When I first started freelancing as a website designer and graphic designer, I had zero clue what I was doing. Seriously. In fact, I didn’t even know I was freelancing until I found myself freelancing, and what a wild ride it’s been!
Because of freelancing, I have been able to meet many amazing people from all over the world, from different walks of life, and from different backgrounds. I have been able to work from home, help my wife take care of sick kids (and even sick wife once), and have the freedom to wear sweatpants all day, every day!
In the last year, though, I have had many people ask me “so, Marc, how do you mange your projects, and do what you do?”
With so many programs, systems, softwares, and tools, it’s quickly easy to get overwhelmed and just settle for what the big wigs use. Now granted, the big wigs use some amazing programs but Quickbooks and Honeybook can be expensive for a startup.
So in this post, I figured that I’d share what tools I use so that if you decide to start freelancing or own your own LLC, you can have a head start on the game!
Invoicing and tracking expenses: Zoho Invoice
In the last couple years of freelancing, I have primarily used 2 invoicing softwares: TinyInvoice by Fungo and Zoho Invoice. Sure, I tried Google docs, Apple pages, and PayPal, but those three had their limitations. TinyInvoice was an amazing app that let me easily track incoming payments and expenses and let me run my tax reports, but it was extremely limited. Through TinyInvoice, I couldn’t accept credit cards and there wasn’t a desktop version of the software, and it’s not very efficient to do all invoicing on my phone.
I wanted the ability to accept credit card payments (and not just PayPal), so I started looking around at other options.
I settled on Zoho Invoice because the software is completely FREE to use and will always be free! It lets me integrate with Stripe to accept credit cards and I can track off-line or other payment methods such as PayPal, Venmo, or check.
Now, I need to say that I cannot run a Profit and Loss Report (P&L) without paying for Zoho’s booking software, but I am able to run income and expense reports, which does the trick for my accountant at tax time.
BONUS: I also use ZOHO to power my company email! It’s not free, but I love it!
Note Management: Evernote Personal
Fun fact, I have been an active Evernote user since 2014 (before Evernote was a power house!), and I use Evernote every single day.
Inside of Evernote, I am able to have many something called a “Stack” inside of my Evernote Notebooks. This lets me have a stack of notebooks for different areas of my business in one single area (such as a specific shelf on the bookshelf for my important books), including having a stack for each of my white label clients, sales leads, leads who become clients, blogs, and business ideas. And with the ability to have Evernote on every one of my devices, I am never without my work notes! Plus, Evernote syncs with Trello so I can connect client notes to their Trello cards (Trello is mentioned next).
On top of my day job, I also run two podcasts: Real Talk Christian Podcast & The Small Church Media Podcast. I have notebooks for each of those podcasts so that I have them with me at all times, and my co-host and I can edit the same notes so that we always know what’s going on!
Project Management: Trello
The key to running a successful freelance business is to know what stage your projects are in at all time. With Trello, I’m able to stay on top of current projects, “on deck” projects, incoming projects, projects that are completed but still need final payment, and which clients are still leads.
I also management people’s websites from month to month. Trello lets me have multiple boards with multiple flows, and because of this set-up, I’m able to have a separate board for my month to month clients so that I know which clients have received work and which ones are still waiting to be taken care of.
File Management: OneDrive
The biggest lesson I’ve learned over the years is to never have your files stored only on your computer’s hard drive because if your computer fails, you’re crap out of luck! I have used different apps over the years, but the app I have used for the last 5 years consistently is OneDrive from Microsoft.
OneDrive has the cheapest personal plan (I use The OneDrive Standalone plan at $1.99 per month), syncs on all my devices (even though I’m an exclusive Apple user), and keeps my files safe from hardware malfunctions.
Primary Design Programs: Affinity Suite and Adobe XD
For years, I used the Adobe Creative Suite, but when Adobe flipped to a subscription based service, I made the switch to the Affinity Suite in 2018. Affinity Designer is my primarily graphic design tool, but I also use Affinity Publisher for document layouts and Affinity Photo for photoshop styling needs.
When designing websites, I used Adobe XD. Adobe XD is free to use, and lets me quickly create wireframes and mockups for client approval before I design my websites in a live environment. There are other wireframe and mockup tools out there like Sketch or Figma, but Adobe XD does the trick for me!
Website Management: ManageWP
Because I manage so many WordPress websites and offer premium services with my maintenance plans, I needed a software that lets me quickly manage all the websites from one window. I chose ManageWP over many other WordPress website management softwares because it always me to only pay for what I need, and they have a proven track record of making sure that their software is always working properly.
Communication: Facebook messenger, texting, email, skype, etc.
I know many designers and developers that use only one platform, such as Slack. For me, however, I have decided to communicate with each client in whatever way is most native for them. My job is to make their life easier, and it’s much easier for me to serve them with what they are comfortable with, rather than force every client to use my system, whether they want to or not.
Sure, many and most freelancers will completely disagree with me, but this works for me know and will work for me in the future!
That about sums it all up! Sure, there are better all-in-one systems and business management tools out there, but I have found that these tools do the job for me!
Plus, I believe that it’s always the best policy to not chase after the next new, shiny system or software that will “make my life better and easier” as a freelancer. Rather, I feel it’s best to be settled on my tools, learn to use them well, and focus my time and energy on the parts of my job that makes my clients happy and pays the bills.
Pin This Post
Hi! I'm Marc.
I serve businesses, bloggers, and organizations by way of creating great websites that are able to be found online. Web design is a passion, but serving you is my joy.
Curious about my services? Here's a quick list:
Ready to started on your project? Contact Me to get started.