Organizing yourself while working location independent inevitably brings some challenges. From finding the right tools to staying productive to building a professional website or staying in touch with your clients, share documents across your team to marketing and writing invoices.
So I thought it would be great to collect all the tools I use for my daily workflow. This page is continually growing as I learn and add new tools. Please also let me know in the comments below if you have some cool tools I should know about!
Productivity & Communication
Project management tool to organize everything! Great for to-do lists which I mainly use to plan content across social media and helps me stay organized on different tasks, campaigns and projects. It’s also great to distribute tasks to other people and keep track of things that I published in the past. You can organize almost your whole life through Trello, it’s super easy and can also be linked to the Slack chat. Alternative: Asana.
Collaboration tool which is super handy to communicate and share with your team. Slack can be set up with different chat rooms organized by topic, as well as private groups and direct messaging. It integrates well with a large number of third-party services such as Google Drive and Dropbox. Easy to use on the go with the smartphone or desktop app. Alternative: HipChat.
Skype and Google Hangout
There is no need anymore to pay for international calls even though I always buy a local sim card in a new country. That’s simply for data so I can still use the Internet if the wifi is not working. For audio and video chats I use both Skype and Google Hangout as they are free and if it’s urgent I always have some extra credit to call a mobile phone or landline if it’s necessary. Both are especially perfect for group video conferences. I also use screen sharing when I need to run my client through a particular issue.
I use it as time zone converter mainly but you can also schedule meetings through it in iCal or Google Calendar. Great, if you are travelling, have a meeting with a client on the other side of the world or just don’t know what time it is at your final destination. I set it up so I have all the relevant times are displayed on the homepage.
Probably one of the apps I use the most ever is speedtest, available on browser and as a mobile app. Easily tests your Internet connection bandwidth at any location around the world. Especially useful to check speeds before you sit down for a coffee or move in a new apartment to safe you from a slow connection and the frustration that comes with it afterwards. You can also explore netspeeds in advance and get an idea what the average speed is like when travelling to a new country or city.
I backup my files with Dropbox as I find it super easy to use and organize. It syncs so I can access my files on the go over my phone too. I also use Google Drive as you get a free 15GB across Google drive, Gmail and Google Photos on signup.
A cloud-based file transfer service I use if I need to send large files (up to 2GB in the free version). It’s oftentimes faster to upload here than synch over the cloud.
A smart tool to see who opens your emails, how many times and from where they are opened in real time. Soon you will also be able to schedule emails with Sidekick. As a free user you can receive up to 200 notifications per month, then you won’t be able to access your historical notifications until the counter is reset at the beginning of next month. In spite of this, you can still track emails and receive unlimited real-time notifications. Or you upgrade for $10 a month.
A password manager which holds all the various passwords, software licenses and other sensitive information in a virtual vault that is locked with a master password. I really wouldn’t want to live without this tool! Available for iPhone too.
An online time tracking tool where I log and control my time on daily tasks. It can track work time for teams too (free for a team of up to 5). Time entries can have a description, project, client associated with them. In the pro version you can also mark them as billable or non-billable. Detailed reports of how you have spent your time can be generated from the web app.
I often get asked what the screen app I use. It’s actually an extension for Google Chrome called Momentum. Everyday it gives you a different inspirational background, a to-do list you can add to as well as adding a you can add a single main focus of your day. To quickly help you navigate to your most important pages you can add link widgets and you also have to ability to search the app – Let’s get productive!
There is another Chrome extension called Motivation, if you ever wanted to see your life ticking away. You need to provide your date of birth and will then get your exact age counting up and up and… It eventually made me so nervous though so I am back with Momentum. But it is a sweet extension to stop procrastination and get stuff done!
An open-source web software to easily create a blog, portfolio or any website really and manage all your content for free. It’s one of the most popular content management system today. Additionally, there are thousands of plugins and themes available to customize your site into almost anything you can imagine.
All my websites are hosted on Bluehost, one of the largest hosting providers out there. It’s inexpensive, easy to setup with the 1-click automatic WordPress installation while customer service has always been responsive whenever I had any issues. You can also get your domain name on there. However, if you want your servers to be in Europe try All-Inkl.
There are many free themes for WordPress out there however I like to use Premium Themes which gives me a wider variety of options as well as developers support and mostly more updates. I buy all my themes on ThemeForest which is powered by Envato which also serves as the leading marketplace for images, project files and other creative assets. For example, if you are looking for royalty free music, take a look at AudioJungle. Alternative: WooThemes.
FileZilla is a free open-source FTP client which I use for data transfer.
Sublime is a cross-platform text and source code editor supporting many programming and markup languages. It has a very intuitive and slick user interface and most of all: it’s free!
Probably one of the most extensive SEO plugins for WordPress that offers everything from a snippet preview to page analysis functionality to help you write and optimize your pages content, images titles, meta descriptions, generate XML sitemaps and many other optimization options.
A powerful keyword research tool to finding long-tail keywords and analyze the competition extensively to see what you can best rank for. After using Google Keyword Planner and various other web-based services for keyword research like keywordtool.io I have finally purchased LongTail Pro and I couldn’t be happier as it finds me the right keywords for my articles fast and wouldn’t want to miss it. You can give it a try 10 days for to get a feel how it works which I found very helpful and won me over to buy the full version.
An online marketplace where you can buy and sell micro-jobs online. If you need an inexpensive business logo or a well-designed business card, this is the place to come looking for it. You can even find virtual assistants, copywriting professionals or programming masterminds on here. The starting cost is $5 per job (as you can guess from the name) and range up to $500, depending what you want done.
Hootsuite is an extensive social media management system which supports multiple social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and also Pinterest (in the business version) and more. I use it especially for scheduling to Twitter and Facebook but it is great to manage any channels without having to visit them all individually. I like the columns you can customize to your personal liking as you can really closely listen, see where you are mentioned and follow hashtags interesting to you, all in all great for community management. Similar in the structure is TweetDeck but it only lets you manage multiple Twitter accounts no cross channel management possible.
Buffer makes it simple to manage multiple Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn Accounts. And now you can also connect it to Pinterest! It has a very user friendly Chrome extension to make scheduling a bliss. I use it mainly for Twitter and it’s great to have Analytics integrated to which tweets do best. There is however no streams to listen or monitor your audience, it’s really just a great app for scheduling and you will like it depending on what you want to get from your social media management.
One of my favourite tools right now for crafting Tweets. It’s web-based and super easy to use. You simply insert a link from an article you want to share and it will scrape the site to find all the suitable pictures from the article and you can choose which one to use. This is amazing as you no longer have to look all over the site for the right image, download it and upload it again. You can also optimize the picture by cropping it to the desired snippet and send the tweet over to Buffer if you want to schedule them.
IFTTT (If This Then That)
This service help you automate application tasks, such as posting the same content over several social networks. It’s as easy as creating a so-called recipes once, which is then triggered based on changes on other web services such as Facebook or Instagram. For example if I upload a photo to Instagram, then a new tweet with the image will be posted on my Twitter account. Great if there is no time to post individually on all channels.
Fantastic to schedule and manage you Instagram posts. You can upload photos and videos from your phone or to the web application from your desktop (which I find highly important as not all my photos are stored on my phone!) and manage them from either the web or mobile app. Scheduled posts will be pushed to your phone and you can still use all Instagram filters and write a description as always. Alternative: Schedugr.am – the only tool that lets you do everything from the web without ever touching your phone, paid month-to-month.
A really simply tool to design your own awesome graphics for your website, social media and other marketing material, even print. It’s super easy and you don’t have to be a graphic designer at all, you just use the drag-and-drop interface. There are many pre-made sizes and over a million photographs, graphics, and fonts, most of them free or available for a small charge.
MailChimp is an email marketing service provider I use to manage my contacts, send newsletters and track email marketing results. It’s easy to set up and connect with WordPress through a plugin with your personal MailChimp API key. You can use the free version for up to 2000 subscribers, and that’ll take a while on a new site, after that it’s by monthly payment.
I love marketing apps that are also accessible on mobile as there are often some changes I need to react to on the go (or at breakfast sometimes…).
Payments & Invoicing
Generate your invoices super easy and for free! Similar but a slightly different layout is the free invoice generator.
Quickest and easiest way to send money anywhere even when sitting on a tropical island! You can create professional looking emails and invoices to send and receive money with only an email address. Even your customers can pay you securely when they don’t have a PayPal account only by clicking a button.
Makes it easy to calculate live currency and foreign exchange rates for free. Love the app for iPhone too and use it pretty much every day.
I used to have a Macbook Pro but as it got older it got slower and my luggage lighter so it was bound to happen that I traded the Pro for an Air. I love it any wouldn’t trade it for anything, the 13 inch is light, exactly the right size, battery lasts forever and I keep it safe with a basic but sturdy light weight crystal case around it (I can also recommend looking at this hardcover case). And when people sometimes say: “but what about the built-in super drive to watch DVDs?”, you should ask yourself when you have used this feature last time – I have hardly used it on my Pro ever!
I backup all my files (additionally to a cloud backup over Dropbox) on an external hard drive from Western Digital with 2 TB of space which is plenty for all the many photos and other documents I have on my laptop. It’s light, durable and you can secure it with an additional password so no one else can access your data.
I bought my mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, the Sony NEX-5n about 2,5 years ago and I am still happy today! The quality is like taking pictures with a DSLR just that it’s half the size and weighs a lot less. Today, there is already a newer model, the Sony NEX-5RK which looks very similar but has more internal functionalities added including wifi ability. A slightly changed model which I also recommend looking at is the Sony Alpha a6000.
The newest addition to my collection, as I wanted to take some action shots and videos around water, beach etc. It’s sort of in-between the very beginner model GoPro Hero and the new Hero4 line. I decided for this one as I wanted to experiment with it before spending the money of the top notch model, as there is always scope to upgrade later. Plus LCD touch screen makes it really convenient to actually see what you are shooting. I am very happy with it so far!
I own an Apple iPhone 5s which is actually second-hand as I traded it in for my old 4 at the Mac Café in Chiang Mai (which is by the way a fantastic place in case you loose your phone or need to upgrade your gear while in Thailand and don’t want to buy new). It’s the 64GB version which I love after having a small 16GB and always had to delete some stuff to take new pictures of whatever. Also, I bought it unlocked so I can swap my sim cards around without any hassle or contract ties. I also carry around an iPad Mini which I love using on the road then the Mac is too large (or can’t fit on the small RyanAir tables in-flight..).