Freelance work can be one of the most liberating work, especially when moving from agency or in-house, you will ever undertake in your career. And while it has plenty of benefits, especially when developing a career, it has no shortage of it’s own challenges. The ability to set your own schedule and work when/where you want is liberating, but it can also be more difficult to connect with clients, maintain a consistent workflow, and find inspiration in isolation.
Today I would like to share with you some web-based apps, that I have found to be very useful for keeping in touch with clients and some that allow me to keep a consistent workflow.
Fortunately, the emergence of cloud computing has opened up a lot of opportunities for designers. It’s no longer necessary to overload your personal computer with large software packages and files, and back them up on several external hard drives just in case of possible crashes. The cloud enables you to store, back up and share files and programs on the web, which you can access from anywhere. It’s a revolutionary way of doing your work, and immediately streamlines your workflow.
If you’re interested in using the cloud, but unsure of where to start, try reading this cloud computing guide for a brief introduction (and a pretty funny video of people trying to explain what exactly the cloud is).
There are cloud apps specialized for virtually every aspect of designing, so here is a quick guide on useful web-based apps to get you started if you’re thinking about taking the freelance plunge:
For Client Collaboration
Dropbox: More or less a household name at this point, this is a free service that allots you 2GB of storage upon sign-up. It’s designed for any web user, which means that your clients will be able to easily use it to see any files you wish to share with them. It’s also a secure app for your own storage. For those who need more space, they do have many options to pay for increased storage.
Sugarsync: This is another comprehensive storage system that offers file and folder sharing. It is compatible with most devices, so is a great option for your clients to use with you.
Evernote: Not only can Evernote act as your own digital scrapbook to store research, inspiration and ideas, it’s a great app to take notes when meeting with clients. You don’t have to deal with lugging around a notebook and remembering where you put your notes; you can locate them any time and from any device after your meetings or collaborations.
Dealing with clients can be difficult to navigate at times for reasons other than technical ones, so here is a collaboration guide for more in-depth help for those with less experience with remote work.
Encouraging Team Effort
Basecamp: This is one of the most popular project management apps. It’s ideal for designers, because it tracks projects from start to finish, and is designed for teams to work together remotely. It stores and organizes all files, documents, discussion feeds and feedback all in one place, which makes it extremely easy to track what team members are doing, as well as the project as a whole.
Draftboard: Another great collaboration tool, this streamlines all communication and feedback on project mockups. Perfect for the remote designer, you can update your progress and receive feedback from other designers or clients in one fell swoop, without having to meet face to face.
Codeanywhere: When inspiration hits when you’re on the go, use this browser-based coding tool, which allows you to draft web layouts on any mobile device. It has Dropbox integration, as well as mobile apps for all types of Smartphones.
CSSDesk: Design a creative website with this full-featured interface. It allows you to develop designs that are supported across all major desktop and mobile browsers.
Adobe Creative Cloud: As a designer, this is an especially exciting cloud app for you. You’ve probably become accustomed to buying expensive software packages that take up ahefty chunk of your hard drive space, and then spending more to upgrade to the latest version. Well, not anymore! Adobe now offers access to its latest products with a membership. Instead of installing programs on your own computer, you can use them on any device, as well as enjoy exclusive membership features.
Google Cloud Print: Connect your printer to the web and print a document or image from any application or device. You can share printers with anyone you choose from your Google account for a more concrete version of Google Docs.
Typography and Color Guides
TypeCast: This aewsome tool lets you design and experiment, all in the browser, with web fonts and real content. You can try the most popular web fonts all in one place, including all weights and compare font combinations and build type systems very quickly.
Adobe Kuler: Another excellent tool for doing tests, this app is for creating color themes and palettes, which can then be exported to any CS5 program. You can also import photos to create color palettes based on their prominent colors.
Experimenting with different apps will allow you to decide what works best for you to make your remote design efforts a success.