I dipped my toes into working for myself seven years ago when I started freelancing in college, but I didn’t take the leap into full-time self-employment until the spring of 2018. Fast forward to 2023, and I now service upwards of 35 clients a year as a freelance writer and content consultant. To stay on top of everything, I rely on a very key set of productivity tools to get the job done.
I’m going to walk you through the apps, tech, and wellness tools I use daily (or nearly daily) to run my own business!
Let’s start with the most expensive tool that completely transformed how I work and was so worth the investment. As a freelance writer, I used to be a fan of the “I can work from anywhere with my laptop” narrative. That was true pre-pandemic, but nowadays, I only work from home. Laptops are so convenient that I never dreamed of getting a desktop computer until I went into the Mac store looking for a new laptop and left with an iMac 24.” Having a larger screen, being required to actually sit at my desk, and not straining my neck by looking down at my laptop has been a work and wellness game changer. My productivity increased, my workdays are shorter, and my focus is stronger now that I have a large desktop computer instead of a small laptop.
Another pricey but so-worth-it tech tool I use on a daily basis is the Microsoft Surface Headphones. My husband and I both work from home in a one-bedroom apartment, so being able to block each other out while on calls is so important—especially since I can’t drag my desktop into the bedroom when he’s on a call. These headphones really excel in the noise-cancelation department, and when combined with focus music (more on that in a hot minute), you can really get in the zone.
As much as I love having a desktop computer, the idea of adding a second monitor to my desk is unbearable (again, one-bedroom apartment where our office is also our living room). When I need a second screen, I prop up my iPad on a stand. I also use my iPad to download books I need to read for work and to store files that are easier to maneuver on an iPad than a computer. I spend a lot of time zooming in on tiny photos of clothing so I can catch important details to write about for my fashion brand clients.
This to-do list app is an integral part of how I keep all of the many assignments I have for different clients organized. I love that the app syncs on my desktop, laptop, iPad, and iPhone (overkill, I know) so I can access my to-do list on whatever device I’m working on. This app allows you to create different “projects” and you can organize tasks under each project and assign deadlines and reminders.
A not-so-fun part of working for yourself is trying to figure out how to price projects and how to bill for them. Using Toggl Track serves two purposes for me: If I’m working on a project where I need to bill by the hour, I can use this time-tracking tool as a timesheet of sorts to track exactly how much time I spent on a project so I can invoice accordingly. If I’m working on a project with a set rate, I can track how long I spent on it to make sure I proposed a proper price for the project and can adjust pricing as needed for future projects.
I can’t write while listening to music with lyrics or even too exciting of a classical score. When I need help focusing or drowning out background noise, Brain.fm comes to the rescue. This app provides “focus music” that really does make it easier to focus. You can pick timed sessions, so I like to set it for 30 or 60 minutes and see how much work I can get done during that time.
Because you will encounter the occasional old schooler who wants you to sign an actual piece of paper, use Genius Scan to take the place of a bulky scanner. All you do is take a photograph of your signed document and Genius Scan transforms it to look like you actually scanned a piece of paper. They’ll never be the wiser.
Don’t tell the other writers or I might get kicked out of the club, but I don’t drink coffee. I, however, love tea. This love for tea is one of the reasons I didn’t enjoy working in an office. For some reason, office tea always tastes horrible. Since I started working for myself, I splurge on Harney & Sons Tea and it has ruined all grocery store tea for me. It’s the best way to start my day and makes me feel majorly grateful that instead of commuting in the dark every morning to go sit in a cold office, I now get to stay warm and cozy at home and enjoy my tea each morning. I splurge as a reminder of how far I’ve come and to stay motivated to keep building my business.
I always keep a Native Atlas Movement Oil roller on my desk for moments when I need to reset and regroup. The combination of mentha, holy basil, and lavender is super relaxing and I love to apply it to my pulse points in the afternoon when I need a little boost.
Speaking of pick-me-ups, when it’s too late in the day to make yet another cup of tea, I turn to the Good Patch Plant Based Awake Patch with B12 for a boost that won’t leave me tossing and turning at bedtime. The effects usually wear off about half an hour after removing the patch, so it’s the perfect way to perk up for that last chunk of the workday.