10 Must-Have Productivity Tools For Creatives
I’ll always remember being in art class, complaining about my paintbrush, bristles awry.
It was then I was told by my art teacher,
“A good workman never blames his tools”
That shut me up.
No, to do great work we don’t need all the bells, whistles and plugins we can find – we need creativity, hard work and passion (fortunately none of these are available on the App Store just yet)
A little help can go a LONG way and thankfully there are plenty of folk out there making great tools to help us do our work more efficiently and reach more people than we could alone.
So! I thought I’d share my top 10 productivity tools for creatives…
Price: Free – I wouldn’t bother with the paid upgrades unless you need to attached huge files.
There are various project management tools out there, and it definitely takes some experimentation to find one that works best for you and your team. Asana is another popular choice, but a little more complex for my needs. Kanbanflow was my gateway task-manager, but it became too limited for my needs.
Trello was juuust right. It’s basically a system of post-its you organise in different columns. I love the colour coding options, the drag and drop capability, the calendar view… and the little husky mascot, Taco.
Price: Free – up to 15GB, $9.99 per month for 1TB storage.
I find it easy to forget just how much my business relies on Google Drive. And a little scary… Many of my clients prefer Dropbox for whatever reason – usually because that’s what they started using first.
Dropbox is great and all – the simple user interface, the version control (life saver for design files with multiple iterations!) and file sharing. But when I discovered the huge pricing advantage Drive had over Dropbox, I switched over right away.
At the time, I think Dropbox was ~£10 per month for 100GB, whereas Drive was £10 a YEAR for the same amount of storage. No brainer. The gap has closed dramatically since then (no wonder) but Drive is still marginally cheaper and for the convenience of opening and sending Docs using Gmail, it can’t be beat.
Price: Free – limited to 60MB monthly uploads. £19.99 a year gets you 1GB and offline note access.
Evernote is a weird one because people like to use it in such different ways. For me, that’s bookmarking interesting blog posts I want to read later, saving screenshots of interesting site designs, writing draft blog posts, keeping back ups of bank statements etc… Yeah, it really is my second brain.
There are some things I wish I had known about using Evernote before I got stuck in – such as the importance of tagging notes. This article is a great insight into all the things we might be missing out on when it comes to Evernote’s powerful features.
Price: Free – up to 10 messages a month. $4.99 per month for unlimited messages.
This is one for email management. If you’re ever having trouble remembering who you need to follow up with, Boomerang is for you. You add it to Gmail, and when sending an email you can set it to alert you after a certain amount of time if nobody replies. This way you can be automatically reminded to follow up with people (something I now know the importance of!)
The other amazing function of Boomerang is it allows you to schedule emails to be sent at a certain time. I actually use this to send reminders to myself sometimes – but I’m sure you can think of better ways to use it than ‘buy milk’…
Price: Free – you can connect one profile for each social account (one Twitter, one Facebook, one Google+ etc.) I recommend the $10 per month option – you can connect up to 10 profiles and buffer 100 posts in your queue at a time.
‘Set it and forget it’ – one of the most soothing phrases I can think of. With Buffer, you can connect all your social media accounts and load them up with all the content you want to be put out into the world.
Now, this is not a substitute for live tweeting, regularly responding to Facebook comments and interacting with your followers, but it is a nifty way of getting a great big batch of your social posts prepared and distributed in one or two hours a month.
I’ll be covering this more in depth in a future post, and give a step-by-step guide to how to create a weekly, monthly or yearly content calendar and save hours of faffing around on social media.
Price: Free – up to 3 social media profiles. £9.99 per month for up to 100 (!) social media profiles and lots of other features.
Hootsuite is similar to Buffer in that you can schedule your social posts for certain times, but what I use this for mostly is just as a broad overview of all my social media accounts. At a glance I can see EVERYTHING that’s happening – you set up ‘streams’, which appear as columns across your screen.
The best option if you have more than one account on a social platform, and can’t be bothered to keep logging in and out to check up on things.
I try to keep my working hours as sensible as possible (no one likes a freelancer with burnt out retinas) but there are the odd jobs that carry on past my granny-like bedtime. Our screens omit a blue-tinged light, similar to what we get from the sun. This is fine during the day, but when we’re pulling a late one it could be playing havoc with our natural circadian rhthyms.
Believe what you will, but I think mitigating the effect of these lights any way possible is a smart way to go to protect our precious sleep. F.lux simply alters the colour tinge of the light coming from your screen (it works on iOS devices too) to a more orangey tone – less sunlight, more sunset.
Note: not great when making decisions that involve colour schemes! Save that for the daytime.
Price: Free. $10 a month gets you all apps and dedicated support. (Though the free version really is fantastic by itself.)
You know those slightly irritating reminders to subscribe along the top bar of a website? SumoMe does those. You know those little social media link tabs at the side of a website? SumoMe does those.
SumoMe is the only plugin you really need to deal with all call-to-actions your site might need (and it does need them) and they’re handled – I think – in a most tasteful way.
Plus, they’re a fun company. I love Noah Kagan’s OKDork blog http://okdork.com/, and his emails are always a giggle.
Price: Free. Pay for some photos.
I was reluctant to share this with people when I first discovered it. A free, online, WYSIWYG design tool that allows you to create images with text in the perfect dimensions for all your needs…? They’ll put me out a job!
In actual fact, I’ve learned to love Canva and embrace it for what it is. It allows my clients to quickly and easily generate images for blog posts, social media posts (especially now we know how important these are) and emails, and frees up my time to move onto bigger projects.
I also use it myself sometimes, to save time when Photoshop or Illustrator just feels like overkill. (Though my biggest limitation is the fonts available – I’m a total font snob.)
Price: Free. Lots of upgrades at Moz Pro, starting at $99.
I don’t really know what to call Moz, as a company – they seem to do so much – and do it all so well. Usually, I don’t recommend diving in at the deep end and committing to Moz Pro (a powerful tool for improving your search visibility – and then some) but I DO recommend having a play with their free tools.
One I really like is the Moz Bar. It’s a browser extension (for Chrome and Firefox that sits at the top of my screen and tells me, on each site I visit, how well that page is ranking, how well it’s doing with social shares, and how difficult a particular keyword might be to rank for.
You can go deep with Moz, like Alice down a rabbit hole deep, but Moz Bar is a great way to start digging.