Freelance Design Tools Added Up

— 3 minute read

There's a ton of great applications that work completely online (or in the cloud as it's commonly called). How much do they actually cost?

Motivated by this article on 10 Essential Design Tools for Social Media douchebags Experts, I've put together a rough monthly cost of being a freelancing and trying to use the online tools recommended in the article, as well as a few others that I've used at various times.

For this article's sake, unless it's completely free I'll be using the cheapest paid plan from each service, even if they offer a free plan. The free plans are designed to get you hooked on the service so you'll eventually be paying. Trust me. I'll use USD pricing as well.

  • Design: Besides the big monster Photoshop, Gimp is free to use though your mileage may vary as to how easy you find it to use. Not that Photoshop is all that easy.
  • Design Communities: Most should be free. Some are private. Find one you like and enjoy and are inspired by.
  • Design Element Resources & Icon Finder: Most of these are free as well. There are definitely plenty of places to buy images, graphics, fonts, etc. and when the project calls for it, you'll certainly want to go with something paid for if you're not doing it from scratch.
  • Mockups: Mockflow is $59/year ($4.91/month). For the record, we use Mockingbird at Yastech and it's free. But I'm trying to prove a point here!
  • Feedback / Collaborate Tools: Notable is $24/month. This is one that you could probably get by on the free account for awhile.
  • Email Newsletter: Campaign Monitor is recommended in the article. It's priced on a quantity of emails sent basis. So assuming you send out 1 email newsletter/month to 250 people you'd be spending $7.50/month. Mailchimp is a nice alternative that offers free sending up to 500 email addresses.
  • Proposals / Quotes: Proposable will run you $19/month. I personally prefer writing this up by hand, but there could be a benefit to having it outsourced.
  • Invoicing: Freshbook is a great small/medium business invoicing system that I've used for my own freelance work. It will run you $19/month. I don't currently use it since I haven't been doing as much freelance work since starting a 'real' job at Yastech, but I'd definitely recommend it.
  • Templates / Systems: Most of these should also be free, like the 960 gird system they recommend in the article, though some templates/themes will have a price tag. WooThemes will run you $15/month on top of an initial $125 startup fee.

On top of the original article, I'd add the following:

  • Project Management: Basecamp at $24/month.
  • Contact Management: Highrise at $29/month.

So totalling it all up, you're looking at just over $140/month to make use of these tools. Not really all that bad when you think about all the stuff you're getting done with these applications - but it is important to remember that they do add up. That's the plus and negative of seemingly low monthly costs - by the end of the year you're spending over $1,600 each year on software. It's important to re-evaluate these monthly costs to make sure you're actually getting your money's worth out of them.

Any other applications that I've missed or that you'd recommend instead?