11 Tools and Resources that Revolutionized My Design Business
I get a lot of lovely ladies/ gents/ uber-talented aspiring designers reaching out to me via my Instagram and email with questions about my process and how I’ve grown my business.
I decided that it might be useful to compile all of my go-to resources for education and simply running my business in a blog post for super easy reference. I hope that these tools and resources help and empower you to navigate your processes and grow your biz, too!
I’m going to be bold and say that this is my #1 love affair and super-power tool that I use in my business. I’ve been using Dubsado for the past six months, and it has cut down on SO much admin time and bookkeeping that I used to barely get by doing myself. I’d spend HOURS making new proposals, contracts, invoices and questionnaires for each client. Dubsado has the ability to automate the majority of this, and allows you to freely edit and tailor each item depending on your client and the scope of work at hand. It also “legitimizes” your business a lot, in my opinion, as it allows your clients to actually “sign” your contract, making the clauses and terms legally binding. It also keeps your books organized and gives you an overview of your income, which invoices have been paid, who is late on a payment, and keeps all of your client questionnaires in one neat spot. You can also request meetings with your clients from the platform, which allows them to pick an open slot in an allotment of dates and times that you provide. This cuts down on back and forth emailing to schedule meetings 100%. You can also create totally custom questionnaires with drop down menus, checkboxes, and long-form fill in the blanks, which is so great when on boarding for branding and websites.
Dubsado is FREE for your first 3 clients, which when you’re just starting out is perfect! Once you reach the 3-client mark, it asks you to sign up, and paid yearly the service is SO affordable considering the time it saves you by streamlining everything, as well as it’s professional appearance to your clients.
This one is probably a no-brainer, but I felt like I HAD to include it. Pinterest is obviously really fun for just scrolling around and killing time, but it is also a powerful design-inspo. arsenal. When I begin moodboard concepting for my clients, which I do for every single project, this is the first place I go for inspiration. I take my client questionnaire (or strategy document, project dependent) and search up key terms and themes that resonates with the brands overall vibe and style. I then put them all together in either a collage or grid (depends on timeline/ how I’m feelin’) in illustrator. If you want a complete step-by-step overview of my moodboard process, click here.
This one is kind of boring and admin-esque, but is important to my biz none-the-less! I use Zoom to schedule all of my meetings with my clients. It is very reliable and allows you to send invites that get placed on both yours and your clients google calendars, in your respective timezones. This is a lifesaver as I’ve more than once mixed up a meeting by converting the timezone wrong. This eliminates this room for error entirely!
I love online courses. I am a self taught designer and business lady, and SO not perfect… But I’m always looking for ways to learn, grow, and serve my clients better. This course is SO great for streamlining your branding process. Bre from Rowan Made is an excellent designer and teacher, and even provides done-for-you templates and swipe files to make your intake/ screening/ and client processes waayy smoother.
I believe the course is $350, which in my opinion is an absolute steal of a deal for the amount of time and heart-ache she saves you with her experience and knowledge when it comes to running a design studio and navigating your client process/ relationships.
Asana, a project management software, was introduced to me during the Branding with Bre course. This is an AMAZING and free tool that is relatively easy to navigate and helps so much with project organization, as well as managing timeline and client expectations. This allows you to input every milestone in your design process as a “task” all the way from “sign contract” to “final files delivery. You can even put specific “due dates” to keep your client feedback and personal workflow on track. You assign each task either to yourself or your client, they can write their feedback in a comment directly on to the task at hand, and when the task is complete, the assignee simply marks it as done, which prompts the project to move on to the next milestone. I find that this software also helps in eliminating the dreaded “scope creep” that us designers are all-to familiar with, by having a detailed schedule of every deliverable that is included in the project. Anything outside of that scope the client will pay additionally for, and it makes these conversations much easier when you can both visually look at the agreed upon timeline and scope.
The Futur is a Youtube channel that talks about the design of business and business of design. It is run by Chris Do, a highly experienced creative who runs the agency BLIND. Chris and his team are an absolute wealth of knowledge, and I am so impressed by all of the information I have gathered from the videos that they put out FOR FREE. I’ve learned so much surrounding design itself, strategy, setting boundaries, pricing my services, and creativity in general. If you are a creative entrepreneur of any kind, I highly recommend checking out the Futur for tips on running and growing your biz- no matter how many years you’ve been at it. They also offer courses, which look amazing and I’m sure are so worth the price-tag, many of which I would love to take the next time I have a dip in my client schedule.
Unsplash is a free “stock” photo website that any aspiring photographer or human that takes cool photos can submit their work to. This site is highly valuable both in my work and for my clients who are in need of quick styled photos or place-holders for their website. Unsplash is great as you can use the photos freely in both personal and commercial work. There isn’t a need to credit the creator (though it’s totally encouraged!) This site has saved me in presentations where clients are waiting on their photography, or when I need to source a quick photo to overlay a personal-project logo for my Instagram feed.
There is a massive library, and you can input any search term your heart desires! It is very similar to Pinterest in that sense, however it is strictly a photography website (no articles, art, etc.) AND you don’t have to fret posting this imagery due to copyrights or ownership, which is a lifesaver when you just need a high-quality photo FAST.
This website is an excellent resource for finding unique fonts (both free and paid). It offers articles, collections of font types, and recommendations for fonts that will achieve a similar look and feel to fonts that are typically very expensive. I love this site because I often find fonts that don’t appear in google fonts or the other classic font websites that I would typically visit. It allows me to dig deep into font styles and often helps to find the perfect font fit for whatever my project at hand is. My only warning is that if you visit this site, you might end-up in a longwinded font wormhole of exploration, as there is so much to see and explore here!
Coolors is an online colour scheme generator. If I’m ever at a loss when dreaming up a colour palette for a client, or simply need somewhere to start exploring possible options, I always go here. You can essentially flip through millions of generated colour palette possibilities, saving the ones you like, and continuing to flip through to fill the remaining slots. A really great feature of this site is that you can put in an inspiration photo, and directly pull colours and their corresponding HEX codes directly from it. Also, coloors is totally free, and it is super straight forward to save a palette you love as a PNG to pull into your illustrator art-board-scene.
Although this is one of my least visited resources of the lot, this is a super powerful site and tool for all designers. You can essentially browse other designers latest work for inspiration, and if you create an account, you can also share your own work (which actually makes this a platform to connect with potential clients!) What I mainly use Behance for, however, is finding ultra- funky and unique open-source fonts created by up-and-coming artists. Often, font designers are looking to get their names out into the world and will release some of their fonts for free (even with a commercial license!) This is a great platform to flip through possibilities for unique paid and unpaid fonts from new artists.
Creative market is my go-to for paid fonts and any extra branding elements that I am unable to create on my own. I like to stick to free fonts with my clients, however sometimes a paid font is the only direction to go when the client is looking for a stand-out, uncommon, or type-based identity system. Creative Market also sells gorgeous mockups which are huge for displaying your work in a way that connects with your clients. I have also seen absolutely gorgeous templates for social media and brand guidelines that could be highly valuable if you’re in a pinch or short on time, or even just looking to gather inspiration to design your own.
Did I miss anything? I so hope this helps you in growing your business and navigating and streamlining your process. If there’s any ressource you know of that I’m crazy to be living without, please let me know!