When I started this journey as a designer, I was determined to make this a full-time business – and I’ve succeeded! But it wasn’t without PLENTY of trial and error. I wanted to learn ALL the information and I feel like I tried ALL the tools recommended by the most successful designers and entrepreneurs.
Which business courses should I take? What tools work best for managing projects? How can I improve my design workflow?
So many questions when you’re making that transition into full-time!
If you’re in the early stages of your design business or even if you’re trying to improve on what you’ve already built, I want to help! Let my lessons from my first year as a designer save you time – and definitely money.
Here are the tools and resources that have helped me create a successful workflow, communicate with my clients, and sharpen my design skills.
You know, the reason you started this business in the first place…
Finding the right platform for your designs that also serves your clients’ needs is one of, if not THE, hardest decision you’ll make as a designer.
Showit has proven to be the most creative platform for me and is the most intuitive for my clients. The company behind Showit provides plenty of helpful resources and has a tight-knit community of users who are happy to help each other and answer questions. And their customer support is always super friendly and responsive.
Squarespace is another phenomenal design platform I use to design fully custom websites for my clients. I love how Showit lets you push the boundaries of design and I wanted to be able to do the same thing with Squarespace. I joined the Square Design Guild Mastermind to learn more CSS for Squarespace so I could add all the custom details my clients love to my Squarespace designs. It was lots of hard work but absolutely worth it for me and my clients.
Check out this new design I finished during the mastermind:
Creative Market offers an endless amount of amazing fonts, patterns, vectors, and so much more that makes this site a designer’s best friend! You’ll also find plenty of inspiration and ways to organize your favorite assets for projects.
Don’t attempt this journey alone! Surrounding yourself with motivated creatives like yourself and learning from others will only help you succeed more and with less struggling.
Spruce Rd. Share-Worthy Design for Freelancers Course
When I was still finding my way into the full-time design life, the Spruce Road Share-Worthy Design for Freelancers Course was a huge help when it came to my branding process. They give you an inside-look into their own business and show you how to follow an effective business strategy.
I even learned a few Illustrator tricks along the way!
Launch, Brand, Grow Community
The freelance life can feel like a solitary one, but it doesn’t have to be! Joining the LGB Community was one of the best decisions and investments I made in the beginning. It’s a group of like-minded creatives and entrepreneurs that are looking for the same thing you probably are, support, inspiration, and guidance.
The group also offers courses, workbooks, and other resources created by some of the most experienced professionals in the industry.
If you’re looking for a CRM (Client Relationship Manager) System, you’ll likely choose between Dubsado, Honeybook, and 17Hats. Ultimately, I went with Dubsado because it already includes so many tools to manage a project and saves me a ton of time that could be used for the parts of my business I actually enjoy.
If you’re looking for a quick, reliable way to send proposals, invoices, and contracts as well as accept payments and track expenses, you’re going to want to use Dubsado. I also love that they continue to add new features like the recently added scheduler tool for appointments.
Dubsado deserves its own in-depth blog post about all the ways you can use it to save time and look more professional for your clients. For now, here’s a quick list of some of the awesome features:
Even if your plate is full of design projects already, you know that it’s still important to grow your brand’s presence to keep those leads coming in. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in that feast-or-famine workload that will only stress you out.
I LOVE Planoly because you can design a pretty Instagram feed, 9 grids at a time. If you’re a designer, you know why this is the best tool for Instagram! Planoly also integrates with desktop AND you can plan everything out in advance.
One of the hardest social media platforms to schedule is Pinterest. Tailwind allows you to schedule your pins to post throughout the day so you can set it and forget.
I noticed a huge increase with my pins and boards reach, reins, and followers. You can even use it with Google Analytics so you learn more about the kind of content your followers want.
Whether you’re following up with a lead or send your current clients helpful info, it’s all part of your brand’s voice, which is why it’s so important to have a reliable system and use the right words.
Mailchimp lets you easily design campaigns, schedule follow-up emails, and build your list of leads AND clients. They have simple drag-and-drop designs that make it easy to add your content. You can schedule emails out ahead of time and integrate any other marketing tools you’re already using.
Designers know that one of the biggest obstacles with any project is likely going to be content. If you’re one of the “I hate writing,” types, find the words can hold up your own business, too.
Ashlyn Writes is the go-to copywriting resource for creatives. You’ll find tons of templates for emails, blog posts, web content, both free and paid. It’s a great place to find inspiration and tips on getting your message across the way you want.
Even though I had spent months years? preparing and I knew this was the right choice, it was still scary when I FINALLY made the leap to a full-time designer. I now feel more confident as a business owner and a designer. I only wish I had known these things sooner!
Freeing up my time with efficient tools and processes gives me a chance to focus on the more creative ways I want to grow as a designer. For example, one of my goals for 2019 is to improve my handlettering. I’ve actually been able to find the time to watch ProCreate tutorials so I can use more handlettering in my logo design!
What tools or resources has helped you improve yourself as a designer or a business?