Where's my stuff? Freelancers and the challenge of managing too many apps.

Lots of apps to choose from

Cloud apps are now mainstream, providing the workforce with a broad range of intelligent software. Cloud tools have morphed from broad business solutions into highly targeted apps that are geared towards solving very specific tasks.

35% of the workforce are freelancers, and without a CIO to choose their software, they have a whole sea of options to choose from.

Freelancers have a large range of work to keep track of, not even including their billable hours. Marketing, lead generation, time tracking, legal paperwork, billing clients, and expense tracking, to name a few, are some of the common ranges of work that a freelancer has to keep track of. As a result, it isn’t unusual for a freelancer to have a combination of 5-10 applications to meet their requirements.

Many freelancers have a selection of apps that looks something like the following: Google docs for writing, Trello for task management, Toggl for time tracking, Freshbooks for invoicing, Dropbox for document collaboration, Expensify for tracking expenses, Quickbooks for filing taxes, etc.

Depending on the freelance work being done, there will be more job specific tools as well--developers will need coding tools, designers need prototyping tools, marketers need analytics tools, and so on.

Information silos

Each app efficiently solves their specific business problem. The problem is that each app becomes its own information silo, with limited, if any, communication to each other. 

Multiplying the problem for freelancers, is the nature of freelancing which dictates a range of clients. It isn't uncommon for a client to have their own specific work tools and have the expectation that the freelancer should submit or work inside the tools the organization is already using.

For instance, one client may want their design submitted via Dropbox, while another want them e-mailed. As a result, information gets buried not just inside apps that are used often, but inside apps that are only used for particular clients. 

With information spread across multiple apps, finding the right piece becomes difficult. Did he send me the requirements inside the Slack group, Gmail, or a link via Dropbox? 

Some of the challenges of not finding information include poor decisions, lower productivity, and duplicated work. How often is it easier to just take an hour making something again after spending 20 minutes looking for it with no success? 

what’s the solution?

Ideally, you’re a knowledge management expert, with a process for each client. I.e., where you create your work, how you track your time, when and where you keep track of the expenses, how you bill your client, as well as updating relevant information across apps on a regular basis.

If you're reading this, then you're most likely like the rest of us, trying to manage information spread across a number of apps.

One solution is to try to stay inside one ecosystem as much as possible. Google Drive, for instance will search across all your Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and more making it a single place to access your Google information. Or if you’re an Atlassian user, they have a whole marketplace with add-ons for their products that make communication between the apps easier. 

There are also solutions for specific challenges across tools. For communication you have Slack (although freelancers rarely have teams) or if you’re managing a bunch of social media apps there are options like Hootsuite which provide you with a dashboard to see all your social information from one screen. 

However, most freelancers don’t have the luxury of being able to stay in one ecosystem, and have more challenges than with their communication and social media. 

Zapier, tackles the issue by automating workflows between apps. When an action happens in one app, key information or data will get updated or transferred to another app. 

WhereDat provides a one-stop search box across all your work tools. Connect the tools you use the most, and search inside them all simultaneously. Get started free

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