Founder & Design Director
The stuff that keeps everything running.
Not being the biggest fan of Google and its products personally, we eventually still ended up using Google Workspace. For a very simple reason: If you want to set up a company and make email accounts and signing into tools as easy as possible, for a reasonably fair price, there is no way around Google Workspace.
While we don't find ourselves using most of the products and features that come with it, it's still powerful for the basics: mail accounts, overall account management, and Google Meet.
Using the starter plan, we currently pay around 26€ / month for four members.
We don't use Google Drive, even though we tried. I just can't wrap my head around the user experience, so we decided to pay some extra money and stick with Dropbox. Economically, not the best decision for sure, and maybe something that will change in the future.
Since we established a fully paperless office from the very beginning, we also use Dropbox to collaborate on documents with our tax advisor. After 13 years as a solo freelancer, I can say I've never felt more secure and in control of my accounts and tax matters than ever before. All invoices, receipts, and relevant documents are stored in a shared folder in our Dropbox. We receive relevant updates from our tax advisor via email, with a link to Dropbox. It works like a charm, keeping everything in one place and maintaining high transparency.
Apart from that, each of our projects is set up in a similar way. We mostly store client materials and exports in Dropbox since almost all design-related files live in Figma and are shared via links or prototypes. However, videos, motion recordings, images, etc., are stored in a simple structure for internal use or sharing with clients.
As a team of three we now pay 40€ / month for the smallest team plan.
Believe it or not, if your company is based in Germany, receiving analogue post is still a thing. We usually receive around 5-10 mails per month. That's why early on, we decided to establish a paperless office and use a post-digitization service such as Dropscan.
The way it works is simple and, so far, without any issues after 1.5 years. Your post gets forwarded to a scanning center in Berlin where each mail gets scanned as a PDF, including OCR, and automatically sent to your inbox and Dropbox. Each mail can then be destroyed or forwarded.
Dropscan comes with a fair and flexible pricing. Starting at 10€ / month, we usually pay around 12 - 25€ / per month, depending on the amount of mails we receive.
Finom is a banking and accounting platform that provides tools for invoicing, expense tracking, and financial management. Having worked on various fintech and accounting services myself before, I can tell that using Finom is a delight on every level. Their feature set allows us to reduce the number of tools to a minimum while still keeping it easy to use.
With Finom, we can make all payments, create invoices, and track expenses while staying in sync with our our tax advisor.
Moreover, their roles and rights management is on point. You can invite colleagues, assistants, or even your tax advisor. Every role comes with different rights suitable for the respective position, making it super easy to delegate tasks such as writing invoices or tracking expenses (assistance) or stay in sync with your accountant.
For the number of features, Finom comes with an extremely fair pricing tag. Not even considering their cashback program, which averages around €15 per month. Taking this into account, you could almost say it's free. However, we are subscribed to the Premium plan and pay approximately €25 per month.
Not a big surprise, I guess. We use it for our internal and external communication alike. Once we onboard a new client and start a project, we create project-specific channels. One is used by our team, and the other is shared with the client, where we sync everything with their team.
This has proven to be much more efficient in terms of transparency and documentation compared to email. Especially when combined with Notion and Loom, it creates a powerful mix to keep our clients informed and involved in the whole process.
When using Slack as a team, we always keep things open and inclusive. We try to avoid too many direct messages or small groups when working on a project. That one question you have might be useful for another person in the project.
With currently six active members, we pay €55 per month for the premium plan. Like Notion and Loom, I think it's a good chunk of money but worth it, given the importance it plays in our way of working.
While we rely on Google Workspace and email accounts for our email addresses, we chose Spark Mail as our desktop and mobile mail client. It allows us to quickly share new emails within the team without having to forward them. You can easily create threads within an email and discuss things without having to switch tools and context. Apart from that, I think it's the best mail client in terms of design and usability.
We only use the free version for now, as we don’t need any of their premium features.
Everything we do pretty much lives inside this tool: documentation, copy templates, project and task management. It all comes together here and makes creating and finding things easier than ever before.
It's important to note here that it all depends on your setup and workflows. It really needs some time to understand the power of Notion and use it the best way possible without over-engineering things. Thankfully, with their new templates, project and task management has become way easier, including the new sprint feature. I feel that we are now pretty close to having a solid setup that works for our small team.
In some cases, we also invite our clients to a shared project page. This page may include basic information about the project, a roadmap, and a simple Kanban board to provide a high-level overview.
With three members on their Plus plan and the additional AI feature, Notion comes with quite a price tag of €60 per month in total. However, considering the importance and efficiency it provides to our everyday work and collaboration, this still seems absolutely fair to me.
Establishing Loom as our primary tool to document and communicate work in progress or decisions with our clients, as well as internally, has made a huge difference. We have even had a couple of clients adopt this workflow, focusing on an asynchronous approach, for their internal processes.
Using a video recording tool like Loom comes with many interesting advantages that we were not aware of before. Apart from the benefits of being able to communicate asynchronously, it helps us better reflect on our intentions, our work, and the way we describe and explain something.
I often find myself restarting a recording not because something is wrong, but because speaking out loud and going through a design step by step helps me zoom out and reflect on my decisions. This leads to new understandings and ideas.
With three members on our business plan, we currently pay €30 per month. I am also considering adding their new AI feature, which would increase the cost by another €15 per month. Considering the level of transparency, clarity, and efficiency this tool provides for us and our clients, the price is completely acceptable to me from a business perspective.
Figma & Figjam
As a studio for brand and software design, Figma plays a crucial role, of course. Pretty much every project, design, and prototype we create is done using Figma.
With its collaborative nature, Figma has changed the way we design, store, organize, and share our work. Freelancers and clients alike are involved in the process, leading to a more transparent and seamless workflow.
To avoid anxiety about client avatars following you while designing, we have established a few rules in our process to ensure that every design can feel comfortable. Depending on the project, we often differentiate between internal and shared files.
As the name suggests, we only share a selection of files in which we make sure the structure and outcome are easy to understand and at a level of progress we are happy to share and receive feedback on.
Even though FigJam is an integral part of Figma itself, you can almost treat it as a separate tool (which also reflects in the pricing, as FigJam costs an additional €5 per month per member). For us, FigJam has become essential for almost every project, whether it's internal or for our clients. Especially in the early discovery and exploration phases, we heavily rely on it. Every remote workshop we do is conducted in FigJam. We even use it to align with prospective clients in order to better understand their needs and define a project scope.
Being our primary tool that we work with for several hours a day, we currently pay around €60 per month for the professional plan, which includes three members using Figma and FigJam.
It is important to note that the actual costs throughout the year can vary significantly depending on our project needs. For example, you may need to grant edit rights to a developer or even your client for a limited period, which will increase your monthly invoice.
Tip: Conduct a monthly review of your list of editors and ensure that only active and relevant members have edit rights. This way, you won't be paying for ghost editors 👻.
I wish I didn't have to list this, and to be honest, the only reason I have to is because of mockups. Whenever a project is finished and designs are finalized in Figma, we make it a part of our process to write and design our case studies.
Since most high-quality device or packaging mockups are designed in Photoshop, we decided not to complicate things for ourselves and do it the way we used to in the old days.
And to be clear: I used to be a big fan of Photoshop and, overall, I used the tools that got the job done. But Photoshop just makes it hard to love it. The performance and the number of issues, even though we barely use it, make it like this.
This one's actually interesting. If you choose the regular Photoshop package in the Adobe Creative Suite, it will cost you around €25-30 per month. There is, for whatever reason, a photography package that comes with the exact same version and set of features for only €10 per month. Let that sink in.
Not design per se, but to not make things too complicated here, I'll put Framer into this category. This very website you're reading this post on has been designed and "developed" in Framer.
With its simple editor and CMS, Framer made making websites fun again. We used it for a couple of side and client projects as well. I really look forward to how it's going to further evolve.
Using the basic plan for our website, we currently pay 20€ / month, including hosting and one cms collection.
Same here. Most of the client websites we create run on Webflow. Contrary to Framer, it's more mature and comes with a greater range of features and flexibility for creating custom designs without compromising performance.
In most cases, websites are directly hosted and paid by our clients.
After using Figma for all types of presentations over the last 1.5 years, we recently decided to give Pitch another try. Figma served us very well, especially for creating our proposals. However, it does lack a few points, such as simple video support, performance, and file organization.
We have now started creating the base templates in Pitch, including all relevant types of slides, and we will adapt our process deck and create new proposals.
Testing new tools and adapting existing processes should involve a fair portion of flexibility. We'll see if and how well this will work and make changes to the course if we think it makes more sense.
With 8€ / month pitch offers a very fair pricing, to get the most out of it.
I hope you enjoyed gaining some insight into our tools of choice and my perspective and reasoning as a business owner. I would appreciate it if you could share this post on social media or with other people who might find it interesting.
I think it's needless to say that there are, of course, many options available in the market, and it is evolving quickly, leading to constant changes and additions. Especially in the last few months, new AI tools have emerged and are gaining prominence.