6 Must-Have Financial Tools for Freelancers

resources for freelancers
Photo: Marcin Wichary via Flickr

For quite some time, employers have been both providers of much more than just work; traditional employment also, in the modern era, comes with additional provisions, like health care and various financial systems. 401k matching, paid time off and sick leave, and even educational credits have helped employees not only make ends meet, but also relieved some of the pressure of money management. But as both self-employment and freelancing become increasingly popular, more and more workers are struggling to not only do the creative, cool work that they love, but also to stay on top of all of those other elements that employers have traditionally provided.

As a freelancer, you’re not just the workforce — you’re also the HR department, the marketing department, accounts billable, and basically every other part of the business, which means that even though you probably aren’t a financial professional (you probably got into freelancing because you’re creative, right?), you do need to be able to do basic things, like track your work, invoice for it, and figure out your taxes. And while contacting a professional can be a really good idea for some of the particularly sticky issues, there are a lot of resources for freelancers and small business owners that can make navigating the world of finance and money management a little easier.

NerdWallet. Sometimes, Google just doesn’t provide the answer to your specific financial question. For times like that, there’s NerdWallet, which has actual humans standing by to answer questions about all things money, including insurance, taxes, and even, specifically, small business matters. Whether you’re trying to pick a business credit card or get on your spouse’s insurance, this is an extremely helpful service.

Wave.  Offering cloud-based systems for payroll, invoicing, accounting, and even personal finance, Wave’s family of products is extremely helpful for those who want to do go the DIY business route. It’s designed specifically for businesses of nine people or less, which means it can be applied to sole proprietors, or very-small companies. Pick and choose which services you want, then go to town with it.

Earnest. For a slightly more low-key tracking app, look to Earnest, which allows you to monitor your business spending and income, and offers tax estimates and other cool metrics. Earnest is also free, which makes it a great pick for people who are operating a freelance business on the side.

Your home state/country. Depending on where you live, your own local or national government might be one of your best tools. In the United States, there’s the Affordable Care Act, which can help take care of health care needs. There are are cities and states which offer health care, paid sick leave, etc, as well as Chambers of Commerce which can help put you in contact. There are also some areas which, if you were previously collecting unemployment benefits, can provide you with continued benefits (i.e. money in your pocket) if you start your own business. The best way to find these resources is to Google your area and the benefits/services you’re looking for, then to make the call and find out what programs are available to you.

SignEasy. Getting contracts signed is a giant pain. Fax machines are expensive and clunky, not to mention kind of archaic. Even if you’re scanning documents and sending them along, the technological element can be a hassle. E-signing documents used to be viewed as insecure, but it’s mostly accepted now. SignEasy allows you or your clients to sign and share important documents (like contracts and invoices) digitally and via mobile, which is great if your business is entirely internet-based.

Shoeboxed. When it comes time to do your taxes, “I think I have the receipt somewhere?” isn’t going to cut the IRS’s mustard. Instead, digitize all of your business purchases with this pretty, reliable app.

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Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. Follow her on Twitter at @mshannabrooks or go to her website for more stuff.