Resources for Freelance Designers

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by Philip Gwynne | Design , Business

During my years as a freelance designer, I’ve discovered a huge amount of resources that have not only helped with my work but have also improved my workflow, productivity and business practices.

I’ve collated a list of resources that I’ve found to be the most helpful over the years – some of which I simply couldn’t do without now. There are a few well-known ones listed below, but hopefully you’ll find some lesser-known gems amongst them that will help you too!

Software

Invoicing and Accounting:

Wave Accounting (Free)
Wave is my go-to software for invoicing and accounting, it works wonderfully and I’m still astounded that it’s free! They offer free invoicing and receipt recording apps that are available on mobile devices too – the latter being a complete gamechanger when it comes to recording and logging expenses, and it does so in a matter of seconds!

Productivity

Noisli (from Free)
Noisli is my favourite background noise generator. It includes many high-quality sounds to help you to focus and concentrate while working or studying, helping to boost your creativity and productivity. It comes in the form of a free web app and chrome extension, or alternatively, there are low cost iOS and Android apps available.

f.lux (Free)
f.lux changes your computer display to adapt to the time of day, so it’s warm at night and like sunlight during the day. It stops your eyes from straining under blue light, which is especially helpful when working late but also matches the colour of the display to the environment you’re in. If you need accurate colours for a piece of work, you can simply turn it off until you’re done.

Project Management:

Active Collab (from $25.00 per month)
Active Collab may look as though it’s a replica of Basecamp 2 but it certainly outperforms Basecamp when it comes to features! This is the most comprehensive project management software I’ve found, including time tracking and invoicing too. You can also pay a one-off fee and install it on your own server instead of paying for a subscription.

Asana (from Free)
Asana is a popular choice for project management and was one of the first of it’s kind to offer a free option that doesn’t hugely limit the user. It’s works wonderfully for collaborating between both teams and clients, and it’s premium offering is good value and well priced.

Basecamp ($99 per month)
The original project management hero, Basecamp, is one of most (if not the most) popular project management tools on the web to date. It works great – we use it at CPI, but for freelancers they’ve now priced themselves too high in my opinion. Still, if money’s no problem, definitely give Basecamp a go.

Producteev (from Free)
Producteev is a task manager for teams. It works brilliantly for tracking projects and working in collaboration with other designers. However, it does seem to lack client features, so quickly looping in a client to update them or ask for feedback still has to be done by other means.

Time Tracking:

Hours (from Free)
Hours time tracking app is available across multiple devices and operating systems. It allows easy time tracking by keeping a running list of timers that you can switch between with one tap or click.

Toggl (from Free)
My personal favourite time tracking app, Toggle, is available for free for up to 5 team members and allows you to view reports and organise your time by projects and tags.

Books

A Field Guide to Freelancer Finances
If you sometimes feel like you’re out in the wilderness without a compass when it comes to finances, this guide can help you stay on the right path. This free ebook by FreeAgent is full of practical finance tips by designers and developers.

Design Is a Job (from $11.00)
Mike Monteiro’s book about navigating the business of design is a must have for any designer. His book acts as a guide that covers all aspects of design as a business, from contracts to selling design, to working with clients and other designers. Even if you’re a seasoned freelancer, you’ll find this book extremely valuable.

Podcasts

Happy Mondays
Happy Mondays was a short-burst, industry podcast where a new episode would be released every Monday. It’s finished now, but the archive is still available and features a lot of valuable and insightful industry content. It was hosted by Josh Long and Sarah Parmenter, who invited a new guest to join them in each episode.

Overtime
Overtime is Dribbble’s official podcast and audio companion, hosted by Dan Cederholm. With each episode, Dan talks to different creatives, discussing their stories, processes and insights.

Unfinished Business
Every two weeks, Andy Clarke and his guests discuss design, the web and more on his popular Unfinished Business podcast.

Online

Contract Killer
Andy Clarke, one of the UK’s best known web designers and owner of Stuff & Nonsense, open sourced his own web design/development contract. It provides an excellent starting point for writing your own contract, even if you’re not a web designer – and remember, don’t start any work without a contract in place! It’ll protect you as well as your client.

F*ck You, Pay Me
Mike Monteiro talks about clients who don’t pay and what you can do to protect yourself, aptly titled “F*ck You, Pay Me”. It is one of Creative Mornings’ most watched videos, and deservedly so. This doesn’t just apply to designers but anyone who runs a business. You owe it to yourself to watch it and learn.

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