20 Tools For The Freelance Designer On A Shoestring Budget




In your career as a freelance designer you’ll probably use tens, if not hundreds, of different tools to perform all the tasks needed to run your business. From image editors to accounting apps to text editors. There’s no way I could list all the tools available in one post, and if I did they would range from being completely free to costing an arm and a leg. So I thought I’d focus on the least expensive ones.

All these tools and services are either free or pretty cheap, considering what can be done with them, and can be great replacements to the more expensive ones we’re used to. The ones on this list probably won’t break the bank! :)

Image Editors ↓

Of course nothing’s gonna replace Photoshop, but you can do a lot with PixelMator, Gimp or even SplashUp, a web-based app.

PixelMator

PixelMator

Gimp

Gimp

SplashUp

SplashUp

Feedback And Usability Testing ↓

Getting feedback on your designs is essential, no need to ask friends and family (you’d probably get the ‘looks good‘ type of answers anyway). Instead you can use services like Concept Feedback, FeedbackArmy and Five Second Test.

Concept Feedback

Concept Feedback

Five Second Test

5 Second Test

Feedback Army

Feedback Army

Color Tools ↓

My 2 favorites: Colour Lovers and Adobe Kuler. They’re both free.

Colour Lovers

Colour Lovers

Adobe Kuler

Adobe Kuler

Billing, Invoicing And Time-Tracking ↓

I’m a hardcore Freshbooks fan, but Invoice Machine and Billings are awesome too! And very inexpensive.

Freshbooks Invoicing

Freshbooks

Invoice Machine

Invoice Machine

Billings 3

Billings 3

Cross-Browser Compatibility ↓

When you design websites you need to make sure everything looks good in different browsers (die IE6!). I personally chose to install Parallels to run Windows and test in Internet Explorer, but services like Litmus App, or even the free BrowserShots, are great for checking your sites in different browsers.

Litmus App

Litmus App

BrowserShots

BrowserShots

Parallels

Parallels

Local Testing ↓

Mamp is awesome! Use it to setup a local test environment. A must have for coding and testing without affecting a live site. There’s a free and a pro version.

Mamp

MAMP

Coding & Programming ↓

My favorite text editor is TextWrangler, but I’ve tried TextMate and NotePad+ before and they’re both really good! And cheap!

Text Wrangler

TextWrangler

NotePad+

NotePad+

Text Mate

TextMate

Images and Photos ↓

Whether you’re looking for inspiration or for some images to use in your designs, Flickr and DeviantART are 2 must-use websites. Make sure you check the licenses before using any images you find on those sites.

Flickr

Flickr

DeviantArt

deviantART

Your Turn To Talk

I’m curious to know what tools you use as a freelance designer. Are you just starting out or you’ve been freelancing for a while? And when your freelance business started to take off, did you buy more expensive tools, or you just stuck with what you had? Let us know in the comment section! :)





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