There are hundreds of business apps out there for running virtually any kind of small business online. And a lot of those apps are well-suited, functionally, for designers. But there’s something a lot of them are lacking: good design!
After all, we’re designers. We want to use apps that are attractive and designed to be both functional and beautiful. The apps below fill both those criteria, combining form and function into an app that you can be proud to use to run your design business!
Invoices, Quotes, and Other Financials
Financial management is often the least favorite part of running a business, but also one of the most vital to a freelancer’s success. The apps below will help you keep much better track of your business’s income and expenses, as well as send invoices, estimates, and more.
QuoteBase is a free service that lets you create PDF quotes quickly, with your own logo, and even email to create a quote. It will also track all of your estimates and quotes, and lets you collaborate with other team members.
FreeAgent is a bookkeeping and invoicing application specifically designed for small businesses and freelancers. It includes expense tracking, time tracking, account reports, data back-ups, and more.
3. Simply Invoices
Simply Invoices is an app for creating invoices from time you’ve logged in a Basecamp project. You can download invoices as PDFs, keep track of your invoices, and create templates for quicker invoice creation.
Xero offers online accounting, invoicing, billing, and banking. There’s a free trial where you don’t pay anything until you’re ready, and then plans start at $19/month.
inDinero is a financial management tool that includes a real-time dashboard and financial advising tools. Bookkeeping tools include instant categorization, automatic downloading of transactions, and instant reporting.
Invoicera offers professional-looking invoices and estimates, and allows you to receive payments through over twenty payment gateways. It also includes expense tracking and time logging. A free plan is available, and paid plans start at $9.95/month.
Outright is a free app for managing your small business finances. It lets you import data from your existing accounts, making setup quick and simple. It updates nightly from your accounts, and automatically categorizes your transactions. It also helps you track your tax liability and keeps you up to date on exactly where you stand financially.
CannyBill is an online ordering and invoicing service that’s great for selling things like digital downloads or web hosting. It even includes tools for sending targeted email campaigns. There’s a free plan that allows up to three active clients and ten invoices per month, and paid plans start at $7/month.
Blinksale lets you create unlimited invoices and estimates for an unlimited number of users and clients. It supports international currencies, automated billing with recurring invoices, and an optional Blinkpay add-on for built-in credit card payments.
10. The Invoice Machine
The Invoice Machine is a simple-to-use invoicing app that creates professional looking invoices for products or services. It’s excellent for freelancers and small businesses, and lets you create, manage, and send invoices directly.
Pulse is a complete financial management app for small businesses. It includes multiple cash flow views, powerful reporting, and the ability to attach files. Track your income and expenses, companies and projects, and more. There’s a 30-day free trial and after that plans start at $14/month (there’s also a very limited free plan).
Expensify is a great app for keeping track of your expenses. Just photograph your receipts and upload them, and Expensify will even match them up to imported credit card transactions. It works on iPhone/iPad, Android, WebOS/Palm, and BlackBerry phones, and it includes tools for tracking mileage and analyzing your expenses.
LessAccounting is an easy-to-use financial management app that includes invoicing and expense tracking, suitable for freelancers with a little or a lot of bookkeeping experience.
CurdBee offers easy online billing that includes invoice and estimates, as well as time and expense tracking. It even lets you accept online payments. There are both free and paid plans, starting at $5/month
Time Management and Tracking
Tracking your time is vital to making sure you stay productive, even if you don’t bill by the hour. Some of the time tracking apps below even have built-in invoicing.
Harvest offers simple time tracking, online invoicing, and powerful reporting to help you stay on budget, track your earnings, and better manage your business.
Freckle is a time tracking app that also includes plenty of reporting and overview features so you can see which days you’ve been working, how much, and on what. You can also see what your employees or teammates are doing, too.
Paymo is a time tracking app that includes online invoicing and project management tools. It’s free for freelancers (plans with up to 2 users and 3 invoices per month), and paid plans for businesses with more employees and who need to send more invoices.
MakeSomeTime includes simple time tracking, invoicing, and reporting features. It’s entirely free to use.
Mite is an online time tracking tool, perfect for designers and other creatives. It lets you collaborate with team members or share reports with clients. There’s a 30-day free trial, and after that Mite is just 5€ per user.
Tick is a simple time tracking app that helps you better manage your budgeted time. Organize time by project, integrate with Basecamp, and generate reports. There’s a free plan that allows for one open project, and paid plans that start at $9/month.
Toggl is an easy-to-use time tracking application that works on your Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, iPod, or Android phones. Toggl is free for 30 days, and after that it’s $5/month per user.
Business and Project Management
Managing all the projects you have going, especially if you’re working with a team, is vital to making sure everything gets done on time. Some of the apps below go even further, allowing you to manage all aspects of your business from one central place.
Podio is more than just project management. It’s completely customizable business management with both flexible paid and free plans. Set up your workspace with the apps you need, either from the app store or create your own.
WORKetc is a business management app that lets you manage your clients, projects, and billing right within Gmail.
WhoDoes is a free project management tool that lets you plan, manage activities (including setting due-dates, assigning tasks, and more), and collaborate with your team members.
25. Project Bubble
Project Bubble lets you schedule your projects, track your time, share tasks and files with others on your team, and invoice directly from the app and get paid online. There’s a basic free plan as well as a number of different paid options.
Basecamp, from 37Signals, is a project management and collaboration tool. It includes communication tools, file sharing, the ability to share milestones and to-dos, set deadlines, and much more. There are even project templates to make creating new projects much faster.
Freedcamp is a streamlined project management tool that makes it easy to share only what you want to with team members. Other features include email and SMS notifications, a central dashboard for getting a broad overview of your current projects, and project templates to save time.
28. Teamwork Project Manager
Teamwork is an online project management app that makes it possible to work with not only your team, but also your clients. It includes milestones, messaging, task management, file management, and time tracking features.
TeamLab is a virtual office suite that includes project management, collaboration, document management, calendar, CRM, and email tools. TeamLab is free for a basic account, with more storage and advanced file upload tools available for an additional cost.
Doolphy includes a number of project management features, including Gantt charts, smart planning, file sharing, expense tracking, and much more. Basic plans start at 12€, though there’s a very basic free account available, too.
Staction is a project management and communication tool that helps you keep your entire team up to date with what you’re doing. With paid accounts (starting at $7/month) you get unlimited project tags and posts, and works both in your browser and through API apps, including an AIR desktop version and a Mac dashboard widget.
Huddle is an enterprise-level project management app that includes tools for collaboration, administrative control and security features (versioning, a full audit trail, and more), and tools for managing people and files.
Sending out an email newsletter is a great way to keep in touch with your current and former clients. Email marketing can also be a great add-on service to offer your clients. The apps below let you manage your email marketing campaigns, either for yourself or others.
Emma lets you send out stylish emails and surveys to your clients or others. There are also tools for managing your clients’ email marketing, which can be a great add-on for designers.
MailChimp is an email newsletter and marketing service that can integrate with a number of other services. Their free plan supports up to 2,000 subscribers and up to 12,000 emails per month, while their paid plans offer more features and more emails. MailChimp also includes things like A/B Split Testing, social sharing, autoresponders, groups, and more.
35. Campaign Monitor
Campaign Monitor gives you tools to send email campaigns for yourself or your clients, track the results of those campaigns, and manage your subscribers. You can add your own markup to their services for your clients, and earn money. Plans start at $15 per month, or you can pay per campaign ($5 plus $.01 per recipient).
Breeze is an easy-to-use email campaign app that lets you create, send, and analyze marketing emails. With Breeze, you only pay when you send out a campaign: $10 plus $.02 per recipient.
Not every app fits into a neat little category above. But the apps below are no less valuable to freelance designers.
Wridea is a free “idea management” service and brainstorming tool. It helps you keep track of all your ideas for you, and makes it easy to have discussions around them with friends or colleagues.
Evernote is a note taking and information capture app. You can collect via your browser, apps for your desktop, or phone apps, and keep as many notes and notebooks as you need to. Premium accounts get you more storage, priority support, larger files, and more for just $5/month or $45/year.
Rapportive gives you rich contact profiles right inside Gmail. You can see profile images, job, company, and LinkedIn information, activity in certain apps, and more. It’s a free add-on for Firefox, Safari, Mailplane, and Chrome.
Think of Writeboard as an online whiteboard application that’s perfect for writing, sharing, and revising. You can use it solo or collaborate with others.
Campfire is a real-time chat application for groups. It’s entirely web-based, and can be used from anywhere, even your iPhone. There’s a limited free plan that allows chat among up to four people, and paid plans start at $12/month.
ConceptShare is a tool for sharing and collaborating on creative work. It makes it simple to markup shared documents, and get feedback from others.
Backpack, from 37Signals, lets you keep your documents, discussions, and schedules all in one place. Just create a page with notes, to-dos, files, photos, and dividers for whatever you need to keep organized.
Tungle.me is a free scheduling app that makes it easy to find a time to meet, share your availability, and prevent double bookings. It also eliminates issues with scheduling across multiple time zones.