‘’Alexa, what are the ingredients for a successful design start-up?’’

‘’I’m sorry, I don’t know that one’’.

‘’IDEAL, how about you, could you shed some light on the secrets to design start up success?’’

We’re glad you asked.

Let’s burst a few bubbles here. Starting a business in the field of design needs more than talent and skill, alone. Instead, it requires a fine balancing act to take place, and for you to juggle your creative impulses and budget constraints whilst satisfying a customer’s whims and wants and responding to the industry’s changing needs with dexterity.

Given up yet? If you haven’t, then we have some good news; since the design trade is at the cutting edge of technology and innovation, there are several platforms and apps which can help facilitate a smoother start in the industry. With that in mind, here are the IDEAL apps that designers can use to grow their business.

A PRIMARY COMMUNICATION APP 

As you’ve probably figured out by now, clear and effective communication is key to maximising your efficiency. More often than not, clients will ask for designs based on a generic idea and in a vague way, only to start making things clearer after you’ve submitted your work. 

To avoid a frustrating, time consuming back and forth, you’ll need a primary channel of communication through which you can reach a consensus with the client. Your main communication channel can be through emails, audio calls, video calls, or texting – but you have to specify a primary mode of communication and stick to it. 

The best forms of communication platform record all dialogue, exchanges and diagrams in a clear way, creating documentation and back ups along the way.

For clear, precise client communication, our favourite apps include: Chanty, MatterMost and Ryver.

A COLLABORATION APP

In the case of having a team working with you, you’ll need a collaboration app to organise your workflow efficiently and ensure you’re all on the same page. This application will be the main channel for communicating with your colleagues and within it; you’ll post regular updates, important announcements, meetings, and urgent changes. This app will act as the virtual workspace that keeps your team connected. 

For collaborative team communication and organisation, our favourite apps include: Slack, InVision and Glip.

A TASK MANAGEMENT APP

Having a task management app is important for all creative types, regardless of their line of work. Once you start taking on projects, keeping track of all the tasks you have to do can quickly become overwhelming – and let’s be honest, as designers, we can’t really count on our ability to remember every single detail asked of us. In the wise words of Kanye West, ‘’allow me to create’’.

To avoid making unnecessary mistakes or judgment errors, having a task management app (a glorified to-do list, essentially) helps you organise your work methodically, and is an incredibly useful tool where accountability and delegation is concerned.

For task management, our favourite apps include: Asana, Todoist and Trello. 

A PROJECT MANAGEMENT APP

Speaking of delegation…

If you’re working with a team, delegating tasks and explaining the details of each presents a dilemma without a good system in place. You want to deliver your message with clarity, but don’t want to appear patronising. In such cases, a project management app is ideal.

Instead of relying on spreadsheets, elaborate colour doing and endless documents, using a project management app will take care of all your tasks in one place. You’ll be able to upload assignments instantly while adding the criteria and description in each item, as well as the deadline. Once the task is done, the assignee can upload their work on the item and mark it as done. 

For clean, crisp and concise project management, some of favourite apps include: Base Camp, OmniPlan and Microsoft Project.

A CONTRACT SIGNING APP

Dealing with clients is never easy. Phew, you can say that again!

Dealing with clients is never easy. And one of the most tiresome tasks that comes with dealing with clients (happy now?) is the contract scrutinising and signing process. 

Agreeing on terms, stipulations, caveats and clauses can take a prohibitively long time, so anything that simplifies the process is hugely welcome. If you’re using Salesforce apps for managing your sales, then you’ll be glad to know that you can take care of your e-signature needs by adding a simple extension, allowing you to sign electronic documents and e-contracts easily without needing to print and rescan the document. 

Our favourite contract signing apps include: Cirrus Insight, DocuSign and RightSignature.

AN ACCOUNTING APP

Once you start taking on more clients, managing your accounting manually becomes difficult. Hey, it’s one of the perils of success, don’t you think? But as a designer, you should welcome the necessity to streamline your process, get rid of the paper, and move things into the virtual sphere. 

If you’re managing several clients and subcontracting certain processes simultaneously, then you’ll need an accounting app to automate your processes. Using this app, you’ll be able to easily create, send and chase invoices, track your finances, calculate your taxes, and pay your team members. 

Some of our preferred accounting apps include: QuickBooks, Xero and Zoho Books.

A FILE MANAGEMENT APP

Where do you usually store all your designs? Although saving them on your PC is good for security reasons, it’s not exactly practical. There will be a lot of times when you’ll need to access your files remotely, or you may even lose your data for one reason or another. Having a file management app that allows you to upload your work to the cloud is the best solution; it’s secure, practical, and allows for easy and instant sharing options. 

When your designs are so essential to your continued success, you come to feel quite precious about them. Best, then, to have them stored and backed up in a secure space.

Some of our favourite file management apps include: OneDrive for Business, DropBox Business and DocuWare.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Succeeding as a designer in today’s business world requires bags of creativity, sure, but success also relies on how you organise yourself and your work. Fortunately, there are a whole host of platforms who are only too ‘appy to help.