Skip to main content

Essential tools to manage a freelance design business

Whether you’re just starting out or you’re 20 years deep, running a creative freelance business isn't easy. It takes time, dedication and resources. But luckily, there are a few things you can do to make things a little easier, without breaking your budget.

In this article, we’ll run down our top tips to help you to take charge of different parts of your freelance business, with suggested resources or tools to help with each aspect. For a more comprehensive list, check out our run down of 20 top tools for freelancers.

01. Keep track of your projects

Trello helps you juggle multiple projects at once

Trello helps you juggle multiple projects at once

As a freelancer, it's not uncommon to work on more than one project at once. With tools such as Trello (opens in new tab) and Asana (opens in new tab), you can keep track of everything in one place using boards, lists and cards. 

Trello is a free online collaboration tool that allows you to add multiple users, all of whom can track changes in real-time. You can add images and files, set due dates and keep things organised and colour-coded. There's even a mobile companion app for when you're on the go!

02. Manage your money

Wave apps are a (mostly) free way to manage your money

Wave apps are a (mostly) free way to manage your money

Keeping tabs on your money is another key part of running a successful freelancing business. Using tools such as Wave (opens in new tab) and Xero (opens in new tab), you'll be able to do just that. 

And most of the Wave apps are free, including features to help with accounting, invoicing, personal finance and tracking receipts. And if you need to add payroll and credit card payments, there's a paid option for that.

03. Value your time properly

This tracker shows you what's eating up too much of your time

This tracker shows you what's eating up too much of your time

As a freelancer, time is just as important as money, so time trackers such as Toggl (opens in new tab) and Harvest (opens in new tab) are ideal.

Toggl is an online service that helps you manage and track your time. With a few simple clicks, you'll be able to split your time between different projects and track exactly which tasks take the most time to complete. You'll also be able to share professional-looking reports with your clients.

04. Get the word out

Set up a website to help people find you

Set up a website to help people find you

You can have the best product or service on the planet, but if nobody knows about it, it'll never sell. One of the best ways to advertise what you do is by having a website. With a website, people can find out what you offer, and more importantly, how to contact you. 

WordPress (opens in new tab) is a great platform for this, and there are plenty of WordPress tutorials to help you get up and running. Alternatively, take look at out roundup of the best free blogging platforms and also consider setting up Facebook Pages for business (opens in new tab).

05. Connect with the community

A newsletter is a good way to connect with your community

A newsletter is a good way to connect with your community

Once you have your website up and running, it's time to start a newsletter. With a service like MailChimp (opens in new tab), you can easily create professional-looking newsletters that you'll be able to plug in to your new WordPress site. 

Newsletters are a great way to let your clients know what you're working on next, as well as advertising any news or public appearances. Another way to get your news out there, perhaps on a more ad hoc basis, is to start a blog (opens in new tab).

06. Stay in sync

Sync your calendars and share your files with Google's G Suite

Sync your calendars and share your files with Google's G Suite

Scheduling and document sharing between multiple clients and collaborators can be a headache for freelancers. But it's easy when you use the suite of tools provided by Google's G Suite (opens in new tab). Not only can you use Google to keep track of your important calendar events and reminders , but you'll be able to collaborate and share documents with your clients and other team members. 

Google also recently announced its new cloud storage app, which offers a quick, speedy and free way to back up your files – although Dropbox (opens in new tab) is of course another trusty solution for cloud storage.

07. Find new work

There are many services to help you find freelance gigs

There are many services to help you find freelance gigs

When it feels like you're rushed off your feet with current jobs, it can be hard to find the time to tout for new work. But if you don't, you could end up with uncomfortably long gaps between paying gigs. 

Although there's a small monthly fee to use it, FlexJobs (opens in new tab) is one of the better sites for finding guaranteed, legitimate freelance work. With a variety of different job categories to explore, you're likely to find something to match your needs. And because FlexJobs acts as an aggregator, you won't need to spend hours online searching every corner of the web. Indeed (opens in new tab) is another popular site for freelancers.

08. Take time for yourself

This app is sure to liven up your exercise break

This app is sure to liven up your exercise break

Freelancers tend to work long hours, but it's important to take frequent breaks in order to recharge your internal battery. For many, exercise is the first choice. However, just walking about gets boring. 

If you're looking to liven up your break time, have a look at Zombies, Run! (opens in new tab), an exercise app that adds mild zombie threat to your exercise routine.

Read more:

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Tammy is an independent creative professional, author of Apple Game Frameworks and Technologies (opens in new tab), and the maker behind the AdventureGameKit (opens in new tab) – a custom SpriteKit framework for building point and click adventure games. As an innovative problem solver and industry leader, Tammy enjoys working on projects from content creation – including books, tutorials, videos, and podcasts – to the design and development of cross-platform applications and games. For Creative Bloq, she has written about an array of subjects, including animation, web design and character design.