For me nothing is more exciting than starting a business, or helping one grow. I started my business (officially) in 2009; my first foray into the world of the internet was back in 1998 when I got my first computer and created my first website using ‘Geocities’ – yes a Yahoo product ! A great side note to mention at my interview at Yahoo some 12 years later.
Back then all I had was a text editor and the use of a WYSIWIG to create a website; today and after much research and testing I’ve come up with the master kit for starting an online web business. So if you’re looking at starting up a freelance web design business, skip ahead of the rest and take my advice on the absolute must haves you need in your toolkit.
1. Photoshop CC
If there’s one thing you need above all I would say it’s Photoshop. I’ve used this for MANY years and it continues to perform, it creates the product you sell and without a product you don’t have a business! Adobe Photoshop is fast, it’s clever and is the tool used by many professionals worldwide. Seen a nice design recently, no doubt this was the product of this handy tool.
2. Dreamweaver / Sublime Text
I’m a dreamweaver kid from way back and the number one reason I use it is because it’s colour coded. Nothing is more important than a programme that runs well and is easy on the eyes (literally) if you’re going to fork out $$ do it for either Dreamweaver or Sublime text both of which are excellent for coding all hours of the day/night.
Sublime text = $70 USD per licence (once off)
Dreamweaver = $19.99 p/m or $29.99 p/m for the whole suite.
3. A Cloud based Accounting System
You will not regret this one. Accounting is a pain and unfortunately it will take up at least 30% of your time if you don’t get it right. Being able to log receipts on the go by taking a pic on your mobile via the app is the easiest way to keep your accounting in check.
I currently use FreshBooks which has been great for the level of my business. I’ve also heard great things about Xero and am seriously considering the move. Both allow you to view profit and loss reports, GST and tax reports for those monthly or 6 monthly GST returns.
4. A website and domain related email address.
So listen up, if you’re going to take this freelance business seriously do not use anything other than a website using your own domain name. No behance links please!
A website is a digital representation of you, it needs to reflect the professionalism that you promise to your clients. Invest in purchasing a domain name and develop a WordPress, Squarespace, etc website with your unique style. Or at the very least use a simple template showing what you can do and your contact information. Later you’ll be adding and tweaking this site to enhance your offerings and improving your SEO.
5. A reliable reseller/VPS hosting server.
This is a tough one to decide on. Hosting is going to be the thing that covers your maintenance costs so it’s an important one, not only because it will bring in recurring billing but because it needs to be reliable for your peace of mind. It’s a service that you can easily offer your clients but if it fails on reliability (uptime If , space, etc) then you can easily find yourself getting in sticky situations.
The things you need to consider is speed. This is crucial of user experience so try, if you can to get a hosting server within NZ.
6. A project management system.
I kind of feel like this list is getting longer by the minute. Let me finish it up here as I do think this one is needed. To make the most of your available time as a freelancer you need to be organised. You need to be able to chop and change projects if need, and the only way you’re going to keep on top of it all is to use a project management system. If it’s a wall calendar, a diary or a cloud based tool it’s the best way to seem as if you’ve got it sussed.
Keep in mind that you will get emails about passwords, about project reporting or files that you thought were long forgotten, heed my advice and make sure this is in your Web Design Co. arsenal.
If you’re just starting out or have a few freelance clients under your belt make sure you invest in yourself and take that time out to define who you are online. There are literally thousands of web design companies all over New Zealand and the world; so make sure you set yourself apart from the cowboys in the industry and arm yourself with a toolkit that will have people coming back for more.
Congrats on your journey and leave a message if you feel I’ve helped you in some way shape or form.