Getting started in freelance web design work can be scary, especially if you are planning to do it full time. It is important to get the right design tools for your business, but that can be costly right? Maybe so, but not for the thrift...
Getting started in freelance web design work can be scary, especially if you are planning to do it full time. It is important to get the right design tools for your business, but that can be costly right? Maybe so, but not for the thrifty freelancer.
This first thing you will need to begin freelancing (besides a computer!) is software which will allow you to build websites. I am currently a Windows user, but much of the software and tools listed here is either Mac compatible or has decent Mac alternatives. Below are my recommendations of free and low cost software that does not compromise on quality.
The bread and butter program for any web developer – this is no doubt where you will spend most of your time. Luckily, we are blessed with some great free text editors. My personal favourite is Komodo Edit. The latest version (8 at time of writing) has support for all of the web languages including HTML5 and the CSS pre-processors LESS and SASS.
I find the syntax highlighting, HTML tag matching and autocomplete function suit my needs perfectly and there are plenty of customisation options to make the experience just as you want it. It also has a built in FTP client for live editing files, it works very well but I definitely don’t recommend live editing websites (read on for the version control section!).
Alternatives: Notepad++ (FREE) and Sublime Text 2 ($70, free trial is available).
If you are not pre-processing your CSS, then you really should be – it can really speed up the way you write your CSS and even if you just use it in its most basic form (variables and nesting) you can still save a lot of time and effort. Being a SASS and Windows user there’s unfortunately not that many options for which application to use. I find Scout to be a nice and simple free tool and I’m yet to have any issues with it.
Alternatives: CodeKit ($15, Mac), SimpLESS (Free, Windows) and Fire.app ($14).
Every web developer needs to upload files sometime. My client of choice is the free FileZilla. There is no solid reason for using FileZilla over some of the alternatives, but it has never let me down so I’ve never found a reason to switch. It quite simply does what it says, and very well (+ the frequent updates are reassuring).
Alternatives: WinSCP (Free) and CyberDuck (Free).
Many people are scared to switch to version control, but once you have you will never go back to live editing by FTP ever again. Version control is particularly useful on client sites where you simply cannot afford to make mistakes by live editing. My version control system of choice is Git, which I chose due to its popularity and support. There are two things you need for Git version control – somewhere to host your repositories and a Git client to handle the changes.
Many will have heard of GitHub, which is free for open source projects but charges for private repositories. Luckily, there is an alternative – BitBucket (https://bitbucket.org/), it allows unlimited private repositories for free for up to 5 users (perfect for small freelance teams!). BitBucket however does fall down slightly on deployment, but there are scripts available which automatically deploy your commits by FTP. Version control has notoriously been not very user friendly. As Git is now being used so extensively in the web design industry, better tools are being released. My Git client of choice is GitHub for Windows (Mac client also available). It has a great interface and despite its name is also compatible with BitBucket.
Alternatives: GitHub (free for open source, from $15 a month for private repos) and Beanstalk (from $15 a month but has deployment built in).
Whilst designing in the browser is becoming more popular, I still can’t step away from Photoshop/Fireworks for mock-ups. It is one of the few applications I pay for but the pricing may not be as bad as you think. Recently Adobe have moved