The KTD Blog

Must-Haves for Freelance Web Designers

**Updated 09/11/2017**

How do you come across your favorite services and apps? If you’re like me, you use something crappy that doesn’t work until you’re completely fed up and you go searching for something better. The apps I used a year ago are 90% different than what I use today, because it seems that something new is always coming out with better features and a cooler UI (let’s face it, a slick UI is half the reason I choose to use something). In hopes of saving someone at least a little time, I thought I’d come up with a list of the services, apps, and plugins I currently use. Seriously, I actually use everything in this list, every day! *Disclaimer: A couple links are affiliate links!*

Siteground

Hosting: Siteground

I highly recommend the WordPress hosting package from Siteground. Prices start at $3.95/month for unlimited bandwidth and 10GB of storage. Also comes with a free domain for life, as well as daily backups, CloudFlare CDN, email accounts, 99.9% uptime guarantee, and their fantastic 24/7 support. If you need more features and storage, their most expensive WordPress hosting plan is $14.95/month and adds 30GB storage, pre-installed GIT, SuperCacher, priority support, SSL certificate for 1 year, and 1-click WordPress staging.

Price: $3.95- $14.95/month

Wave]

Accounting: Wave Apps

After trying all the popular accounting apps geared towards freelancers, I am so glad I found Wave. It has all the features you’d expect, including: invoicing (invoices that actually look GREAT!), importing transactions from a bank account or PayPal, receipt tracking (and mobile app for uploading receipts), and reporting. If you have employees, they also have payroll support (which I have not used). It leaves a little to be desired compared to paid apps, but for a free app it is more than enough for my needs, and it keeps getting better with new updates happening frequently. They also give you access to an accountant if you need it.

Price: FREE! (no support), paid options for support and accountant assistance

Asana

Project Management: Asana

I recently started using Asana, and it has changed the way I run my business. It has the ability to track the progress of projects and alert me when deadlines are approaching, which is great for me. I do sub-contracted work for a number of different companies, and I have separated them into their own “teams”. When I get a new project, I add it to their team and can add tasks to that project. I can set due dates, add sub-tasks, add attachments, and use tags for searching purposes. If I had employees or subcontracted workers, I could add them to the project or assign it to them. My favorite part is the calendar view, so I never miss anything. Their mobile app is on point. There is also a separate area for personal projects!

Price: FREE! (up to 15 people)

Note-Taking: One Note

I have made the switch from Evernote to One Note. I use it to keep track of all my client and project info. You have the ability to create “Notebooks” (which you can sort). I use a notebook for each client or project and store project essentials like URLs, website specifics, contact information, list of must-haves for their website, etc. You can also install the One Note extension for Chrome and save screenshots of website inspiration. You can also make a note or point something out using arrows on these screenshots and send them to your clients via a link. Best of all, One Note syncs to all your devices, so you can view your notes via your browser, mobile app, or desktop app.

Price: FREE!

Creative Market

Design Assets: Creative Market

Creative Market is my go-to for design assets. They have everything from stock photos and email templates to fonts and Photoshop brushes. Everything is reasonably priced and sold to you directly from the person who created it! It’s like Etsy for design assets (you can open up your own shop and sell things you’ve created!). My favorite thing about Creative Market is their free goods of the week! Every week they give away free fonts, templates, themes, photos, textures, and icons. You never know what you’re going to get!

Price: Affordable!

Adobe CC

Creative Tools: Adobe Creative Cloud

Photoshop has become essential to many of my projects, and most of my deliverables are required to be PSDs. It goes without saying that upgrading to CC is a big deal, and trust me I put it off as long as I could! CS6 was just too outdated to continue using it, so I recently upgraded to CC. Let me tell you: it’s the bomb.com! There are way too many features to name that are new for CC, so I’ll just say: if you need to use the Adobe products for work, go ahead and upgrade. You won’t be disappointed!

Price: $19.99/month per app or $49.99/month for all apps.

Code Editor: Sublime Text

Sublime Text is the best text editor I’ve ever used. I’ve recently switched from Brackets and it’s way better. It opens TWICE as quick, it’s visually appealing, which is important to me, and it streamlines my process.

Price: FREE!

Browser: Chrome

Chrome is life. That is all.

Price: FREE!

 

WordPress Themes and Plugins

Divi

Theme: Divi

Divi has quickly become my go-to theme for all my client websites. It is the most versatile theme I’ve ever used. It uses a page builder, sort of like the Headway theme or Visual Composer, except way easier to use in my opinion. The sections and rows make it super quick to build out a responsive page. You can change the width, colors, and other styles for each section and/or row, as well as save them and make them global so that when you update one, they all update. The theme is more expensive than others, because you’re not paying for the theme, you’re paying for membership access to Elegant Themes. With this membership, you get access to ALL their themes and plugins, including Divi and their new powerhouse theme Extra, and plugins like the Divi Builder plugin, Monarch, and Bloom.

Price: $249 for lifetime access to all current and future themes and plugins, as well as updates and support. (They also have yearly $69 and $89 plans if you don’t want to pay for the lifetime membership.) Pro tip: they usually have their memberships on sale on Black Friday for 40% off!

Wordfence

Security: Wordfence

You have to have security for your WordPress site, there is no other way around it. I like Wordfence because it’s easy to use and has a lot of options to choose from to keep your site secure, as well as scanning for malicious files and notifying you of files that have been changed. You can choose to block users who try to login with certain usernames, or block users who access your site a certain number of times in a time period. There is a paid option that allows you to block specific countries from viewing your website, as well as many other options.

Price: FREE! (or paid version for more features)

Updraft Plus

Backups: Updraft Plus

Another essential plugin for your site is a backup plugin. Updraft Plus can connect to cloud storage such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon Web Storage, etc. You can choose to backup the database, themes, and uploaded content, as well as how often updates should take place and how many backups should be kept in remote storage. If anything ever happens to your website, just restore from your backup and you’re good to go!

Price: FREE! (premium version starts at $70)

Events

WordCamp US

WordCamp US 2017

I went to my first WordCamp in December of 2015 and it was amazing!! It was the first ever WordCamp US and it was held in Philadelphia for 2 years. Aside from the super great lectures, there are a ton of sponsors and vendors there, and they all have #swag to give away! I usually end up with 20 t-shirts, a ton of notebooks, pens, pins, guitar picks, beanies, hats, an ice scraper, buttons, hand sanitizer, and Siteground socks! (They’re AMAZING!) WordCamp 2017 is in NASHVILLE!!

Price: $40 (2-day ticket includes lunch for both days and admission to the after party!)

Tell me what I’m missing! Is there an app or service you can’t live without?

About Katie

Katie is a web designer & front-end developer specializing in WordPress. She was raised in North Carolina and now lives in Delaware with her amazing husband, sweet baby boy and 2 crazy pit bulls. 🙂

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