Below is my list of the most important tools and apps that I use to run my web design business (the must have tools you really need!). Of course, you may not need ALL of these tools right this minute. You may not be ready. These are MY GO TO TOOLS THAT I USE TO RUN MY WEB DESIGN BUSINESS EVERYDAY…and I’ll explain why in full detail!
Overall, these tools and applications help me:
– Work more efficiently
– Track, Track, Track
– Project manage my clients
– Collaborate with other freelancers and clients
– Spend less time on billing and invoicing
Here’s the list of tools that I use to keep my web design and marketing business projects moving forward (and I’ll give you all the specific reasons why below):
Basecamp is a project management tool that has been a game changer. For the 10 years prior, I used Microsoft Excel to manage my projects, however, as I took on more projects Excel became too cumbersome. And I’ll explain why.
What Basecamp Does
I work with both clients and other freelancers to complete web and marketing projects. Basecamp makes it super easy to assign projects to freelancers and manage the project in a single location. Before, I wasted precious time by looking back through many emails to find files, notes and archived client emails. Basecamp keeps track of everything in one project folder. You can break down larger projects into smaller daily to-do lists. It makes overwhelming projects seem manageable. I’m able to track all of my projects and sync with my Google Calendar for project and event reminders.
How Basecamp Helps
As I took on more projects, Excel was just not working for me anymore. I was too overwhelmed by the sheer number of projects. Basecamp has an appealing visual interface and helps me efficiently organize projects and collaborate with others. My cost for Basecamp is $20 per month.
ADOBE CREATIVE CLOUD
As much as I did not want to pay for Adobe software on a monthly basis, after many years of upgrading the software to keep up with changing technology, I bit the bullet.
What Adobe Does
Adobe Creative Cloud syncs all of Adobe applications together and keeps me up-to-date with the latest Adobe software. My business is web design and marketing. Therefore, it’s important to keep up with the latest trends in software. I use Photoshop and Dreamweaver on a daily basis as well as Illustrator and InDesign. As a professional web designer, I could not imagine doing my job without this software.
How Adobe Helps
Adobe Creative Cloud makes it easy to download and get access to the latest Adobe software. I don’t have to worry about downtime or back-ups. The software is readily available! My cost is $52.99 per month for the Adobe Creative Cloud Software.
GO DADDY WORDPRESS HOSTING
I have tried many different hosting providers including Network Solutions, A2 hosting, Bluehost and Host Gator to name a few. I have even managed my own server where I was paid to keep my Clients’ websites up and running. For those less experienced with the day-to-day hassles of website maintenance, I feel Go Daddy WordPress Hosting is a good option (I know it is not the only option, but it has worked for me).
What Go Daddy Does
Go Daddy WordPress Hosting manages the day-to-day WordPress maintenance hassles. WordPress is a fantastic platform for your website, however, it is known to have spam issues and can easily be hacked. Even if you are a knowledgeable web designer, you still need to update software, upgrade plugins (and look for outdated ones), update themes and other ongoing maintenance issues. If you don’t want this hassle, Go Daddy WordPress Hosting may be a good option. It is a bit more pricey, however, Go Daddy handles the WordPress management. Another great option that specializes in WordPress is WP Engine (I haven’t personally used this hosting yet).
How Go Daddy Helps
Takes the worry away from dealing with maintenance issues with WordPress, so you can focus on making your website super awesome! The Go Daddy WordPress Hosting Developer package costs me $12.49 per month and I host 5 websites with this plan.
Dropbox has been another game changer for me. Dropbox makes it incredibly easy to share files with clients, other designers and anyone else.
What Dropbox Does
Have you ever sent a file through your email and your client could not open the file? You can upload your files to Dropbox and easily share the files through a link or folder. Often times, the file is too large to send through email and Dropbox takes care of this headache. I easily share and send files to my Clients and to other freelancers involved in my projects.
How Dropbox Helps
I use Dropbox to easily share files with anyone. I backup my files to Dropbox and I don’t have to worry about losing files on my computer. I also AUTO back-up my websites to Dropbox. Check out this how to tutorial about backing up WordPress in five simple steps to Dropbox. I pay $99 per year for 1 TB of space on Dropbox.
Writing website and marketing proposals can be a very time-consuming task. I used Proposify to create templates for all of my proposals.
What Proposify Does
It takes a headache out of proposal writing and I create templates based on common projects. I have created project templates for…Branding and Identity, Monthly Maintenance, WordPress Web Design, and eCommerce. When I start a new proposal, I pick up the existing template and customize based on the specific project and costs.
Another great feature…I can email the completed proposal through Proposify with pre-written email templates and I can view when (or if) the Client opens the proposal email.
How Proposify Helps
I find proposal writing to be both time consuming and tedious. I don’t love it. But Proposify makes the proposal process faster and a little less painful. My cost is $30 per month and even though it’s pricey, Proposify has saved me precious time every month.
I feel like Harvest was created with web designers and freelancers in mind. Harvest is a simple time tracking and invoicing tools that help me track my billable hours by project and client. I invoice my clients either by project or by billable hours, and set-up auto reminders for past due invoices.
What Harvest Does
I track all of my projects based on billable hours. A common issue with freelancers is often times the project changes. If the project changes or I start to go over in hours, I alert the client. This keeps the project in budget and reasonable for the client. If certain projects continue to go over, I can adjust future proposals based on more realistic hours.
How Harvest Helps
I’m much more aware of the number of hours I spend on a project. At the end of the project, I review and evaluate my time and figure out how to improve for the next project. In addition, I’m quickly able to send invoices to my clients. Through Harvest… I’m able to accept payments by check or online with Stripe (or Pay Pal). I get paid faster and on time, making my job as a web designer and small business owner hassle-free. I LOVE Harvest 🙂 Harvest costs just $12 per month and is worth every penny.
I have to be honest, I struggled with Quickbooks for years. Until I embraced it. Quickbooks is the bookkeeping software I use (and my accountant recommends).
What Quickbooks Does
I use Quickbooks to record all of my check and credit card deposits, bank charges and credit card charges. I provide the up-to-date file to my accountant, who helps reconcile my bank statements.
How Quickbooks Helps
Quickbooks keeps my billing under control and manageable for my accountant (and me!). I’m not going to lie, since I’m more of a creative type, there was a learning curve. However, once I decided to embrace Quickbooks (and make it my friend), I was more aware of my billing and became an improved business owner. You can’t run a business, without understanding your books! Quickbooks for the Self-Employed costs $7.99 per month. Fresh Books is another great option.
This seems like an obvious one, but Google Calendar keeps me organized, organized, organized! I use Google Calendar to add upcoming meetings, recurring events or important project deadlines and reminders.
What Google Does
I create my important reminders or events, and Google Calendar syncs to my phone, computer and Basecamp (project management tool).
How Google Helps
I review my Google Calendar and plan my schedule / to do list according to the daily events. I can’t possibly remember everything, so the calendar keeps me super organized and reminds me about important upcoming events. The cost is FREE.
If you’ve got a crazy brain like me, you need Evernote. If you are constantly coming up with ideas and need a place to file them, then Evernote is for you.
What Evernote Does
Evernote tracks all of your creative ideas, emails, links and clips notes and ideas from everywhere. I finally found a place to put all of my ideas and inspirations. It’s Evernote!
How Evernote Helps
Sometimes you have an idea. Evernote helps to organize these ideas for now (or later). You can brainstorm a list of blog ideas to Evernote then write them later. You can also forward important emails to Evernote and organize them in to workspace folders. The basic account is FREE. If you upgrade to the business to Evernote Plus, it costs $24.99 per year.
What tools do you use to achieve success in your web design, freelance or small business? I’d love to know!
Disclaimer: These are simply my recommendations based on personal success in my web design business.