70 Tools Freelancers Rely on Most

Freelance ToolsAs freelancers, we belong to a broad group of people: writers, designers, programmers, consultants, etc. Despite our variety, though, we all use similar tools on a regular basis.

A little while back, when we first launched the forums, someone started a thread to share all of the tools we each rely on most. After three pages of great responses, I decided to compile a list of the most used tools. To see the topic that inspired this post, click here, otherwise read on for the full list.


Obviously, we all require a computer to do our jobs (especially if you’re reading this blog). This first list of tools speaks to the very basics of operating a freelance business.

  • Windows Desktop
  • Apple Desktop
  • Windows Laptop
  • Apple Laptop
  • Two Monitors (or more)
  • Good, fast, wireless Internet Connection
  • Wacom Tablet
  • Good mouse and keyboard

Design Software

At least some sort of design software was basically a must for all types of freelancers, even many of the writers. There’s no surprise here that the Adobe Creative Suite dominates, but GIMP was mentioned several times too!


Document Handling

Word processing and document management is another category that almost every freelancer will need some of, no matter what their specialty. Understandably, there wasn’t too much variety in these responses.
Microsoft Office
Google Docs

CMS / Blogging

Content management systems were a favorite item for many freelancers, especially WordPress. There were a few big proponents of ExpressionEngine also, and a mention or two of Joomla.

Expression Engine


File transfer is another important category, one that is vital to developers and web designers. There were a surprisingly large number of good programs mentioned, so we trimmed this list to the most common ones.


Code Editors

codaThe development group really came out strong with these suggestions, offering numerous choices for editing code. Check out the forum thread for some more juicy details.

E-Text Editor


A few more recommended tools for anyone in freelance development:

Ruby on Rails

E-mail Clients

Here’s another category that is universal to almost all freelancers. Given the number of available choices, it was a bit surprising how popular some of these clients are (I’m looking at you, Gmail).

Microsoft Outlook

Invoicing, Accounting, Bookkeeping

bamboo invoiceAdministrative stuff, ugh! Freshbooks and Quickbooks were the two most mentioned in this category, both receiving a lot of praise. There were also some other good picks:



Collaboration software is another favorite among Freelance Folder readers. Basecamp and ActiveCollab were the most mentioned by far.



With the amount of information freelancers are required to juggle on a regular basis, it’s no surprise that organizational software ranks among the most important. Here are the favorites:

Remember the Milk
Google Calendar
Moleskine Notebook

Social Networking

I don’t think it’s even necessary to say which of these was mentioned the most (twitter).



Chatting seems to be an integral part of many a daily routine, and there are thankfully a few great programs that make it much easier.
Yahoo Messenger


Listening to music while working is one of the perks of freelancing — here are a few suggested ways to go about it:


Some other necessities…

Dogs (or pets in general)

That’s it for the list of our forum responses, but as you can imagine this is only a few of the many tools freelancers rely on. Which ones do you use? Do you have any recommendations that aren’t on here?


  1. says

    What an awesome list – you’ve put your time in here. Looking into some of the productivity tools now, which is my main need at the moment. And the coffee, gotta agree there!

  2. says

    Wonderful list! Thanks Natalie. Of the invoicing packages mentioned, BambooInvoice is the only one that allows you to host your own data (no trusting others with your financial information) AND is free and open source. Thanks for listing it!

  3. Emily says

    I recently discovered this wonderful open-source photo editing program called Paint.net. I love it! For non-professional photographers who just need to tweak or enhance photos, it’s easy to use and an inexpensive investment. I just wrote a guest post on it at http://www.bonavita.wordpress.com.

  4. says

    Im on a Mac, and for FTP I use Transmit (panic.com/transmit). Love it! Oh, and Entourage for email…which I guess is MS’s version of Outlook for Mac.

    for another option on DB, spreadsheet, documents and invoicing, check out Zoho.com. Great free tools there.

  5. says

    Thanks for the great feedback everyone! What I think is great about this list is that it comes directly from real people who actually use each and every one of these tools. Thanks to everyone who participated on the forums beforehand and in the comments now :)

  6. says

    Freelancers may also want to check out Intervals, a web-based project management tool that includes time tracking and task management functionality. It’s an ideal comprehensive app for freelancers who want to run their business with one tool.

  7. michael(UA) says

    Web developers who using WAMP(AppServ) or such like that all in one are not perceived seriously. Web dev must know basics how to config webserver. Don’t advised that for beginners
    Sorry, but it’s true

  8. says

    I am not sure such a list is very useful.

    Adding linux, linux, linux, eclipse, VisualStudio 2008, Subversion, BibbleLite, netradio, xterm, LAMP would make it appeal to me. I am quite certain that the list would depend on geography as well.

  9. says

    Great list, well done. WordPress especially is outstanding.

    For firefox, I reccomend trying FireFTP, its a super sweet FTP client, I’ve never looked back since I used it for the first time. Plus its free. Woo :)

  10. says

    Looks like a free lancer has quite the array of tools to choose from. I have not had to deal with one yet, but I know I will soon. I am currently working on my online income success blog, and it is great to know that there are people here to help. Any advice on finding someone that can help edit code on my site?

  11. Jarno says

    As a music source, there is no real challenge for Spotify (www.spotify.com). Pretty much all music, free, legal. Don’t know if it works in the States, but for fellow Europeans it’s a must. You can get invites quite easily by Googling.

  12. says

    I would like to suggest HourDoc Time Tracking Software. It is useful for freelancers. http://www.HourDoc.com is right treatment for time tracking of virtual assistants, has to be an easy-to-administer and affordable solution for Freelancers.They offer free application to Freelancers/companies less than 50 Users. You must Try it!

  13. says

    I would like to recommand OroTimesheet for time tracking. It is an excellent for invoicing and keeping track of the time you spend on your projects.


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