These tools help us to stay organised, improve our productivity, keep us up to date with industry news and allow us to network with other professionals. Rather than rattle off a list of stuff I use every now and then, I’m going to talk about the tools & resources I use day in, day out and how they fit into my daily routine.
Dribbble is a show and tell platform for designers to share small screenshots of the designs they’re working on. I browse the pages everyday simply because I find it interesting to see what people are working on and I like to leave feedback and words of encouragement where I can. I also find it useful because as a Freelancer I often work alone so it’s nice to be able to upload a shot of my work every now and then and get some feedback from other designers.
Another benefit of Dribbble is that people often use it to search for and hire new talent. I myself have had a handful of enquiries since joining and it’s required no more effort than simply uploading and tagging my work. This shows that just by having your work on there it automatically opens the door for new opportunities.
Keeping up to date with all that’s happening in design can be very difficult without the right tools. There’s only so much content you can consume each day and over the last two years I’ve been trying to cut down as much as possible. My aim has been quality over quantity and along the way I’ve tried all sorts of content curation tools such as Zite, Flipboard, Summify and Sidebar. These are all great tools but for me the best solution so far has been syncing my Google Reader account with Feedly. Google Reader gives me some form of quality control by allowing me to subscribe to the blogs of my choice and then Feedly simply makes it faster and easier for me to browse through all of that content on my iPhone. Now every night when I go to bed I set aside some reading time in which I’ll use feedly to look for interesting or useful articles. The best of which I can then share on Twitter the next day.
As well as Feedly I’ve also recently started using Designer News, which for someone who’s trying to cut back on the amount of content they consume has been a bit of a godsend. It’s purpose is a platform to share and discuss things happening in design and so far the quality of the links that have been posted has been excellent. This is probably down to the fact that it’s invite-only, but you don’t have to be a member to make use of the content.
I’ve also found it to be a helpful tool for discovering blogs and writers whose work I wasn’t already familiar with, which is quite a refreshing change from the stuff I see on Feedly.
Buffer is an app that changed the way I use Twitter. The way it works is you create a schedule telling your Buffer at what times to post each day. You then fill up that schedule by adding articles, pictures and videos to your Buffer which will then be automatically posted for you throughout the day. In my case I use it to share the most interesting and useful articles I read while browsing Feedly and Designer News. I’ve found it to be a really great way of keeping my Twitter profile active on busy work days and providing my followers with a consistent stream of relevant content.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 6 years you’ll know all about Twitter. For us designers it’s a great way to connect with new people, promote our work and keep up to date with the latest in design. I’m certainly no Twitter pro but out of everything on this list it’s definitely had the biggest impact on my business. It’s helped me to find new clients and discover valuable opportunities that I never would have otherwise. How I’ve done this I think comes down to simply following the right people – designers, developers, copywriters, entrepreneurs and bloggers. For instance, I certainly wouldn’t have come across these opportunities by following only my favourite tv personalities.
How and when I use Twitter really depends on what I’ve got going on during the day. I try not to get too caught up in it while I’m working so I usually limit myself to 10-15 minutes in the morning and then let Buffer do the hard work while I get my head down. This is usually until the evening or during less busy periods when it’s more likely that I’ll have the desktop client running in the background, which allows me dip in and out.
Gimme Bar is a bookmarking tool that allows you to save just about anything you find on the web, whether it’s images, videos, text, or entire pages, which you can then organise into collections for easy finding later on. For me this makes it a great tool for not only saving the stuff I like but it also comes in really handy for collating bits of research for my projects.
This one is a lifesaver. Out of the few I’ve tried, Wunderlist is the only to-do app I’ve ever stuck with because it does genuinely keep me organised. The main features include multiple lists, due dates, reminders, recurring and subtasks, all of which I use daily. I have 3 main lists related to work. One for client work and general duties, one for my daily routine – which I use to keep track of the stuff I do everyday, and finally, one for meetings and appointments.
When it comes to keeping track of my finances I like to keep things simple. Microsoft Excel might not be anything special when compared to other book keeping software, but it gets the job done. The trick is just making sure you keep on top of everything, which so far I think I’ve managed to do a pretty good job of. However, if you are one to put admin work off for as long as you can then it might be a good idea to look at alternatives such as Freshbooks.
Spotify is a music streaming service that gives users access to millions of tracks for free so it’s perfect for listening to music while you work. I myself have one big playlist which I’ll start at the beginning of the day, click shuffle and see where it takes me.
Setting my portfolio up on Squarespace is one of the best decisions I’ve made in relation to my own website. The original version was built on WordPress and as I don’t really code I had to hire someone whenever I wanted to implement changes to the design. This involved a lot of waiting around and I always felt like I wanted something where I could be a bit more hands on, so I could get stuff done straight away. That’s exactly what I found with Squarespace. The combination of the style editor and LayoutEngine technology makes it a breeze to make changes and any customisation on top of that can be done with basic coding skills. Not only is making changes to the design easier but overall I’ve found it to be a much simpler way of maintaining my portfolio and blog. An added bonus to using Squarespace is that the customer support is probably the best that I’ve ever dealt with.
And there we have it folks. If you’re just starting out or thinking about going freelance I hope this gave you a good idea of the sort of stuff you need to look into.
If you have any questions or are a freelancer yourself and would like to share the tools & resources you use on a daily basis, feel free to use the comments section below.