If you’re just getting started in your web design business, there’s no time like the present to set yourself up for success, starting with assembling a suite of can’t-live-without web design tools.
Yes, of course you expect to spend some money filling your toolbox with the screwdriver-and-hammer equivalent of what you need to get the web design work done.
But don’t limit your thinking to the tools used to actually build websites.
Your web design toolkit becomes even more useful by including productivity-boosting tools that manage time, money, communication, and client interactions.
Dig into these 8 types of other-than-actual-web-building, must-have web design tools to make the most of your business.
1. Corral your calendar
Get in the right frame of mind by reviewing these 10 organizing tips to help protect your limited and valuable time.
- I can’t live without TeuxDeux, a visually compelling and highly usable to-do app that seamlessly integrates across computer, phone, and tablet. Alternatives include Todoist and Wunderlist.
- Consider one of the long-time capable calendars (Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook and Apple Calendar), or investigate tools that enable scheduling meetings without the back-and-forth of email, including ScheduleOnce, Calendly, and SimplyBook.me.
2. Leverage leads
Track potential leads with a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system to nurture existing and potential customer relationships, coordinate tasks and documents, assign contacts, and establish a pipeline to bring them into the fold.
- Zoho CRM is an all-in-one suite to run your entire business, with 35+ integrated applications. Reach out to prospects at the right moment, and close deals the smart way.
- The Bitrix24 Platform offers a suite of tools including a CRM that organizes and tracks interaction with potential or existing clients, partners, agents, and contacts.
3. Put out perfect proposals and compelling contracts
Worried that you’ll drive clients away with scary legal paperwork? Learn why you need client agreements, proposals, estimates, and contracts to protect both you and the client. Write proposals that win clients, and then move on to a high-converting contract.
- Proposify was made for creatives, providing a simpler way to deliver winning proposals, and track proposal performance over time.
- Bidsketch lets you mix-and-match content, fees, and designs to create new proposals in minutes.
4. Tenaciously track time
Of course you want to track time actually worked, but you also want to optimize your time-management skills to make the most of your available work time.
- Harvest is an industry standard, tracking time and expenses per client, project, or task – and it integrates with other systems including QuickBooks, Slack and Stripe.
- Toggl lets you track hours with a single click, to learn where you actually spend your time.
- Timely works seamlessly across platforms to keep track of what you worked on.
5. Ferociously follow your finances
Setting up an accounting information system is indispensable in keeping track of money moving in and out of your business. While invoicing is not a task most small business owners eagerly anticipate, it’s unavoidable – so focus on effective invoicing for best results.
- Quickbooks Self-employed helps freelancers organize receipts, track mileage and expenses, and create invoices.
- The FreshBooks suite of accounting tools lets you manage expenses, create invoices, collect payments, and track time.
- Consider one of many online invoice generators, including Invoice2Go, Paydirt and Invoicely.
6. Compel collaboration
To streamline success, set clear expectations about client interaction and behaviors, and then provide tools that enable real-time work and communication, avoiding back-and-forth email.
- Trello’s unique system of boards, lists, and cards lets you organize and prioritize projects.
- Basecamp puts everything in one place. While a bit pricey, its comprehensive system lets you manage many items covered elsewhere in this article, including file storage, schedules, to-do lists and more.
- Asana is another comprehensive project management solution, with plenty of bells and whistles to track projects, conversations and dashboards.
- Slack allows you to set up a private group for each client, and quickly collaborate.
- Set up accounts on the major file-sharing platforms, to accommodate client preferences. Leaders include Dropbox and Google Drive.
7. Win with wireframes & mockups
When working with WordPress, some projects will benefit from a WordPress website prototype to demonstrate functionality. But if not, consider one of these wireframe and mockup tools.
- Mockplus uses a simple drag-and-drop approach to quickly create interactive prototypes of desktop, mobile and web apps.
- UXpin’s system for rapid collaboration helps you design lifelike interfaces with dozens of built-in UI libraries, and prototype with both built-in and custom interactions.
- Marvel’s simple editor allows you to link all your designs together in a jiffy, then add gestures and transitions to make your prototype feel just like a real app or website.
8. Facilitate feedback
Providing ways for clients to review work on their website and provide real-time feedback allows you to quickly recreate the conditions under which problems were observed.
- Trackduck lets clients leave feedback right on a website or image file. New comments include an automatically recorded screenshot, with technical details including browser version, OS, and screen resolution.
Investing in tools from these eight categories will help you achieve higher productivity, improved results, and satisfying client relationships. Let’s review the key categories one more time:
- Corral your calendar
- Leverage leads
- Put out perfect proposals and compelling contracts
- Tenaciously track time
- Ferociously follow your finances
- Compel collaboration
- Win with wireframes & mockups
- Facilitate feedback
The web design tools covered here are by no means an exhaustive list, but investigating options in each area will get you started on the right path to managing your business like a pro!