Below is a list of the tools and resources I use on a daily basis for my freelancing business.
Tools will not make you a great designer, but choosing carefully from the start will save you time and money and enable you to focus on doing more of what you love. While there are many other tools I use in my business, these are the most valuable.
I wasted a lot of time trying out all the other options, I wish I had found this one sooner. Harvest offers a complete system for time tracking, invoicing, estimating, and project management. Every second I work is tracked through Harvest. It's easy to use and always being updated, invoices look great, and there is a large customer base giving me confidence they will be around in the future.
Typography is a huge passion of mine. There are a number of sites I use for font purchases and inspiration, but I have found MyFonts to be consistently more affordable and has one of the largest libraries on the internet. MyFonts also offers the popular What The Font application, which allows you to upload any image or photo to see what fonts are being used.
I use Graphic River for almost all of my branding mock-ups. This gives the client the ability to visualise a design before approval, which I find can be even more important when you have a 'minimalist' design approach. I also find it very valuable for portfolio items where you may not have time initially to photograph your work.
I use the Pantone Formula Guides for every branding project. Screen colours can vary greatly from device to device, so actual printed ink on paper is the most reliable method. This will ensure correct and consistent colour results for your clients, managing their expectations and speeding up conversations with printing companies. It also makes you look far more professional.
Most potential clients won't call or email you until they have enough information. Live chat enables you to provide this information immediately. Once they realise you aren't an automated robot, you are showing them you are transparent, and ready to work with them immediately. Zopim integrates easily with one simple script on your website, and the mobile app means you can respond to visitors wherever you are.
Can't live without it. Creative Cloud had a bumpy start, and a backlash from their existing non-cloud customers. Creative Cloud allows monthly paid subscription plans, and I have personally found this to be much more useful for keeping applications up to date, and working with my cash flow. All the early technical issues I experienced have also been solved.
The first lesson I learnt when starting my own freelance graphic design business was the importance of correctly structuring your files and directories. The second lesson was that in order to keep having these files and directories, you must back them up! SugarSync helped me through multiple system crashes. It has a fast upload speed, great mobile app, and sharing features.
With no formal study in design, these books formed the foundations of my design skills.
You could argue that this isn't something that saves time or money. But a good playlist can really increase your productivity. Check out my playlist below: