As a freelance designer, you’ll want to have a solid set of tools in your arsenal. But, as you can imagine, most posts compile close to hundreds of different tools, most of which carry out the same functionality and aren’t really necessary to get the job done.
In addition to that, most of them are written by freelance writers who’ve never even sued all of the tools mentioned in the list post they wrote which makes the information pretty useless to anyone who is actually looking to find out what tools they need as a core part of their design work as a professional.
Nobody should obsess over having more software.
We know the exact tools you need because these are the ones that actual designers really use to do incredible work – so let’s dive right in:
1. WP FeedBack
We’re obviously a bit biased on this one, but we’ve been told time and time again by our customers that WP FeedBack has absolutely revolutionized the web design client feedback loop. If improving client communication isn’t something you want to do, which I can’t imagine is the case then WP FeedBack might actually not be for you.
But if it seems like you spend ages on the phone with clients explaining which part of the site they’re referring to or get emails with 100s of screenshots attached, WP FeedBack will save you both time and stress.
WP FeedBack lets you easily collect feedback and respond to it on your sites or from a centralized dashboard that connects to all of your clients’ websites.
Sketch is one of a number of pieces of software that can be used to prototype designs before implementing with WordPress (which we’ll take a look at next). A number of professional freelance designers and web design agencies started adopting Sketch as a part of their workflow following Steve Schoger of RefactoringUI where he not only teaches designers but also documents rebuilding and improving existing websites using Sketch in real-time on his YouTube channel.
Thanks to software like Elementor and Beaver Builder, a number of people have also eliminated this step from their design process entirely.
In theory, rapid iteration on a live version of a website where you can also collect feedback is far more effective than creating, demoing, adjusting a prototype only to then also have to make the changes on the live site as well.
That being said, if you choose to still separate the design & development process from each other and don’t use Sketch, here are some other alternatives:
WordPress is without a doubt the world’s best content management system – officially powering over 1/3rd of the entire internet it’s become the platform of choice for millions of business owners all over the world.
And this isn’t a coincidence so if you aren’t already using WordPress as a web design agency or freelancer, it’s about time to start!
I’m an avid Basecamp user personally and we wouldn’t be able to organize and effectively execute work for clients without it. However, depending on the stage of your business and how you work with team members, subcontractors, and virtual assistants you may not find this option suitable.
The project management and productivity industry is full of software and ongoing debates about what the best way to manage a business is. At ScaleMath, we proudly use Basecamp to house our team as well as for client collaboration – however, WP FeedBack is heavily invested in Teamwork’s suite of products.
On that note, here are some other popular alternatives that are definitely worth checking out if you haven’t settled on a solution that suits you and your workflow yet:
4. Better Proposals
A huge part of running your business is sales – getting clients and then actually closing deals. An all-time favorite among the web design community is Better Proposals.
Better Proposals makes it extremely easy to create a proposal and even guides you through the entire process, showing you what you should consider including every step of the way to ensure your proposal has all the information that it needs.
Although a lot of people will convince you by saying that you need complicated software to create effective proposals, I personally still use Google Docs for all of my proposals because I recognize that clients don’t actually care all that much about what the proposals look like. What’s more important to them is the actual content of the proposal being useful to them
Getting paid for the work that you do is one of the most important parts of the entire process because, after all, you want to be able to continue working with clients and put food on the table. 🌮
Wave is an excellent free solution that works well to begin with, however, they have just grandfathered their integration with banks so you have to manually reconcile your accounts which some people have found to be frustrating.
Personally, this is my least favorite part of running a business. Not getting paid – I love that part – but the actual organization of everything and keeping track of expenses, which is why the first thing I did after incorporating was hiring an accounting firm that would be able to lift this weight off of my shoulders.
- QuickBooks Online
As a web designer, a premium managed WordPress host like Kinsta is a must-have.
We actually use Kinsta to the website you’re currently reading this on. Yes, you read that right – WP FeedBack trusts and relies on Kinsta’s managed WordPress hosting! And if that’s not enough of an endorsement, I don’t know what is. 😄
Evidently Kinsta isn’t for everyone. When it comes to WordPress, as with most things there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. So if you’re not looking for managed WordPress hosting, and are looking for something more inexpensive – here are some other web hosts worth looking into:
Now that you have a premium managed WordPress host like Kinsta, next up is a solid WordPress backup plugin.
Fortunately, that’s exactly where BlogVault comes in.
BlogVault is trusted by over 400,000 sites worldwide, including some extremely well-known brands in the WordPress industry. It’s an absolute must-have because the simple restore & staging workflow will save you countless hours when testing complex changes on client sites – or recovering a site due to changes that were made…
Evidently, there are alternatives to BlogVault – although it’s our personal favorite backup solution as well, here are alternative options worth looking into:
Having a great sales CRM is equally as important as having the ability to craft the perfect proposals.
Pipedrive is another all-time favorite among the community thanks to how easy they make it to monitor the stage that every deal is currently in as well as all of the emails associated with a specific company.
You’ll be glad to hear that Pipedrive is also very reasonably priced – especially when compared to some of the other CRMs out there – with their plans starting at just $12.50/month.
The CRM that you choose to rely on will depend on where you’re at so if you’re just starting out I would definitely recommend trying out HubSpot’s free version. But if you’re willing to spend even more and want a piece of software that is really focused on sales and has everything you and your team could possibly need, Close is the way to go.
ProofHub is an excellent project management and online collaboration software for designers. It gives you a central place for all your tasks and communications. One of the best things in ProofHub is its intuitive online proofing tool that makes the file review process easy, quick and streamlined.
Used by more than 85,000+ teams and businesses from all over the world, ProofHub offers a lot more than any other project management tool in the market, at a fraction of the cost. However, there are plenty of other tools in the market. Some worthy ones that can definitely check out are:
Wrapping Up: The Essential Design Tools
Nobody wants their design process to look and feel anything like this.
And we know that using the design tools in this post, you’ll be far from it! 😅
Now, before you go, it’s important to mention that there are alternative tools that carry out the same functions as the tools included in this post.
We chose and recommend the ones in this post because those are the ones that we have personal experience with and believe are better than the available alternatives (based on our evaluation).
That may not be the case for you, so if you’re willing to possibly waste a lot of time, I invite you to try all of the available software and remake a list like this of your own, otherwise, I’m confident that the tools here will be more than enough to complement your abilities and succeed as a designer.
Have any other questions about design tools or want to join the conversation? Leave a comment below. 💬