From website hosting to social media apps, here’s our list of fifty free resources for freelance creatives and self-employed entrepreneurs.
This is it! The ultimate list of fifty free resources for freelance creatives and self-employed entrepreneurs. From website hosting to online educational classes, here are the workshops, courses, and tutorials you need to bookmark now.
Whether you’re just starting out as a self-employed creative (congratulations!) or you’re taking the time to develop your business skills, there are a ton of free online resources that can help you become a successful freelancer. We’ve scoured the internet for fifty FREE resources for self-employed creatives around the world to help pursue your passion from wherever you are in the world.
P.S. Have you checked out our Ultimate Guide to Starting a Freelance Business?
Explore our extensive list of online resources and take control of your business! Image by elfinadesign.
In our comprehensive list, we’ve included free website platforms, podcasts, online tutorials, social media planners, and more to help you do what you do. Explore the list below and take control of the success of your business.
Free Resources: Website Platforms for Self-Employed Creatives
Build an attractive, yet functional, website with these website platforms. Image by Miranero.
On Wix, creatives can build a beautiful and functional website with a professional look. All you have to do is choose a template and upload your work. You can customize with ease, no coding experience required. We recommend Wix’s free website builder for professionals who are just getting started, and might not need a custom domain right away.
WordPress.com is another excellent website builder that allows more custom HTML work, or the use of an uploaded template. You can host your own domain that you already own for free, or use a free option on WordPress.com. WordPress.com is one of our favorite options for customizable HTML. The free version has 3GB of storage space, but there are plenty of upgradable options as you grow your business online.
If you’re a photographer, videographer, illustrator, graphic designer, or musician who is selling work online, did you know you can use your Shutterstock portfolio as a website? In the past few years, we’ve updated our website design to include several features that make it possible to do your business entirely from your Shutterstock portfolio. You can now include a description of your business, as well as links to your social media channels, making it easy to operate your creative business entirely from Shutterstock.
Powered by Square, Weebly is an excellent choice for a free eCommerce website if you’re planning on selling online. The free version includes access to shopping, inventory management, unlimited items, and access to a wide variety of templates. If you plan on selling your creative work online as a self-employed business, Weebly is a great platform to get started on.
Tilda allows you to create a stunning website without any code, featuring over 500 pre-designed blocks that you can customize to build your own design. Their free version allows you to make one website with a collection of blocks, while you can upgrade to $10/month for full access to all blocks and a custom domain. We love how the idea of blocks makes it that much more customizable compared to a full-blown template.
Free Resources: Design and Template Apps for Self-Employed Creatives
Try these design and template apps, perfect for the self-employed creative. Image by xuliadore.
Shutterstock Editor is a simple and quick graphic design tool that allows creatives to create beautifully designed social media posts, advertisements, or portfolios. You can do all the basics, such as cropping and simple effects, then add your logo to make it perfectly you. The app comes with plenty of templates for social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, as well as presentation templates. For freelance creatives, it’s the perfect app to create engaging Instagram Stories to promote your business or pitch decks for future clients.
Invoice.to is a simple and minimal free invoice template available on both web and mobile devices. It’s an easy way to send an invoice to a client without any fluff or complexity. The Invoice.to platform is powered by Stripe, so this is a smart tool to integrate into your business if you already use Stripe’s payment processing platform.
Coolors allows users to create the perfect palette for your business needs. Color is incredibly important to building a recognizable brand, and deciding on your color palette is an essential part of the process. You can upload an image that represents you (or a client you’re working for) and build custom color palettes for your work. This is fantastic to implement to your cross-channel marketing efforts, such as your website or invoice branding.
More than just a way to send emails, MailChimp has built-in creative tools that allow you to build forms and landing pages to send your audience to. The free version includes up to 2,000 contacts for you to send emails to, perfect for keeping your customers up-to-date with your business and new work you’re creating. Design and send personalized emails to help people feel closer to your brand and business outside of social media.
Paper is a free and simple sketching app that has a stunning mobile experience. If you love handwriting notes, drafting, and sketching, Paper is the app for you. Developed by WeTransfer, the app acts like a digital wall of sticky notes and is a must-have for designers who get inspired on-the-go.
Free Resources: Financing and Budgeting Tools for Self-Employed Creatives
floral-background.jpg?w=750" alt="Financing and Budgeting Tools for Self-Employed Creatives" class="wp-image-153526" />Check out these financing and budgeting tools for the self-employed creative. Image by gigi rosa.
Expensify automates every step of expense recording for freelancers and small businesses. If you’re anything like me, you’re terrible with your receipts (which is unfortunate, because expensing things is what helps with tax season!). Expensify allows you to scan your receipt and track your expenses easily. This is an excellent application if you tend to pay for work expenses for reimbursement from clients, or for your own at-home business requirements. The free version is free for twenty-five SmartScans a month (twenty-five receipts) but you can upgrade to Track for $4.99/month, which allows for unlimited scans.
An accounting app that’s free for both freelancers and small organizations, Wave Financial helps you create invoices, track payments, scan receipts, and record your finances all in one place. The free app includes access to invoicing, account management, receipt scanning, and doc export. We love the ability to truly understand your income and expenses for your business in one simple place.
Mint is mostly known as a personal finance software. However, it’s great for self-employed individuals who don’t need a full accounting app. It allows you to integrate your bank information, ensuring that your bills or invoices are paid on time, and lets you track multiple accounts with ease. This is great if you have a business card and a personal card, allowing you to see all the information in one place.
AND.CO is more of an overall financial and business management platform, but its financial tracking tools are why we love it so much. You can do everything in the app, from the initial proposal to the client, tracking invoicing and payments, time, expenses, and task management. With everything in one place, it makes tax season and business management easier for freelance creatives. There’s a free version that allows you to do everything for one client (perfect if you focus on one stock platform like Shutterstock) or you can upgrade to the Pro version for $24/month.
Toshl Finance is an organization tool that helps freelancers budget, monitoring spending and sorting budgets into various tags and categories. This is a great tool if you’re a freelancer who has a budget for certain projects—such as photography work—as you can manage and tag your expenses in one place. A globally accessible app, it supports 165 currencies, making it more applicable for use worldwide. There’s a free version, as well as Toshl Pro and Toshl Medici for advanced features and bank syncing.
Free Resources: Time Management Apps for Self-Employed Creatives
These time management apps allow you to focus on the projects at hand. Image by Normform.
Toggl Track gives users visibility into how much time they actually spend on specific tasks and projects. It’s easy-to-use with a simple tap and can be integrated into your desktop. You color-code each task, allowing you to see how much time you’re spending on certain projects. This is a perfect tool for freelancers balancing multiple projects, or working on hourly contracts with clients.
Forest is an app that helps you stay focused, and does good for the “virtual” environment while you work. Whenever you want to stay focused, you plant a tree and your virtual tree grows while you work. If you leave the app before your tree is finished growing, your tree will die. Staying focused at work has never been so rewarding.
Based on the principles of the Pomodoro Technique, Focus Booster is perfect for individuals who can feel overwhelmed by tasks. It’s designed to help alleviate anxiety regarding time pressures and avoiding burnout. Their Starter program includes up to twenty Pomodoro sessions per month, alongside an update of daily accomplishments.
LeechBlock blocks distractions on your desktop and is available for most major browsers. It’s one of the only free browser-based website blockers, and you can schedule tips for apps to be blocked or set up rules that limits your time on certain apps. When you work from home or work independently, it’s easy to become distracted with no one monitoring your work. Stay focused by blocking out what distracts you from your work.
ClickUp is a straightforward way to keep your goals on track and manage your time effectively with any given task. You can start by estimating how much time you need to complete certain tasks, and set expectations for yourself and your team. This is a perfect feature when budgeting time for a particular client or project.
Free Resources: Storage and File Sharing Apps for Self-Employed Creatives
Self-employed creatives will definitely benefit from storage and file sharing apps. Image by Sergey Korkin.
One of Google’s best features for freelancers is Drive, which allows you to store up to 15GB of data for free. It’s a simple, easy-to-use, globally accessible platform that’s perfect for sharing work with clients and collaborators. You can use Drive to create folders to show clients selected work. For example, if they’re purchasing a set amount of photographs from you. Or, as illustrators, you can use it to share previews with clients, and delete the space afterwards. There’s also an upgraded version which gives you 100GB for $1.99/month or 1TB for $9.99/month. One of our favorite things about Drive is that their mobile-friendly app is simple and accessible when you’re on-the-go, and you can upload from your phone with ease.
WeTransfer is a simple way to send files anywhere in the world. All you need is the email of the person you want to send files to. This is an excellent way to send clients final images or to send documents between people with easy-to-download links. The free version allows you to share files up to 2GB for free.
Making it easy to get files from any device, Dropbox allows you to access and back-up your files with ease. Dropbox Basic includes 2GB of storage, which is less than Google Drive. However, it’s a simpler way for customers to download, view, and comment on files as they don’t need a specific email account to access, unlike Google where the usability is limited without a Google account. Dropbox is first-rate for photographers who want to store client photos online. However, you’ll most-likely need to upgrade to the Pro account as 2GB of photo storage will go quick!
Seen as an alternative to WeTransfer, with Smash you can share files with people using an email, link, or Slack integration. A fun feature of Smash is that you can customize the link you share, as well as send file previews to clients. The free service can be used without an account, or you can upgrade to the Pro account for $5/month to send an unlimited amount of files.
Hightail allows you to send large files online, with the ability to track and protect your files. The fantastic thing about Hightail is that it supports a variety of file formats—including MOV, PNG, PPT, and MP3—making it usable for a variety of creative careers. Hightail Lite is their free plan, which includes file size sending up to 100MB with 2GB of storage. It also gives you the ability to sync from Dropbox or Google Drive.
Free Resources: Podcasts for Self-Employed Creatives
Discover inspirational tips and tricks from these amazing podcasts. Image by orangeberry.
The Unmistakable Creative
Hosted by Srinivas Rao, The Unmistakable Creative podcast features the host having inspirational conversations with some of the world’s top artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, and just plain interesting people. He ends each show with the question “What makes you unmistakable?” And, the answers give you a rare glimpse into the mindset of creatives around the globe.
The Six-Figure Freelancer Audio Course
Hosted by Juan F. Campos and AND.CO, this twelve-episode audio course features industry experts who share their secrets on how to reach a six-figure income as a freelancer. The Six-Figure Freelancer Audio Course is about three hours, completely free, and features over fifty different strategies to apply to your self-employed career.
Good Life Project
Featuring intimate conversations between creative people, the Good Life Project podcast shares inspirational stories about living a meaningful life. One of our favorite episodes for creative entrepreneurs is the most recent one where marketing expert Seth Godin talks about the balance between art and work.
The Creative Boom Podcast
One of our favorite websites interviewing creatives, The Creative Boom podcast features interviews with some of the world’s most interesting creatives and is an excellent way to find new creatives to be inspired by. The conversations are warm and candid, hosted by Creative Boom founder Katy Cowan.
The original design podcast, Design Matters looks into the world of creative art and features in-depth conversations with designers, musicians, writers, and artists around the world about the face of design and art. Recent features on the podcast include fiber artist Bisa Butler discussing AfriCOBRA and actress Claire Danes on sticking to your art.
Free Resources: Social Media Apps for Self-Employed Creatives
Manage your accounts with a hot social media app. Image by elfinadesign.
The Creator Studio
Built by Facebook, the Creator Studio is a place where you can readily host and manage your Instagram (a Facebook member) and Facebook accounts. Through this effortless app, you can schedule your posts, track engagement, monitor incoming comments, and manage multiple accounts in one place.
Later is all about managing social scheduling. We love their eye-catching, yet simple-to-use, design that’s perfect for creative businesses. Their app is even integrated with a Visual Planner to help you manage your Instagram aesthetic online. There are also built-in analytics tools, making it convenient to track and monitor your social campaigns.
As we mentioned earlier, not only is Shutterstock Editor a fantastic tool to create ads and logos for your brand or business, it’s an awesome tool to create social media templates for your various channels. With sizes that are a perfect fit for Instagram Stories, Facebook Header Images, or Twitter, you can design social media posts in one easy place. If you use Shutterstock to grab images for your social channels, you can quickly open images in Editor, rather than export and upload to another platform.
If you manage multiple social media channels, or even just your own, keeping everything in one place can be incredibly handy for time management. Hootsuite is an awesome way to schedule Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram posts. If social media is overwhelming for your personal business, we like to dedicate a few hours each week to plan out and schedule our social media posts. Set it and forget it, so you can focus on your business outside of social media. Hootsuite’s free plan includes three social profiles and thirty scheduled messages at any given time.
Google’s Campaign URL Builder
If you collaborate with other freelance creatives on co-marketing efforts, UTM tracking links are a smart way to monitor the results of your efforts. A UTM is a unique code you put on the end of your URL that sets it apart from other URLs. It basically allows you to find out where traffic came from on route to you. So, for example, you can create a unique UTM if you direct traffic from your Instagram Stories swipe-up feature to another partner. Google’s Campaign URL Builder is extremely efficient, allowing you to add a unique source, medium, campaign, term, and content to your URL so that you can track traffic.
Free Resources: Online Workshops for Self-Employed Creatives
Have a little extra time on your hands? Explore one of these online workshops. Image by Lunarts Studio.
General Assembly offers an array of classes, both in-person (in select American states) and online. Classes are taught by industry experts, with courses ranging from a few hours to multi-week classes. While most immersive workshops cost, there are plenty of free workshops and events that users can tune into online from anywhere around the world.
While Skillshare offers a Premium membership, few people know that they also have plenty of free online classes taught by creative instructors around the world. Perfect for creative and curious professionals, there truly is something for everyone. Illustrators can learn ProCreate. Influencers can learn how to start their own podcast. And, photographers can learn how to take unique self-portraits. Skillshare is one of our favorite places to discover new skills and techniques to implement into creative businesses.
Coursera streams video lectures and workshop courses from top instructors around the world who are specialists in their fields. You even get course certificates, which you can add to your LinkedIn profile to show future clients that you have training in specific fields of interest. There’s plenty of business classes as well, to support your entrepreneurial efforts to grow your business.
Our YouTube channel, Shutterstock Tutorials, is dedicated to providing useful tips, tricks, and tutorials for every type of creative. With frequent releases, our team covers everything from DIY filmmaking hacks to properly exposing an image. We also cover freelance tips, including this video on using Instagram for creative businesses. Explore the different videos, and check out our other YouTube channel Shutterstock Presents for features on some of the artists on our network.
Similar to Coursera, edX partners with established institutions, universities, and corporations on a ton of free courses for individuals. While you can pay to have a verified certificate, you can take plenty of courses for free. Some of our favorites include the Becoming an Entrepreneur course from MIT and Digital Leadership from Boston University (perfect for those businesses who have transitioned to online services).
Free Resources: Educational Guides for Self-Employed Creatives
From videographers to graphic designers, these educational guides are worthy of a little exploration. Image by Normform.
#DoTheWork Course by Rachel Elizabeth Cargle
The #DoTheWork educational course by Rachel Elizabeth Cargle is designed to educate individuals who want to be allies to Black women. This free thirty-day online course and guide should be a starting point for any freelance business that seeks to be inclusive and representative of diversity in their personal and professional development. The course is designed to challenge you with information, community, and conversation on how individuals and businesses can be actively anti-racist.
Shutterstock’s Contributor Success Guide
We created the Contributor Success Guide to help contributors at Shutterstock succeed in creating, uploading, and (perhaps most importantly) earning money by submitting to stock. This guide is built for illustrators, graphic designers, photographers, videographers, and musicians who want to contribute to stock. The PDF is available in twenty-one languages for easy access around the world.
A Freelancer’s Guide to Upwork
Upwork is a platform for independent professionals to find self-employment work around the world. With jobs posted by clients around the world, Upwork is a fantastic place to start if you’re looking for some side-hustle money pursuing your passion. The Freelancer’s Guide to Upwork breaks down how you can earn money using Upwork, and how to set up a successful freelance profile.
Instagram Training by Later
One of our favorite Instagram marketing websites, Later’s Free Instagram Training features Instagram courses, eBooks, and downloadable PDFs to help entrepreneurs and small businesses grow their Instagram presence. Perfect for both beginners and pros, there’s a variety of topics covered, including the basics of getting started and how to create a content calendar.
The Ultimate Guide to Learning Photography
If you’re interested in photography or just getting started, this is the guide for you. Creative Live’s Ultimate Guide to Learning Photography is an excellent online resource for beginner photographers looking to grow their skillset. Full of free photography tutorials, this is the guide to set you up for success in the visual world.
Free Resources: Project Management Tools for Self-Employed Creatives
Project management tools are a necessity for self-employed creatives. Image by Tatiana Kasyanova.
Known as one of the best free group collaboration tools, Asana has a free version that’s good for collaborators of up to fifteen people. You can set specific tasks to specific people, so not everyone gets notifications. This is a fantastic tool if you work with a team, or want to build a community of freelance creatives who speak to each other and support each other digitally on various projects. Plus, the design of this app is absolutely beautiful and made for creative artists who want to be inspired while working.
Say bye-bye to your standard notepad. If you haven’t heard of Evernote, you’re missing out. Available worldwide, Evernote Basic allows you to take notes, keep a journal, clip things from the web, and share that list on all of your devices. Another fun inclusion on the Evernote experience is that you can sync it to your Google or Apple Siri to create and search for notes by voice command. This is the perfect note for individual tasks that you need to access and accomplish quickly.
Trello is another awesome tool for team organization, allowing you to prioritize projects efficiently and move through various ongoing tasks that your team is working on. As individual freelance creatives, you can use Trello to manage multiple projects on various boards. Simply create a board for each project and the set tasks you need to complete for each project in one easy-to-track location. Trello is exceptional if you have daily tasks that you or your team need to accomplish while keeping track of more timely projects in one easy-to-locate place.
Basecamp totes itself as more than a project management tool—it’s a better way to work. Basecamp is perfect for splitting long-standing projects into multiple teams, so it’s our recommendation to use this if you have multiple teams working on different projects. For example, Basecamp is helpful for production, where you can have tasks and projects for producers and then a different channel and task list for editors, videographers, and/or photographers. There’s an integrated message board, which is handy for keeping communication in one place. Basecamp Personal is their free tool, which allows three projects and up to twenty users, but there’s also a paid Basecamp Business available at $99/month for bigger teams and projects.
Toggl Plan is a project management tool that gives users a visual overview of who is working on what, and what’s next in the plan. It’s essentially a project planner that allows users to break down specific tasks in a visual way to easily see what’s being worked on at what time. We personally love the calendar view, which allows you to see each collaborator’s work on any given day, at any given time, on any project. The free version is available for an unlimited number of projects with up to five collaborators.
Discover more freelance tips here:
The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Freelance Business7 Photographers Share Tips on How to Become a Professional PhotographerWhat is Stock? A Guide to Creating with Stock PhotographyThe 50/20/20/10 Rule to Social Media Content CreationHow to Use Visuals on Twitter Creatively
Cover image by orangeberry.
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