboration with features like file sharing, commenting, and task assignment
- Integrates well with other tools, platforms, apps, and services, enabling seamless workflow management
- Some advanced features are only available with higher-tier plans
- Lacks a built-in time-tracking feature
- Steeper learning curve compared to simpler task management tools
- Limited customization options for task views and layouts
- 24/7 customer support is limited to enterprise plan users
Todoist is a task manager and to-do list organizational app that makes it easier to keep track of professional and personal tasks as well as collaborate. It is best suited for individuals who are seeking a simple and streamlined task management solution.
- Clean and minimalist interface, making it easy to create and organize tasks
- Offers features like due dates, labels, and priority levels for efficient task management
- Supports collaboration with up to five people per project, allowing task sharing and comments
- Integrates with popular tools like Google Calendar, Slack, and Dropbox for enhanced productivity
- Lack of robust project management capabilities compared to other tools
- Limited reporting and analytics features for tracking project progress and productivity
- The free plan version does not offer automatic backups and reminders
Digital Notebook Applications
Utilizing a note-taking app can help improve your organization, better capture your creative ideas, facilitate stronger collaboration, ensure accurate documentation, and provide convenient access to information. These options can help get the job done:
Evernote is a versatile note-taking and organization tool that allows independent consultants and freelancers to capture and manage notes, ideas, and creative content. This tool is best suited for independent consultants and freelancers who need a digital workspace to store and organize their notes and creative ideas.
- Easy note-taking and organization across multiple devices
- Flexible formatting options for rich text, images, and attachments
- Tagging and search capabilities for quick retrieval of information
- Integration with other apps and services for seamless workflow
- Limited storage capacity for free users
- Some advanced features require a premium subscription
- Collaboration and real-time editing features are not as robust as dedicated project management tools
OneNote is a digital note-taking and organization tool that allows independent consultants and freelancers to capture and organize notes, ideas, and other information. This solution is best suited for self-employed professionals who prefer a comprehensive note-taking solution with strong organizational capabilities.
- Multi-platform support for seamless note-taking across devices
- Rich formatting options for text, images, and multimedia content
- Integration with Microsoft Office suite for enhanced productivity
- Some advanced features may be available only to Microsoft 365 subscribers
- Syncing issues and occasional performance problems
- Collaboration features are not as robust as dedicated collaboration tools
Google Keep is a simple and intuitive note-taking app that allows independent consultants and freelancers to capture and organize notes, reminders, and creative ideas. This app is best suited for those who prefer a lightweight and straightforward note-taking solution.
- Easy note-taking with a quick and intuitive interface
- Color-coding and labeling options for organization.
- Integration with other Google services for seamless workflow
- Cross-platform compatibility for accessibility on various devices
- Limited features compared to more advanced note-taking apps
- Lack of robust formatting options for complex content
- Collaboration features are limited and mainly focused on sharing notes
Online Communication Solutions
As a remote worker and independent contractor, you are less apt to see your clients, teams, and other key collaborators in person, making online communications technology an essential tool for your business. Here are some tools that can strengthen your communications:
Slack is a communication platform that enables real-time messaging, file sharing, and collaboration for teams and individuals. It is best suited for independent consultants and freelancers who require frequent, efficient, and instant communication with clients and team members.
- Real-time messaging and file sharing for quick and seamless collaboration
- Easy organization of channels, offers direct messaging
- Integration with various tools and apps for streamlined workflow management
- Customizable notifications and powerful search functionality enhance productivity
- Free plan limitations, including restricted message history and file storage
- Learning curve may be steeper compared to simpler messaging apps
- Occasional performance issues and outages can disrupt workflow
Microsoft Teams is a comprehensive communication and collaboration platform that combines chat, video conferencing, and file sharing features. It is best suited for independent consultants and freelancers who prefer an all-in-one solution for communication and collaboration.
- Seamless integration with Microsoft Office suite for document collaboration and editing
- Robust video conferencing and screen-sharing capabilities
- Extensive third-party app integrations for enhanced productivity
- Customizable channels and workflows for effective team collaboration
- Learning curve for users unfamiliar with Microsoft products
- Limited functionality and features in the free version
- Can be resource-intensive and require a powerful device for optimal performance
Google Chat is a secure communications tool designed to provide easy business communications within the Google Workspace ecosystem. It is best suited for independent consultants who prefer a simple and widely accessible communication tool.
- Seamless integration with other Google services like Gmail and Google Calendar
- Easy-to-use interface for quick messaging, voice calls, and video meetings
- Supports group chats and screen sharing for collaboration
- Cross-platform compatibility for accessibility on various devices
- Limited features compared to more robust communication platforms
- Quality of video and audio may vary depending on the internet connection
- Lack of advanced collaboration and project management features
Other Helpful Organizational Tools
If there is a function of your business that you are looking to streamline, there is likely an organizational tool available to help solve it. Here are a few additional tools and how they can help:
- Simplify scheduling meetings. Calendly is a user-friendly scheduling tool that simplifies the process of setting up meetings and appointments by integrating with your calendar and allowing others to book time slots based on your availability. Basic features are available for free, with advanced features offered in paid plans.
- Clean up your copy. Writing app Grammarly offers a free version that covers all of the basic spell-checking errors and a paid version to help you improve your sentence structure, tone, and more to check everything from emails to documents, social copy, and more.
- Visually upgrade your presentations. Canva is an online graphic design tool that simplifies the digital design process by offering royalty-free images and templates that help create more professional-looking presentations, social media assets, and other materials.
The Bottom Line
In the age of remote work, effective organization is essential for independent consultants, subject matter experts, and executives. Organizational software tools offer a range of features and options to suit different needs and preferences. Whether you’re looking for task management, scheduling, collaboration, or overall project organization, these tools can significantly enhance your productivity and streamline your workflow. By implementing best practices and utilizing the right tools, you can stay organized, and focused, and ultimately excel in your professional endeavors.
With Business Talent Group, talented independent consultants and businesses seeking talent can rest easy with best-in-class information security, confidentiality, labor compliance, and contracting processes that adhere to the strict requirements of leading organizations. Find more productivity and organization tips and learn more about the BTG talent network here.
Business Talent Group does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services listed above. These tools and services are provided only as potential solutions, with the recognition that what is best for your business will depend on the unique needs of your business. Business Talent Group encourages readers to research and compare multiple organizational software and product options against unique business needs before choosing a solution.
About the AuthorMore Content by Candace Corner