13 Productivity Apps for Freelancers

May 9, 2020

This post is about productivity apps that freelancers should use.

In fact, I am a freelancer myself and these apps help me stay productive at work by…

  • sleeping well to prepare for the next day
  • reducing distractions
  • stopping procrastination
  • managing email effectively
  • handling messaging appropriately
  • staying focused during deep work
  • managing my time
  • managing my tasks efficiently
  • creating my work for my clients
  • marketing my services
  • being mindful and become less stressed both at work and in life.

The mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.

Confucius

(Check out 190 productivity quotes hand picked to get things done!)

Let’s dive right in.

Disclaimer: Since I share my hours of research and writing on productivity and self-improvement with smart people like yourself, naturally my content may contain affiliate links for products I use and love. If you take action (i.e. subscribe, make a purchase) after clicking one of these links, I’ll earn a small commission to let me create more helpful content like this.

Apps for better sleep and mindfulness

If you wonder why I begin this post with this section about sleep, here’s my principle:

If you want to be productive tomorrow, sleep well tonight. Click To Tweet

Sleep has a great impact on both our behaviors and performance, according to a sleep research in 2009. Research also found that sleep deprivation affects our decision making.

These are the apps I use to understand sleep and actually sleep better.

1. Sleep Cycle

Sleep Cycle

I’ve used Sleep Cycle for more than 4 years now. The app tracks our sleep patterns and would wake us up during our light sleep, making waking up easier than our traditional alarm clocks.

The sound of its alarm clock is so gentle yet persistent enough to wake you up.

You can snooze Sleep Cycle just by raising the phone!

2. Calm app

Calm has an entire section for sleep. It contains sleep stories, music and natural tunes and sound tracks to help you fall asleep.

My favorite is Sam Smith: How Do You Sleep? (Sleep Mix):

Sleeping with kids? Calm has a section for that too.

Actually, the app is mainly for meditation.

It comes with meditation practices and training for occasions:

  • Gratitude
  • Calm
  • Sleep
  • anxiety
  • loving kindness
  • breath
  • Relaxation
  • Confidence
  • forgiveness
  • mental fitness
  • productivity at work

These are just a few categories you’ll get.

And the Master Class section is just so valuable with these training:

  • Radical self-compassion
  • Embracing stillness
  • Better sleep
  • Conscious parenting
  • Gratitude
  • Peak performance
  • Discovering happiness
  • Breaking bad haibts
  • Creative living beyond fear
  • Mindful eating
  • Rethinking depression
  • The power of rest
  • Social media and screen addiction

More and more get added to the app from time to time.

App for reducing distractions

Part of how you can become more productive depends your ability to reduce distractions.

I use Freedom for this.

3. Freedom

The app blocks distractions when you want to be extremely productive in your own craft like writing, drawing or any other creative work.

It completely blocks all websites and apps for the period of time you set. There’s (almost) no reset button but you will have to wait until the time is over.

This leaves you no choice but to focus on what you have to do in front of you.

Freedom helped me break bad habits of distractions in the first place.

It works on both iPhone and computer. In fact, I use it more on my Mac book than phone.

App for focus and attention

Distractions and focus are not two sides of the same coin.

I find myself feeling anxious if I clear distractions without knowing what to focus on.

For focus, I use Brain.fm.

4. Brain.fm

Brain.fm helps me focus on my deep work, which is mostly writing but also other types of work too if my thoughts are scattered.

In fact, you can use it to help you focus on anything, from website design to drawing and sketching.

The music really does what it’s supposed to do.

App for email management

Email management is very important if you are a freelancer.

You need instant access to emails when you need to. But you don’t want to get drowned in them, so an app that lets you take back control of how you process your email should be part of your productivity habit.

Microsoft Outlook and Gmail app fall short when it comes to taming your emails.

After playing around with about 50+ email apps, my choice came down to Spark. I’ve been using it for almost 2 years now.

5. “Spark – Email App by Readdle” for Inbox Zero

Spark email by readdle

Spark has the app for both iPhone and MacBook. And Android too. The Windows version will come soon too.

These are just my few favorites about the app.

  • It syncs everything. Even the email accounts and signatures syncs seamlessly on all your devices. Set it up on one of your devices and you’ll get it set up every where.
  • Send Again.” You can choose any email you have sent or those that you have received and send it again. It’s a great time saver. Have you ever loved an email newsletter you received and wanted to use it as a template? This feature is a killer for this!
  • A single swipe for two actions (mark as read and archived). If you’re an inbox zero freak like me and hate to see unread emails in your archive, you will love this feature. I found most email clients requires two or even more touches to do this trick.
  • Send email later. Have you ever wanted to have your email sent at a later time? This feature will come in handy.
  • Follow up reminder. Spark also lets us set a reminder to follow up on your email if you expect a reply.
  • It’s FREE! Other apps that give you all these email capabilities (or even fewer) would charge you a few bucks but Spark is completely free.

I’ve tried 50+ email apps. Outlook, Boomerang, Polymail, Gmail… are just a few of what I’ve used. And of all of them, Spark is the best.

App for task management

Task management is another important aspect of productivity.

In fact, if you don’t plan your day, you will end up feeling both anxious and procrastinating excessively.

Of course, if you’re a paper-and-pen type of person, go ahead and grab your pen and paper to plan your day, every day. Remember to carry them around with you every where you go; otherwise, it won’t work.

But if you’re like me – a tech savvy guy who carries around your phone every where, go for an app!

A sophisticated app (usually not free) can capture and process your tasks anyway that adaptive to your need.

The catch though is that you must be willing to learn how to use it.

6. Todoist: Organize It All

Todoist

I’ve been using this app for more than a month as of this writing.

It took me about a few days to learn how to use the app, effectively, but it’s worth it. Here’s what I love about it:

  • The calm and clarity of my day capturing all my tasks into a sophisticated task management tool
  • Reminder of my productivity habits using the recurring task feature
  • Managing project using the Project feature
  • The ease of finding the right tasks for the right moment. The label and filter make it easy to find your cluster of tasks. When you go out shopping, for example, you can easily filter out all your shopping tasks you’ve been capture since your last shopping time.

Todoist really is great task management app that’s worth all the hours I spent learning it.

App for time management

I tended to spend too much time writing and reading. This usually left me little time for something else and caused me to feel unhappy and anxious for not being able to complete all my daily tasks.

So, I use time management differently than most people.

Instead of using time management to manage my day with all the blocks of time for all my tasks. I use it to time myself to limit myself from spending too much time on writing and reading.

7. BeFocusedPro

BeFocusedPro is a Pomodoro app.

Befocused Pro

I use it to time my writing because I tend to spend too much time in total and also in one sitting.

The default session with 25 minutes work and 5 minutes break is just perfect for me. I’m still struggling trying to take a break even now as I’m writing this post but BeFocused Pro has been a great time management for me.

And while I use it mostly to limit my writing time and learn to take a break during my deep work, you can use it to experience the full effect of Pomodoro Technique.

Apps for creating

Productivity would be nothing without a meaningful creation that come as a result. In other words, we must use our productivity to create something meaningful for our work and business.

Apps for creating vary depending on what type of work you do. If you are an author, the app could be Scrivenor.

A graphic designer would need Photoshop but if you’re not one but want to be able to do the work yourself, like me, Canva would be a great choice.

Microsoft 365 would be necessary for office employees.

Here are the apps I use for creating.

8. Microsoft 365

If you freelance with corporate clients, chances are that you will need office applications by Microsoft.

In fact, Microsoft 365 is a must-have productivity suite for office work.

It comes with necessary tools for work productivity:

  • Office apps (Word, Excel, Powerpoint) that come with continuous updates
  • Reliable email hosting with up to 50GB of storage
  • Chat, call and meeting platform for team collaboration
  • 1TB of OneDrive storage!

Most of my business email accounts and my clients’ are hosted on Microsoft 365.

It is worth the investment as a serious freelancer.

9. Google Docs

Google Docs is a great productivity platform for online work and collaboration.

Its simplicity and lightweight make it a fantastic tool. And the Personal plan is completely free!

I’d use it when I need to collaborate on documents.

In fact, I use it a lot to work with my remote team of facilitators.

10. PDF Expert

PDF Expert

PDF Expert is one of the productivity apps by Readdle.

I use the app on both my iPhone and MacBook.

Here are just a few features I like about it:

  • Signing without printout. This is my best favorite feature as I often have to sign and send out documents for work and business. The signature I have created in the app is just perfect!
  • Annotations. The app has markers, pens and notes to make notes on PDF.
  • Speed. PDF Expert opens the fastest compared to other PDF apps I’ve used.
  • Password protection. You can create a password to protect a PDF file you create with the app.

This app is worth the money I paid for.

11. Scanner Pro (for iPhone)

I definitely recommend Scanner Pro for freelancers. In fact, I think all freelancers should use it because we need to scan documents all the time.

Three reasons I love this app:

  • It replaced my need for a scanner device!
  • It’s even much more efficient because this app is a scanner in a pocket that I carry around everywhere.
  • My scanned documents sync on my OneDrive cloud so I can access them anywhere.

The app is a one-off purchase. I got it for 7 dollars and have used it for more than 2 years now.

Just a nifty scanner app for freelancers (and everyone)!

12. Canva to design anything!

Canva

I really can design anything with Canva now!

In fact, most (if not all) my designs were done using the app, from logos to quotes, name cards, flyers, social media post images… to reports, CV/resume, business proposals.

Yes, I’ve used it for all these and even more. 

These are what I like about it:

  • Brand kits that contain the fonts, colors and logos
  • 60+ millions stock images, photos, videos and graphics that let you design anything
  • You can do your design on your phone (although it would be easier and efficient to do it on its web app.
  • The 60,000+ templates are available for any kind of design you can think of.

Of course, if you’re willing to master the art of design, go ahead with Photoshop. And if you have a budget to hire a good designer, it would be ideal.

But if you wants to ride with the 60,000+ templates to make your life easy, Canva will be a great option.

App for password management

Security

I have had to create some 200+ passwords since I got on the internet in 2002.

Using the same passwords for everything is not an option.

And I don’t want to store all the passwords in my head. Storing them all in a notebook like I did back in the old days isn’t secure.

A great option for me is to be able to…

  • store my passwords in a secure place
  • not have to remember most of my passwords

After a long research and consideration of a number of password manager apps, my choice came down to two 1Password and Dashlane.

1Password didn’t have a free version so I ended up trying Dashlane and using it as my permanent password manager since 2017.

13. Dashlane

Dashlane

The app is easy to use and makes my life online very secure.

My favorite features of Dashline:

  • Great user interface. Adding passwords, changing them, autofills… these make it so easy for me to log in to all my websites that I use and create.
  • VPN. I use its VPN a lot for secure browsing when I use a public wifi. In fact, I use it a lot as I work mostly remotely.
  • Syncing seamlessly with all devices. I install the app on all my devices and they sync so compatibly with each other.

At the price of one Americano a month, Dashlane is a great investment.

Now over to you

That’s all for the productivity apps for freelancers.

Now I’d like to hear from you:

  • What apps from this post do you want to try out first?
  • What other apps did I miss?

Let me know by leaving a comment.

And check out my guide to iPhone configuration for productivity.

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Y Samphy

About the author

I am a business and legal consultant. My former employers and clients include embassies, multinational consulting companies law firms and NGOs. Productivity and self-improvement are at the heart of my career and life. On this website, I want to help you become more productive and live up to your potential. Learn more about me here.


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