At Riverflex, we work with a network of over 400 independent consultants and we’ve learned a thing or two about what it takes to deliver on client projects. Naturally, every independent has their own approach to working, and unlike a conventional consultancy, each independent consultant gets to choose which tools to work with.
We don’t strive to unify the approach among people because ultimately if the work gets done we are happy. But we do have quite a bit of experience working as independent consultants and we want our partners to have the information to be as efficient as possible. That is why we’ve been writing a series of articles on how to increase your productivity such as one of our previous articles, How to set and achieve your professional goals as an independent. In this one, we will tell you about some useful tools every independent consultant wishes they had when they started out.
Keep connected and stay private with a VPN
The first thing you deal with when you work as an independent consultant is lots of travel. Have you ever found yourself sitting in a strange cafe in the middle of Shanghai, working on a new project draft for a client? Well, even if that particular thing hasn’t happened to you yet, VPN is still a must-have for everyone who works and travels.
First of all, a stable and secure VPN connection is essential due to security reasons. Public wi-fi connections may be dangerous: Kaspersky Lab, for instance, warns that all data going through a public connection may be easily intercepted and stolen. You definitely don’t want that to happen to your passwords and NDA-protected projects! A VPN, in this case, will encrypt all of your data and make sure it’s safe.
Secondly, a VPN is a useful tool for the research phase of your client project. Some countries, like China or US, censor (or at least slightly limit access to) some websites for their users. Even in Europe, you can face some limitations. Due to the acceptance of GDPR in the EU and the reluctance of some non-EU companies to comply with it, some resources refuse access to European netizens. For instance, in the summer of 2019, more than 40% of US sites were unavailable in Europe. With a secure VPN, this won’t be an issue.
There are hundreds of VPNs to choose from, ranging from the least secure, free-to-use to the most reliable paid services. If want to find out more, we can recommend you look through this reliable list by That One Privacy Guy.
Never lose a document with reliable Cloud storage
The author of this article has not used a USB drive in many months. It’s not new news, you already know that with online connection being accessible almost everywhere, the cloud has taken on the storage job. What is relatively new is the rising quality of co-working functions of the clouds.
Although Google’s GSuite has been around since 2006, it’s still updated regularly and the performance changes are quite noticeable. As the most universally used cloud storage product, GSuite is free and easy to use (depending on the amount of storage space you will need). Microsoft’s Sharepoint is another option that has had a huge update recently. In 2019, it went through a redesign and Microsoft got rid of limiting file size restrictions, as well as increasing collaboration performance. The third runner-up would be iCloud where files can be accessed on most devices other than Apple. This option is the least popular, and according to a ranking website TheSweetSetup, their web apps are not very popular or comfortable to use. Their collaboration performance, however, seems to be the most seamless and smooth out of all three.
As you see, you have plenty of options to choose from, so you don’t have to stick to DropBox out of habit. Find what’s comfortable for you!
Need help? Meet your virtual assistant
It seems that everything is taken care of now – connection, security and storage. One last thing is putting it all together in your own head and keeping track of everything. We know it can be a struggle sometimes. Links, research, presentations, and admin can be overwhelming if not structured and kept in order. To do just that, you might need an assistant, and they don’t have to be human! Your phone may be able to take care of this, and it’s always with you.
Modern task or project management apps have come a long way from simple lists. They resemble complex CRMs more than anything now, featuring multi-level data structures, tag management, project support, timelines, forecasts, and much more. It might take you a few days to set up and get used to modern GTD suites, but they sure can level up your multitasking and planning game.
There’s a wide variety of choices out there, like with everything, from simpler freemium apps to more complex paid systems. The most notable apps would be Trello, Todoist, OmniFocus, Things 3 and 2Do. Other useful web apps tend to focus more on teamwork including Asana, Basecamp, Flow, Monday.com and Remember The Milk.
This list is clearly not comprehensive for everyone, depending on your approach, projects, industry, or personal preferences, there are many more tools you would use. However, we wanted to provide you with a list of necessities — things that would make your professional life much easier, safer, and more productive.