I’ve been freelancing for over four years now, first as an ESL teacher and a now as a web developer. No matter what service you are providing for your clients, it’s important to treat yourself as a business.
I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man.
Here’s a list of some of my favorite tools as a freelance web developer. This post actually took me quite a bit longer than expected, because if you think about, everything a web developer does involves using some kind of tool. The things I list here are not so much about programming languages or frameworks. These are tools I’ve found that make my life easier as a freelance web developer.
Let’s start out with communication because I believe that to be the #1 skill for freelance web developers. From my perspective, it’s more even more important than coding ability, knowledge of design or anything else related to development itself.
Telos is an app that allows you to have another phone line for around $4.99 a month. What I love about it is the fact that I have a number that I can use purely for business purposes. I love traveling and Telos also allows me have an American number to use for communicating with clients.
Slack, Zoom, Google Hangouts and Skype
Slack is my favorite way to communicate if I am working with someone else on a project. Zoom, Hangouts and Skype all do exactly the same thing – chat, voice calls and video calls. I use all three for calls with clients. I’ve learned that a lot of problems can be both solved and avoided by jumping on a quick call with a client, especially when starting a project.
Screencastify instantly became a go-to tool for me and I quickly started using it enough to make the paid version worth it. Screencastify is simple. Somewhat similar to Loom, it’s a Chrome Extension that allows you to make screen recording videos. One of the things I like most about it is the fact that the videos save to Google Drive (or share on YouTube), so you can very easily send the link to someone else for them to watch. It also feels pretty lightweight, which is nice.
Sometimes written communication just isn’t enough or takes a long time. Screencastify saves me a lot of time and allows me to make quick videos for clients and people I’m working with. I can show what I’m working on, ask a client for specific clarification, or tell someone I’m working with exactly how I did something.
Google Drive and Google Docs
I don’t think I need to spend much time explaining these two. It’s important to have a way to back up the project files you have. I use Google Drive to store assets for projects like images, PSD files and notes. Google Docs is an easy way for me to share documents with clients, most commonly a list of tasks they can add to and I can highlight when I’ve completed them.
Obviously, there are lots and lots of alternatives. Dropbox could be another good way to back things up. Use whatever you want, but find a way to backup your important documents. And if you’re a developer, don’t forget to use GIT!
Wave is a free alternative to something like QuickBooks or Freshbooks. I decided to try it after travis.media suggested it to me, and obviously the fact that it’s free helped. I’ve been using Wave for several months, and so far I’m very pleased with it. I don’t need anything complicated at the moment. I mainly use Wave as a way to keep track of my income and business expenses, although (it seems to me) that Wave can do pretty much everything its paid competitors offer.
My proper title is probably “Freelance WordPress Developer” because WordPress is involved in nearly every project I work on. WordPress is a content management system for websites. When building a website for individual clients all the way to mid-sized companies, I often think of something I read on Twitter, which went something like this: When choosing what tools to use for a client website, the first question you should ask is ‘Why not WordPress?’
WordPress is not always the best solution, of course, but most of the WP “haters” I’ve interacted with simply had no experience with it. If you’re comfortable with HTML, CSS, JS and PHP, WordPress is extremely powerful and customizable. WordPress can be used for blogs, membership sites, e-commerce stores, etc. Depending on the needs of the project, a WP site could be up in running in a matter of hours. On the other hand, it’s flexible enough to handle a great deal of complexity as well. One thing I’m particularly excited about is headless WordPress, which opens the door for a huge number of use cases.
Visual Studio Code, made by Microsoft is easily my favorite code editor for so many reasons. I know this post isn’t about coding tools, but I had to give it a shooutout. For whatever reason, I like to edit files like .htaccess or .env files with Notepad++ as well.
Well that’s all I’ve got for now! I’ll be updating this list as I continue to add tools to my daily work. Remember, as a freelancer you ARE the business, so treat yourself like one.