The Complete Freelancer‘s Guide: 50+ Must-Have Tools for Designers, Developers, and WordPress Experts

As a freelancer with over 15 years of webmaster experience, I know first-hand how important it is to have the right tools. The right tools allow you to work more efficiently, stay organized, and deliver high-quality work.

With new products launching all the time, it can be overwhelming to determine which tools are must-haves in your toolkit—and which are unnecessary or overpriced.

In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll share my picks for the best freelance tools based on my own extensive testing and use. These tools will help you:

  • Communicate clearly with clients
  • Track time and get paid fairly
  • Automate repetitive tasks
  • Showcase your skills and promote services
  • And much more!

I‘ve organized the tools into categories based on the freelance skills and services you offer. Let‘s dive in.


Top Communication Tools for Freelancers

Seamless communication is crucial when you don‘t share an office with clients and colleagues. These tools will keep you connected.

1. Google Workspace – Best for Email, Storage, and Collaboration

Google Workspace (formerly GSuite) provides a professional business email through Gmail along with cloud storage on Google Drive.

You also get convenient collaboration through Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Meet video conferencing, and more.

Google Workspace starts at just $6 per month for 30GB of shared storage. The Business Plus plan ($12 per user/month) boosts storage to 2TB.

2. Slack – Best for Real-Time Messaging

Slack enables easy real-time communication with team members and clients through instant messaging, video calls, and file sharing.

With Slack, you can create different channels to organize projects, topics, or teams. Slack offers a free plan as well as premium plans starting at $6.67 per user/month.

3. Zoom – Best for Video Conferencing

Zoom has become the leader in video conferencing for good reason. It‘s easy to start meetings, share screens, chat, and record sessions.

The free basic Zoom plan allows unlimited 1-on-1 meetings. Paid plans enable meetings with up to 1,000 participants. Prices start at a reasonable $14.99 per month.

Top Finance Tools to Get Paid Faster

Juggling invoicing, taxes, and finances takes work. These tools help freelancers manage the money side of business.

4. QuickBooks – Most Popular Accounting Software

QuickBooks is the #1 accounting software for freelancers and small businesses. It makes it easy to create and send invoices, accept online payments, manage expenses, and track income.

You can connect bank accounts to automatically import transactions. QuickBooks starts at $12.50 per month for basic accounting features.

5. FreshBooks – Best for Invoicing and Time Tracking

FreshBooks provides a powerful invoicing system combined with time tracking capabilities.

Easily customize professional-looking invoices, allow online payments through Stripe or PayPal, and view invoices status. Hourly rates can be set to automatically calculate payments due based on time tracked.

FreshBooks starts at $15 per month and offers a 30-day free trial.

6. Bench – Best Full-Service Bookkeeping

Prefer to outsource your bookkeeping? Bench will match you with a professional bookkeeper who can reconcile accounts, categorize transactions, provide financial statements, and even help with tax prep.

This full-service option costs more than DIY tools but can be worth it. Bench bookkeeping service starts at $79 per month.

Best Apps to Stay Organized and Productive

Organization and productivity are especially crucial when you‘re managing multiple projects and clients. These apps help you optimize your time and focus.

7. Trello – Top Project Management Tool

Trello provides an intuitive project management system that makes it simple to organize tasks and track progress. It‘s one of my essential tools.

Trello uses "boards", "lists", and "cards" to represent projects, tasks, and sub-tasks. You can also attach files, add comments, create checklists, and more. Trello offers a forever-free plan with premium upgrades starting at $5 per month.

8. Evernote – Best for Note-Taking and Organization

Evernote is like next-level digital notebooks and binders combined. Easily capture notes, create task lists, collect research, organize documents, and more in Evernote.

Everything syncs across all your devices. Evernote offers a basic free account with premium plans starting at $2.99 per month.

9. RescueTime – Best for Productivity Tracking

RescueTime helps you analyze exactly where your time goes each day, down to the app and website level. Identify bad habits and optimize how you spend your day.

You‘ll get categorized reports highlighting your most productive and distracted hours, along with an overall productivity score. RescueTime Lite is free. Premium plans start at $9 per month.

Top Design Tools for Freelancers

Freelance designers need versatile graphic design and photo editing tools to create branding, social media, web graphics, and more for clients.

10. Adobe Creative Cloud – Most Popular Design Apps

The Adobe Creative Cloud is a must-have for many designers, providing access to industry-leading apps like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.

The full all-apps plan costs $52.99 per month, but you can subscribe to single apps starting at $9.99/month. Many freelancers offer discounts for annual plans.

11. Canva – Easiest Design Tool for Non-Designers

Canva provides an intuitive graphic design platform that makes it easy to create professional graphics and content even without formal design training.

It‘s web-based with a large library of templates, fonts, images, and design elements that can be dragged and dropped into place. The basic Canva plan is free. Canva Pro costs $9.99 per month.

12. Creative Market – Great for Graphics, Fonts, and Templates

Creative Market is a top marketplace to purchase fonts, graphics, templates, and other digital assets to enhance your designs. Many quality items are under $5.

It saves designers countless hours by providing ready-to-use themes, icons, photos, illustrations, and more. A subscription costs $9 per month but provides unlimited access to over 1 million resources.

Best Writing and Content Tools

For freelance writers and content creators, tools that improve your writing and research workflow are essential.

13. Grammarly – Top Writing Assistant

Grammarly is an advanced grammar and spell checker tool that helps you write clearer and more effectively. I rely on the free browser extension.

Premium Grammarly adds checks for tone, clarity, engagements, and additional writing feedback. It‘s useful for bloggers, marketing freelancers, or any writing professional. Premium plans start at $12 per month.

14. Hemingway Editor – Improves Readability

Hemingway Editor highlights dense, hard-to-read sentences and suggests edits to improve readability. Clear, concise writing keeps readers engaged.

This tool helps you simplify writing by analyzing elements like passive voice, complex phrases, jargon, and difficult to read words. Hemingway Editor is free to use online.

15. Zotero – Best Bibliography and Citation Manager

Zotero enables you to easily collect research sources, organize them into collections and folders, and add citations to documents automatically. This is a huge timesaver.

You can create bibliographies, footnotes, and citations in Word docs and Google Docs in a specific style like APA or MLA. Zotero‘s comprehensive features are all available for free.

Top Marketing Tools to Promote Your Services

A crucial part of freelancing is marketing yourself and getting new clients. These tools help build your online presence and promote offers.

16. Mailchimp – Leading Email Marketing Platform

Mailchimp makes it easy to create and send email newsletters and automations to current and potential clients. Grow and nurture your audience.

Reports provide insight into email engagement and performance. Mailchimp‘s Free plan allows up to 2,000 contacts and basic reports. Paid plans start at $9.99 per month.

17. Yoast SEO Plugin – Improves WordPress SEO

If you have a WordPress website, the Yoast SEO plugin is essential optimize on-page content for search engines and drive traffic.

Yoast analyzes pages for proper SEO elements and provides an overall site score and suggestions for improvement. The Yoast SEO plugin is free.

18. Buffer – Social Media Management Tool

Buffer allows you to easily schedule and manage social media posts for all your profiles. Save time and be more consistent.

Plans for solopreneurs start at $5.99 per month. You can manage up to 8 social media profiles, analyze performance, set optimal posting times, and more with Buffer.

Must-Have Tools for WordPress Developers

For WordPress experts, tools that make development and maintenance easier and more efficient are extremely valuable.

19. Local by Flywheel – Best Local WordPress Development

Local by Flywheel provides a complete local WordPress development environment. You get a lightning fast local server, one-click staging sites, and simple SSL encryption.

The $19 per month Pro plan includes unlimited WordPress sites, collaboration, WordPress security monitoring, and premium support. Local integrates with hosting providers for easy launch.

20. WP Rocket – Most Popular Caching Plugin

WP Rocket boosts your WordPress site speed by compressing images, minimizing CSS and JS files, and implementing browser caching. Faster sites boost SEO and conversions.

An average of 64% faster load time is achievable with WP Rocket. Plans start at $49 per year for a single site license. This is one of the most popular caching plugins.

21. MonsterInsights – Top Google Analytics Plugin

The MonsterInsights plugin connects Google Analytics to give you deeper insight into your WordPress site‘s traffic and engagement.

See pages and posts popularity, top referral sources, bounce rates, conversion tracking, and more in your WP dashboard. MonsterInsights has a free lite version and paid upgrade for $99 per year.

Security Tools to Protect Client Websites

Security is crucial, especially when freelancers are trusted to build and maintain client sites. These tools guard against hacks, malware, and other threats.

22. Wordfence Security – Most Installed WP Security Plugin

Wordfence Security is the most widely installed security plugin for WordPress sites. It blocks an average of 100 million attacks monthly.

The free version monitors traffic, checks files, and provides efficient firewall protection. Premium plans add real-time threat detection starting at $18 per month.

23. Sucuri – Expert WordPress Security Service

For premium protection, Sucuri offers comprehensive WordPress security including malware scanning and removal, DDoS mitigation, monitoring, and firewall services starting at $16 per month.

An expert cleanup is performed on infected sites. Sucuri also offers monitoring and response with plans from $299 per site per year.

Tools for Managing Client Projects and Billing

Juggling multiple clients and projects takes organization. These tools help streamline client management from proposals to payments.

24. Invoice Ninja – Open-Source Invoicing and Billing

Invoice Ninja provides beautiful customizable invoices and handles payment processing, task tracking, and project management for freelancers and agencies.

There‘s a mobile app to track time on the go. While Invoice Ninja offers a free plan, the $10 per month Pro plan unlocks more robust functionality and capacity.

25. Honeybook – Client Management Automation

Honeybook provides client management software to streamline the full business lifecycle from proposals to invoicing and payments to contracts. Automate workflows and reduce admin work.

HoneyBook starts at $26 per month for solo-entrepreneurs and also offers 50% off an annual plan. It connects to payment processors, email, calendar, and accounting tools.

10 Website Hosting Options for Freelancers

Whether it‘s your own portfolio site or hosting client websites, fast and reliable hosting is mandatory. Here are top options for WordPress hosting.

Hosting Provider Starting Price Best For
WP Engine $29/month Managed WordPress Hosting
SiteGround $3.99/month High Performance WordPress Hosting
Bluehost $2.75/month Popular Managed WordPress Hosting
DreamHost $2.59/month Budget Shared Hosting
A2 Hosting $2.99/month Fully Managed WordPress
InMotion $2.95/month High Speed WordPress Hosting
Liquid Web $15/month Premium Managed WordPress
GoDaddy $5.99/month Shared Hosting
Flywheel $15/month Simple Managed WP Hosting
HostGator $2.75/month Cheap Shared Hosting

These have proven to be the most reliable and highest performing options for hosting WordPress sites.

Supercharge Your Freelance Business with the Right Tools

As you can see, today‘s freelancers have an incredible selection of tools available to improve every aspect of their workflow. The key is identifying the must-have tools for the services you provide.

Start with the basics – communication, financial management, productivity, and project management. Then, build up your toolkit with specialized tools for the types of freelance work you do.

The right tools allow you to work smarter and faster, not harder. They enable you to take on more work and be more profitable. They often pay for themselves through the time savings and efficiency gained.

What are your "can‘t live without" freelance tools? I‘d love to hear what works for you in the comments!

Written by Jason Striegel

C/C++, Java, Python, Linux developer for 18 years, A-Tech enthusiast love to share some useful tech hacks.