As freelance designers, we rely on many tools and resources to assist in our day to day activities and to plain and simply put – make life easier. From the software we use to the various sites that allow us to host portfolios, there’s something for every freelance designer to utilize to save time.
Freelance design involves much more than a flawless design for a client. It is a business; and you’ll need to arm yourself with the best tools to help you achieve the success that you want.
Below is a collection of our favorite different tools and resources that any freelance designer will find extremely helpful.
Design & Development Tools
Are you tired of manually slicing up your Photoshop files? Save yourself the time and trouble by letting Slicy do all the tedious work, so you can concentrate on creating the very best designs. Name the layers you wish to export (such as Header.png), then drag your PSD file into Slicy and watch as your PSD file gets broken up into separate elements. Slicy will also automatically create retina-ready images from your standard PSD files, further reducing the amount of work you have to do.
Think of Skitch as Snapchat for designers, except you also have the ability to edit images and create annotations. Communicate more clearly and quickly through images with the use of Skitch and its various features. It’s not so much a social media platform, but a productivity tool which allows users to have effective visual communication with one another. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so instead of writing long-winded emails just send them a picture with Skitch.
Bootstrap is a powerful front-end framework that allows developers and designers to easily and quickly create responsive websites. Bootstrap has the unique ability to let you customize your framework, by allocating your desired grid size. The framework will then do the necessary calculations to allow you to build a website with your desired grid size and then generate a file for you to download with all the necessary HTML and CSS files.
Designmodo’s very own design framework is built for companies who want a professional yet affordable website solution. Startup features a heavy focus on design, with the ability to change the framework to your liking. The Startup framework also comes with sleek animations and HQ images which can be used as mockups if you don’t have your own images prepared. Designmodo realizes the need for an affordable but professional website framework and has provided the necessary tools and materials for any company to build their own website.
Task and Project Management
TeamBox is a collaboration platform with a heavy focus on project management. While most freelancers may work as sole traders, there might be times when you need to work with someone else or you join/form a group. TeamBox gives you the management software you need to make collaborations a seamless experience, therefore reducing the amount of time and energy needed to manage group work.
Productivity is a problem for many freelancers, especially for those working in groups. Sometimes it can feel like the endless discussions on Skype could be reduced to a few sentences. Blimp allows you to assign tasks, create discussions, chat and manage multiple projects within its wonderful platform. Spend less time on miscellaneous tasks and more time on what you do best.
Customer Relationship Management
Are you reaching a point where you need some help to manage your customers and contacts? If you are, then you should try using Highrise. With the ability to save conversations with up to 30,000 customers and contacts, you’ll always be able to trace your old emails and remember everything you need. Avoid wasting time and awkward mistakes by using Highrise to help you manage customers and contacts.
Billing and Time Tracking
FreshBooks is a professional invoicing and time tracking tool. Proper time tracking allows you to track your productivity and ensures that you bill the correct amount. As you become more experienced in freelancing and your business grows, you will eventually need to adopt a professional invoice and payment system. FreshBooks is used by many companies and is highly recommended by high-end companies such as TechCrunch, ZDNet and Mashable.
Harvest is another invoicing and time tracking tool, with an emphasis on time tracking. It places heavy importance on its ease of use, going as far as allowing you to track your time with Harvest’s mobile app. There is no need to install any software and it takes a matter of seconds to start tracking your progress and time. Harvest also comes with invoicing and estimate creation software. Stay organized and get paid on time with Harvest.
Proposal and Contract Management
Motiv is a contract, proposal and invoicing app dedicated to providing the best proposal and contract creation for all freelance designers. It can become tedious and time-consuming to write and prepare the necessary paperwork for each job. Instead of doing it yourself each time, use Motiv to streamline the process and make it as easy and quick as possible. Time tracking will also be available on Motiv in the future.
Cage is a collaboration platform for creatives. Cage gives designers the tools they need to work together without meeting face-to-face. With great communication tools that allow you to comment and give feedback on your team’s work, you can effectively talk to one another to get the job done quicker.
Google Drive is a free file sharing app that allows you to host and share your design files. With Google Drive you can allocate who to share the file with or set it as a private file. Google Drive can also act as a digital backup of your files, which can be accessed from your mobile device and any computer. Google Drive is also tied to your Google account, which means sharing files with your Google contacts is extremely easy and it can be distributed to other Google services.
Dropbox is a popular alternative to Google Drive. They both perform the same functions, however Dropbox lacks the additional Google options and functions that Google Drive possesses such as team collaboration.
Evernote is a file sharing program with additional support and features for document sharing. It acts as a great platform for sharing documents such as PDFs with its in-built reader, and it is also great for recording and sharing notes, using its document capabilities. Once you upload or change a document in Evernote, it will automatically sync and then can be accessed in the future by any computer with Evernote installed.
Cloud App is a free-to-use file sharing application (available on the iTunes Store) for Mac OS. It’s a great choice for file sharing in creative projects because of its simple interface, integrated screenshot functions and Raindrop support (which allows you to share files directly from your Mac applications). Sharing screenshots and images is essential to a designer’s job since we all work with visuals. Share image files and show others what you’re working on with a simple drag-and-drop.
Social Media and Marketing
Buffer is a social media management app that allows you to tie your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts to one place. One of its greatest features is the ability to plan and post updates on your accounts at specific times. This means you can plan all your tweets in one go, but spread them throughout the day, thus giving you the opportunity to engage with more people. Using Buffer you will spend less time on social media, but be able to get more from your social media accounts.
HubSpot is an all-in one inbound marketing software package that aims to attract, convert and close. HubSpot believes that traditional marketing is broken and that a new approach is needed. By working with HubSpot you can convert your website/online business into a magnet for leads and then convert these leads into paying customers. Most freelancers do very little marketing or take the wrong approach and wonder why they aren’t able to attract the customers they want. If you want to take your freelance design business further, try working with HubSpot to increase your online presence.
Join one of the largest design communities in the world. Behance is a web based portfolio app which many designers use to host their work. With millions of views every month, its a good idea to host your own work on Behance, as you never know who might be looking at your designs. Behance also has an active job board which you can use to look for new jobs/clients. Designs on Behance also get displayed on the “Served” websites, such as Typography Served, Photography Served, etc, giving you a greater chance to be seen.
As a freelancer you know that there is more to freelance design than simply producing great looking graphics for your clients. You are also accountable for managing the business side of things and much, much, more. Utilize some if not all of our tools and resources to meet the demands everyday business throws at you. You’ll not only save time, but valuable energy and potentially even some money. If you have any other recommendations or would like to write about your experiences with one or more of the mentioned resources, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.