56 business tools for freelancers, consultants & side hustlers

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For freelancers, productivity is an asset. The more efficient you are, the more money you can earn. It’s the fastest way to better rates and bigger projects.

But when you’re working mostly by yourself, it can be hard to hold yourself accountable to high productivity standards. Time management, focus, discipline—all these things can be hard to come by. That’s why these resources are so valuable. It’s time to work smarter.

The list is divided into different sections for easy browsing. Check out these tools to boost your bottom line:

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Productivity tools

Are you having trouble minimizing distractions? Check out these tools to improve your productivity. 

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1. Coffitivity

Did you know that research from Japan shows that this type of noise is better for your productivity than distracting office chatter?

Coffitivity is an app that creates the kind of white noise you’d encounter at a coffee shop. You can also access it via the web. The free version lets you choose between three different types of noise–Morning Murmur, Lunchtime Lounge, University Undertones–and paying an extra $9 will get you additional selections.

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2. f.lux

If you spend a lot of time at your computer, eye strain is always a concern. Fortunately, f.lux is a free tool that can relieve some of the screen glare by turning the lights down to a dulcet yellow tone. It is designed to reflect the room you’re working in.

It uses your location information to automatically adjust the screen settings, based on sunrise and sunset. There are also options for dark room and movie mode for when you’re watching videos.

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3. StayFocusd

Sometimes, you sit down at your desk with the best of intentions but an hour later, you’re still on Facebook or Twitter with zero work getting done. StayFocusd is a browser extension that can help by blocking your access to distracting sites. It may seem a bit extreme at first, but if you really want to stay focused, it’s a no-willpower-needed solution.

If a complete cut-off from your favorite time-wasting site seems scary, you can allow yourself limited access by setting a specific amount of time you can spend on that site per day.

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4. Toggl

A simple time-tracking tool, Toggl is a free browser extension with a button you can click when you begin a project. At the end of the week, you’ll get an email with summaries that let you see how much time you spent on each project.

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5. RescueTime

RescueTime is a good time-tracking tool if you frequently forget to track time manually. The extension automatically records how much time you’re spending on each website or app, and the free version comes with a weekly email report.

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6. DeskTime

A time-tracking tool similar to RescueTime, DeskTime is perhaps a better option if you’re on a team and want to manage time more effectively across the board.

The functions include vacation and URL tracking, reports and screenshots. Prices start at $7 per month and increases based on user count. There’s a 14-day free trial to get yourself acquainted.

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Writing tools

Are you facing writer’s block? Check out these tools to help get those writing juices flowing. 

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7. Calmly

If you need distraction-free writing software, Calmly Writer does exactly that. All you’ll see on your screen is a white page—or a grey page, if you’re in dark mode—and nothing else. You can customize it by choosing from one of three fonts, controlling text size and width, and setting up punctuation the way you like it.

Most importantly, Calmly allows you to sync your documents to the cloud so you don’t lose any progress. Though it’s a downloadable software, you can also test it out online to see what a distraction-free space looks like.

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8. ZenPen

ZenPen is an extremely simple solution for writers that just need a minimalist space to write on. It’s a single online page whose sole function is to let writers write. Though it’s not a downloadable tool, you can save your work as a text or HTML file.

Use the target word count tool to keep yourself on track–once you reach the target, your scroll bar will turn green, letting you know you’ve completed your goal.

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9. Grammarly

Whether you’re a writer or not, grammar always gets in the way of things. Grammarly is a browser extension and desktop application that checks your grammar for free, so you don’t send out emails with embarrassing errors and so on.

If you sign up with an account, Grammarly will store your data, offer personal analytics and allow you to sync the account wherever you access it. You’ll also be able to create a dictionary, which will tell the tool to stop counting certain words as misspellings.

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10. Draft

Draft is a writing tool that tackles common problems when it comes to collaboration, such as new comments that override previous comments, the difficulty of finding previous versions of a draft, etc. Any edits made on Draft create their own copies so it preserves every change made by a team member.

But one of the most appealing things about the tool for freelancers is probably the “ask a professional” feature, which lets you ask for feedback or suggestions on your draft from a pool of its reviewers. If you’re not on a team, you may not have easy access to additional feedback and this gives you exactly that.

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11. Hemingway App

Named after the one and only Ernest Hemingway, the Hemingway App is a tool that helps you to write better. It highlights complex sentences, difficult words, passive verbs and adverbs so you can change them into simpler writing. It also offers a readability score that lets you see how you’re doing.

The web version is free to use, but there’s also a desktop version if you’d like to keep it handy at all times. (For the record, this short section got a score of 7, which falls under “good.” The lower the score, the simpler your writing.)

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Project management tools

Facing challenges keeping track of all your various projects? Check out these top project management tools. 

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12. Insightly

Insightly is a CRM software that helps you nurture and manage leads, discover connections and deliver projects. If you constantly correspond with customers and clients but have trouble keeping track, this is the tool for you.

You can use it on your own or with a team. It also integrates with different apps like Dropbox, Evernote, MailChimp and QuickBooks.

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13. BaseCamp

Freelancers are independent, but often work with their clients’ teams, which can make communication can be a major headache. BaseCamp is a project management tool that streamlines communication and projects so it’s easy to see who’s working on what, what needs to be done for which project, etc. You can also store all your files there, so everyone can have easy access to documents.

Since BaseCamp allows you to chat with other team members and has a native to-do list function, it can save you some money you’d normally spend on other tools to do those things.

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14. Evernote

There’s so much information on the web that you want to save for later, but bookmarks just don’t cut it. Evernote is an excellent organization tool that clips pages into notebooks. So if you come across a page or article you’d like to save, you can use the browser extension to save it to Evernote and highlight passages you want to remember.

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15. Trello

Sort of like a better version of a to-do list, Trello is an app that helps you organize and brainstorm projects, either for yourself or for your team. Its intuitive drag and drop design makes it easy to create and move things around. It may seem deceptively simple at first but comes with more features than you might think.

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16. Asana

A powerful project management tool, Asana looks great and is good for keeping you (or an entire team) on task. It functions by assigning tasks to people, projects or teams that you can refer to as a checklist. You can also organize them by calendar or board view.

It’s free for up to 15 team members, and is particularly suitable for people who like to look at to-do lists and enjoy checking things off as you go.

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17. Dropbox

Cloud storage is commonplace these days, but Dropbox is still the top dog. Simplicity is its best feature. All you need to do to upload a file to the cloud is to place it in a Dropbox folder, so you never have to log in anywhere because everything is so well-synced up.

If you’re on the free plan, you get 2GB of storage to store your most important files. But you can also earn more space by referring friends, or simply completing the “getting started” guide.

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18. Pocket

True to its name, Pocket is a tool that saves what you want to read for later in your “pocket.” This includes articles you really want to read but don’t have time for right away, or videos you want to watch later.

The best part is that once you save something, it’s available on any one of your devices offline. It works best on your desktop through the browser extension, but you can also save from mobile by sending the link as an email to add@getpocket.com. It’s completely free to use, though there’s a premium plan as well.

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19. Feedly

Feedly is a useful tool for the voracious reader. It’s basically your personal feed for all content, so you don’t have to browse individual websites for stuff you want to read. You can add whatever blog or publication to the feed and it will automatically pull from those sites. The UI is clean and simple, so you can read without distraction.

Use the browse feature to find more sources to your liking. You can also share your feed with others, which is especially handy if you want a team reading list.

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20. TickTick

TickTick is a no-frills to-do list app. If all you want is an effective to-do app and you don’t need any fancy features, it’s a great place to start. It’s free to use and the design is simple and intuitive. You can also tag team members and share your list.

The “next 7 days” view is fantastic for planning for the week ahead. But to get more functions like calendar view and smart lists, you’ll need to upgrade.

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21. Todoist

Todoist is another great app to manage your to-do list. It’s full-featured and has useful integrations with Google Calendar and Zapier. The distraction-free design helps you focus, and you can color code tasks according to priority or projects. The Todoist Karma feature gives you a visualization of your productivity, which is a cool feature to help you stay motivated.

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Marketing tools

Getting your name out there is quintessential for getting new clients. Check out these marketing tools to help you. 

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22. Squarespace

Squarespace is one of the simplest, most beautiful ways to set up a website. All of its templates are easy on the eyes and great for attracting your clients and customers. This solution works especially well for people who don’t want to spend any time managing a website, since Squarespace does everything for you.

It’s a one-stop solution, for $12-18 a month.

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23. Bluehost

Bluehost is one of the most popular hosting services on the web. It’s known for great 24/7 customer support and easy WordPress installation. The monthly hosting fee includes a free domain, which is fantastic.

Best of all, its affiliate program offers a good way to earn extra money through your site. This means whenever you refer someone to its service, you get a referral fee. For this reason, you only need to do a little search before you find a blogger with an affiliate link–use this to get yourself a sign-up discount.

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24. Quora

A community for questions in every arena imaginable, Quora is a great forum to promote your business as well as your expertise to people who are actively seeking your services or help. You can choose which subjects you’re experienced in, and post well-thought-out answers that will get you upvotes from other members.

You’ll want to make sure you don’t come across as a self-promoter though. Since others can follow you and see your recent activity, if all they see is a link to your own website, it’s unlikely they’ll trust you for very long. Quora only works if your answers are actually helpful to people.

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25. Drip

Drip is a marketing automation tool that converts your email contacts into potential customers. You can send email drip campaigns with automated triggers based on customer behavior. It also provides a “lead score” for each customer, showing you which customers are the most engaged.

It’s free for up to 100 subscribers, and every plan comes with unlimited emails.

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26. Leadpages

Generating leads is important for any customer-oriented business. Leadpages lets you build landing pages through their easy-to-use drag and drop tool, so you don’t need to hire a designer to build a page for you. There’s also an A/B testing tool and an SMS opt-in feature.

Check out their templates to see how you can build captivating landing pages, or try the 14-day free trial.

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27. SurveyMonkey

SurveyMonkey is a free tool for creating surveys. You can design simple, straightforward surveys for everything from market research to a customer questionnaire. The data is then visualized through multiple filters you can set up. 

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28. WordPress

WordPress is a website builder that has two main products: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. The difference between the two is that the latter is 100% customizable and self-hosted. For beginners, WordPress.com is a great option as it comes already hosted on the WordPress server, with templates you can use to build your website in no time.

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29. Mailchimp

Mailchimp is great for freelancers starting out and learning the ropes of email. You can send up to 12,000 emails to 2,000 subscribers for free. It’s a straightforward process to design your emails, as well as all other pages linked to the email list, like signup, confirmation and opt-out pages.

As your email list grows, you can upgrade to plans that give you more subscribers and features. 

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30. Campaign Monitor

A design-focused email marketing software, Campaign Monitor helps you create beautiful email campaigns. Designing your emails is a very intuitive process, as is creating a customer journey for marketing automation. A behavioral data feature is set for release soon as well.

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Customer communication tools

Need a better way to manage your communication with customers? Try these tools. 

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31. Inbox by Gmail

It’s hard to remember how we used Gmail before Inbox came along. Google’s AI works to create a neat inbox that organizes itself. Gone are the days of time-consuming filters. Some of its best features are reminders and snoozes, which lets you forget about a task until later.

Another neat function is canned responses, which are basically email templates that contain responses to frequently asked questions or requests. You can insert it into any email you write, which can save you a lot of time.

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32. Spark

Spark promises to make you like email again, and it delivers. It automatically sorts your emails, letting you know which ones are important and sending less important ones to different categories. It’s got a clean design that makes it easy to use, especially its swipe function that lets you archive an email or choose a signature.

Making an inbox seem simple and minimalist is no easy feat, but Spark comes pretty close to it. For a bit of fun, use the emoticon response to send one-line emails like “great, thanks” with one click.

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33. Zoom

You can use Zoom for HD 1:1 calls, but also for video conferences and webinars. The free version allows up to 100 participants in a meeting, so it accommodates the needs of most freelancers and side hustlers.

It integrates easily with Google or Outlook for scheduling, and launching it is as easy as clicking on a single link.

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34. DocuSign

DocuSign is a tool for signing contracts and documents online using electronic signatures. The app is free and straightforward to use. For those who want more features, DocuSign Payments allows freelancers to receive eSignatures and payments at the same time.

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35. Typeform

It’s hard to get people to answer your surveys sometimes, but Typeform’s beautiful UI makes the process enjoyable. There’s a lot more you can do with Typeform though, from registration forms to trivia quizzes.

The basic version is free and good for the occasional survey, and includes Zapier integrations. To make the most of the service, get creative and customize your forms and templates to reflect your branding.

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36. Dropbox Paper

Brought to you by the makers of Dropbox, Dropbox Paper is a beautifully-designed collaborative tool. It’s mostly useful for writing, but also great for showcasing product concepts, design and other work.

Its true appeal lies in the wonderful design that really seems to have collaboration in mind. The fact that it’s synced up to Dropbox also helps to make it a great tool for its users.

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Finance tools

It’s crucial that you have your finances under control. Check out these tools to help you better manage money. 

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37. QuickBooks

Handy for any business owner, QuickBooks is a powerful accounting software that takes care of all your business-related expenses and records. The intuitive design and mobile app make it easy for anyone to use. Because it’s so widely used, it integrates well with many other apps you might already use.

For independent contractors, there’s a separate product called QuickBooks Self-Employed, which helps you separate personal and business finances, as well as track your quarterly tax payments.

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38. Bill.com

Bill.com allows customers and clients to pay you via ACH, credit cards or PayPal. The software syncs with accounting software like QuickBooks and sends automatic invoices and reminders to customers. Additional features include cash forecasting, to help you manage your cash flow.

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39. InvoiceSherpa

If you’re all about automation in the accounts receivable process, InvoiceSherpa is an excellent tool that pulls from your accounting software to make sure you’re getting your due. It will send automatic invoices and payment reminders, then collect the money directly from your customers into your account. After that, it updates your original accounting software with the record.

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40. Expensify

Expensify generates expense reports by pulling data directly from your credit card, or scanned receipts. The tool also automates reimbursement. You can download the app to use the scanning feature (up to 10 per month if you’re on the free plan).

The free plan also includes unlimited receipt storage, while updated plans come with integrations like QuickBooks and Zenefits.

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41. TurboTax

TurboTax makes filing taxes easy by taking you through a set of questions to make sure you’re not missing out on deductions or exemptions. It also allows you to file and pay your taxes online, as well as receive tax refunds directly to your bank account.

Use the TurboTax Self-Employed to file your freelance income and keep track of expenses.

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42. Square

If you live in a major city and frequent cafes, you’ve probably seen Square in action. It’s a credit card processing software that allows retailers and small businesses to accept payments anywhere, including through iPads.

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43. TransferWise

Transferring money across the borders can get complicated, but Transferwise saves on banking fees by going through a local bank account to access the funds. This means you can essentially use the real-time exchange rate to send or receive payments and avoid getting charged by your bank.

If you frequently have to deal with international payments, they also have a Borderless account, which lets you get paid like a local and use multiple currencies.

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Whether you need to outsource some work or you’re looking for other professional services, check out these resources.

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44. Incorporate.com

Incorporate.com is a service that helps you incorporate your business into an LLC or corporation. It simplifies the process into a few quick steps and provides registered agents to help monitor your company status and make changes like moving states.

If you’re thinking about forming a legal entity but want to learn more, its Learning Center is a good resource for all things related to starting and maintaining a business.

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45. Legalzoom

Whether you want to start a business or retain copyright over your work, Legalzoom offers services and resources to cover all your legal concerns. From creating legal documents to offering attorney consultation, it’s a one-stop destination for any legal question regarding your business.

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46. Upwork

Formerly known as Elance, Upwork is a freelance marketplace for designers, developers, marketers and more. It lets you connect with freelancers to help you complete short-term projects. It works great for small projects that you need outsource.

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47. Toptal

Toptal is another platform for hiring freelancers. It claims that their pool of talent is the top 3% in their respective areas, which are engineering, design and finance. The reason for this is that they screen every applicant to ensure quality. They also match the freelancer to the project, so if you’re an employer, there’s minimal work involved.

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48. Vistaprint

Business cards, brochures, t-shirts, magnets, postcards, stickers, posters—Vistaprint has it all. It’s the place to go for advertising and marketers materials for your business. Everything can be customized with your logo and colors. And if you don’t yet have a logo, you can use their logo making tool to create one today.

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Design tools

Do you need help with design work? Check out these tools to help you out.

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49. Sketch

Sketch is a tool for graphic and UI designers that’s built exclusively for Mac. Some of its features include native text rendering, live mirror preview across multiple devices, and reusable objects, which automatically copies and pastes the same elements that pop up across several pages so you don’t have to do it manually.

It’s also great for writers who need to add visual elements to their work.

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50. Pixelmator

Pixelmator is an image editing tool for Mac and iOS that’s easy enough for beginners and powerful enough for pros. With the move tool and vector tool, you can make changes to your photos without having to learn Photoshop. You can also add Pixelmator to your Photos app and merge the features.

For professionals, the beautiful design will make it a great tool to add to your library, along with the use of PSD and RAW file formats. There’s even a painting tool for digital painters. At $29.99, it falls on the less expensive scale of similar software, and there’s a free 30-day trial.

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51. Canva

Whether you need an image for social media or a book cover for your self-published novel, Canva is the design tool to get you started. You don’t even need to know anything about design to use it, as it’s very intuitive. You can choose from their variety of needs and templates to come up with something that’s guaranteed to look good.

Canva is free, with premium options available for more designs and functions. If you’re looking to improve your design skills, they also have a design school with a blog that’s full of tips and interesting design-related topics that’s worth a read.

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52. Unsplash

Unsplash is a free online photo archive with high-quality images uploaded by users. The content is curated by Crew, the company behind the platform. Signing up for their newsletter is a good way to discover quality photos that could come in handy.

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Tools for remote workers

Whether you’re traveling while working or working while traveling, check out these tools keep you operational.

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53. NomadList

Created as a valuable resource for digital nomads, NomadList lets you discover the best cities to work from around the world. The site contains information on each city, from WiFi connectivity rating to average cost of living.

It’s also a great community for asking specific questions–you can either browse the forum discussions or join the Slack community to connect with other digital nomads in the area.

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54. Croissant

Don’t like commuting to the same coworking space everyday? Croissant is an app that allows you access to various coworking spaces in a city–currently available in NY, DC, SF, LA and Boston – without the hefty membership fee. Basically, it works by renting a certain number of hours in each space.

There are three levels of membership depending on how many hours you require per month, and you can reserve your spot on the go. Once you book your space, you can also bring guests for a fee or for a limited number of hours based on membership level. The 7-day free trial is a good place to get started if you’d like to test it out before you sign up.

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55. ShareDesk

ShareDesk is a booking platform that lists coworking spaces in 440 cities around the world. Through the website, you can book any one of these spaces by the hour, day or month. There’s no separate membership for the access.

It’s a bit like booking.com for coworking spaces, and you can also see reviews that other users have left for the space. The best part? There’s no booking fee.

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56. Breather

If you only need the occasional hour to do some work, conduct a meeting or take a team session, Breather is the place where you can search for available spaces that rent by the hour or by day.

Currently available in 9 cities across the U.S. and Canada, these spaces range from meeting rooms to dedicated desks, and are specifically designed with diverse needs in mind; there are nooks to increase focus, studies that are optimal for two people, and so on. You can search for a space based on your needs, which will determine which type of space shows up in the results.

To learn more about boosting your bottom line, check out this comprehensive guide to freelancing.

This article originally appeared on the Quickbooks Resource Center and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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