I’ve worked as a freelance illustrator for 3 years this summer. From having no clients and no experience, to having many different types of case done, there are some online tools I think it’s very useful and I’m still using now. I want to share with you!
First, visual tools for illustrators
This is basic, you English-using people should know. I just listed it here in the Chinese version because I realized not everyone knows Pinterest in Taiwan.
While Pinterest is for collecting inspirations, when I’m working on a project, I use Padlet to organize my visual thoughts. Padlet is a true online mood board. Not just images, you can also put texts and arrange each piece in the way you want. This is something Pinterest cannot do.
With the free account, you can have 27 padlets. You can also share the padlet to other people to edit if you are collaborating on a project. I always work on myself so I haven’t used this function though. When you finish the 27 padlets, you can export a png of the whole board for the record, and then delete or clear the padlet.
Time & project management tools that everyone likes
I love Trello too much, been using it for many years. I used to try scheduling on paper, but no, I get back to Trello in the end. Although there are tons of project management tools everywhere, I still feel Trello has the simplest and the most flexible design. With all kinds of extensions, you can plan and manage almost everything on Trello.
Some of my boards:
Week Plan: With this extension Next Step for Trello, I make the checklist visible without opening the card. So I have a list for the whole week, and one list for each day from Monday to Sunday. I’ll have a card of to-do today or to-do this week, inside I create a checklist for the things I have to do.
Other cards I might put in each day are like meetings, important dates, or astrology notes (ha!) For the to-do list, you can also make one to-do one card, and when you cannot finish it today you drag it to tomorrow, the same concept as the bullet journal. I use the checklist just because I enjoy the action of checking the checkbox.
Picturebook Plan: I have a list for the whole book (to put cover, timetable, size and pages, etc.), and one list for each chapter.
In the chapter list, I put one spread as one card, upload sketch and later replace it with final, text content, due date, references, and for checklist I put things I need to fix based on the feedback from the editor. The whole board is with the structure of the whole book. It helps me to keep organized and I think it’s fun to keep the record of the making of the book.
And what else you can do with Trello? Here are some ideas:
- Year Plan: like Week Plan, but one list for each month. Cards as to-do that month or important things happened that month. At the end of the year, you’ll get your year at a glance.
- Book Plan: like my picture book plan, but for writers. You can use labels to mark the card when it’s done.
- Trip Plan: list as food/hotel/transport/sightseeing, so when you look for inspirations you just throw them into the right category. You can also have list as dates, and cards are the things to do/place to visit that day.
- Book/Movie Sharing: to use it with friends, lists as categories, cards as the book/movie. You can put your review of the movie in the card, and label as rating or keywords.
- Reading notes: lists as books, cards as important concepts/takeaway from the book. You can note in each card your thoughts about the concept.
These are some ways I use Trello. Are you using Trello in some other ways? Please share with me in the comment!
This is a nice tool to track your time (especially works on the computer.) You can check week/month/year reports, you can also check your time usage by project, such as how many hours you spent to make one book.
This is how I name the projects:
- Book: including picture books, expecting royalty income later.
- License: for products, also expecting royalty income later.
- Self-promo illos: or other self projects, probably not expecting income in the short run.
- Freelance cases: one-time income.
- Management: email, posts, website updates, etc.
You name it based on your need, maybe Medium writing?
There’s an extension for Toggl, which work with many other apps. I use it with Trello of course.
Just the default calendar from Mac, it’s still the best tool for noting deadlines. I think google calendar is the same thing. It’s so basic but very useful so I still list it here, you really don’t need something fancier for deadlines.
File transferring tools for freelancers
Although people used to use Dropbox, box, or google drive for sharing files, now if you ask a freelancer about file transferring, they probably will tell you Wetransfer. Compared with the previous ones, this kind of tool only keeps the file for one week. You can send to email or generate a download link. While with Dropbox you have to clean and organize the files or you will finish the space, with Wetranfer you don’t need to worry about it, it just fit freelancer’s need better.
You can only send up to 2GB with Wetransfer, but in most cases it’s good enough. If you need to send bigger files, there are also many tools for that. I used Filemail a few days ago, which allows me to send up to 50GB!
Other useful tools
When you need to work with animators, Boords is very useful for the storyboard.
For the free account you can have 2 storyboards. You can note in each slide and share it with people, people can comment. It works well for remote collaborations. I think it’s easier and more intuitive to make than using powerpoint, or how do you usually make storyboards?
So you don’t need to check one by one in Photoshop or Illustrator! Nice!
online image optimizer
Usually I use this page, but there are many similar tools. They help you to reduce 70%-80% of the size without losing much image quality. Very useful when updating your website to keep it light.
In most of the cases it works well, but sometimes it’ll make the color less saturate. I’ll then try another website like tinypng, or other tools, they use different compress methods.
Alright! So those are my favorite tools. I do prefer tools with clean and simple designs. If you are using other tools that are useful for freelancer/illustrator, please comment and share with me!
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