As a creative designer, producing sensational and imaginative work is simply part of the job description. Every skilled designer naturally strives to improve their ability and to produce exceptional, unique work.
Yet while talent and creativity are important, the ability to efficiently manage your time and workflow is every bit as important to your bottom line as producing awesome work.
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Talented designers who fail to manage their projects and clients efficiently will find themselves consistently losing business and income to those who understand the value of a carefully thought-out workflow. The realyy efficient designers can manage their work flow well and equally know when to delegate or outsource parts of the job in hand.
7 Awesome Time and Workflow Management Tools for Designers
If you’re still using Word docs, spreadsheets and email to manage your projects and communication with clients, it may be time to look into better workflow tools.
Below are 7 awesome time/workflow management tools that designers can use to maximize their efficiency.
For Project Management
Trello is a free tool that uses a simple card system for project management. While it doesn’t have many frills, it’s a simple, versatile, effective tool. The simplicity of the card system allows Trello to be used effectively in many different ways. Designers can use Trello as a tool for collaborating with other designers or as a tool to manage their own to-do lists and projects. Designers can also create accounts for clients in order to keep them in the loop.
Basecamp 3 is Basecamp LLC’s best-selling web based project management app. Basecamp is one of the most popular tools available for managing collaboration – and for good reason. It’s extremely simple to use, affordable, and powerful.
Not only is it great for managing your team, but the user management system also makes it easy to give clients limited access to your workflow on a per project basis, allowing for more effective communication.
Like Trello, Basecamp’s beauty lies in its simplicity – but as a paid application it’s definitely more feature rich. Basecamp provides a lightweight central hub for your workflow – keeping track of files, assigning tasks, managing project discussions, and even light time-tracking. Basecamp is available for free if you limit your use to a single active project, but otherwise it ranges in price from $20-$150 per month depending on your needs. Basecamp also comes with a 60 day free trial.
For situations where live, real-time collaboration is required, Campfire is another elegant web-based solution from the developers at 37signals.
While Skype is certainly fine for live 1-on-1 interaction, Campfire makes it easy to collaborate with an entire team.
The web-based system also makes it perfect for those instances when you need real-time collaboration with outside developers or clients, since no software installation is needed. Campfire comes with a 30 day free trial, after which paid plans range from $12-$99 per month.
Evernote isn’t exactly a well kept secret, but it’s still one of the best tools for jotting down notes/ideas and being able to easily access them later.
If you’re currently using a notebook or text file to track your ideas, Evernote’s cloud based system will make your brainstorming that much more efficient and accessible.
For designers, Evernote is also extremely handy when you come across a great design idea online. Evernote allows you to quickly save the webpage – alongside your notes – for easy reference later when you need a dose of inspiration.
For Client Proposals
Creating great proposals for clients is one of the most important responsibilities of a designer. Without strong proposals, acquiring clients in a competitive market can be difficult. Bidsketch is a proposal creation tool that makes it easy and quick to create gorgeous client proposals and get them approved.
With Bidsketch simply add your content, fee, and designs – and let Bidsketch do the rest. Bidsketch comes with a 14 day free trial, after which you can choose from monthly plans ranging from $19 to $99 per month, depending on your needs.
For Time Management
If you’re a frequent procrastinator, Rescue Time will be your new best friend. This freemium app automatically tracks what you do on your computer and how long you do it for. It can automatically categorize a vast array of applications and websites as productive or time-wasting based on past user input.
Furthermore, the Rescue Time dashboard offers in-depth breakdowns of where your time is being spent, the software and websites you use most, when you’re most productive, where you’re wasting time, and other interesting details that will help you optimize your productivity.
For those who struggle with procrastination through web surfing, social media, games etc., the paid version of RescueTime also allows you to temporarily block certain websites/applications, letting you focus on the tasks that need to be done. This is a great tool for procrastinators and anyone else who wants to get the most out of their daily work hours.
While Rescue Time may be useful for identifying areas of waste and procrastination, Klok is specially designed for tracking time spent on client projects.
With Klok you can track exactly which clients and projects consume your time and if you charge your clients by the hour, you can invoice your clients directly from the application.
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Klok comes in a free version and a paid Pro version for $19.99. The free version allows the user to perform basic time entry functions, while the Pro version also comes with a variety of useful features including a more detailed dashboard view, invoicing integration, numerous export formats, and more.
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