13 Valuable Tools to Streamline Your Design Projects

Most designers dream of breaking free from an employer’s grasp to start a freelance design business. They crave the scheduling control this will provide and the freedom to use their creative talents all day every day. While you’ll experience these and other benefits as a freelance designer, you’ll also be accountable for several administrative responsibilities. From maintaining an organized invoicing system to completing projects on schedule, these administrative duties can quickly consume your valuable time.

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Since you’re likely similar to most designers and dread dealing with invoicing clients and tracking profits, it’s important to keep the time consumed by these tasks at a minimum. Here are some top time management and project set up tools to help you establish an organized business from the outset.

Invoicing Clients

If you want to be paid for your work, you’ll need to create an efficient invoicing system. Without prompt invoicing and late statement follow ups, you’ll quickly lose control over which invoices have been paid and which are still outstanding. Thankfully, many inexpensive invoicing tools such as the following options are available to simplify this tedious process, allowing you to spend more time on the creative process.

  • SimplyBill – A straightforward web-based billing system
  • Side Job Track – Invoicing and management software for part-time professionals
  • LessAccounting – Designed to simplify the billing process for creative professionals

Time Tracking

Although you’ll likely often bill on a per project basis, you may still encounter clients who want to be billed on an hourly basis. Even if they’re billed per project, some clients may still request a record of the hours you spent on their projects and a breakdown of task completion times. Use one of the following time tracking tools to quickly erase any timing questions and easily provide the requested information.

  • Time Assistant – Daily time tracking software created to simplify the reporting process
  • Punchy Time – Reduces the tedious process of time reporting
  • SlimTimer – Offers a start and stop timer to record project time lengths

Setting up Projects

Apart from using your creative talents during the design process, you’ll also need to locate various resources such as vector graphics and stock images to meet client specifications. However, searching for these resources can be tedious and lengthy if you’re unfamiliar with them. To simplify these searches, find a few top stock websites such as the following and learn how to quickly search through them for the resources you need.

  • Active Den – Low cost design resources including videos, fonts, audio and more
  • Stock.xchng – Free stock photo and illustration website
  • VectorVault – High quality vector graphics for creative professionals

Managing Projects

Proper and efficient project management is essential if you want to be a successful designer. By efficiently managing your projects, you can take on more clients and complete tasks in less time. From online to-do lists to concept sharing software, here are a few resources designed to aid in the project management process.

  • Highrise – Client communication tracking tool
  • Ta-Da List – Free to-do list application to track project progress
  • Backpack – Compiles to-do lists, notes, and more into a calendar with email reminders
  • Concept Share – Web-based design and note sharing application

Administrative business duties and project management tasks can quickly take the fun out of being a freelance designer. However, by utilizing tools to simplify these tasks, you can finish them in less time and return to doing what you do best – making great designs. Have you used other tools to assist with streamlining your business duties that you would like to share with others?

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