Whether you’re a freelance web designer or you work remotely as part of a team, staying on track can be one of the most challenging aspects of your working day. The freedom and flexibility that made you choose this lifestyle can also be your downfall.
Thankfully there’s a multitude of productivity apps available to help you stay organized, focused, and keep you on track with your work.
Here are some of the best productivity apps for 2017.
Apps to manage your workload
Whether you’re a freelancer or manage a team, you’ll inevitably find a large chunk of your day is swallowed up dealing with clients, managing the business, and problem-solving, rather than designing and developing websites. These apps will help you manage your workload so you can focus on the most important tasks.
Trying to balance large projects while managing and growing your business is hard, so you need a good project management app to keep everything in one place. Asana is ideal, allowing you to manage an entire project without resorting to email.
Redbooth could fit into several categories in this list. It’s an award-winning project management service, with excellent tools for collaboration and communication. Teams can centralize projects, manage workflow, track their time, and chat in real time. It works on multiple platforms and devices.
Basecamp has been around a while. It’s one of the leading all-in-one project management solutions, with a host of collaboration tools to boost communication in your team and with your clients. It also works with a number of third-party integrations.
Trello is a visual task and project management tool. Organize your projects into boards, and break them down into manageable chunks using lists and cards, kind of like a giant, multi-colored to-do list. You can use it individually or share your projects collaboratively, and there are paid options for greater functionality.
Apps to track & manage your time
Time is money, so you need to ensure you’re spending your days wisely and being paid fairly. This selection of apps will help you keep track of time spent on each project and task, and eliminate distractions so you can be as productive as possible.
Many freelancers work on an hourly basis and need to keep track of hours worked, as well as gather information to help them set their hourly rate. Toggl is a relatively simple app designed to track your time. Set up your project and each individual task, and record the time spent on each. You can also use it to monitor other team members’ productivity.
RescueTime tracks and logs the time you spend on each task, such as emails, meetings, and web design, as well as that great time-sucker – social media. It’s a useful way to keep track of how you spend your days and where you while away time on unnecessary distractions.
It’s rare for me to work without [email protected]; it’s my go-to app for focus and concentration. It contains a unique library of music and sounds, such as water, which have been scientifically mastered to enhance concentration. Choose your favorite music or sound, set a timer, and away you go.
The internet is full of distractions and sometimes it’s just too tempting to follow world events or look at cute kittens when you really should be working. StayFocusd monitors the websites you visit and blocks distracting and unnecessary apps and sites so you stay focused on the task at hand.
I’m a huge fan of the Pomodoro method, which involves short, focused 25-minutes bursts of work, broken up with breaks. There are a number of different apps based on the method, including Tomato Timer, a simple website with a timer and a choice of short or long break.
Apps to help balance your budget
The admin side of running a web design business can be frustrating and tedious. But if you don’t stay on top of your invoicing, you run the risk of not having enough in the coffers to pay your bills on time. These apps will help you with invoicing, taxes, contracts, and tracking your income and expenses.
Wave was designed especially for freelancers and small businesses of nine people or less. This free app will make the accounting side of your business a breeze. Use it to create and send invoices and job estimates, and track your expenses. You can even accept client credit card payments via the app.
Freshbooks is a premium cloud-accounting app designed for small businesses, with its own time-tracking feature. Raise invoices via the app, and your clients can pay you immediately via credit card or PayPal. All for a low monthly fee.
FreeAgent is a useful alternative for UK-based freelancers and businesses, and it’s my go-to accounting program. It links directly to HMRC, which is super handy when you need to do your taxes at the end of the year.
Collaboration and communication apps
Working remotely is increasingly common amongst freelancers and established web design teams. As this often means working in different countries and time zones, you need reliable systems in place so you remain in easy, consistent contact with your clients and can collaborate with other team members without having to be in the same room. These apps will help you achieve just that.
Google accounts come with a rich suite of apps, designed to keep you focused and productive in your work and life, including emails, hangouts, calendar, drive, and docs. If you want to supercharge your professional life, choose Google Apps for Work, which comes with a number of premium features such as a professional email address, additional cloud storage, and business-level security.
Dropbox is a cloud-based file sharing and storage service, which saves your files and documents across all of your devices. Unlike Google Drive, there is a desktop app so you can work offline, limiting pesky distractions.
If you work a long way from your clients or the rest of your team, it’s essential you have a reliable communication tool so you can ask for feedback and gain valuable insight into a project in real time. Skype is an excellent communication tool with video chat, voice call, and messaging services, which has been around for longer than most.
Slack is a hugely popular online communication and collaboration tool that’s excellent for remote teams, those who travel frequently, and teams who need to be in constant communication. It’s a great way to share documents and project updates, it integrates with a number of other apps, and you can create separate channels for different needs, such as project groups, clients, teams, etc.
Mind maps – those excellent hand-drawn brainstorming solutions you used in school to plan your essays or projects – are equally relevant today. MindMeister is a genius app that allows you to do this electronically and share it with your collaborators and clients. It’s a fantastic brainstorming tool for web designers, and brilliant for bouncing ideas off others.
Invision is a project management tool designed for freelancers and teams whose work focuses around design. Create interactive mock-ups and share them with your clients and team members, promoting discussion and feedback. This multi-platform app is essential for projects with multiple design phases.
Phew! That’s my selection of essential productivity apps for freelancers and web designers in 2017. What are your favorite productivity apps and why? Tell us below.