The end of the year is close and I think it’s about time I do a brief post on the kind of tools and resources that have helped me to efficiently run my freelance business throughout the year. While this list only includes my personal experiences with each tool, it might help you with evaluating your work processes as a freelancer in the upcoming year – there might be a tool you’d like to give a go next year. Putting together this list I was genuinely surprised how few tools I actually use on a regular basis and how many of them are either free of charge or available for a quite a small fee. So here we go!
Obviously as a freelance web designer who solely works with Webflow (yep, now WordPress or Squarespace projects for me), Webflow is the number one tool in my arsenal. While I don’t use Webflow for actually designing a website (I use other tools for that), I use Webflow for building the site so it can go live. I’m currently on the “Lite” plan which lets me build up to 10 projects. Since I usually transfer projects to the client upon completion or work directly within the client’s account if it is maintenance/support work for an existing site, I’m fine with this limit. I might upgrade at a later point in time if my situation should change and I need to keep more projects in my account at once.
If you are not using Webflow yet, you can sign up for an account here: https://webflow.com/
This is my invoicing, quoting, and time tracking tool of choice. The all-in-one package lets me send contracts and quotes, create invoices and keep track of my expenses and earnings. It even has an app that lets you have an overview over your business on the go! Nice! I have written a short review of the tool in a previous blog post, but will publish a more in-depth look at Hello Bonsai shortly.
If you’d like to give Hello Bonsai a try, you can check it out here: https://www.hellobonsai.com/
The digital design tools Figma, Sketch and Adobe XD (Experience Design) are now the go-to tools for creating digital interfaces. I use a particular tool depending on the project requirements and export the appropriate assets to be used in Webflow. However, I must say that most projects are still completed using Sketch, the tool I have worked with the longest.
Look at Sketch here: https://www.sketch.com/
And dive into Figma here: https://www.figma.com/
Who doesn’t know Photoshop and the remaining products of the Adobe Creative Cloud? For my freelance business I mainly use Photoshop for basic image editing, and Illustrator for web icons. As mentioned above, for some projects I utilise Adobe XD. Every now and then Adobe InDesign is being used for brochures (one-off projects I do for a certain client). I have often considered switching to Affinity and its amazing set of design tools, but have not made the jump yet. This is something I am still evaluating and considering for the upcoming year…
This free little image optimization tool for the Mac allows me to quickly optimize the file size of image assets I export from Figma or Sketch. It allows lossless as well as lossy compression and works with all the regular file format you might need for the web. Got and get it if you’re on a Mac! And if I’m on a Windows computer (which unfortunately still happens sometimes) I use the web based service TinyJPG.
I really like Trello. The tool helps me stay organised and makes sure I always know what’s to be done next. I have different boards for business and my personal live and frequently use the checklist feature to tick off tasks that have been completed within a particular project. Trello works especially well for me as I don’t need a fully-fledged CRM or project management tool and mainly use it to keep organized myself, not to interact with clients.
Give Trello a go here: Trello
You see, there aren’t really that many tools that are essential for my Webflow design business. I deliberately try and keep the monthly costs low and only bring new software on board after careful evaluation. So check out some of my favorite tools for 2019 – some of them might come in handy for your next client project as well!