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5 Free Essential Tools for Freelancers

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5 essential tools for freelancers

When I launched this blog, I posted a list of resources for entrepreneurs. Today I’d like to go into further detail on some of these resources with a list of 5 free tools from every aspect of business development that are essential for freelancers, entrepreneurs and small business owners.

1) Wave

Wave is a free invoice and accounting software that lets you manage both your personal and business accounts. It offers many great features although their accounting tool can be a bit confusing at first. The most useful feature that I frequently use is their invoicing tool. You can create several different invoice templates that are all customizable with your branding elements and business details. Wave also has a great receipt tool so that you can upload and keep track of business (or personal) expenses. If you have employees, Wave offers a paid upgrade to keep track of payroll.

2) Canva

Canva is a great tool for creating uniform social media and collateral items (such as posters, brochures, etc…). It allows users to set brand colors and if you decide to pay and upgrade you can create brand kits to always have your other brand elements handy. Canva has both a web and mobile app version, so it’s great to use on the go as well.

Besides having easy design options, Canva also has tutorials to help its users learn design. If you need great looking graphics but are on a budget, Canva is definitely for you. If you have already hired a designer, you can utilize the elements that they have created and integrate them in these collateral pieces. All of my own social media graphics have been created using this.

3) Toggl

Toggl is a free time-tracking site that offers extra paid features. The free tools allow you to create projects and then track time spent on different tasks for each one. Toggl creates reports of the time spent separated by the project that you can save to view your total time spent working on each one. The paid option allows you to calculate billable amounts, but this is easily done with using just the free tools. If you charge hourly for projects I would highly recommend using Toggl to track your hours.

4) Freedcamp

Freedcamp is a free version of the ever popular (but pricey if you’re on a budget) project management software Basecamp. Freedcamp offers the ability to create projects and manages files, discussions, tasks, milestones, time, etc… within each project. It is a collaborative tool where each user can have different permissions and be limited to certain projects. This would also be great for working with a virtual assistant since you can assign tasks to different users.

5) Evernote

In terms of idea, notes, article and content collection, Evernote is the best tool that I have found. It is a cross-platform tool that is also great for multi-user collaboration. It now seamlessly integrates with google docs and is an invaluable resource. You can easily use it to create checklists, notebooks for different topics and save any helpful articles (like this one) using the web browser add-on. Evernote even has the option to have work chats and set due dates on tasks that it will remind you to complete. It outshines any similar tools in its category.

6) 17Hats

I know that I said there would be 5 free options here but I recently discovered a 6th option for entrepreneurs and business owners, 17Hats. 17Hats is an all-in-one option for business management and so far I have really enjoyed it. If you can afford to put a little extra towards your business, I would definitely recommend this over using the multiple separate options.

It offers both free and paid options, along with a free trial to test out the paid features. The free version only allows for the management of up to 3 projects. I tested out the paid version and it’s been fantastic. It allows it’s user to manage time tracking, invoicing, project management, contacts, leads, integration with google calendars, to-do’s, an automated workflow creation and bookkeeping that integrates with your bank account (a paid feature). 17Hats combines Toggl, Freedcamp, and Wave into an all-in-one tool with even more features.

 

I hope that you find these resources helpful, what are some of your favorites?

 

Creating an Authentic Brand

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Amber Rose Quote - Authentic Brand

This week’s post is a day late, but for good reason! At the last minute, I received two tickets for this past weekend’s Worthy Women Conference and brunch with Amber Rose. It was such an empowering experience for female entrepreneurs and I’m thrilled to share with you one of the key things I took away from the conference, namely on creating an authentic brand that remains true to you.

A strong brand is key in making or breaking a business. Especially if you’re selling a service, your personality needs to shine through and be true to who you are. Few things are more disappointing than meeting a person that appears to be one way, but later finding out that they are not who they seem. The same can be said for a brand. It’s very confusing for users when a brand gives a certain impression but doesn’t follow through with it in their service. As Amber Rose said this weekend, “Never sell a dream, be exactly who you are.” You shouldn’t compromise on your values or who you are in order to get business. You’ll attract the right people for you depending on what you market yourself as.

At Monarch, one of the first things that we start with in strategizing is getting to the core of a brand. Remaining true to that core throughout the branding process is the most important ingredient in a strong brand. Today I’m sharing a great brainstorming sheet filled with some of the questions that we use to help you develop an authentic brand.

Download the branding brainstorm sheet here

Monarch Design Solutions Blog Launch Day!

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business resources and blog launch day

Hey There! My name is Lindsay and I’m the designer and developer behind Monarch. I’ve spent the past 3 years working on my master’s degree and Monarch Design Solutions is the culmination of years of freelance design experience and a desire to help other entrepreneurs and small business owners craft their own brand solutions and help maintain steady growth in their own endeavors. Today is the launch of Monarch’s blog, where I will post a new helpful article, tool, or other media every Monday, rain or shine.

Working with Monarch (or the Design Process)

I work with a business for a total of three weeks, beginning with an initial meeting to create a tailored plan of attack to best attract their target user. Once we have formulated a winning strategy, I’ll work on creating a fantastic brand identity, either updating a current one or creating a new one from scratch. Three promotional items will be created that will best connect with the brand’s target user, and finally I work on creating a website with a focus on great user experience that implements the branding strategy we have just spent the past two weeks developing. A further breakdown of the process can be viewed on the services page.

The website launch and reveal is one of my favorite things as we get to see all of the hard work that we’ve put into the brand come together in one place. I’m so excited to begin working with other passionate entrepreneurs and sharing all of the info that I’ve collected along my own path. I’ve created a google document filled with starting resources that I will constantly be updating and sharing, so be sure to check it out and bookmark it for updates. I’ll discuss these resources in further detail in later articles as well, with reviews of each one to determine if it is right for you. Please feel free to send me any resources that you feel are missing that others might find useful and comment below with anything that you’d like to see here on the blog!

Check out the resources here