This spring marks the fourth year that I’ve been self-employed. I’m not living off of rice and beans just yet, so clearly Coleman and I have been doing something right over here at the Lietco HQ. 

When I first left the nine-to-five world, I missed my work fam, but I also missed the structure of being required to show-up somewhere for eight hours straight. These days, I can’t tell you the last time I sat in one place for eight hours, unless for an overseas flight or a long-haul drive in the van where we needed to clock some serious kilometres.

For me, implementing structure into my day-to-day was a must, and using certain apps made an enormous difference. I’ll be honest, I’m far from perfect and there are still days where I forget to track my time and have to go back to add it or create a file in a wrong folder, but these apps help self-employed me stay honest.

So here they are, the four apps I use every single day to create consistency and structure. Oh, and let me know in the comments if there’s a tool or an app that you use on the daily that might improve my workflow or overall happiness.

To organize my day: Day One 

I’ve always been big into journaling, be it handwritten entries on lined Hilroy paper stuffed into a plastic binder or digitally documenting my life on Livejournal. These days, I keep both a personal journal as well a work-focused to-do list all on Day One. This multi-platform tool works on desktop as well as mobile and the two sync together, so wherever you add an entry, it’s reflected on the other. 

In addition to the interface being sleek, minimal and easy to navigate, I like that you can create different “journals,” so it’s easy to keep that work/life balance. There’s also the option to not only build lists with bullet points, but check boxes, too, so each time you complete a task, you can check it off and the app puts a strike through it. Satisfying. 

If writing’s not your thing, there’s also the option to record memories and notes with photos and audio. 

To know where my time is going: Harvest

Up until last year, we had no idea what we were spending our time on. I mean, we knew roughly which clients took up most of our time, but we never actually tracked it. Finally, a smart business-minded friend of ours convinced us we needed to start actively tracking our time. It felt like a make-work project, but now that it’s been a year, I can safely say I enjoy this task. 

Before I start my day, I’ll either log on to Harvest in a browser or just open the app. The latter is much easier and quicker, and therefore my preferred method. Like Day One, Harvest will sync the browser version with the app. 

Harvest is great whether you want to know high-level things, like how much time you’re spending on email, or the microscopic time-takers, allowing you to get granular and add in all of your clients tasks required for each one. Now, we have a way better idea of how much time we spend per client, as well as how much time we dedicate to other things like client development, our special side projects, and monthly invoicing. Which, speaking of, there’s a whole expense tracking section to the app that I haven’t even touched.

I tried to find these guys on Instagram to add an embed to this story, but their bio says “Thanks for visiting but we are taking a pause from IG at the moment.” Maintaining the account mustn’t have been worth the time.

To organize our clients: Google Drive

Aside from missing my work friends, I also missed certain internal structures when we first went out on our own. Sure, some places that I had worked were more rigid than others, and sure, some of the systems I was trained to use were so painfully archaic they made my brain melt, but at least someone else had spent the time building out the information architecture for the staff.

After the first eight months of Coleman and I working together, I decided to create us a beautiful, organized place to keep all of our shared files. I’d say about 90 per cent of our job is writing, so Google Drive and gDocs, just made sense. Plus, these tools are free and you can invite other editors or contributors to your folders or documents. 

Today, every single client has its own folder and often folders within the folders, which are broken down by month and then into further projects. We can easily search and jump into each others’ documents when we’re working on tasks together, but it also makes invoicing at the end of each month that much easier, as I’m able to track what was completed and when.

To make my IG photos look dope: Tezza

In a way, the Tezza app really has improved my productivity because I no longer fuss over mediocre Lightroom presets that just never quite fit. Tezza has the prettiest presets all built into one simple app. I always find one that works, whether I’m editing something for Lietco’s account or my personal one. You can easily edit video, too, to create a more streamlined look on Stories, as well, and the bulk download option makes it easy to save all of your edited imagery at once.

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4 apps I used every single day as a self-employed freelancer in 2020