Ten (More!) Free Online Tools for Designers
In the article “Ten Free Online Tools Every Designer Should Know,” I offered up ten of the coolest, most useful, absolutely free online applications and tools that should be in your tool belt. But you’re a designer; you wear a pretty big tool belt, and ten tools just aren’t enough. Now I’m back with ten more free online tools that wouldn’t fit in the first installment.
Calculate Your Hourly Rate
Your fees should be determined by your overhead and the profit you’d like to end up with. Simple as that sounds, creative professionals often leave critical amounts out of their calculations, only to find their purses much lighter at the end of the year than they expected. Enter the Hourly Rate Calculator from Freelance Switch. Spend a little time filling in the amounts you expend, or expect to expend, annually for such mandatory overhead items as rent or mortgage, software, office supplies, and retirement fund contributions. Follow that with the number of days you plan to work per week and vacation, sick, and holiday days you won’t be working. Further qualify your time by telling the calculator how many hours you expect to work per day as well as how many of those hours are billable activities. Finally, top it off with how much profit you’d like to make after all your expenses. The Hourly Rate Calculator takes all that info and returns the amount you need to bill, in dollars or Euros.
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How big is that bite out of Apple’s logo? Where is the correct place to put the Registered Trademark symbols in the Nike logo, and are there one or two of them? You can answer these and many other questions instantly at Brands Of the World, the online database of logos and brand marks. Most are even available as free EPS downloads (if you can find the download links among the glut of advertisements), so you might not have to redraw major brand logos.
Tap Into the Designer Info Stream
Are you on Twitter? If you aren’t, you need to be. Even if you are using Twitter, are you following the right Tweets? On Twitter, creative commerce is being conducted, and names are being made. Just as important, Twitter is the single highest-volume stream of creative pro information on the Internet. Most of the microposts -- “Tweets,” in the Twitter vernacular -- are links from our peers to best articles and tutorials. Other are themselves tips and tricks, news bytes and alerts, and opinions and recommendations. Whether you want to join the discussions on Twitter or only use it as a one-way information stream, here are a handful of the most useful creative pro Tweets to follow: @DesignFeed @DesignShard @FreelanceSwitch @imjustcreative @InDesign_GU @MayhemStudios @Photoshop_GU While you’re @ it, why not follow me, too -- @iamPariah?
Manage Proofing, Revision, and Signoff
GetSignOff helps deliver design proofs and explanations of your design approach to clients. You can use its comment system to discuss design revisions, then archive those discussions for later reference. When a final proof is ready, the service earns its name by obtaining and recording client signoff. There are three price tiers: Free: One client, one designer login, access to an unlimited number of projects, and 10MB of storage space. Pro ($29 per month): Unlimited clients, three designer logins, 10GB of storage space, and CSS customization of the collaborative environment. Enterprise ($59 per month): Unlimited clients, three designer logins, 30GB of storage space, CSS customization of the collaborative environment, Basecamp integration, and custom URLs.
Show Off Your Portfolio
These days designers -- even those who work only in print -- can’t ignore the Web. Our clients don't. They’re looking us up, examining our work, evaluating our client lists, and comparing us to others, all online. To garner your share, you need to get your portfolio online. Hosting the portfolio on your own site isn't enough. Position your work and yourself where clients are already looking: online portfolio sites. On sites like CarbonMade, Behance, and AltPick, clients search by required skills or desired experiences, then browse a wide selection of designers’ portfolios. Although the focus of these sites is on portfolio hosting and searching, most also include at least rudimentary job listings or request-for-bid posting. Often the entire project happens through the portfolio service, without the client visiting a self-hosted portfolio. Coroflot is one of the best and perhaps busiest online portfolio applications, with more than 119,000 currently active portfolios. The service is free to creatives and features a static personal URL (for example, www.coroflot.com/YourNameHere), unlimited file uploads to showcase all of your best work, detailed reports on visitors to your portfolio, and a recently added community appeal to aid in networking.
Convert Color to Just About any System
Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator can easily convert colors between RGB, HSB, CMYK, Web HTML HEX, and ink color libraries (Pantone, Toyo, etc.) That's great if you need colors only for print, photography, or the Web. But what if a company asks you to, say, convert its brand colors to plastic dyes or wall paints? That’s where EasyRGB.com and its RGB to Commercial Tints application come in. Enter your starting color either as RGB or HTML HEX, choose a target color collection from a list of over two dozen, and click start. RGB to Commercial Tints will then deliver converted matches and near matches. It even offers a way to quickly find shades harmonious with the returned colors.
Elance is a client and designer connection service. Prospective clients post jobs or search for skill sets, view designer profiles, and engage creative service providers directly on the site. The difference between Elance and a portfolio site like Coroflot is that the latter is focused on portfolio presentation, with bidding and ecommerce playing a supporting role. Elance puts the business up front so that it's as easy and efficient as possible for the client to post and fill project openings, and for designers to find and respond to postings. Once a deal is made, Elance even takes care of billing the client and paying you -- for a 4 to 6% cut, of course. The free account option is limited to five keywords describing you and your skills; three proposals per month; and limits clients to contacting you exclusively through e-mail. It’s a great way to start. If you begin getting work from Elance, or want to improve your chances of landing contracts, upgrade to the $9.95 per month Individual plan. It includes ten keywords, up to twenty monthly job bids (with more available for additional fees), contact via email, phone, and instant message, as well as two skill tests to certify and show off your credentials on Elance as well as on LinkedIn and Facebook. I recommend that you register on and participate in both Elance and a portfolio site. After all, two rights don’t make a wrong.
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