Freelance designers and other freelancers should take advantage of time-saving business tools whenever they can. In this post, I’ll outline four different types of tools that you might find helpful in your freelancing design business. If you like this post, you might also enjoy reading 35+ of Your Favorite Software Tools.
Tool Type #1: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Tools
Since business is based on trust and trust is based on relationship, these tools can be quite helpful for any small business owner. CRM tools help you keep track of your client information. Many also include ways to interact directly with your clients. The Service Cloud lets you manage your business’s customer service across all platforms. A few include social media management.
Some examples of CRM tools include:
- SugarCRM–This is a popular open-source CRM tool with many levels of functionality. It can help a business to develop quotes. It also can integrate with smart phones and includes plug-ins for popular packages such as MS Word, Excel and Outlook.
- SproutSocial–This tool focuses on social media management tools and includes many reports such as key word tracking. This package also integrates with mobile devices. A small business can get started with this package for well under a hundred dollars.
- Nimble–Nimble also focuses on tracking social media contacts. It can be integrated with many third party applications such as Wufoo, MailChimp, and HubSpot. Best of all, Nimble is free for personal use.
- Rapportive–This CRM tool works inside of Gmail to help you track your contacts. You can see who your contacts are at a glance. Right now, Rapportive is free for FireFox, Safari, Mailplane, and Chrome.
If you’ve been letting prospective clients slip through the cracks, you may need a CRM tool.
Tool Type #2: Collaboration Tools
Collaborative tools help you work with others on a project. In most cases, collaborative tools are designed for remote collaboration. If you have to work on a design project with someone else, you may benefit from using a collaboration tool.
Some examples of collaboration tools include:
- Huddle–Huddle is a cloud-based robust collaboration tool that lets you work with remote colleagues. some features include project management tools, security, mobile access. Customers include a number of Fortune 500 companies.
- ConceptShare–This tool is designed specifically for creative teams. It includes image and video mark up and editing. Depending on your needs, there are four different versions of this tool available.
If others participate or review your work, you might benefit from a collaboration tool.
Tool Type #3: Webinar/Seminar Tools
If you offer any type of design training, you may wish to use a webinar or seminar tool. Online training sessions are a side business for many freelancers, including designers. Webinar/seminar tools may help.
Some examples of webinar/seminar tools include:
- AnyMeeting–This tool lets you host a meeting for up to 200 attendees. It includes many of the basic webinar features such as screen sharing and video conferencing. It also includes polling and surveys.
- MeetingBurner–This tool can support up to a thousand meeting attendees. It features PayPal integration and supports mobile use. There are three product levels available. The free version allows for up to fifteen participants.
- GoToMeeting–This tool provides products for meetings, webinars, and training sessions. The webinar product integrates with the MS Outlook calendar and includes full desktop sharing and drawing tools.
If you’ve ever thought about offering training or a webinar, you can benefit from a Webinar tool.
Tool Type #4: Time Tracking Tools
Your time is valuable. But, too often, we freelancers lose track of time. Unfortunately, loosing track of time sometimes means losing money–especially if you miss a deadline or have to turn down work. Time tracking tools can help.
Some examples of time tracking tools include:
- Chrometa–This tool automatically tracks your time in the background of your computer. The tool also allows you to export data to various invoicing and accounting tools. The tool features both individual and team versions.
- Klok–Klok features a visual display of how your time is used. Simply drag a project to the work area to start working. It also includes a team version and integrates with a number of invoicing, project management, and other tools.
- toggl— This desktop app lets you easily track your time and runs on all major browsers. A free version is available.
- Timemaster–This is an iPhone app that lets you track your time from your iPhone. If you are always on the go, this may be a strong alternative for you to consider.
If you don’t know where your time goes and you’re constantly underestimating projects, you could benefit from a time tracking tool.
The business tools that I’ve shared in this post are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other helpful tools that freelance designers can use to run their business.
What are your favorite business tools?
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Laura Spencer is a freelance writer from North Central Texas with over 20 years of professional business writing experience. If you liked this post, then you may also enjoy Laura’s blog about her freelance writing experiences, WritingThoughts.
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