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5 smart digital tools for independent consultants

I spend a decent amount of time researching the best tools for independent consultants, so I felt like sharing my favourites in a blog post would be nice.

I’m sitting at a busy coffee shop in Stockholm writing this post.

About 1,5 years ago, I decided to become a consultant and run my own small business with everything that includes. Being part of the gig economy suits me and my skill set very well.

But, there are a lot of things you don’t know when you start a small business, even if you (like me) have a degree in business. But it’s not running the company that is complicated. It’s putting all the small things together: making sure you market yourself, sell your services, manage projects and communicate with clients, to be able to invoice and get paid finally.

But in 2018, running a one women business can be very simple. I have found a handful of digital tools for independent consultants. They are assisting me on a daily basis, and I often feel like it’s like having friendly employees keeping track of all the things I find a bit boring.

My 5 favourite tools for independent consultants

Being on your own requires a different tool set than being in a larger team. I decided to find the best tools for independent consultants, to make sure I run my business as smoothly as possible.

These are my five life-savers:

  • Cushion
  • Slack
  • Grammarly
  • CoSchedule
  • 1Password

Cushion – To manage projects, budgets and invoicing

Cushion helps me manage planning and managing the projects I work in over time. Do I have enough work or too much? I can keep track of the whole process, from vaguely discussing with a potential client, to sending the invoice. I’m also able to keep good track of my yearly goals, making sure I’ll be able to eat and pay rent all year.

This is a great tool for independent consultants since it’s focused on making sure you have a healthy business, selling enough and getting paid on time – something you definitely want if you are use to following business KPIs.

Made by freelancers, Cushion is super simple to work with, and it keeps getting new features. I’ve recently started to track my time directly in the tool, and next year I’m planning to let Cushion keep track of my expenses.

Slack – To communicate with clients

Being an independent consultant, I need to be able to get back to clients quickly. E-mail is fine for more structured communication, but often I just need to nudge clients in the right direction during their workdays. Slack is the perfect way to be close by but not actively involved in everything.

Being active in my client’s Slack channels leverage the work I do for them by making sure what I recommend strategically gets implemented. And I can be around most of the time for all my clients at once.

It’s so convenient that usually, the time I spend lurking around in Slack is not something I actively charge my clients for. It just a bonus perk to make sure they get maximum value out of the projects we’re working on.

Grammarly – To proofread everything I write

6 or 7 years ago I decided to do most of my external communication in English. This decision is one of the best I’ve ever made. My English wasn’t bad before this, but naturally, it’s improved a lot over time. I can still see my vocabulary improving month by month.

When I became an independent consultant I decided early on that I wanted to continue to communicate in English. This ment writing both this blog and my weekly newsletter, in English, as well as all my social media post.

I have clients who are either English-speaking only, or where they have English as the official internal language. Not all of my clients speak Swedish at all. And participating in an international business context demands the skill to communicate fluently in English, and this need will only increase.

One of the tools I use on a daily basis, to get feedback on my writing, is Grammarly. I use it both on my laptop and as an Android keyboard on my phone. The number of errors in my daily writing has decreased exponentially over time working with Grammarly.

I also believe Grammarly is a great tools for independent consultants since most of the time, I don’t have anyone who can proof-read my writing. So, a friend like Grammarly is very helpful – and always on call.

CoSchedule – To keep track of my marketing

Since I prefer to spend time on working with my clients instead of working on my marketing, I’ve tried to find ways to simplify those efforts. I try to write blog posts and social media updates regularly and make sure to distribute the content where I believe there’s an interest in the knowledge I share.

I use LinkedIn on a daily basis, and I use MailChimp to do weekly newsletters. Additionally, I use Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram a couple of times a week. All these activities are possible to plan, create and publish in CoSchedule’s content calendar.

They also give me the possibility to automatically share all my evergreen content when their algorithms feel like it’s a good idea to post something. Pretty convenient, and it saves me a lot of time.

1Password – To securely guard my clients' passwords

1Password might feel like an outsider on the list. But working as an independent digital marketing consultant I have access to a lot of client passwords that I need to keep safe. I could never do that without a password management tool to help me.

In 1Password I can keep all my client’s passwords in different vaults, and when a project is over, I can delete everything with a click.

I often try to get my clients to start working with 1Password themselves; it would significantly improve their security by making sure all their passwords are secure – and different for each service. Also, you can easily add and remove people to make sure your passwords are not on the loose, floating around aimlessly in cyberspace.

How to find the best tools for independent consultants

When I look for the best SaaS solutions or tools for independent consultants, I have to remember not to get blind sighted by the big actors. The most used tools are often not the best ones.

You should look for tools that are:

  1. Made with a small team in mind
  2. Meets your need for client management – especially if you have many clients at once
  3. Is easy to manage on your own
 
But the most important thing is to try them out. You won’t know when you visit a website for a tool if it’s a good match for your needs. And don’t lose hope when you have to try again and again before you find a good match.
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