Shop Talk

5 Apps that Every Freelance Artist Needs

When you’re starting out a career as a creative freelancer who sells your work on Redbubble in addition to work-for-hire gigs, there’s so much to take in and an awful lot to learn. Aside from simply making the best art possible, there are many areas that require your focus, from time management, to backup storage, to self-promotion, and beyond.

Below, we’ve broken down five important tools you should consider and the apps that make dealing with those considerations a tad easier.

1. One Great Time Tracker


If there’s one thing highly organized freelancers need, it’s an effective way to track the time you spend on each project. It is an all too common story to hear about artists and designers being underpaid when jobs end up taking hours, or even days longer than first anticipated. Make sure you’re paid for your time by using a time-tracking app. I like Klok because it allows you to visually graph how much time you spend on each job and even export the data directly into invoices so your clients can see the breakdown of your work.

Other benefits of Klok include the ability to integrate it into other professional invoicing systems such as Basecamp, Paymo, Asana, or Fresh Books.

Cost: $19.99 for the desktop application or $99.99 for Klok Team Console (an extended version to use between multiple freelancers in a small working team). 

Similar Products: On The Job, Harvest, and Time Edition.

2. An Excellent Backup and Storage System


It’s becoming increasingly clear that creative professionals need to have a game plan when it comes to how they will store artworks both on and off-line. You probably have a system in place already like an external hard drive that holds your larger artwork files. But if you rely solely on external hard drives you run the risk of them failing and losing all your hard work. To be extra safe, use an online storage facility like Dropbox to backup your work as you go.

There’s a plethora of great online storage options out there, and most of them provide a few GB of data for free before you need to start paying for more storage. Depending on your output, Dropbox will work for most of your needs. You can download it to your desktop or gadget, use it across multiple devices, and it’s very easy to share files with others.

Cost: Free for the first 2GB, then $10.99 a month or $109 a year for 1TB of space. 

Similar Products: Box, Mozy, Google Drive, Skydrive.  

3. A Social Media Dashboard


On this blog, we’ve repeatedly discussed the importance of having a social media presence and prioritizing self-promotion as a designer. To make your job a whole lot easier, try using a social media dashboard where you can get a bird’s-eye view on all of your social media activity in one place.

I like Hootsuite because of the extremely easy visual layout. Its scheduling tool is so easy to use which makes planning posts to Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere super simple. Scheduling your social media posts allows you to make strategic plans and maintain a consistent social media presence, which is crucial for creative freelancers.

Cost: Free for up to 3 social media platforms and basic analytics, or $10.99 a month.

Similar Products: Buffer, Tweetdeck, Social Pilot, Socialdraft

 4. Insightful Analytics

Google Analytics

Many creative freelancers I know have short term plans that will sustain them for the next six months to a year. To truly grow your freelancing ambition out of this initial stage and into the future, it’s crucial to use analytics to collect data and reflect on what works and why. With analytics, you can ask yourself a few questions: Who is looking at your artwork? How long are they spending looking at your artwork? Which works are particularly popular?

You can answer these questions with Google Analytics. There are other apps out there with similar features, but at the moment, GA dominates with the depth and specificity at which you can see how fans are engaging with the work you’re producing. Plus, you can integrate Google Analytics with your Redbubble profile.

Cost: Free for personal use until hits per month exceeds 10 million and you can upgrade to a Premium account. 

Similar Products: Fox Metrics, Clicky, KISSmetrics

5. Software For Quick Fixes


Having a few go-to software programs can make finishing off projects a lot more efficient. Using something like Skitch, which allows you to crop, re-size, and screen capture images quickly is a lifesaver for making last minute adjustments to your artwork. Skitch works like a quick, condensed Photoshop, where you can tinker with images quickly and paste them onto your desktop with the drag and drop feature. There’s plenty of similar programs out there so you don’t have to open up Gimp or Photoshop every time you want to make a tiny change, which can help you streamline your creative work.

Cost: Free, with the option for in-app purchases for more features.

Similar Products: Pixelmator.

Do you have favorite apps that you use to help your creative practice? Let us know below.

[Header Image: “Artist’s tools of trade” by exeivier]