My Favorite Apps for Designers + Freelancers
UPDATED: SEPT. 2018
We're all SO busy these days! If you're keeping up with the trends then you have to cook the perfect healthy meal with that new "superfood" ingredient, or complete this particular workout, or go take this particular class, or whatever the latest trend may be.
You may have kids and a full time job on top of it. Maybe you work at home full time, or have a 9 to 5, and then work nights & weekends on your side-hustle (whatever that may be).
No matter the details, there's still every day tasks to do (like cooking, cleaning, yardwork, etc.) on top of maintaining a home life and keeping up with tasks at work. There's also the added task of not totally ignoring your SO or your friends and family while you work your little butt off!
So, who doesn't want a few apps that can make life a little easier?
Full Disclosure: apps marked with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links and I do earn a tiny bit for each person who signs up with my links, BUT I would never advertise anything I don't actively use, and love using, myself!
no app yet (internet browswer only, app to come!)
free up to 3 clients, plans start around $25/mo.
I've got to start by saying, Dubsado is my miracle!! I've tried a lot of different things that offer a handful of business services I need. I've also researched far more without actually taking the leap.
Dubsado has all or most of what I need all in one place, as well as some features I didn't know I needed at all! Click here to see their full features list, or keep reading for a short breakdown.
- Send & Sign Contracts (with fields that can auto-fill, and a fully customizable editor)
- Send invoices & Proposals
- Time Tracking
- Payment Schedules (can break up invoices into multiple payments including a deposit, and automate reminders for those payments!)
- Accept credit cards & e-checks
- Create easy to-do lists
- Manage Clients (an area where you can see which client is in what stage of their project, manage their contact info, any notes & more)
- Client Portals (a login area for each client where they can access emails sent via Dubsado & any documents they've been sent)
- Workflows (MY FAVORITE! Automate your entire process, from the initial welcome email to the last payment reminder & thank you!)
- Calendar Integration (syncs with iCal and Google Calendar)
- Send Questionnaires & Forms (use forms for Testimonials, Proofs, Order Forms & more - so flexible!)
- Email Templates ("Canned" Emails)
- Lead Capture Forms (these can be set to auto-populate fields in other forms connected to the same Workflow)
- Branding (ability to customize & match your current branding)
- Internationally Friendly (just choose the currency you'd like to receive your money in!)
- No-Brainer Bookkeeping
- Mobile friendly (currently mobile friendly, but an app is in development)
- Multi-Redundancy Backups
- and more is coming soon! Want to see the list, check it out here!
I'll be completely honest here: setting up took a LONG time (not because it was hard to setup, but the details can be tedious depending on how you want to utilize their features). I ran a ton of tests myself, and had my family test it out too, to be sure the automations were working correctly. But, it is SO worth it! I cannot recommend these guys enough, really! Dubsado has saved me so much time, it's C.R.A.Z.Y.
In favor of complete transparency though:
Yes, I am part of their referral program, but I would never recommend them if I didn't love them & use them myself! If you want to give it a try, you can use it FREE for as long as you want (up to 3 clients), and when you're ready to upgrade, you can use my code "s1862" to give yourself 20% your first month, or your first YEAR if you want to pay annually. Ready to try it now; CLICK HERE! You won't regret it!! And if you use my code to try it out, please let me know what you think!
+ Read more about Why I'm so excited to share my Absolute Favorite Freelancer App here.
app for iPhone (limited usability)
free + paid plans
If you want to get started building your email list, but you're not ready to commit to monthly payments yet, MailerLite might be for you! They offer basically all of the services that ConvertKit does, with the added bonus of a drag-and-drop design page builder for your emails, forms, and lead pages.
They have a Forever Free Plan, which lets you send unlimited campaign emails to up to 1,000 subscribers, and you have full access to all features, including automations.
It even lets you design your unsubscribe page, so your viewers will follow your branded experience from start to finish.
And? When you're ready to upgrade, plans start as low as $10/month and you can pay annually to save 30%. (fall 2017)
That sounds SO good, so what's the catch?
You have to have a branded email address to verify ownership of your domain, in order to use MailerLite. If you don't already have G-Suite, Zoho can help you do that for free, but setting up Zoho can be complicated and it requires messing with settings in your domain manager, so you may very well need help to get that done if you want to use Zoho instead of G-Suite.
I definitely prefer G-Suite to Zoho, but for those who aren't ready for a financial commitment to branded email with G-Suite, Zoho will work just fine. :)
I used ConvertKit for a few months and liked all the power it provided users, but there were a couple things I didn't like about it, including the not-as-user-friendly back end (compared to MailerLite), and the monthly payment (since I was just starting my newsletter at the time). I may eventually go back to them, but for now, I'm happier with MailerLite. :)
iPhone app (& internet browser)
paid plans (free to try)
By now you may have heard that Pinterest can be a HUGE driver of site traffic. But HOW you ask???
Re-think how you view Pinterest. It's not a social media platform. I'll say it again:
PINTEREST IS NOT A SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM.
More on that in a later post, but trust me when I say it most definitely drives traffic when handled right!
How does Tailwind relate to Pinterest?
TW lets you schedule pins to your Pinterest profile, keeping you consistently active in your audience's feed and driving traffic to your website.
They analyze your Pinterest account activity and automatically create time slots in your schedule, which correlate to when your viewers & followers are most active (you're not required to use them though). Now that is awesome!
TW also has tools to help you maintain your Pinterest account! Really helpful when you're using Pinterest for Business to drive traffic to your website.
There's also analytics for the boards TW is handling for you, so you can see which ones are most popular, which pins get the most repins, etc.
Tailwind Plus starts at $9.99/mo when paid annually (unlimited scheduling), or $15/month for 400 pins per month, for 1 account. You can cancel any time if you decide it's not a good fit. (fall 2017)
app for iPhone + Android
free + paid versions
Later is a lot like Hootsuite or Buffer. I've tried Hootsuite, Buffer, Tailwind, and now Later, testing them all to see what works best for me.
Personally, I love how Later handles Instagram scheduling! It lets you view your scheduled posts in the Instagram gallery preview, and everything is drag & drop-able. So if you don't like the layout in the gallery, you can drag and drop the scheduled posts until you get the design you want.
You can also build a media library to pull images from when you need to create a new scheduled post, save captions and hashtags to copy from in the future, and more.
There are free and paid plans available, the latter starting at $9/month or $7.50/mo when billed annually. (fall 2017). I'm currently using their Free Forever plan, because I don't need post more than 30x a month. You can connect up to 4 accounts, and schedule up to the allotted amount, which differs a little for each account.
Why do I use it? I want to schedule my posts ahead of time, which helps to keep my activity level and online presence consistent. I can choose times to schedule when I know my users are most active as well.
With the paid plans, of course there are more features available.
app for iPhone + Android
free + "enterprise" versions
I'm sure you've seen those short links that look like this: bit.ly/2hwr4H5
If you clicked on that bit.ly link, you were re-routed to my Sign-Up page!
Bitly is an app that creates short links for you, for times when shorter links are needed! You might see them on social media a lot, or to re-route to a blog post with an otherwise looooong URL. Very useful and the setup for each link is a breeze!
I've got 10 or 20 links in my account so far and haven't been asked to upgrade to a paid version yet, but I do know they have enterprise versions where you can further control how the link looks.
app for iPhone, iPad & Mac
I have several email accounts to monitor, and with new emails popping up in the double digits on a regular basis, I decided Apple Mail was too simplistic for my needs. I also missed the use of the awesome extensions I have access to when using Gmail in Chrome. The problem is, that while I like using Gmail in Chrome, I can't also check my other email accounts that way, being that one of them is an apple email account. So, how did I fix that?
I found Spark. I believe it's still free to use on all Apple devices (I don't know about other brands; sorry!).
Spark is all-around better email management in one device & their website boasts that it was voted Best of 2016 by Apple. I have all 3 accounts in there (Apple, Gmail, and G-Suite), all with different email signatures.
The main features I love about Spark, are the Smart Inbox, the ability to Archive & Snooze with a swipe on my trackpad or Magic Mouse, and the Send Later features.
The Smart Inbox can divide my inbox into sections like: Personal, Newsletters & Notifications, and it's a feature you can toggle on & off easily. From there I can swipe right to Archive, or swipe left to Pin it if I need to pay special attention to that email. There's also an UNDO feature, so if you accidentally archive, snooze, delete or pin an email, you can undo it immediately.
With the Send Later features, I can choose when to send the email & that feature works across all devices, even if Spark isn't running at the time it needs to send. I can also set a Snooze for that email to make sure a reply is received before a specific due date. How cool is that!
app for iPhone (not sure about other availability)
Their slogan is Client Relationship Management in Gmail, and that basically sums it up!
Streak is a plugin for Chrome. It allows you to track emails, snooze emails to view later, schedule emails to send out when you want (i.e.: not at midnight, even if that's when you wrote it!) and more.
TIME SAVER! Do you find yourself writing the same types of emails over and over? Inquiry responses, rejections, proposals, project feedback, meeting announcements, answers to questions you are emailed frequently? Streak lets you create canned emails, which saves LOADS of time! You can bring them up with a couple clicks (even create + use keyboard shortcuts!), edit your key words from the template you setup, and hit send. Voila!
Works with regular Gmail and G-suite emails. LOVE this little plugin!
works with G-Suite email
free internet browser plugin
(previously called Inbox Pause)
Ever find yourself wishing you could just pause your email activity and focus on your personal life, or that really big project that's requiring all of your brain power?
With Inbox Pause, you can manually pause and resume incoming messages whenever you want, and no one will know the difference! (You can choose whether to notify senders of the paused inbox or not.)
Going on vacation? Just trying to clear out your inbox, but the emails just keep pouring in? Just want to concentrate on a project with no distractions for a while? Maybe you just want to "clock out" for the night, and make sure you don't see another email until you "clock back in" the next day.
If that sounds like you, then you'll enjoy this little plug-in just as much as I do! :) And now the plugin does a little more, including sending messages later, and more.
app for iPhone + Android
Snapseed is an AHHH-MAZING photo editing app with many of the basic features Photoshop will give you, but on the go. I stopped using Instagram to "edit" photos, stopped using all those other apps too, because this is now my absolute favorite and has become my go-to. I can't gush about this one enough!
Snapseed lets you edit RAW photos! And by "raw" I mean the type of file format (not just an unedited photo). Few other apps out there do that both free and well. (If you don't know what I mean by this, then I'm guessing it doesn't apply to you, so you can just ignore that part!) ;)
Here's a list of editing tools built into the app, a lot of which are very similar to Photoshop:
- Tune image (brightness, contrast, saturation, ambiance, highlights, shadows, warmth)
- Brush (dodge + burn, exposure, temperature, saturation)
- Healing (!!! Have a zit on your nose you need to remove? A speck of dust on your flatlay for Instagram? This will get rid of it for you, in an easy swipe of your finger!)
- Text (very basic)
- White Balance (Black / White)
- Selective (adjust specific areas, while leaving others alone)
- Curves (a new feature to help adjust contrast more specifically)
Here's a list of filters built into the app, a few of which are really handy!
- Lens Blur
- Tonal Contrast
- Grainy Film
- Black & White
- Face (LOVE THIS ONE!)
- Glamour Glow (want to look like a Glamour Shot from the 80's?)
- HDR Scape
You can also view the difference between the original photo and your edits easily at any time, and go back to previous edits to start fresh from that point with their layers panel.
You can also save in a few different ways:
- Save (with changes you can undo)
- Save a Copy (also with changes you can undo)
- Export (creates a copy with permanent changes)
I really can't brag on this one enough! I know it may seem silly, especially for designers that can use Photoshop (like myself), but when you're on the go, this is an excellent alternative! Works well on my iPhone and iPad!
app for iPhone & Android
free + paid plans
This one is one of my favorites!!
Trello has boards, lists, and cards which allow you to "organize and prioritize your projects in a fun, flexible and rewarding way."
I switched from Asana myself and am finding that Trello is a lot more intuitive and easier to use. It's also extremely visual, so it works perfectly for my creative brain, and I love being able to toggle the calendar & list views inside each board. To say that I'm obsessed with Trello, might be an understatement! 😉 🙌🏻
How To Organize Your Life With Trello
How to use Trello for Bookmarks + a FREE resources board you can swipe!
7 Ways to Use Trello
It's an easy to use, beautifully done interface, that keeps all of your team's work (or your work, if you work alone) in one well-organized place!
Whew! That was a lot! I sincerely hope that if you use any of these, they can help you find some relief in your otherwise busy life! It'll take some time to set up everything, but once (even one of) these things is in place, you'll feel a bit better, and hopefully a little lighter!