The market is flooded with tools, books, resources, blogs, and apps available to freelancers / business owners, but finding the right ones for your business (and your budget) can be overwhelming.
After all, you shouldn't run your business based on the tools available to you — first and foremost, you need to provide a good product or service, and a system in place to run your business. Only then should you bring in tools to improve your system, speed up your workflow, and save you time.
Over the last few years, I've used my fair share of these tools and I have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn't for me. Obviously, every business and each freelancer is different, so what I think is awesome might not work for you. Either way, below I've provided a list of tools & resources that have helped me in my business. Many of these tools I still currently use.
It should be noted that due to the nature of my business, many of these tools directed towards web design, web development and design. I am not affiliated with any of the item listed below, other then I pay and use many of the services.
Free Stock Photography
Stock photography is usually rubbish... it's expensive, most photographs look staged and fake, and for the most part, they don't actually look good or match your designs. Luckily, there's a huge movement going on right now where professional (and extremely talented) photographers are giving their photos away totally free, for whatever you want, no strings attached! Below is a list of a bunch of websites that feature totally free stock photography that you can use in your designs, your websites, apps, games, etc. (Make sure to double-check the photo you use is actually free, as there may be the odd photo that requires a credit to the photographer).
- Unsplash - Do-whatever-you-want high-resolution photos. Download 10 new free photos every 10 days.
- Startup Stock Photos - Take 'em, these things are free. Go. Make something.
- Pic Jumbo - totally free photos & stock images.
- Gratisography - Free, use as you please, high-resolution stock photos for personal and commercial projects.
- Death to The Stock Photo - A photo & inspiration haven for creatives crushing their path. Free photos by email every month
- Negative Space - Free stock photos in high resolution with their RAW files. All photos are released under CC0, no copyright restrictions.
- Splitshire - Royalty Free Stock Photos & Images.
- Life of Pix- Free stock photos, high-resolution, for personal and commercial uses. New pictures added weekly! High-resolution images, pix & photographies for free for U!
- The Stocks - the best royalty-free stock photos in one place
- Endless Icons - A collection of free flat icons and creative stuff.
- Font Awesome - When talking about icons, you have to include font awesome, it really is an awesome resource.
Running a home-based business means you have total freedom of your own schedule. For some people, that can be scary because they're worried they won't be able to keep themselves accountable. What I've found is that because this is my thing, I'm running my own business, and I'm in charge of my professional destiny — I don't mess around, and I take my work seriously. I suggest you do too. There's nothing wrong with taking a long weekend, or working early mornings so you can spend the rest of the afternoon with your kids — but honestly, take what you do seriously, don't mess around.
One of the most valuable things I've done in my business is 10x my productivity, and maximize my per-hour output so the time I spend working is insanely productive. This means I don't have to spend a full 8 hours per day, because in the 4 - 6 hours I work each day, I produce about 10 hours of work. The following tools are the exact tools I use to help me boost my productivity.
- Trello - I use Trello basically 24/7. It's my all-in-one project manager, task tracker, I manage my team, communicate with clients, track my progress and so much more. Trello is amazing, and I highly recommend you go get yourself a free Trello account.
- Dropbox - Probably the single-most-important piece of software I use to run my business (other than a code editor) is Dropbox. It's very likely that you use Dropbox already, and if that's the case, good on ya! If you don't have a Dropbox account, or have never heard of Dropbox, listen up, because you're missing out. First of all, Dropbox is totally free. There's an option to sign up for two different premium versions of Dropbox, but in all honesty, you probably won't need it. I only recently signed up for the premium version of Dropbox, simply because of how much I use (and love) it.
- RescueTime - A free application that runs in the background and tracks your computer usage. You receive weekly reports letting you know when you’re most productive, and what you’re wasting time on. Ever since using RescueTime, I’ve been able to cut my workweek from 40 hours a week to 20 hours a week simply because I now fully understand when I get most of my work done. I love it!
- 1Password - I’ve given up having to remember a bunch of passwords long ago. I literally have hundreds of accounts scattered across the Internet, and it was impossible for me to remember all of the passwords, so I’d end up only having two or three variations of the same password — which is very insecure, and frustrating because you still have to remember the variation. With 1Password, I only have to remember a single secure master password in order to log in to any of my accounts. It’s saved me so many headaches, and now all of my passwords are more secure than ever. I use this tool everyday, and I suggest you consider adding it to your tool belt. 1Password is available for all your devices, for both Mac & Windows
- WorkFlowy - an organizational tool that makes life easier. It's a surprisingly powerful way to take notes, make lists, collaborate, brainstorm, plan, and more.
- Toggl - Best time tracking system for a small business. A simple online timer with a powerful timesheet calculator.
- Evernote - Take notes to a new level with Evernote, the productivity app that keeps your projects, ideas, and inspiration handy across all your digital devices.
Design & Coding Tools
- InvisionApp - Transform your Web & Mobile (iOS, Android) designs into clickable, interactive Prototypes and Mockups. Share and Collaborate on them with others.
- Atom - You code for the web. You demand a fast, clean, and powerful text editor. Pixel-perfect preview. A built-in way to open and manage your local and remote files. And maybe a dash of SSH. Say hello, Atom.
- Adobe CreativeCloud - Creative Cloud gives you our entire collection of creative tools for your desktop, like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Adobe Premiere Pro.
- GitHub - GitHub is the Git solution for professional teams. Collaborate on code with inline comments and pull requests.
- Little Ipsum - LittleIpsum is the fastest Latin Text Generator for OS X.
- ConvertKit - ConvertKit is an email marketing tool for bloggers & entrepreneurs. It is hands down the most valuable piece of marketing software I use in my online business. I used ConvertKit to grow my email list 4x in 2015 from 3,400 to almost 14,000 subscribers and I’m so happy with my experience so far. If you’re a blogger, own an online business, or you’re just starting out and looking to build an email list — trust me when I say ConvertKit is the best tool for the job.
- Freeagent - Sending estimates & invoices, tracking expenses, and keeping all of my business financials in order is super easy with Freeagent. I added my accountant to my Freeagent account, and when tax time comes around, she makes sure everything is organised & tracked properly, and I get to just focus on growing my business.
- 34SP - When I made my very first website over 3 years ago, I signed up with 34SP — and I’ve never looked back! Since then, I’ve built hundreds of websites with 34SP as my only hosting provider. I recommend these guys to all of my clients. If you’re looking to start your very first website, or are looking for a reliable hosting provider — look no further.
- Code College - Learn Web Design, Web Development & How to Build an Online Business with our world-class online courses, and engage with a vibrant community of likeminded students.
- Udemy - Udemy is an online education marketplace with limitless variety: over 7 million students enrolled in more than 30000 courses, taught by 19000 instructors.
- DevDocs - DevDocs combines multiple API documentations in a fast, organized, and searchable interface
- Appear.in - Video conversations with up to 8 people for free. No login required – no installs.
- Team Viewer - Team Viewer allows you to control your clients' screen, comes in real handy when you're trying to fix their issues.
- Slack - Slack is more than just a chat app, it will link to pretty much any other service you can think of, it's power really comes into its own once linked up. It's also a good chat app!
I still have some tools and resources I haven't added, but this is a good start. I hope you find at least one of these resources insanely valuable in your business. I'll update as and when I find useful stuff.