As a designer, you know the tools of your trade: you’ve got apps like Photoshop and DreamWeaver and specialty tools like FontLab installed and ready to go. But what about the business and administration apps? What do you use to deal with tasks involved with bookkeeping and client collaboration? Marketing your services and lead generation? If you want to run a freelance business from home, try these twenty apps on for size (many of them let you start for free!).
Every freelancer needs to track time and issue invoices, and usually those invoices need to use time tracking data. Paymo has the best time tracking tools around and makes it ridiculously easy to transfer that data to the right invoice, so you get paid more.
Backpack is a great organizational tool, for yourself or for a small team including subcontractors. Manage documents, plan your schedule and more with Backpack.
DesignCrowd is the best ‘crowdsourcing site’ around for finding work (or outsourcing overflow design) because they pay ‘participation payments’ to designers (so it’s no spec). DC features traditional job listings as well as design contests to keep your skills in shape during quiet periods.
Remember the Milk
Remember the Milk is a great online task manager that you can access anywhere. While their homepage design isn’t that flash, the tool is functional and they offer a free account and about 20+ languages.
Invoicera is our billing & invoicing weapon of choice – a simple & very effective tool for any freelancer / entrepreneur!
Mint helps you manage your finances and see where money is coming in and going out, all for free. It’s a great way to get an overview of your business’ financial situation and keep on top of it.
Wunderlist is a great to-do list app that has two main selling points: it’s super simple when compared to apps like Remember the Milk, and it has really good (and really simple) sharing features. If you need to share task lists with others, such as subcontractors or clients, get Wunderlist.
Dropbox is an app that allows you to store several gigabytes worth of data in the cloud and have it synchronized and accessible between all your devices. And if you need to share large files with someone, Dropbox’s sharing features make it the best way to handle those scenarios.
Echosign (recently bought by Adobe!) is the best way to get stuff signed over the net. No need to print or scan contracts every time you start a new gig – BEST!
Basecamp (also from 37signals) is project management software on steroids. For most people the project management capabilities in an app like Paymo will do the trick without adding to your bills, but for planning junkies, a more in-depth app like Basecamp is worth a look.
Campfire is a team chat application, designed to provide instant messaging like Skype does but with a focus on team collaboration, which means it includes attachment sharing and better transcript archival.
XE Universal Currency Converter
XE Universal Currency Converter is a quick and easy way to get an accurate conversion number between currencies — something most digital age freelancers need to do very frequently.
Wufoo is a form building application that makes it super easy to build everything from a lowly contact form to a new client questionnaire to get all the details you need before you begin a job.
Highrise is a simple customer relationship management application, which allows you to store details of your clients and other contacts and keep notes on them — not to mention the all-important followup reminder.
Every freelancer needs business stationery, and if you’ve been doing what you’re supposed to do with business cards (giving them out relentlessly) you’ll need a reliable way to get more quickly. MOO is super affordable and ships quickly.
Field a lot of the same emails? Or just find yourself repeatedly typing certain things that could be made easier by an expander, such as a phone number you never quite get right? TextExpander is the best app in the game for Mac users.
LastPass is a password manager with a range of perks. For one, clients who need to give you access to one of their accounts but don’t want to divulge the password can do so. Secondly, you get access to every password you’ve ever had across all the devices you owned with no need to worry about remembering them all.
In theory, Spotlight is a great launcher — until your hard drive gets cluttered and your machine starts to take the toll of everyday use. Enter Alfred, which is always fast for application launching and provides a range of Quicksilver-esque power features such as controlling iTunes, copying, moving and emailing files and folders and more.
We all know Skype as a great/free VoIP tool. But did you know it lets you claim a professional number (in any country), make cheap calls locally and abroad, and free calls to other users. It can make you seem ‘bigger than you are’ and is helpful for your clients. No web worker should be without it.
Mailchimp is an email marketing tool. Use it to build an email list, find email templates, send newsletters and get useful analytics back after a campaign.
Designers (especially web designers) need a great text editor. TextMate is a Mac text editor and is a great alternative to Vim.
Got an app you love using in your freelance business? Let us know in the comments!