Essential tools that support my freelance activities
A collection of useful software
I always find it refreshing to read which tools other freelance designers or developers use. So I’ve also written an article collecting the essential tools I need to run my freelance business. Over the years, I discovered that it is quite tiring and expensive to maintain a large stack of tools. Therefore, I tried to shorten the list as much as I can. Here are the essential tools that support my freelance activities the most:
I use Google Workspace (formerly Gsuite) to handle my Email, Contacts, and Calendar. As I run on a paid plan, I benefit from their security and privacy features. Google’s Email client Gmail is a super reliable app. I tried several other clients but went back to Gmail every time. Unfortunately, Inbox, which was superior to Gmail, got canceled.
As a freelancer, I get hired by companies to work within interdisciplinary teams. For efficient communication, most companies use Slack. That’s the whole reason I’m using it – to be part of these teams. I don’t love it but also don’t hate it. However, I think they have a weird UX to manage settings.
I use Notes for everything. I write blog posts, collect links, handle shopping lists, write meeting notes, plan holiday trips, etc. Everything in Notes gets synced via iCloud so that I can access my notes on all my devices.
This writing app is a lifesaver for people like me, who are non-native English speakers. Their editor highlights wrong spelling, grammar, duplicate words, and even suggests more suitable phrases. With this tool, I got better at writing English, and I feel more secure about publishing texts online.
I have so many online accounts and didn’t want to use similar passwords everywhere. I also didn’t want to fill all the credentials from hand every time I need to log in at a service. Therefore, I decided to use a password manager. 1Password fills my credentials automatically, and I only need to confirm the process with my fingerprint. It enables me to set hard-to-hack passwords for every account. It’s also easy to utilize OTP passwords for Two-Factor-Auth methods. Further, I can create, manage, and access my passwords on mobile as well.
Things is my go-to planner for personal and business-related projects. It’s a well-thought-out app with a superb design. My important tasks are kept here, like paying taxes, project-specific milestones, short- and long-term goals, or things that need to get done by a specific deadline.
I’m not too fond of time-tracking and always forget to activate or stop the timer. That is why I’ve chosen Timely as my tracking software. It records all my activities and makes it super easy to log my time afterward according to my activities timeline.
I don’t trust my hardware for not breaking. That’s why I keep all my files in Dropbox. Dropbox does an excellent job, and I feel its synchronization speed is still unmatched by its competitors. However, for photos, I use iCloud, which is better integrated with my phone.
For UX/UI design, I use Figma. I was once an avid Sketch user but switched to Figma as their approach feels so much smarter. Further, they ship features way faster than their competition, innovating every time. Figma also saves me the Invision subscription, plus my files live version-controlled in the cloud. I even created a starter kit to speed-up my design process, which you can check out here.
Atom is my coding editor of choice. I tried to hop on the hype train for VSCode but got disappointed. VSCode feels like a slow cruise, whereas Atom feels like a lightweight speed-boat in comparison. And, their plugin eco-system gets you all the same features.
I manage and backup my code with Github. I think it’s the best place to do so. Their collaboration features are best-in-class.
DigitalOcean / ServerPilot / Cloudflare
I use these tools to host my website based on WordPress. DigitalOcean provides cloud storage, and ServerPilot installs & manages the WordPress environment on top of it. Cloudflare handles my DNS routing and points my domain to the DigitialOcean server. This setup costs me around $10/month, a steal compared to managed WordPress hosting services like WPEngine or Flywheel while getting me almost similar features and performance.
Book-keeping is essential as a freelancer – especially in Germany. Debitoor is a long-time assistant helping me track revenue/expenses, create offers/invoices, and generate reports for tax-authorities. It used to be a good looking tool, but recent UI changes make me wonder what’s going on behind the scenes. I hope they are just in a phase of transition. Otherwise, I need to look for a better tool soon.
Here I collect all my bookmarks. Raindrop has the right amount of features and is not trying to be the next Pinterest or Medium.