The Best Free Business Tool You Need To Try
You just can't manage all your business tasks from memory alone, and if you're a freelancer, contracts and invoicing are likely always a top of mind priority.
I used to create my own invoices in Adobe Illustrator and do work without contracts, which in retrospect, is completely absurd.
When you're ready to get serious about your business, you're going to start tracking tasks, income, expenses, time, delinquent accounts, and more. But if you're a new business, you may not have the cash flow to spend tons of money on expensive accounting or project management software.
Luckily, there's someone on your side. I'm about to introduce you to a piece of online software that has everything you need to run your freelance business, and the best part—it's 100% FREE!
AND.CO is a suite of tools that help you run your independent business. It seems almost too good to be true that anything in this age could be free, but it truly is.
AND.CO was recently acquired by Fiverr, a freelance marketplace that connects creatives with clients. Together with Fiverr, they strive to empower an independent workforce and what used to be a $168 annual fee has now been waived.
Arguably one of the most important things for running a service-based online business like web design. AND.CO offers a simple, albeit barebones, way to manage tasks, track time and record expenses. It does not provide any sort of timeline layouts or complex workflow tools, but depending on the type of work you do, those features can sometimes complicate matters. For me, this platform is perfectly simple.
Proposals & Contracts
Your proposal can mean the difference between getting the job or not. A professional proposal is one of the final and most important steps involved in selling yourself. For me, it was also one of the most tedious and intimidating steps. I actually started getting more proposal acceptances the I started using AND.CO. It could be coincidence, but it's app-style interface definitely adds a more polished and professional feel.
Building a proposal in the app does a few things for you.
It allows you to set the parameters of the project—due dates, project scope, services, pricing, and other custom parts. Simply click through to let the app generate a proposal based on your selections and inputs. You can also attach the standard freelancer’s contract from the Freelancers Union, an organization that represents the best interests of independent contractors.
The proposal that's created can be accepted by your client at which time they have an opportunity to sign the contract and pay any deposit that you might have specified, which then generates a project.
One of the best things about the cloud-based nature of the software is that the proposal and contract lives in the app. This means that you get notifications and can track when and how often the client views the proposal. This allows you to write appropriate followups.
"I see you viewed my proposal a few days ago and I just wanted to follow up to see if you had any questions." I like this because it removes the opportunity for them to say "oh sorry, I haven't looked at it yet."
It's so easy for projects with set deadlines to blow up in scope and drag on forever. If you put your contract together right, the client will know that they need to pay for additional time or overruns that are initiated by them. The AND.CO app allows you to start and stop a timer that tracks each of your billable tasks.
Time is money. You shouldn't be doing work that you're not being paid for. The app will automatically generate lines on your invoice based on time recorded, and while you're at it—attach your timesheet to the invoice to mitigate questioning of fees.
Ah yes! Sweet, sweet invoicing. You can't get paid without first sending an invoice.
Sending an invoice can be one of the most satisfying parts of a project. It means that you've completed the project (or at least a significant milestone), which is a beautiful thing. It also means that you're about to get paid for all your hard work—you hope.
This is where the neediest and most vocal of clients either show their appreciation for your work or become completely untraceable shadows of what they once were.
Similar to the proposals, you choose to receive a notification each time the client views your invoice. I love being able to cite the exact date and time an invoice was opened when someone tells me that they didn't receive it. Especially when it results in a response like "oh THAT invoice! Yes, yes, I did see THAT invoice."
My favourite feature is the ability for the client to pay with a credit card directly from the invoice in just a couple of clicks.
These two features combined really takes away the opportunity for excuses.
Client didn't Pay?
Send a friendly reminder right through the app.
Still nothing? Williams & Harricks is on your side. Send a physical demand letter on Williams & Harricks letterhead with tracking and alerts that are integrated right into the AND.CO app.
AND.CO has been a reliable companion to my business over the past year and really, for the $0 price tag there is literally nothing to lose by trying it out. It's definitely helped me be more serious about how I run my business.
I'd like to hear how you've used it, or if you use something else for your business. Let me know in the comments.