First, a quick introduction.
I’m Morgan, I am a 6-figure freelancer turned 6-figure blogger.
I made my first small fortune freelancing for clients on platforms like Upwork, and eventually transitioned into creating websites for myself – like travel blogs – which now produce 6-figures+ in passive income every year.
I also occasionally coach newbie freelancers and bloggers on how to follow in my footsteps.
In this article, I am going to be sharing some of the tools that I use every day to help other up-and-coming freelance web designers get started.
After all, having the right tools for the job always makes life a bit easier.
First, if you’re new to the freelance world, you’re going to need clients.
And in my opinion, there’s no better place to find clients than Upwork – a freelance online marketplace platform.
While there are a ton of naysayers on social media that love to talk about how Upwork “doesn’t work” and is “a race to the bottom.”
I’m here to tell you that these negative statements simply aren’t true. And I’m living proof.
I made $600,000 on Upwork from 2017-2022 working part-time (roughly 20-30 hours per week on the platform). And I’m easily able to achieve hourly rates of $100+.
I’ve always found that it’s much easier to win jobs on online marketplace platforms like Upwork than wasting my time cold-pitching on LinkedIn.
It’s also a great tool for finding freelance help if you want to subcontract out any portion of the project – like graphic design, for instance.
After you start securing freelance jobs, you’re going to need a project management tool to keep your projects organized and on schedule.
While there are a ton of great project management platforms on the market my personal favorite has always been Trello.
Why Trello, you ask?
Well, it’s versatile, it’s easy to learn, and it’s free.
Next, you might want to consider downloading a messaging and collaboration application like Slack.
I use Slack on a daily basis to touch base with my teammates, subcontractors, and clients. It’s also a fast and easy way to share files across a variety of channels.
By far, it’s one of my all-time favorite communication tools.
And like many of the tools I am going to suggest in this article, it’s also free.
Now let’s talk about my favorite website builder.
Sure, for beginners who prefer click-and-drag solutions that don’t require knowledge of CSS or HTML, there’s always Wix and SquareSpace.
With WordPress, if you have a light and wildly versatile theme like GeneratePress (more on this later), you can create anything from a simple out-of-the-box solution to a fully-customized site capable of handling complex functionality and high volumes of traffic.
And it’s the preferred platform for big bloggers because of its SEO-friendliness.
In fact, we use WordPress on all of our websites which attract millions of visitors every year.
You can install WordPress on virtually any server or just let a hosting site like BigScoots (more on this later as well) manage and install it for you.
Alternatively, if you’re primarily building CMS-based e-commerce sites, you may want to consider Shopify.
Shopify is the current industry-wide favorite.
And like WordPress, it’s extremely versatile.
You can either purchase a ready-to-go theme or custom code your own using the code editor.
Plus, Shopify is built with retail in mind and has all of the built-in tools that you’ll need to launch an effective e-commerce solution in a matter of hours.
Fun fact: I attended an invite-only conference at Google this year where met other elite bloggers in my industry. Nearly everyone in attendance said that WordPress was their go-to for blogs and that Shopify was their go-to for retail. Some even used a hybrid of the two (keeping their primary sites on WordPress and linking to Shopify for their store).
If you end up choosing WordPress – you’re likely going to need a theme.
GeneratePress is my personal go-to.
It’s one of the lightest and fastest themes on the market and typically scores well on Google Core Web Vitals right out of the box.
With GeneratePress, you can choose to either use a pre-existing template from the site library or create your own.
Plus, it’s a highly popular theme, which means there’s plenty of documentation and help guides online if you need to troubleshoot.
And, if you need custom help, GeneratePress customer support typically responds in less than 24 hours.
A few of my favorite GeneratePress features and benefits include:
- Grids and columns easy-to-implement responsive website design
- An affordable multi-site license (for up to 500 sites)*
- Core Web Vital friendliness
- Elements and hooks for easy on-page insertions like graphics, disclosures and newsletter signups
- The best customer service of any theme I’ve ever used
*After years of installing, learning, and managing a variety of themes, I was thrilled to find a theme where I could make a single, one-time payment, install it on 500 websites, and receive lifetime support and lifetime updates.
Finally, if you’re looking for an excellent web host and domain name registrar – especially for managed WordPress sites – I always recommend BigScoots.
BigScoots offers fully managed hosting plans, super-fast speeds, Cloudflare caching and around-the-clock customer service.
Whenever I have an issue with my websites, BigScoots usually responds with the solution within minutes. Occasionally, they even log in and fix it for me. I couldn’t be any happier with this host.
I believe every human being – not just freelancers – should have Grammarly installed on their computers.
Grammarly is a cloud-based typing assistant and proofreader.
I resisted for years – despite the fact that it is free to use.
I told myself that I was a good writer and that I didn’t need it.
But Grammarly has saved me, and my clients, a plethora of embarrassing typos and grammatical errors.
9. Design Software
Next up, you’re probably going to need a design tool or two.
I use Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator on every project. I use Photoshop to crop and edit images. And I use Illustrator to create vector graphics like SVG logos and icons.
And for the UX-minded, there’s also Adobe XD – a UI Design tool.
If Photoshop is a bit out of your budget, there’s also Canva. Although considerably less feature-rich than Photoshop, Canva also has a smaller learning curve with templates and drag-and-drop features, and an affordable price tag.
And again, if you’re not comfortable creating your own graphics, just hire a freelancer to help on Upwork.
10. An SEO Toolkit
SEO, for the uninitiated, stands for Search Engine Optimization.
Both RankIQ and SEMRush offer keyword research and content optimization tools.
SEMRush is the more robust solution of the two – but it’s also more expensive at $119 per month (for their single-user starter plan).
If SEMRush is a bit out of your budget, consider giving RankIQ a try for just $29-$49 per month.
I personally use, and love, both platforms for myself and for my clients.
*Prices mentioned in this article are at the time of this writing and are subject to change.
11. Fiverr Workspace
Finally, you’re probably going to need a program to help you create contracts, log time, invoice clients and keep track of payments.
I’ve tried all sorts of programs to handle these mundane tasks but I keep coming back to Fiverr Workspace.
And no, you don’t have to be a Fiverr user to subscribe. The browser-based platform is completely independent of its parent site and is designed with freelancers in mind.
You’d be surprised to learn how rare it is to find a single platform that can handle both time-tracking and contract management in the same bundle.
Fiverr Workspace will even send you a reminder when it’s time to invoice a project and read receipts when a client has viewed the bill.
With Fiverr Workspace, you can digitally invoice your clients and give them the ability to pay with just a few clicks of the mouse using a variety of payment methods including credit card and PayPal.
Plus, it’s affordable.
Are you a freelance web developer or designer? What are your favorite web design tools? Let me know in the comments below. And don’t forget to connect with me on social media.