When they say blogging is a full time job, they really mean it. Despite scheduling my posts ahead of time and getting the majority of my blogging done on weekends, I do something to do with my business almost every day. I’m a freelance graphic and web designer, and I blog to promote my business and bring in clients, plus I love it (shhh don’t tell anyone). Though blogging and design might sound simple, there are so many tools that I use on a day-to-day basis, that I wouldn’t be able to run my business without.
WordPress is obviously a big one. My blog and entire website is run on WordPress, and I’m a huge supporter of the platform. I also run my entire business off of WordPress – I build child themes for people using WordPress as the core content management system. So without WordPress I would essentially be blogless and jobless. I use WordPress on my laptop most of the time, but I also have the app so that I can get notifications of new comments or ping backs, and I can blog on the go if absolutely necessary.
It’s a little cliche, but I really don’t know where I was before I had an iPhone. Up until a few years ago, I only ever used an old, scroll ball Blackberry, that didn’t even have a web browser or a data plan. In 2012 I bought myself an iPhone 4 off Kijiji, and upgraded to an iPhone 6 earlier this year. I’ve always been a Mac fan and user, but the iPhone has really hit it home for me. I’m always within reach of my clients and my readers, no matter where I am (well unless I’m out of service area like two weekends ago at Wayhome). Though I don’t like to email on the go usually, it’s vital to be in reach if I get an important email or contact. There are apps for everything, no matter what it is I want to do.
I’ve only started using Hootsuite in the past few months or so, and I love it. Every Sunday I write the post’s for the upcoming week, and then I use Hootsuite to schedule tweets about them. I also schedule curated content for Facebook and Twitter every week or two using Hootsuite. Lastly, I also use it to participate in Twitter chats. In the past month or so I’ve participated in a lot of chats and it’s gained me some great new connections and a tonne of followers, though they can be hard to keep up with so it’s vital to use a tool like Hootsuite.
I love lists. I’ve been a list maker since I knew how to write. I keep them written down, on sticky notes, in notebooks, and in the Wunderlist app. I love the app because it’s free, and I have a version on my desktop and on my phone, so I can add or check off items from anywhere. I have different lists for everything from blog post ideas to groceries I need to buy, to books I should read. The app keeps me on track and productive, because I always know what needs to get done by when.
Worpdress has a few native statistics built into the site, but Google Analytics takes tracking my audience and blog to a new level. I have the Google Analytics dashboard installed so I can see stats when I log in to WordPress, and I have the app on my phone so I can check them whenever I want. I check my sessions and page views almost every day so I know how many people are viewing my site, and I love that the new Google update has a feature that allows you to compare different periods of time, so I know if I’m improving. I also like to use Google Analytics to get an idea of who my audience is, where they come from and what ages they are, so I can better cater my content.
I’ve started using Hello Sign very recently, and I already love it. I’m going to be honest and let you know that I wasn’t working with contracts until recently. I was just telling my clients how much it would be, doing the job, and then just hoping for payment. When I decided I wanted to go full time with my freelance, I started getting more serious, and decided to start using contracts. I designed one to match my invoices, and then searched for a program that would let me send them out for virtual signatures. I decided on Hello Sign because it offers a plan with for free with a limited number of contracts per month – and I can work within it. So I upload my contract, outline the areas that require signatures, and then sound it out. Then once the client signs I get a receipt of when everything happened.
This tool is vital to my web design business – I really don’t know how I’d design websites without it. I know there are other tools out there that do the same thing, but I use Firebug. It’s an add on to the Firefox browser that lets you select certain elements of any webpage and see the corresponding code. This means that while I’m designing a site, I just need to click on an area to find out what code is effecting it, and then I can change that code. Easy as pie! You can also check out my post on How to Use Firebug to Help You Style for more info.
I’ve been using Adobe Illustrator for years now, and I got The Creative Suite for a discounted price through my school a few years ago. I think I have all the programs that are available, but I really only use a handful of them, Illustrator being the main one. I used it to design my logo, and all my sidebar graphics, and I use it every week to design my feature images. I love the flexibility of the program, and how many different tricks and things I am still learning every day about it.
One other Adobe program that I use a lot is Adobe InDesign. Although it has a lot of the same capabilities as Illustrator, it’s build for designing documents rather than images. I use it to design my invoices and now my contracts, and any printable or PDF sized documents that I need. I also use it for things like inspiration boards because it is easy to place images into a template.
Sublime Text 2
Sublime text 2 is the program that I use to do all of my coding in. When I started in school I used to use Text Edit, but then I was introduced to Sublime. It’s got a dark coloured interface, which is actually a nice break for the eyes to look at, and it puts all the different types of code in different colours. Not only is this helpful for syntax, but it also means that I can tell when I’ve written typed wrong because it doesn’t change colour.
Time Out Free
Okay, so I might be able to live without this tool, but I’d be seeing spots. I’ve always had problems with my eyes after staring at computer screens for extended periods of time. And when I start designing or coding I get wrapped into a project and before I even realize it I’ve been working for eight hours, I’m shaking from hunger, and I’m getting blurred vision. This app helps me remember to take breaks. I mostly only use it to remind me to take vision breaks. They say you should take a 20 second break every 20 minutes to look 20 feet away, so I programmed the app to come up every 20 minutes and stay in front of the screen for 20 seconds. Though sometimes it’s annoying and frustrating (and I’ll admit sometimes I pass the break) it really helps my vision and I haven’t got blurred vision or headaches in a long time.
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest
Last, but of course not least, are these social networks. I could talk about them for hours, but since I assume most people are already using them, I won’t. These are such huge tools for my business and big portions of my traffic come from them everyday. Not only do I love interacting with my readers and other bloggers this way, but they are really a great promotional tool, and I’ve found a number of clients through social media.
I hate admitting that blogging takes up so much of my time, but it’s true. I love blogging and I love my work, and they are a huge part of my life. I use these tools daily, and they help me stay productive, on track, and do the best work possible.