In November of 2020, the world looked vastly different than I had ever anticipated. It felt like we were all navigating some sort of fever dream, living life behind masks, 6 feet apart, hug-less, and from the solitude of home offices (or kitchen tables with kids in the background). As someone who had always thrived off of the energy of a shared workspace, all of this was pretty soul-crushing for me. I, like many, began to look forward to those seemingly endless Zoom happy hours, virtual cocktail-making classes, and all the other attempts to maintain some sense of connection despite the pandemic's rampant effects on our communities. It was at this time that I also learned to embrace life as an independent consultant, as companies cut workforces and budgets, due to the uncertainty of the future economy. It felt more secure to sign on with teams on a contract basis, than to buckle in as a W2, not knowing if my role would exist 6 months out.
Below, I've highlighted some of the top tools I utilized (and still do!) that have greatly impacted my business as an independent marketing consultant, which I truly believe every consultant should know about.
Toggl is an extremely user-friendly time-tracking tool that allows you to report your hours in fine detail. Your clients will appreciate the level of detail you can provide with Toggl's hour reporting tool, thus creating a great sense of trust in the relationship. My favorite feature is being able to set project-specific billing rates, so you don't have to do a bunch of manual calculations when setting up monthly invoices.
While project management tools out there are a dime a dozen (and I've used seemingly all of them after 10 years in tech), Asana stands out to me based on its ease of use and the ability to set smart automation that reduces your workload. You can easily produce Gantt charts and timeline views, should your client need to see a project overview at the "30 thousand foot" level.
I'm a bit biased here, as I've created my website in Wix, and have used it for several past small business clients. But as someone whose business is consulting/services-based and therefore doesn't need complex e-commerce capabilities, Wix has everything I need. In addition to easily building your website via their intuitive and template-based platform, they also include marketing and SEO services that take a lot of the grunt work out of generating new business leads.
I can't say enough about Grammarly, and how much I appreciate having what feels like a really smart friend looking over my shoulder as I write (and not in that annoying way your old boss did). With the Chrome plugin, Grammarly will make real-time recommendations as you type, ensuring that when that third cup of coffee hits and you accelerate from 0-1000, you don't leave behind a slew of run-on sentences in your wake.
As someone who offers mentoring and job search preparation for young professionals, I love the functionality of JobScan. JobScan will look at your resume and the description of your target role, and objectively critique you on paper, spitting out a score that represents how well you meet the team's needs. While this score can't sum up your inherent value, it will tell you how likely you are to get past the ATS, or Applicant Tracking System, your ideal company is utilizing to rank candidates.
Like project management software, there are dozens of social media management tools out there. Of the multitude I've tried, Hootsuite is by far my favorite, based on how easy it is to plug in all of your challenges, build out a comprehensive content library, and schedule as far out in advance as necessary.
Have a tool you prefer to one of these in its category? I'd love to hear what you use, and why you think it's the best!