A question I get quite often – what are the go-to programs that you use in your web design business?
With so many online business tools and platforms at our fingertips these days, comparing one tool to another and deciding which one is best for you can take days! With recommendations and pros and cons to every different platform, it can get confusing *very* quickly.
Here is the round-up of my 12 favourite and essential tools that I use to run my web design business smoothly and efficiently.
Transparency notice: Some of these are affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission. They’ve been hand-selected by me to feature here because I trust them and use them every day within my own business.
Ok, first things first. As a web and graphic designer, my business would not be possible without Adobe Creative Cloud. It provides the foundational toolkit for any graphic and web design business. Adobe Creative Cloud is literally the backbone of my business and is where all of the design magic happens.
Far more than just a CRM, Dubsado is an essential tool that has streamlined so many aspects of my business, meaning less time spent on administrative tasks, and more time spent doing the actual creative work. It can automate processes such as client onboarding and contracts, invoicing, accounting, scheduling appointments, and a whole lot more.
Building the all-mighty email list is a priority in my business. As you may have heard before, you don’t “own” your social media following, but you do have complete control over your email list!
I use ActiveCampaign because it allows me to create targeted email marketing and email funnels. It provides a detailed level of control to streamline and segment email campaigns that makes it easy for me to automate as much as possible so I can get on with my design projects, while still reaching my audience.
One of the key parts of my business model for web design is ensuring that once I hand over a new website for a client, it is still very user friendly for the client to update and manage themselves if they prefer. This is why I use Elementor + Astra within WordPress. It is a powerful web design & development suite that is built for designers and a visual experience, but that supports business autonomy by being extremely user-friendly for clients and small businesses to control, manage, and update their own websites.
Once again, I prefer to use Siteground for all hosting solutions for my clients as its interface has been built with both web professionals and their clients in mind. It is a fully managed service that provides both power and safety for hosting.
Asana is the project management tool where I manage all my client projects. It helps keep track of timelines, due dates, and all communication between clients and team members, avoiding lengthy email chains. The way that it allows different setups between lists or boards, and then within each task, you can add subtasks, checklists, updates, files, due dates and so on, makes Asana very versatile, while still keeping its usability very straightforward, even for clients who may have never used a project management tool before.
Creative Market is an amazing and seemingly endless platform to source design resources including fonts, patterns, textures, and templates. There are some really high-quality resources that I could essentially create myself but sometimes it’s more beneficial to focus on other aspects within a project that are my strong point.
I primarily use the assets from Creative Market within my own brand and for font research for client projects.
If you are looking for high-quality design mockups for your design clients as well as showcasing your work, look no further than Moyo Studio. It is the best resource that I have come across for design mockups for creatives. I’ve held an account with Moyo Studio from their early beginnings and their tools and mockups have helped shape my brand.
These three sites offer free high-quality stock imagery. The photography features realistic images that don’t look staged. As the images are all free and can be used by anyone online, I predominantly just use them for mood board creation, placeholder images, and social media content, with proper credit.
This platform may not be applicable to everyone’s business, depending on what you need to collect payments for. It’s not usually used just for invoicing and accounting. My Dubsado takes care of that. However, it is a powerful shopping cart that powers everything from my website maintenance subscriptions to my online course checkout.
Is it controversial for a qualified designer to include Canva as an essential resource? No, not in my opinion. Canva is actually a great tool that has made basic graphic design accessible for small businesses. I’m a big believer in creating as much business autonomy as possible for my clients. I use Canva to create editable templates for my clients so they can manage their own social media content and everyday resources within their businesses without having to pay me to do it on an ongoing basis. I also use it for my own brand’s social media templates so everything is in one place where my virtual assistant can access it.
Planoly is a visually pleasing as well as efficient social media scheduling tool that allows me to streamline and automate my Instagram content ahead of time and ensures my feed is presented in a cohesive way. The platform ensures a smooth collaboration between myself and my virtual assistant, so this makes the whole process much easier if you are outsourcing your social media content.