10 Essential Tools For Freelance Designers

These are the tools I use on a daily basis:

       Being a freelancer of any kind, comes with having an understanding of your tools and what you tend to use everyday. I have always found it helpful to (especially when I was starting out) to see what other people in my field of work are using day-to-day. As a graphic designer, I might use some things that a photographer might not use, but I think that there will be some similarities amongst all who are freelancing. So, here are ten tools that I use on a daily basis:


1. Pen or Pencil and Paper-

    Don’t discount the basics. I use these things all the time, whether it’s for sketching, taking notes, or brainstorming my next idea, I always try to use the hand-held classics before I do anything digital. 


2. Adobe Illustrator-

    Illustrator is a powerhouse in the vector-creation software world. It seems to be the industry standard for those making vector art. I use this for most everything that I do, from digital illustration to logo and branding design. There is definitely a learning curve when it comes to trying to figure out Illustrator (or any Adobe product for that matter), but it is totally worth diving in and experiencing the depths of what Illustrator can do for you! I have been using it for over 4 years now and I feel like I have only scratched the surface of what its capabilities are. If you don’t want to sign up for Adobe’s Creative Cloud there are some other vector art software options such as: Corel Draw X6 or Inkscape for Windows users and Sketch or Affinity Designer for Mac users. Also there are now some apps that you can use on your phone or tablet for vector art such as: Inkpad, iDesign, and Touch Draw all offering some similar capabilities to Adobe Illustrator.


3. Adobe Photoshop- 

    I know, when I see the word “Photoshop,” I tend to cringe. Being a graphic designer I think it is just implied that you have to be a master of Adobe Photoshop, but I’ll be the first person to tell you that Photoshop freaks me out! There is so much to it and it can be kind of scary, but don’t let that fear get in the way of how handy this tool can be. You can use it for editing photos, illustration with photoshop brushes, creating brushes and textures, using textures to place into your vector artwork, and so much more. I pretty much use Photoshop for those reasons and haven’t learned “the so much more” part of that list. I highly recommend diving into this crazy piece of software too and learning as much as you can about it. It can definitely help in many areas and I think most designers and even creatives in general will agree with me. But if Photoshop isn’t your thing or too big of a learning curve there are other options for that as well: Affinity Photo for Mac users, GIMP or Corel Printshop Pro for Windows users, Pixelmator for Mac, iPhone, and iPad, and Pixlr for iOS or Android.


4. Computer-

    I think it is a pretty obvious tool being that I listed two different computer softwares beforehand, but the computer whether a laptop or desktop is a vital tool for any freelancer. I use it for just about everything: software, managing my website, taking notes, planning things, using the calendar, and everything else a computer can do. I use it everyday and I couldn’t do what i do without my Macbook Pro. Oh, by the way, I am totally a Mac and Apple products supporter, no offense to Windows or Google users, it’s just my personal preference.


5. Camera or Smart Phone-

    The camera is such a useful tool that has become an integral part or our everyday lives since the iPhone 4 came out and Instagram was introduced to the world. I use my camera on my iPhone for quite a few things. I use it for taking pictures of my sketches and email them to myself so I can use it in Illustrator or Photoshop, I also use it to take pictures of products for sale in our shop or for promotional material. My wife, Charis, and I did a photo shoot with just the two of us and our iPhones, probably not the best thing ever, but it definitely has gotten the job done and it still looks professional.


6. Printer/Scanner-

    Charis and I have a printer/scanner combo that isn’t great, but it gets the job done. I think we definitely want to upgrade our setup at some point, but thats not the point right now. We both use this so much for everything that it can do… Printing and Scanning. We both scan our sketches of our projects in to the computer depending on what we want, usually its more detailed work that a photo wouldn’t really capture what we need. Printing things is also a fairly valuable contribution. I’ll let you come up with how you can use a printer (a hint: it’s for printing things).


7. Google Calendar-

    I use google Calendar for all of my scheduling needs; whether its just to set up a reminder, schedule a project for a client, or scheduling blog posts, it all goes into Google Calendar. It is so handy and so accessible been both on my phone and on the computer. There are so many scheduling softwares out there now, so just go and find the one that works best for you and start managing your time better with scheduling.


8. Evernote-

    This program is a life saving software that I use on a daily basis! If you haven’t heard of it, go look it up online or just go download it from the app store right now! It is essentially an organization program that helps keep all the things you need to keep in one place. I use it for brainstorming, keeping pictures of sketches, you can take pictures or your receipts and keep them all in the same place, and so much more. Evernote is awesome, go get it!


9. Squarespace-

    Ok, so there is a lot of debate about website programs, but I use Squarespace and love it. It is a template based web developing program that uses clean, hip, and modern templates with an easy-to-use user interface. It does take a little bit of time to figure out the quirks (those come with anything) but once you do, it becomes super easy to use and there are so many tutorials and other web help online! This is great for the person who wants a great looking website that they can manage themselves without a ton of coding knowledge (or any at all for that matter. If you know how to code, or need some more complex features in your website, than I would suggest something else. But this is what I use, and I am super happy with it!


10. Skillshare-

    Skillshare is so awesome! One of our core values here at RDC is to always be a learner, and Skillshare makes it easy to learn new things. I might not use this EVERY day, but I would say at least once a week I’ll try and take a class. Skillshare is an online education platform where people from all over have uploaded classes on any skill that you can think of. You could learn anything from pottery to calligraphy to woodworking to web programming to underwater basket weaving. It is so great and every class that I have taken is packed with little nuggets to take away with. So good! You can start your 3 month trial of Skillshare Premium for only $0.99 at this link:http://skillshare.evyy.net/c/337702/298081/4650

    I hope you could take away some value from this and maybe it will encourage you to use one of these tools that you never have before, or never thought you would. 


    What tools do you use everyday? Were there any tools in this list that were new to you?