Tools and apps for freelancers and small teams

I know that finding just the right app for work isn’t easy. Everyone have different needs and funds. There’s also this “enemy of the state” – time. To really look for and test different tools, you need time. Because I know this pain all too well, I’ve decided to share some apps we’re using with Agata. It’s a setup we have as a freelancers and a small team of two.

Task/Project Management Software

I’ve tested a lot of different project managements. Those free and paid during trial period. They help you get organized and unload stuff from your brain. I believe that project management is the most important tool, so I encourage you to test at least few before you make a commitment. Once you settle somewhere, it’s not so easy to switch to something new.

We currently use free Asana plan. but because we wanted to use premium features I’ve checked their pricing model. Turns out it’s really expensive for solo or team of 2. So I’ve started to look for Asana alternatives and found ClickUp.

ClickUp Project Management Software

ClickUp is the new kid on the block, so there are some features missing that you might need (calendar, guest accounts, permission settings) or need some improvements. They actively introduce new or improved features, support is super responsive and awesome, feedback from users is taken into account (like really), and the app is very intuitive. We haven’t made full transition from Asana to ClickUp yet, because we are waiting for calendar feature, but as soon as they release it we are moving to new home. I honestly can’t wait. Calendar feature is live and we now fully work on ClickUp, unless we need guest account for a client (which rarely happens). Roadmap and feature requests are public in case you want to see whats ahead.

In ClickUp you have free (100MB storage) and unlimited storage plan. The paid plan simply allows you to store as much files as you want + it’s affordable and truly per user based (unlike in Asana, where they call it “per user” but you have to pay in tiers).

There was another tool I’ve considered, called Outplanr which has a bit different approach for project management. In Outplanr the focus goes into planning tasks and managing workload for the whole team. It’s worth checking out if you manage a small team. It’s not free, but it’s not that expensive either.

Time tracking app

We have projects that are billed per hour and for this we needed time tracking app. In the perfect world, PM app would have it’s internal tracking system (Outplanr has it). Because let’s be honest, we are tracking projects from PM app. So one of the requirements for external tracking system we had was: can it talk with our PM app. We chose Timeneye.

Timeneye, has free plan for freelancers and paid plans similar to Asana with tier of 5. With chrome extension it’s easy to use and integrates with many PM apps really well.

Other app that we’ve considered was Toggl. And to be honest we need to reconsider because of ClickUp <-> Toggl integration. Toggl is also pretty great app that comes with chrome extension and is free for teams up to 5 with some feature restrictions.

Both Timeneye and Toggl are solid solutions for tracking time.

File Storing and Sharing

When working with clients, in team, or on multiple devices, there must be some kind of cloud storage. I’ve searched for a perfect solution at reasonable price, with apps that are easy to use. And I’ve found Sync.

Sync is a cloud storage with end-to-end encryption. This is where we store and share our company files. Awesome thing about Sync is the vault. We can sync files and directories we currently need to our PCs and archive past projects by moving them to vault. They are still accessible via sync online panel and move them to working directory if needed, but they’re not taking any space of your pc. Just your cloud storage. This is great, because some Adobe files can get really big.

We also use:

  • Google Drive and Dropbox – we use this mainly because our clients use it.
  • Google Docs – this is really a great way to prepare drafts and work in collaboration
  • WeTransfer – when we need to easily and quickly share huge non-sensitive files.

Password manager

I’ve tested multiple apps, but I’m still on the lookout for a good team password management. Some enterprise solutions came close, but they are usually expensive. Me and Agata are long time KeePass users. We both have personal keepass databases + one that we share with company credentials and we store databases in Sync. There is a great app called KeeWeb, that allow opening multiple databases at once and is cross-platform. Original KeePass application doesn’t work on mac.

Sharing one keepass database has its flaws:

  1. There is a possibility that we overwrite changes made by other person using the same database.
  2. If we finally decide to expand our team, giving access to whole company database is not an option.

Why KeePass? Because we own the database. How is it different from cloud based password manager vs storing file in the cloud? We own the database and our main responsibility is to use strong password to protect it.

Team Communication

We use email. Surprise! ;o)

We also use Slack, but I do want to try keybase.io with end to end encryption.

Break Time Reminders

If you’re like me, you might be working for few hours straight without a break. Which is obviously wrong. And many times it’s simply because I didn’t notice how quickly time passes. For that I really recommend using an app that will remind you or force you to take breaks. I have the force part… otherwise I don’t even notice when I hit “postpone break”. Apps you can use:

After few years of testing best setting for us is 10 min regular break every 90 minutes. But you should experiment with different settings to find what works best for you. Either way, this is a must have for anyone who is working all day in front of the computer.

Backup

Everyone should backup their data and Backblaze is our choice. I sleep better for only 5$/month ;o) Storage is unlimited, data encrypted.

Miscellaneous Useful Tools

ImageOptim (mac), RIOT (windows) – for image optimizations

ForkliftTransmit (mac only) – file and ftp managers.

App Cleaner (mac only) – allows you to uninstall apps with all related files. Use with caution if you want to reinstall application or you want to preserve some user preferences for future.

Monosnap Lightshot – for quickly taking and sharing screenshots with option to draw on them. Very useful when we need to send some instructions to client.

f.lux – for those working late. It changes screen temperature so that your eyes could rest a bit. It’s weird at first, and you might need to adjust setting, but it does make a difference.

MicroSnitch (mac only) – covering your laptop camera is neither convenient or bulletproof. “They” can not only see you through your front camera, but also listen through your microphone. MicroSnitch simply notify you if something (or someone) activated your front camera or microphone.

SpamSieve (mac only) – fight that spam ;o) works for default mac mail app. Not free, but worth every penny if you want great spam filter for your server side mail.

To sum up

These are the most important apps we use. If there are any tools that you recommend let me know in the comments.

Credits: Cover photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash