“Lior, what are some of your favourite web tools?”
Whenever I hear this question (or something similar), I know I’m trapped. Whether I’m talking to a curious client or an ambitious freelancer, I know that I’m being pulled into a polite interrogation that could go on for hours.
I am asked all the time about the tools that I use in my profession, and rightfully so. Whether you’re an employer outsourcing a project or a freelancer building their career, choosing your tools is a critical decision that will affect your success. You will be judged by the tools you’ve selected by your client or employer – it’s a fact of life – but you can use this to your advantage if you make the right choices.
Rapid Tool Recommendations – TL;DR Version/Quick Referral Sheet
Feel free to refer back to this list anytime you need a quick reference for the best outsourcing tools. You can read more about the reasoning behind these choices below.
Professional Tools for Freelancers
If you want to be treated like a pro in the West, you have to use professional tools. Nobody has faith in a painter who carries a flimsy brush, and the same is true of web developers using hit-and-miss software or web hosting. Even a talented freelancer using this course will struggle to attract and retain clients if their toolbox is outdated, insecure, or out of touch with Western sensibilities. Your employer will start to doubt you if hosting, templates, or images are of low quality.
As a freelancer, knowing which tools are preferred by your employers is a huge asset. It makes the employer feel like they’re working with someone local, and you’ll save them time and money they’d otherwise waste setting up new accounts. But if you’re not using the best freelancing tools available, you’re in trouble.
Outsourcing Tools for Employers
As an employer, you can trim a lot of the fat from projects if your employees are using the best tools available. Best practices with money management software can also protect you from the major risks of outsourcing scams.
These are the best outsourcing tools I use as a multi-industry employer in Canada.
Imagine that you’re a developer who has spent months building a high-quality website. It’s working perfectly and looks great, and you’re excited to show the client.
When you upload the site to the server, you get a nasty surprise. The site goes live, but it’s sluggish and unresponsive. You try navigating the site to admire your work, but end up frustrated by lengthy load times.
Across the globe, your client is having a similarly bad experience. He can’t even focus on the amazing work you’ve done for him because the website runs so poorly. You’ve done a tremendous job, but the client is unhappy. You end up with a cancelled project and a bad review because of a hosting mistake that is not related to you in any way.
I have seen projects live and die by the quality of their hosting, which is just a fancy word for the virtual space where your website files are kept. Hosting controls how fast your website will load, and how often you see broken pages instead of the page you intended to visit. Without proper hosting, your website will have weak security, and faulty backups. Hosting also influences whether the leads sent to your client’s website will be sent to their business email, or to spam accounts. In other words, hosting is really the heart of your project.
After creating over 1000 websites, I can’t tell you how many hosting nightmares I have had to endure. Developers have lost files containing entire finished projects. Clients have called me in a rage at all hours of the night because of their slow server speeds. Websites have been torn down and compromised by hackers in minutes after weeks of work. All of these problems could have been avoided if I’d chosen a quality hosting service from day one.
I have compiled a list of hosting services that range from a few dollars each month to a few hundred. Each of these hosting services was recommended to me by a trusted vendors, and my experience with each has been excellent. Though you generally get what you pay for, there are a number of quality hosting services available for those working with small budgets – you just have to accept that facetime with a system administrator may be less available.
If you happen to have a bad experience with one of these providers, please contact me so that I can have them removed from this list. From the other side, I would be happy to extend this list. You can send me any recommendations you may have for quality hosting companies, and I will add them to this list if they meet my standards.
In North America, quality system administrators will charge around $60 per hour to manage your web servers. With this wage in mind, how likely do you think it is that your $5 hosting service is of high quality? Do you think a system administrator is going to answer your calls personally for $5/month? I think not.
Most small hosting companies have what I call “mental support.” You call them in a panic when your website fails to load, and they tell you they’re going to fix it. In reality, you’re talking to a student, not a system administrator. They’re logging the problem so that a real technician can check it when he can take time away from the other 10,000 websites he is managing.
The best company that I’ve worked with is https://www.liquidweb.com/. I have used this company for the past 6 years with great results. I use this hosting service because I needed a company who could connect me with a real, high-quality system administrator any time I needed answers. I have never had to wait for quality support, and typically have a solution to my problem after sending a ticket or making a single phone call.
Shared Hosting: https://www.liquidweb.com/web-hosting/
Managed WordPress hosting: https://www.liquidweb.com/wordpress/
Dedicated Hosting: https://www.liquidweb.com/dedicated/
Note: If you are a developer, don’t recommend any specific hosting service to your client. If you do, they may hold you liable for any problems they have with the referral you gave. Instead, direct them to this page and let them choose a hosting service themselves. Once they have made their choice, you can help them with the setup.
Employers should always try to set up their own hosting. You don’t want the developer creating the account for a number of different reasons. Ideally, you’ll want to create the account, then share the login details for your developer to set up the hosting solution.
It’s quite common for developers to build their client’s website using copyrighted pictures they find online. It’s completely unethical, but there aren’t many consequences for the developer – they upload the images, get paid, and move on to the next project. Granted, the developer burns a bridge, but it’s their employer who really suffers.
You’re the project manager, so you’re responsible. One day, you’ll get a call from a lawyer whose client is suing you for “IP Violation” and demanding compensation. You’ll have to decide whether you want to settle or fight it in court – in either case, you’re going to pay, and your reputation will suffer.
What’s the alternative? You can’t blindside your clients with copyright infringement; does that mean you have to pay for their pictures out of pocket?
No! I’ve created thousands copyright-compliant websites that are loaded with pictures; if I had to pay the going rate of about $3 per image, I would not be where I am today.
I give my clients two choices as soon as we start negotiating the design deal:
- They pay for whatever images are used. This costs roughly $3 per picture. This is the preferred option because it protects them from IP violation lawsuits and gets them unique, high-quality images. I provide a list of safe and easy websites to choose from.
- They authorize the use of images that I find online. I explain that this generally lowers image quality, and exposes them to IP violation lawsuits.
Alternately, you can add the estimated cost of images to your design fee. If your client complains about the price, explain that you’ve included the cost of pictures to keep them out of trouble.
It doesn’t matter what your client chooses to do. What’s important is that you explained the situation, offered a solution, and eliminated any personal liability.
That said, working with paid pictures is best. Both you and the client will feel better about the final result. A few extra bucks can be the difference between a great website, and one that’s just okay.
Here are some quality image providers that I work with on a daily basis. These websites have an enormous selection of unique, high-quality images available for a few dollars each, and they are constantly expanding their stock:
- http://videohive.net/ (short videos)
- http://photodune.net/ (images and pictures)
- http://audiojungle.net/ (audio files)
Getting Paid – Money Management Tools
It doesn’t matter what side of the deal you’re on: if you can’t reliably send and receive payments, you’re in trouble. Professionals get paid for their work, and pay their workers on time. This can be especially challenging when you’re working with offshore employees. Many lack access to credit cards, and bank wire issues are very common.
In my experience, Payoneer is the best option for professionals. It’s fast, safe, and circumvents any problems you’ll have getting money across continents. Most of your clients will already be familiar with this service. I’ve worked with them for 7 years and never had a problem. I’ve always been impressed with how quickly my transfers are processed.
If you sign up using this link, they will deposit $25 into your new account as a registration bonus:
Since the client isn’t fluent in web design, they will have two options when trying to build a website that matches their vision:
- The client describes his idea to the developer, and the website is created based on these instructions. There are many downsides with this method. The design takes weeks to get right as drafts are passed back and forth. The developer may not understand what their employer is trying to express – this is especially true if a language barrier is in play, or if the client is new to the web medium. More often than not, the end result won’t be what the client had in mind. There’s a chance that they’ll cancel the project. The only real upside is that the developer can charge lots of money for a lengthy revision process, but it’s not worth the time and risks you need to take.
- Go to http://themeforest.net and select 3 templates. Give your client a direct link by clicking on “Remove Frame” so that they can’t see the template price (in case you like to hide it). Once the client approves a template, you’ve eliminated any potential misunderstanding. The client knows exactly what their site will look like. You will need to spend time on extra coding to adjust the design for your client’s business, but you save a lot of time. You can charge almost the same as you would for a full custom design for a project that takes 20% of the time and is virtually risk-free.
I personally love working with http://themeforest.net. I log in, type the phrase “WordPress Responsive” in the search bar, and browse a list of quality, responsive templates that work seamlessly with my favourite CMS. These templates perform equally well on desktops, tablets, and mobile phones, and I can’t ask for more than that.
Project Management Tools
I personally believe that BaseCamp is one of the best outsourcing tools available, regardless of which side of the equation you find yourself on. It makes you look professional and organized in the eyes of your employer, and increase the overall quality of your work. I’ve used this project management system for many years, and I built my course with its capacities in mind; it will help you create milestones, communicate with your client, organize your files, upload code, create notifications, and more.
You can find both paid and free packages at https://basecamp.com/.