20 Business Apps for Freelance Designers

Categories Articles

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!).

Paymo

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.

Paymo

Backpack

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

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.

Crowdsourcing Site

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

Invoicera is our billing & invoicing weapon of choice – a simple & very effective tool for any freelancer / entrepreneur!

Mint

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

highrise

MOO

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.

TextExpander

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

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.

Alfred

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.

Skype

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

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.

TextMate

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!

Catalin is the founder of Mostash - a social marketing boutique - and he's always happy to share his passion for graphic design & social media.
  • Linda Patterson

    Don’t forget about http://www.tallyzip.com

    They do online invoicing, accounting, crm, and task management in one app for one low price.

  • Peter D.

    Skype for business is terrible. I’ve given it multiple chances, and that “I look bigger than I am” concept, is immediately gone as you embarrassingly have to call the client from your cell phone because the call quality was so terrible that neither of you could understand each other. Tends to work fine for the first minute or two, afterwards it’s horrendous. Sometimes even my voicemail has a glitchy quality to it.

    It’s pretty much a $60/year voicemail for me right now. So wish I could get my money back. Just get a standard phone line and if you want to look bigger, pay for an 800 number.

  • Also http://desktime.com for your time and productivity analysis.

  • Renee Paulino

    These are great! Thank-you so much for sharing this…very helpful!

  • Mike Miller

    If you are a freelancer, you will need a way to take notes and structure your ideas. I use an app called MagicalPad http://www.magicalpad.com it is a hybrid between outliner and mindmapping. Fascinating freeform layout with drag and drop of notes and lists. You can drag/drop to split and merge lists, create a light simple checklist and export to all kind of formats to DropBox, Google Docs, Evernote and email.
    Quite outstanding for the $0.99 they are charging now!

  • Great!! This kind of recomendations are very useful, thanks for sharing.
    BTW. the MOO link is broken.

  • Insane list! Thank you!

  • This is a great list and I use Moo for all my pro printing needs. I think its also apt to mention not only design resources but also things that will help web designers in their freelancing efforts.

    Basecamp, Wave Accounting, Adobe Kuler for iOS, Froont and Highrise to name a few.

    You can read a more in depth breakdown here: http://wp.me/p3G1v2-uU

    Subtle patterns is also something I use pretty frequently, especially since they package a retinal version of each pattern in the downloads.

  • Jane Berry

    Don’t forget about http://www.proofhub.com for organization and freelancers!

  • Creative Snap

    great list! and very helpful. fortunately I knew also a platform that helps freelancers, designer for their project guys its called creativesnap.co it has e signature and more features like, online proposals, contract, and also online proofing that handles your projects. all in one platform we called Creative Snap. you can start and finished your project through this platform with online messaging and notifications.