Starting Out as a Freelancer

I’ve had a few recent design graduates ask me a few questions about freelancing. I love being able to give advice or any tips that I’ve learned over the past three years. I also thought I’d share a few tools that I currently use to make freelancing a bit easier.

1. Invoicing: Curdbee ($5/month)

Curdbee allows you to create invoices and estimates to send directly to a client’s inbox. Your client will receive a link taking them to a custom, secure invoice where they can pay via credit card or Paypal.

These screenshots are from Curdbee’s demo site but you can add your logo to the top of the invoice and add a custom message to the bottom.

2. Files: DropBox, YouSendIt, and Google Docs

I’ve had two external hard drives crash. It was devastating. Before I can put my trust into one of those little boxes again, I’ve decided to put my trust into DropBox. I pay $10/month for 50GB. My files aren’t as large as someone working with high-res photos or video so it works for me.

YouSendIt is great for sending really large files. It will email a link to your client so that they can download the file or .zip. I like it because it gives you a confirmation that it has been sent and it gives you a chance to keep large files out of your client’s FTP folders.

Google Docs is also great for sharing word or excel-type documents. It allows you to set permissions and so your client can edit copy and click save without having to send you a Microsoft Word document through email.

3. Communication: Gmail, eBuddy for iPhone, Skype

I don’t understand how there are people who DON’T use Gmail. It saves my life. I can create tags for various projects and Gmail has currently rolled out the Priority Inbox which allows you to slowly customize certain emails that come in as more important. I didn’t include a screenshot of my inbox. Somehow it sort of feels like showing some strangers your underwear drawer.

eBuddy for iPhone allows you to connect to all your messaging accounts (AIM, Google Talk, Facebook, etc) so if a client really needs to talk to you and you’re not near a computer, it becomes very useful.

Skype is how I conduct all my phone conversations with clients. I can use headphones and still access all the files on my computer as we are discussing a project. I also believe in keeping some things personal and I don’t normally give out my cell phone number.

4. Inspiration: Pinterest, Google Reader, and Twitter.

Pinterest is currently being offered by invite only but it allows you to create different “boards” where you can “pin” images throughout the Internet. If you’re on a blog and you really love an image, you can install a browser button that allows you to save the image (always linking back to the original source). You can follow others’ boards and “re-pin” and “like” images. One of my favorite aspects of Pinterest is the fact that they do always site the original location of the image. It’s makes it nearly impossible to steal anything.

I currently follow over 125 blogs via Google Reader. As you can see, I’ve neglected mine over the past week so my unread blog posts are up to 538. Oops. And of course, I use Twitter throughout the day to read articles, laugh at funny comments, and briefly read about what other creatives are doing. You can follow me here.

That’s all I have for now! Check out this article: The Freelancer’s Toolset: 100 Web Apps. Leave a comment with what you use to make freelancing a bit easier!

September 17, 2010