Top 10 Must Have Business Tools for Self-Employed Professionals

If you are working as a self-employed professional, then you need to be armed with the right tools to help you effectively manage your work and keep you productive. Having these apps isn't a luxury- no more than owning a device with Internet access. If you want to work as an independent professional, especially if you work on the go, then you'll need to invest in this area to stay relevant and competitive.

The actual list of must-have apps will vary according to your line of work. For instance, a lawyer may need case management or private cloud software, while an accountant may require an advanced bookkeeping program. It will also vary based on the technology that you are using, and your available budget. Rather than give you a list of specific products, I’m instead going to bring the top categories of apps that you will likely need. Some of these app categories tackle big jobs, others only take care of one small task, but all of them are indispensable. Scattered throughout this post, I’ll also add in my personal favorite tools.

1. Time Tracking

. If you need to track the number of hours that you work, then you'll want a good time tracking app. Time tracking software lets you think differently. It stops you from getting bogged down with the details and helps you to focus on your work goals without getting distracted. My personal favorite is Toggl.

2. Document Management

. This is a broad category that includes mobile signature apps, such as DocuSign, SignNow, and Adobe EchoSign, as well as various kinds ofcontract management solutions that can help you store, track, and manage your contracts. If your business requires getting signatures in the field, then there are mobile apps worth checking out. These apps allow you to build a database of forms that can be signed and stored electronically, eliminating the need to carry print documents. Other, more robust contract management solutions can also alert clients weeks or months in advance if their contract is up for renewal.

3. Credit Card Readers.

For business owners who work outside of a set location, mobile card readers, such as those offered by Square and even Paypal, are literary a dream come true.  Unlike the traditional table top card readers and fee-laden merchant accounts, these mobile versions start with a free card reader that attaches to your phone when you need to use it, and they only charge a fee when a payment is processed.

4. Mobile Document Scanners

. These apps cab take a picture of a document with a mobile phone's camera, apply post-processing filters as desired, and then save the scans to your phone. Some can actually read the information on the document, automatically filing either the form, the information, or both into preset categories. The possibilities with such an app are endless. My favorite is Jotnot for the iPhone.

5. File Syncing and Sharing.

This category of apps give you the ability to store, synch and share files with clients and peers both when you're in the office or while you are on the go. I'm a Dropbox fan, but other options include: Google Drive and Box. All of these platforms have a free option, which may be enough if your storage needs are modest.

6. Financial Transactions

. These apps take care of your accounting, bookkeeping, financial reporting, time sheets, invoicing and billing. Make sure that you choose a program that also offers an online version so that you have the flexibility to move between the two. Some good programs worth looking into include: Freshbooks, Quickbooks, and Wave.

7. Organizational Tools.

There are many kinds of apps out there that can really help you to stay organized and more productive.  One great feature that most have is the ability to voice record notes and reminders.  The free Evernote app is a powerful note-taking app that you can use to compose documents and detailed lists. Within each document, you can record and attach audio clips, or you can attach digital images. Another small, but highly useful app to look into is a secure database that contains all of your usernames, passwords, ID numbers, and related information.

8. Social Media Dashboard.

If your business involves multiple social media accounts, especially if you are actively communicating through social media to your clients, it makes sense to have a app to help you. The best, in my opinion, is Hootsuite.

9. Business Travel.

If you are often working from the road, then it is essential that you have some good travel apps on board. There are many extremely useful travel apps to choose from, some of which I discuss here- so it pays to do a little research. My favorites in this category include: FlightTrack Pro, Tripit, and Hotel Tonight.

10. Voice Recording.

A mobile recording app can be extremely useful for recording dictation, voice memos, lectures, classes, or meetings. You can usually play the recordings on your mobile device or transfer them to a computer, a cloud-based file-sharing service, or another mobile device.

In short, your success as a self-employed professional depends heavily on the tools you rely on to help you get the job done. Though the above list is far from exhaustive, it will give you the basics to stay professional, relevant, and profitable.