Infographic of the Day: Solo Charts Your Freelance Finances

Solo lets freelancers manage their careers in a single, gorgeous program -- grids and all!

I worked as a freelance writer for several years and sucked royally at it. Between the deadlines and the billing and the convoluted tax documents, I could barely handle one assignment at a time, let alone the four or five needed to make a living. Excel -- horrid, torturous, spiteful Excel -- was of no help. What a shame Solo wasn't around then.

Solo is a project-management tool for freelancers, and it is gorgeous. It's got all the requisite templates for self-organization, from invoices to contact sheets, stuffed into a single program, and with its grids and elegant Clarendon type, it looks like a beautifully executed print page. Designer Jerome Iveson tells Co. about his inspiration:

During my time as a designer I've used many different methods manage my time and juggle multiple projects. Paper based, desktop apps, early web apps: I've tried them all. They were either too expensive or didn't fit my workflow. A few years ago I decided to develop Solo. A lot of apps seem to be lacking visually. I'm not going to lie to you; my main inspiration was better design.

But more than a pretty log, Solo is designed to give visual form to the business of freelancing. Your monthly hours and turnover are rendered as line graphs. Circles show what percentage of individual projects are done and change colors as the projects nears deadline. In short, you get an instant snapshot of how you're using your hours, instead of a bunch of meaningless numbers strewn all over a spreadsheet (we mean you, Excel!). That, in turn, makes it easier to maximize your profits.

It's a brilliant gesture to the culture of freelancing, which loves its freedom but doesn't always exhibit the keenest financial savvy. Here, simple data viz helps you track your progress, which means you spend more time being the wonderfully liberated creative you are and less time at the calculator.

One drawback: Solo is $10 a month or $100 a year. That seems awfully steep at a time when folks are accustomed to getting apps for free or on the cheap. Besides, there are other, less expensive project-management programs out there, albeit ones of inferior design. The question is whether Solo's sleek look -- and its corollary usability -- add enough equity to make the tool a worthwhile investment. For me, it would have. I can guarantee you that the money I would've saved if I'd had an easy-peasy system for organizing my freelance career would've stretched way beyond $100 a year. Which reminds me: Someone still owes me a paycheck. Now if I only I could figure out who.

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4 Comments

  • Mary Agnes

    A key piece
    to tracking time and timesheets and invoices that I need to prepare for a
    variety of clients has definitely been using a simple Time Tracker. I choose to
    use OfficeTime for this because it's easy and the reporting works exceptionally
    well for me. The new versions for iPhone and iPad focus on ease-of-use, recognizing
    that if time tracking is simple to do, users will be more likely to take the
    time to do it. (And it's like $7.99 or something.)  OfficeTime takes great care to minimize how many finger taps it
    takes to do something. It can preselect the most common task for a project,
    allow one tap entry of common notes, and let users edit anything they can see,
    even in a report, with a tap. Super easy, super effective.

     

     Mary Agnes Antonopouloshttp://itunes.appl...

  • Martina

    I agree with the previous commenter, Solo looks neat but it's really frustrating to use! I tried to make the switch and it just seemed too focused on creating pretty charts and less focused on actually managing the work. And on a basic compatibility level, all of the clients I work with use Basecamp, so it makes sense for freelancers like myself to also use it.

  • Thinkwell

    Solo is a beautiful web application. However, I have signed up for it and it is not very user friendly. For an application that is suppose to help manage your time and finances that's counter intuitive.