29 Resources for Freelance Designers Operating on a Tight Budget

by Steven Snell

January 11, 2010 in Resources

There are plenty of highly-useful resources and web apps that have been created with freelance designers and developers in mind. But for many freelancers, especially those who are just getting started, pricing can be an issue. In this post we’ll feature 29 resources that are not only very useful fore freelancers, but also extremely affordable. Many of them are free or offer a free plan, and the others are priced below the competition.

Hopefully you will find some resources here that will help you to save time and make your work more efficient and effective. If you have suggestions of other resources aside from those that are listed here, please leave a comment.

1. Project Bubble

Project Bubble offers free web-based project management and invoicing. Add clients, create projects, track your progress, and invoice clients all from Project Bubble.

Project Bubble

2. Concept Feedback

Concept Feedback provides designers with a way to get free feedback on their work from others in the design community. Simply upload your work and let others comment.

Concept Feedback

3. Apollo

Appollo is a useful free tool for getting feedback from clients and colleagues. Invite others to comment on the design and keep the feedback in one centralized location.

Apollo

4. fivesecondtest

Fivesecond test is a great free resource for testing. You can find out the most prominent elements of your design and get quick feedback from first impressions.

fivesecondtest

5. CurdBee

CurdBee is an online app for managing invoices. The free account allows you to manage unlimited clients and invoices, and you can accept payment through PayPal or Google Checkout. The premium account ($5 per month) offers additional features like custom branding and overdue email reminders.

CurdBee

6. SlimTimer

SlimTimer is a simple and free resource for tracking your time. You can create tasks, start and stop the timer whenever needed, and run reports. You can also share tasks so that you can see reports on your co-workers or anyone who reports to you.

SlimTimer

7. Remember the Milk

Remember the Milk is a free resource to help you get your necessary tasks completed. You can create to-do lists, set reminders, map your tasks, and collaborate with other users.

Remember the Milk

8. Ta-Da Lists

Ta-Da Lists is a free to-do list manager from 37signals. Easily create your own to-do lists and check off items as they are accomplished. You can share your lists with others or keep them to yourself.

Ta-Da Lists

9. Vyew

Vyew allows you to host conferencing and collaborations for free. You can meet with clients or coworkers with the free account, or upgrade to a premium plan to remove ads and get some additional features.

Vyew

10. Jumpchart

Jumpchart is a free resource for website planning and wireframing. With the free account you can manage one project of up to 10 pages, or you can upgrade to a premium plan starting at just $5 per month.

Jumpchart

11. SlickPlan

SlickPlan is a simple, free tool for creating flowcharts and sitemaps. It can help you to keep your projects organized and to communicate with clients about the structure of the site.

SlickPlan

12. Outright

Outright provides free online bookkeeping. Track your income, expenses, invoices and more. It can even help you to get organized for your taxes.

Outright

13. Moneytrackin’

Moneytrackin’ is a free tool that can help you to manage your finances. You can record and track your income and expenses and manage various projects.

Moneytrackin'

14. Billing Boss

Billing Boss is a free online invoicing app. You can send an unlimited number of invoices with the free account, and there is an option to upgrade to a Payment Plus plan to accept payments to your merchant account online for $5 per month.

Billing Boss

15. Fanurio

Fanurio is time tracking and invoicing software for freelancers. As opposed to web-based apps that charge a monthly fee, with Fanurio you can manage unlimited clients, projects and invoices for a one-time cost of $59.

Fanurio

16. Subernova

Subernova offers online project management and invoicing for a low monthly fee of $5.99. It features a sleek interface and all the features you need to stay on top of your projects and outstanding invoices.

Subernova

17. Harvest

Harvest is a web app for tracking time, expenses and invoices. The Solo plan starts at $12 per month and allows for unlimited clients, projects and invoices, which may be a cheaper option than most web-based invoicing solutions for freelancers that send out a lot of invoices.

Harvest

18. Siwapp

Siwapp is a free, open source option for managing invoices.

Siwapp

19. Dropbox

Dropbox is a great resource for file backups and sharing. With the free account you get 2 GB, or you can upgrade to a premium account, starting at $9.99 per month for 50 GB.

Dropbox

20. Skype

Skype is a popular and useful service for making internet-based calls.

Skype

21. Passpack

Passspack is a free resource for storing all of your logins and passwords. It helps you to login without the need to type in your password each time.

Passpack

22. Glasscubes

Glasscubes is a resource for sharing, communicating and collaborating. You can share files, manage your projects, manage your contacts, and more. The free account allows up to 3 users, 100 contacts, and 100MB of storage.

Glasscubes

23. Notable

Notable is a collaboration resource that allows teams to provide and manage feedback on designs. The free account allows up to 3 users and 3 GB of storage.

Notable

24. Are My Sites Up?

Are My Sites Up? will help you to know if your site or your clients’ sites are down. Manage up to 5 sites with the free plan or upgrade to a premium plan starting at just $35 per year.

Are My Sites Up?

25. Verb

Verb is a free resource for task management. You can manage your own to-do list or collaborate with others.

Verb

26. DeskAway

DeskAway provides a resource for project management and collarboration. The free account allows for 3 active projects and 5 users. Premium plans start at $10 per month.

DeskAway

27. Browsershots

Browsershots is a highly-useful free service that provides screenshots of a page in a wide variety of browsers. Choose the browser, operating system, and even the screen resolution to test your designs.

Browsershots

28. Adobe Browser Lab

Adobe Browser Lab is a free resource that allows you to test your designs in various browsers on different operating systems.

Adobe Browser Lab

29. 1time

1time offers several different plans for time tracking, including a free plan. With the free plan you can track up to 3 projects. Premium plans start at $18 per month.

1time

For more freelancer resources please see:

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About Steven Snell

Stephen Snell is the owner and editor of Vandelay Design.Connect with Stephen on google+

  • Kerrick Long

    Jan 11th

    I would highly recommend Invoice Machine (www.invoicemachine.com) for invoicing. It’s free for all the features up to 3 invoices per month, and a small monthly fee for more… and if you need more than 3 invoices in a month you can probably afford the plan.

    As for wireframing and site planning, Mockingbird (www.gomockingbird.com) is wonderful. It’s built with the Cappuccino framework, so it’s a JavaScript-based web app. You can lay out pages, link them together, and save and share your mockups.

    Other than those two omissions, great article!

  • Jane......I LOVE WEB DESIGN....

    Jan 11th

    Fabulous Collection.. Great Post :)

    I really benefited from the list. Thanks for your sharing!

  • Steven Snell

    Jan 11th

    Thanks Kerrick. I’m not familiar with Mockingbird but I’ll check it out.

  • Jon H

    Jan 11th

    I used to love Slimtimer. Sadly, last month I found out that there is a math error in its report calculation. I emailed them and got no response.

    I’m not sure what caused the problem, but I no longer trust them with my data.

  • Steven Snell

    Jan 11th

    Hi Jon,
    That’s disappointing. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

  • michael

    Jan 11th

    I’ve also used http://www.freshbooks.com
    They have awesome customer service and the online tool is very simple to use. It’s free if you only need to use it a couple times a month. And the plans go up from there.

  • Steven Snell

    Jan 11th

    Michael,
    I’ve used FreshBooks too and it’s definitely a good service, but I didn’t include it in the post because I think there are lower-priced options that are sufficient. That’s not to say that it’s not worth the money, but since the post was focused on free and low-priced resources I didn’t include it. The free plan isn’t bad but it’s more limited than some of the other options from the post, in my opinion.

  • M.R.

    Jan 11th

    Thanks for posting. Nice collection.

  • Lindsey

    Jan 11th

    http://hotgloo.com

    A really great free tool for wireframing. I prefer it to Jumpcharts.

  • Barbara

    Jan 11th

    This a a great list of resources. I would add http://sxc.hu/ a free stock photo site to the list.

  • Yaron

    Jan 12th

    there is a free open source program called opengoo, that works on your local machine or on a remote website, which can help you do.

    1. Project management
    2. team collaboration, with security privileges.
    3. To do list for each project.
    4. Contact list – arranged by company and representative.
    5. Tracking the time spent on the project / Budget spent.
    6. Has an integrated calendar, reminder.
    7. Has the capability of producing reports.
    8. Has an integrated e-mail, send and receive through the interface etc.

    I’m sure I’m forgetting more of the options, it’s free, I use it every day in it helps me organize clients and projects. Has most of the features those other programs mentioned here have in one program.

  • Patrick Heck

    Jan 12th

    Great List! I will check out some of them.
    I’d also like to recommend ProofHQ for getting feedback on print designs. If you only have a few clients it’s free. http://www.proofhq.com

  • Janet

    Jan 12th

    I can’t believe you forgot http://xpenser.com/ . It’s free and the best way to track expenses, and even does a bit of time tracking.

  • Derek Organ

    Jan 12th

    Hi Steven,

    Thanks for mentioning 1time. For your readers, on the free account I’ll extend it to 10 projects if they email me at derek@1timetracking.com stating they were refered by designm.ag

    useful list and may I also recommend Sugarsync as an alternative to dropbox.

  • Steven Snell

    Jan 12th

    Janet,
    I’ve never heard of Xpenser, but it looks pretty good. Thanks.

  • DesignLovr

    Jan 12th

    Hey,

    great list with resources.
    Mobify is a great service too, that allows you to create a mobile version of your web page very easily (they have free and paid accounts).

  • Mike

    Jan 12th

    Hey Steven, thanks for the list of resources. I know Skype alone saved me a lot of money starting out. I do agree with Michael though that FreshBooks is the way to go.

  • Nick Burd

    Jan 12th

    I recently got “Billings” its not listed here, but I feel its 100% NEEDED as a freelancer.

    Offers an Iphone app, great project tracking, slips, estimates, and everything has the option for customization. Im simply in love with it.

    Also, for information tracking (FTP, etc) I suggest Highrise, even the free account is incredible.

  • Catherine Azzarello

    Jan 12th

    Hi Steven,

    I’m currently IN LOVE with Teux Deux from swissmiss and Fictive Kin. I set it up as my browser home page, and both my computers are automatically synced with this superb to do app.

    There’s also an iPhone version in the works.

    And it is FREE!

    Also use Balsamiq Mockups. I’ve purchased the desktop version, but they offer a free online version that’s a nice wireframing tool.

  • Michael M Grant

    Jan 12th

    Thanks for a great list, Steven. I have used Skype and Dropbox in the past. Today, Google did announce they were allowing file storage, so that, I believe, is a great alternative to Dropbox, too.

  • Steven Snell

    Jan 12th

    Thanks Catherine. Two that I am not familiar with.

  • David W.

    Jan 12th

    Nice list! I second Freshbooks. There are other options, but I love FB.

    Not to overlook the obvious, but what about Google’s office suite, Wave, and Google Voice? Great tools for collaboration and sharing documents and notes within an office environment. And not having to pay $$$$ for Microsoft Office is definitely good budgeting!

    There’s a free collaborative Mind Mapping software at http://www.mind42.com/ — great for brainstorming.

  • phil

    Jan 13th

    I would highly recommend curdbee to any freelancer looking for a decent invoicing tool. Its clean, clear and very easy to use. Bet $50 I ever spent! Great list.

  • Scott Dylan

    Jan 16th

    Some great tools there.

  • teegs

    Jan 18th

    I checked out Siwapp, and started playing with the demo, but it listed the Australian currency as the Australian Pound instead of the Australian Dollar.

    Pounds haven’t been in circulation here since 1963. This is a big oversight, as there is no way I could invoice my clients in a currency that hasn’t been used in about 45 years!

  • Dave Odams

    Jan 24th

    Thanks for the list. some very useful resources there that I had never come across before.

    I can highly recommend Skype though as I use it almost every day for calling all of my clients and even instant messaging them when I am multitasking on something else. All without having to pay a penny!

  • Peter

    Jan 26th

    Thanks for the great review – our model for Billing Boss is to keep it free to send unlimited invoices to unlimited customers. Where it really comes in as a benefit is our new feature called Payment Plus which allows a small business to use their existing ‘card not present’ merchant account to get paid on Billing Boss. Unlike other free online invoicing tools – we don’t require you to sign up with a required merchant account provider in order to get paid. Payment Plus currently supports Moneris, E-xact, BeanStream, Cybersource and Authorize.net – some of the major players in Canada and in the US. You can find out more by visiting http://www.billingboss.com
    oh – did i forget to mention – Payment Plus is only $5 a month – no contract, cancel anytime.

    Enjoy!
    Peter
    Billing Boss

  • Zach H.

    Jan 27th

    Thanks for the SlickPlan mention. We appreciate that. Feel free to give us a follow @atomicgroup and @slickplan for upcoming developments.

  • Colin

    Jan 28th

    Cool list. I hadn’t seen a lot of these and they’re always cool to check out.

    I made one for adding FAQ pages to your site easily. It’s called BreezyFAQ and has searchable questions and a question asking form.

  • Crystal

    Jan 28th

    Great list of tools. I’m definitely checking out a few of the ones I hadn’t heard of now.

  • Robert_M

    Feb 12th

    Nice, A list that has links to which I haven’t heard of yet. I’m also glad you included DropBox. Such a life saver ;)

  • jeprie

    Mar 2nd

    thanks for the info. i never there’s a lot of free service on this. I really need it.

  • Luke

    Mar 8th

    Project bubble is absolutely brilliant if they could include more booking keeping stuff then project bubble would be the 1!! Cheers Luke

  • Elena

    Jun 25th

    I use Outright for tracking income, expenses, they also help you to estimate your taxes. For invoicing, Curdbee and Dropbox for storage/sharing. These are the free tools I would highly recommend and glad to see them in your list.

  • Marc

    Jul 2nd

    These are the types of lists I love. Ones that are useful, and help benefit the design community.

    Thanks for putting this together. I intend on checking many of them out. I’m particularly excited about the feedback sites.

  • Tina

    Jul 20th

    Excellent resources here, thanks for sharing.

  • vuitton

    Aug 4th

    thanks for sharing.

  • lv

    Aug 4th

    good

  • Ryan Bishop, Freelance Web Designer

    Feb 14th

    Great resource! thanks for posting the list

  • mike

    Feb 18th

    You can also try Inquiry Wizard. Inquiry Wizard is an free online inquiry tracking application as well as a small customer relationship management software that helps freelancers keep track of the inquiries they have received. In addition, it allows to determine when these inquiries lead to actual projects, and lets them view which customer contact medium (e-mail, phone, etc.) brings in the most inquiries. For more infos see the faq page on http://www.inquirywizard.net/

  • Michelle

    Apr 14th

    Project Bubble isn’t free…

  • Mohit Kukreja

    Apr 29th

    Thanks a ton for sharing this wonderful resource. Awesome collection. Appreciate writing such encouraging posts.

  • TheKoolDots

    May 1st

    Useful information.

    Lots to digest, but well worth the effort.

    Thanks

  • cal king bedding

    May 6th

    Definitely believe that which you stated. Your favorite justification seemed to be on the web the easiest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I definitely get irked while people think about worries that they plainly don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people can take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

  • Tommaso

    May 14th

    add up to my favorites!. really interesting post

    I want to try 2. Concept Feedback 3. Apollo and 4. fivesecondtest

  • Jeremy Harrison

    Jun 22nd

    Great stuff! I used Remember the Milk for a long time until Google Apps finally upgraded their tasks – now I prefer Google Apps as an integrated tool for Email, Tasks & Calendar. I guess GA is probably too obvious & universally accepted to make the list. :)

  • Vincent

    Jul 4th

    I would also like to recommend OroTimesheet for time tracking and invoicing.
    It is really easy to use and very affordable.
    It helps me keep track of the time I spend on each project. I can easily create an invoice from my timesheets. I used many time tracking software over the years and OroTimesheet is my favorite one.

    It is free to try so make sure to visit the company’s website at http://www.orologic.com/

  • Arun.B.S

    Aug 2nd

    Thanks man!! lot of options

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