Theme week!
All this week, posts on will come in the form of Top 7 lists. These are some of my favorite things, most useful tools I use or tips I have long wanted to share with my fellow freelancers and writers.
Read, enjoy and make sure to share any additional selections you think add to the list – nothing is better than growing these lists based on reader feedback.
To kick things off, I’ve outlined my top 7 software tools for running Great Leap Studios. These are all universal tools – either available for Mac and PC or as SaaS. In a future post I will write about my favorite Mac tools, but to get us started, here are a few universal tools all you can put to use. I’ve also kept them mostly universal – no task or job specific software here. Just the basics.

  1. Dropbox/Google Documents – While they are different in many ways I combined Dropbox and Google Documents (or Google Drive) since it’s the same basic idea. Cloud based storage and collaboration. I use it to back up multiple copies of my work projects, collaborate with clients and contractors continents away and to keep track of numbers with potential partners on various business ventures. It doesn’t really matter what you do as a freelancer – some form of cloud storage and collaboration is a must.
  2. Podio – Check out my recent month one review of Podio to learn more about why I chose it over Basecamp and Highrise and to see if it is a good fit for your business. If not, there are dozens of other Project management and CRM tools online that are more powerful and easier to use than a spreadsheet.
  3. Adobe Creative Cloud – Thank you Adobe! I have long lamented the need to spend close to $3,000 to get the software I use sporadically for photo editing and website development. Now, I can pay a single monthly fee ($75/month without contract, $50/month with 1 year contract) and have access to ALL of Adobe’s apps on any of my machines. Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Acrobat Pro, Premier – if you are a designer, this is a no brainer. Developers and freelancers, ditto.
  4. Aweber – This is my choice for autoresponder email delivery and I use it for all of my business ventures. We maintain email lists for each of our websites (coming soon for!) and Aweber allows us to schedule messages, track open rates and cross promote various offers. A generally very cool tool and it starts at only $19/month.
  5. Evernote – I started using Evernote as a universal notes app for my phone. Even though I’ve switched to a Mac and the Notes app is available on all my devices, I still use Evernote because it is more powerful and offers things like tagging, notebook grouping and archiving – stuff that Notes does not.
  6. Snagit – I write a lot of how to content and that means screenshots – lots and lots of screenshots. The built in screenshot tools on both the Mac and Windows systems are not very good. They are slow and cumbersome and save in arcane file formats like TIFF or BMP. If you take even a small number of screenshots or need to perform screen captures longer than 5 minutes (for shorter, check out Jing – it’s free), then SnagIt is the way to go. It costs $50, though a quick Google search will likely net you a coupon for up to $25 off, and it’s compatible for both Mac and PC. Well worth the investment.
  7. FreshbooksFreshbooks is by far the best invoicing and light-accounting tool I’ve found online. It’s the third I’ve used and it does everything it should. Invoicing is easy, clients can login and view past invoices, it offers print mailing options, and it includes advanced expense reporting and tax number prep. It’s not a full blown accounting suite like PeachTree or Quickbooks, but if you are a freelancer with less than 20 clients, it will do more than enough to keep track of your income and expenses. Plus the mobile apps are great and will capture and store receipts with your phone’s camera. A must for expensing.

Your turn – share the tools you couldn’t work without below. Mac, PC, online only – whatever you feel is an absolute MUST have for any freelancer I want to read about it.