My Favorite Apps for Designers + Freelancers

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UPDATED: JULY 22, 2017

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 S.O. 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!

UPDATE: I've added 2 more apps, so make sure you read through it all to find out how you can start building your email list today for FREE, and how to automate your most frequent business processes (including invoices, proposals, and contracts)! 

1

DUBSADO*

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!

2

CONVERTKIT

no app yet (internet browser only)
plans starting at $29/month

This is an extremely useful service! Unlike some of the other email marketing services, ConvertKit lets you pay 1x for each subscriber you have, no matter how many times they sign up. What do I mean by that? 

Like a few of my posts, I have a free downloadable that goes with it, should you decide to nab it. With CK I can embed a form on the blog so you can sign up to receive the freebie. That way, I capture your email address and can send you updates on blog posts, product launches, and more!

How does that relate to the 1x subscriber thing? Well, if you find 10 freebies you want to download, but have to sign up for each one, then ordinarily I'd get 10 new subscribers and pay each time a subscriber signs up, EVEN IF it's the same individual. OH NO!

ConvertKit can tell the difference, so that a subscriber can sign up 100x if they want, and CK still only counts that individual toward your subscriber list 1x.

It also means that your numbers are legit! When you check your Constant Contact or Mail Chimp subscriber list and it says you have 13,000 subscribers, ... do you really? Or are a portion of those the same individuals who signed up more than once? Hmmmm....

That's just the beginning though! Customer Service is extremely helpful and always happy to help! CK also lets you create:

  • forms (embedded)
  • lead pages (1 page websites, apart from your own site, to advertise something)
  • sequences (automated email sets that go out when you schedule them to)
  • broadcasts (1x emails that go out to whoever you decide)
  • automations! ("if this" happens, "then that" style automations and triggers make this super easy!)
  • customized email templates (want a button in your email? Call out box? Your logo? You can do it with CK.)

They have a free trial, so if you're looking for a new email marketing service and you're tired of hacking around in your current one to get it to do what you want? Then check out ConvertKit; there's no contracts & you can cancel your membership any time. I can't brag on them enough!

If you're not ready to fork out thirty bucks a month for email marketing, then that's totally fine! Keep reading for my suggestion on how to start your email list with a company that's free, up to 1,000 subscribers!

 

3

MAILER LITE

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 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%. 

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 getting it done 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.

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. :)

 

4

BOARDBOOSTER*

no app yet (internet browser only)
100 pins free, plans start at $5/mo

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 this in a later post, but trust me when I say it most definitely drives traffic when handled right!

How does Board Booster relate to Pinterest? 

BB lets you schedule pins to your profile via secret boards, and loop pins from boards you have already filled with pins so that your old content won't be buried at the bottom of your board, and scheduled content keeps you consistently active in your audience's feed.

BB also has tools to help you get rid of pins with broken links and duplicates! Really helpful when you're using Pinterest for Business to drive traffic to your website.

There's also analytics for the boards BB is handling for you, so you can see which ones are most popular, which pins get the most repins, etc.

Starting at $5.00/month for 500 pins (you get your very first 100 pins for free), they have really affordable pricing! Payments are monthly (no contracts), and you can cancel any time if you decide it's not a good fit.

 

5

BUFFER

app for iPhone + Android
free + paid versions

Buffer is a lot like Hootsuite. I had both, but personally prefer the user experience and visuals of Buffer over HS.

There are free and paid plans available, the latter starting at $10/month. 

I've been using the Free plan FOR MONTHS! You can connect up to 4 accounts, and schedule ("buffer") up to 10 posts at a time for each account. There's also basic analytics inside the app so you can analyze your posts & learn which posts are attracting attention, and which ones aren't. You can also "re-buffer" old posts with a single click within the app's analytics area.

It's super easy to use, and there's even a plugin for it on Chrome, so you can "buffer" right from your desktop, your tablet or your phone.

Why do I use it? I like that I can schedule posts from one location, and keep my activity level and online presence consistent. I can choose times to schedule when I know my users are most active as well. 

One Caveat: As far as I know, Instagram still doesn't let you post from another app like Buffer. So instead Buffer lets you create the post as if you were sharing it, then saves it and tells you when it's time to Share in a little pop up notification. All you do is open Buffer and select Share. Super easy, and faster than creating new posts on the spot when you're ready to share them.

With the paid plans, of course there are more features available, like scheduling up to 100 posts at a time on up to 10 accounts, and more insights are available for my scheduled posts. I'll actually be upgrading to the Awesome plan soon, since I've become busy enough to find I need to schedule more than 10 posts at a time when I'm not busy (so that I can put it aside for more than a couple days at a time, while still maintaining a consistent online presence).

As far as I know, Buffer is also paid monthly and you can cancel your subscription at any time.

 

6

BITLY

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. 

 

7

17 HATS

app for iPhone + Android
free (limited) + paid plans, starting at $25/mo

If you're not an accountant or a lawyer, 17 Hats will help you out for sure! Need contracts, digital invoicing and payments, automatic payment reminders, send digital receipts, bookkeeping, a place to keep up with contacts, and lead captures? Great! 17 Hats does all of those things and more.

Payments:

  • send professional + branded invoices so clients can pay online, instantly
  • send gentle reminders for unpaid invoices automatically
  • accept + track payments via whatever method works best for you
  • generate tax reports + profit / loss statements 
  • categorize expenses for easy sorting
  • connect your bank account so you can see everything in 1 place
  • Quickbooks online integration (for exporting data if you just can't leave QB)
  • send + sign contracts digitally 

Automation:

  • use Workflows to keep from repeating the same steps over & over
  • build templates for quotes, contracts, invoices + more

Optimization:

  • track billable time
  • see your 3-day schedule at a glance
  • keep client profiles + all their info in one place

Their user visuals on the backend are not great, but not bad either. The invoices though (among other things) that I send out are clean, simple, professional and perfect. You can customize your view once logged in, so you can change the background color and some other small things, so that helps me with the visuals. :)

That being said though, just because their backend design is not designed to my personal taste, doesn't mean it's hard to navigate your way around. Everything is pretty clearly labeled and it's easy to find your way around in your account.

 

8

HELLO BONSAI

no app yet (internet browser only)
paid plans only, starting at $9/mo

HelloBonsai.com was created by Freelancers, for Freelancers! If you're just starting out, then this is a great option for you!

I have had an account with them too, actually (yes, in addition to 17 Hats! I started with HB before 17H & Dubsado - hey, a lady has to try things on to see if they fit!). ;) I loved Hello Bonsai when I got started, but as I grew I realized I needed more functionality. Even though I don't use them now, I still recommend them to people, because they are such a great service for people on a low budget and they're easy to use.

They have contracts that are SUPER easy to edit and you can send + sign them digitally. They also allow you to create invoices and send them digitally, and collect online payments as well.

They also have a looooooong list of freelance resources, so if HB doesn't offer what you're looking for, their "Stack" probably does!

They also offer a very basic way to explore rates in your area among freelancers like you. Want to know what others are charging in your region? Check out their Rate Explorer.

For more information on Hello Bonsai, you should also read: Invoicing, Contracts, Proposals & Time Tracking.

 

9

PROLANCE

app for iPhone
free

This is a simple app to use. Enter in some information about yourself (which is kept private), and they'll tell you approximately what your hourly rate should be, based on what you entered.

You can also connect with other freelancers via the app, keep track of expenses, and gain some freelance tips.

Honestly though, the main thing I've used is the hourly rate calculator, to help me get an idea of what what my hourly rate should be. It's based on experience, education, location and more. That alone was worth it! :)

 

10

STREAK

app for iPhone (not sure about other availability)
free

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!

 

11

INBOX PAUSE

works with G-Suite email
free plugin for Google Chrome

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! :)

 

12

SNAPSEED

app for iPhone + Android
free

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)
  • Crop
  • Transform
  • 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)
  • Details
  • Rotate
  • White Balance (Black / White)
  • Selective (adjust specific areas, while leaving others alone)
  • Vignette
  • 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
  • Drama
  • Grainy Film
  • Retrolux
  • Black & White
  • Face (LOVE THIS ONE!)
  • Glamour Glow (want to look like a Glamour Shot from the 80's?)
  • HDR Scape
  • Grunge
  • Vintage
  • Noir
  • Frames

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! 

 

13

ASANA

app for iPhone (not sure about other availability)
free + paid plans

Asana is a project management system. Let me reiterate that. It's a FREE place to organize all your projects and everything to do with your projects! =D

Here's some of their awesome features *(asterisked points are features I know are in the paid plans only):

  • create tasks (and sub-tasks) and assign to teammates
  • organize tasks into shared lists
  • convert a task to a project
  • due dates (& auto-reminders!)
  • attachments (from Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, or any conversation)
  • communicate about, comment on, like or vote for tasks
  • task & project conversations
  • team pages
  • calendar views (see due dates & more at a glance)
  • dashboard (all the important stuff at a glance)
  • view files all in one place
  • team management (assignees, followers, and guests)
  • private projects*
  • admin controls*
  • task dependencies (tasks that are waiting on others)*
  • priority support (tasks that are more important than others)*
  • add more than 15 members to a team, and unlimited guests*

Easy integrations with:

  • Dropbox
  • Slack
  • Chrome
  • Okta
  • Github
  • Google Drive
  • + more!

Have a design project, but need to deal out homework to the client first? If the due-date is coming up and you haven't heard anything, Asana will send out reminders (if you want it to) to remind them their task's due-date is near. 

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!

What apps do you enjoy using? Did you see it listed here? If not, leave a comment below & tell me all about it!

Katelyn Dekle

Studio 1862, P.O. Box 244, Calvary, Ga, 39828

I'm a freelance graphic designer. I've been designing for 10 years, and still love it! My passion is helping small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs become successful by providing professional branding and website design services.

What do you need help with right now? Visit my website for advice from my blog, sign up for my newsletter + access to freebies, or follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest to stay connected! =)