There are many things a girl can’t live without; chocolate, wine, bacon. But that’s for another day, here is a list of my top ten creative can’t live withouts.
As a freelancer you have to do everything yourself, project management, accounts, stationery orders, the lot. There are millions of apps and websites that you can use to help you, some are free but some can be pretty expensive so it’s important to remember when you start out that you don’t need everything at once. I’ve only been in this game for two years so certainly don’t claim to be an expert – in fact if anyone has any great suggestions I’d be glad to hear them! – but here’s a brief list of the things/people I have found invaluable.
1. Adobe Creative Cloud
This seems an obvious one, but it is an absolute no-brainer, must have collection of creative apps. Without these, you aint making nothing.
Available from £36 per month and completely claimable as a business expense. Add stock for £11 and you also then have access two two stock images per month – they’re not the best (that’s Shutterstock) but it’s a decent price and you can find some non-cheese if you search hard enough. Assets are free with the cloud – images that other people have made and want to share, so a good resource if you’re after a psd mockup or ready made illustrator icon.
2. Suitcase Fusion
An expensive one, that simply cannot be beaten. $119.95 for a single user license. If you use a Mac, you need a font management system and Suitcase has been the industry standard for ever. My ancient (illegal) copy of Suitcase 2 was finally rendered useless by macOS SIERRA and I did quite a bit of research into alternatives before going ahead with the latest version. Admittedly in the end, it was probably because I’m used to how it works (and how well it works).
3. Jigsaw 24 Authorised Apple Dealers
Literally cannot live without these guys. Great website, great customer service and their follow up emails are an absolute joy. Their prices are also really competitive (especially if you go for an older model). Even their blog is packed full of great content. I actually want to work here, can you tell?!
4. Microsoft Excel
As much as it pains me to say it, you need excel in your life for accounting. You can create really simple timesheets and expenses records. That’s all there is to say about this really because yuk Microsoft.
A Facebook business page is absolutely invaluable to any small business. It’s an amazing free advertising tool. Set up your page, force your friends to like and share it and join as many local small business groups as you can. I have got a fair bit of work through Facebook post sharing. Make sure that you keep it up to date and post relevant, engaging content as often as you can and ALWAYS answer any direct messages as soon as possible. Try to keep it separate from your personal account – potential customers don’t want to see pissed up photos of you on a night out but this doesn’t mean it need to stay deadly serious, FB is the most lighthearted social media tool for your business.
Now I am a print purist at heart and if it was up to me everything would still be litho printed and hand finished by work experience kids. But, in this digital world where speed and cost are king, you cannot beat printed.com for online printing. They’re without doubt the best online digital printers around. UK based, quick turnaround and fairly consistent quality. Oh and they used one of my projects on their blog once 😀
7. X Theme
Hands down the best website theme builder the world has ever seen. Available for wordpress, X theme is $64.00 and is as cool as it’s name suggests. There are endless possibilities with this theme and any limitations you may come across can usually be fixed by getting the CSS code direct from their support team. The MirrorSphere website was built using this and so is mine. I love it. All the other themes suck.
8. iPhone SE
The easiest way to describe this model is an iPhone 6S in a 5S’s body. This little bargain has the latest A9 processor, 64GB of storage and an NFC chip for Apple Pay – all for £429! This is by far the most reliable iPhone since the 4S (which I still have in full working order in a drawer) and has enough space for you to download a world of creative business apps. I run three Twitter & Facebook accounts from here, two Instagram accounts and all the photo editing apps you can think of. I pick up emails, Slack notifications and it works perfectly well as a telephone.
I opened a TSB Plus Account to keep my business banking separate from my personal account. As a sole trader – not a registered business – I don’t actually have to do this, but it makes sense to. This way you can keep track of income and outgoings and keep your (excel) accounts up to date. At the time of opening, this account offered a whopping 5% on balances up to £2000, sadly this is dropping to 3% in January (fuck you Brexit). For that reason I use it to save up my tax bill money right until the last possible second, earning me all the interest as opposed to HMRC.
Because… well bacon.