Working remotely is the norm for tons of creatives out there. Whether you have to collaborate with team members who are based elsewhere, with freelancers working on a related project, or with other agencies, collaboration is an essential part of creative work. Every creative professional knows that you can waste tons of precious time just trying to organize and communicate with teammates.
Using the right online collaboration tools can make a huge difference in the quality of your work (and, let’s be honest, in keeping you sane). You know those days when you feel like you’ve frantically answered a hundred emails, but didn’t actually accomplish any of the creative stuff you wanted to do? Streamlining and simplifying your collaboration process will free up your schedule to do the important things, like actually work on those awesome designs that will make your online design portfolio stand out, and land you more gigs.
Maybe you’re working with remote graphic designers on a big design project, or e-mailing back and forth endlessly at your creative agency to chat about your latest project. Or maybe you’re just after some much needed feedback from your fellow visual artists about the piece you’re working on. Our roundup of the best collaboration tools for makers and creators will make all of this easy…and surprisingly enjoyable!
Best Online Collaboration Tools
Slack is a favorite collaboration platform of creative teams everywhere, with good reason. If you’re part of a design team, you know that you never have just one project on the go at a time. You’re juggling a bunch of clients and slew of deadlines, which can get messy fast. With Slack, you can communicate with your team members in channels that are project-specific, which is super-helpful for handling multiple projects at once and managing your time well. It’s also totally searchable, so you don’t have to scroll for ages to find that one image proof your colleague sent you a week ago.
You can also share channels with other companies or people you regularly collaborate with. Do you have a go-to illustrator you like to work with? Just send her the channels for the specific project you’re working together on. With integrated file sharing and in-app calling, there is so much you can do all from one awesome collaboration site.
Although Scribblar is billed as an online collaboration platform for tutors and students, it’s actually a great option for creatives to consider, too. It allows you to create “rooms” where artwork can be uploaded, and team members can mark up the image or use a shared virtual whiteboard. Creative teams should definitely consider this collaborative website for any for brainstorming and ideation they have on the go.
Moodboard lovers, rejoice! Mural is an awesome virtual collaboration tool that allows you to import things like images, notes, documents, and links onto a shared virtual whiteboard. Fleshing out a creative concept with a client across the country from you can be really difficult without sharing visual references and notes; Mural makes it super-easy to pull together references before you start working on that poster design. That should shave you time going back and forth on revisions further down the road.
Even the best, most elaborate creative projects start out with simple ideas. Ideaflip is one of the best collaboration apps for generating, refining, and sharing ideas with team members. Working on a new creative campaign? Start your project out with a thorough ideation and brainstorming session, and you’ll be grateful down the line when everyone is on the same page about how the final product should turn out! It’s a great way to overcome some of the difficulties of working collaboratively.
This visual collaboration tool is packed with features. Create projects, drag and drop creative work right into the collaboration site, and get visual feedback from collaborators all in one place.
Do some of the roles on your design team overlap, leaving tasks in limbo because no-one knows who should take them on? With Conceptinbox, comments can easily be turned into assigned tasks, so you and your team members can know exactly who is responsible for each part of that new ad campaign.
There’s a good chance you’re already using at least some of Adobe’s software (if so, don’t forget to check out our round-ups of Photoshop tutorials, Lightroom tutorials, InDesign tutorials, and Illustrator tutorials!). If that’s the case, don’t overlook the awesome collaboration tools that Adobe offers as part of Creative Cloud. You can share files, libraries, library elements, mobile creations, XD prototypes, and more, so you can collect feedback from collaborators quickly and efficiently.
Cinematographers or any artist working with film should check out Frame.io, a collaboration platform that lets you upload, review, and share video with team members wherever they may be, via a clean, intuitive interface. The best part? It’s totally integrated with other software you probably already use, like Premiere Pro, After Effects, Final Cut Pro, and Vimeo.
Red Pen is an awesome feedback tool for creative teams. While there are lots of solid team collaboration tools out there, Red Pen sets itself apart by enabling super-fast feedback. Send your project out to anyone—your collaborator, your client, your mom—and your design will load instantly; they don’t have to register to provide feedback, and their notifications will appear live. Less time waiting for feedback means more time creating!
This collaboration tool was one of the first in the game; today, it is ideal for designers who are working with lots of collaborators on different types of projects. You can do everything from creating lists and sharing resource documents and files to messaging your team members and organizing your tasks. This collaboration platform will definitely help you get all those deliverables in on time.
Proofhub isn’t the cheapest collaboration platform out there, but, unlike most other options, it has unlimited members for each plan, making it ideal if your team is large or growing. If you regularly collaborate with tons of other creatives, Proofhub is worth checking out. It has super handy features like creating whiteboards, project proofing, and custom roles to keep everyone on track. Freelancers will love the time tracking feature that lets you know exactly how many hours you spent on that food photography shoot for your client, so you can bill them accordingly.
If you run a creative business but don’t necessarily have graphic design skills, Canva is an awesome option that will let you and your team members create attractive visuals when you need them in an intuitive, drag-and-drop interface. Need a graphic to advertise your upcoming gallery show? Make it in Canva, and share it with collaborators for feedback and tweaking.
Sketch is another excellent design collaboration tool built primarily for designers who work on UX and UI projects. The feature that makes Sketch such a breeze to use is that users can super easily repeat design elements they’ve used in the past. This makes it an awesome collaboration platform that keeps all team members working on a project from wasting time re-creating elements and assets.
Best Free Collaboration Tools
If you want to try out some awesome online collaboration platforms that are totally free to use before subscribing for a paid option, here are some awesome collaboration platforms that will help you get organized so you can get back to creating.
If you’re interested in the functionality of Slack but aren’t prepared to pay a monthly fee, Flock offers lots of the same features with a free basic plan that means you can sign up and start using it right away. It’s a team collaboration app and online collaboration platform that allows you to chat with individual team members and teams, search conversations, share files, bookmark important messages, and voice and video call, so your communications on that super important client project will be quick, painless, and easy to navigate.
Another virtual collaboration tool built right into Flock is the ability to convert discussions into tasks, or to-do lists, so the copywriter, graphic designer, and UX designer on your team can all know exactly what tasks they have to complete and when. You can even create polls, which is an awesome way to quickly make decisions as a team, like capturing everyone’s preference between two mock-ups.
Looking for a free brainstorming collaborative online workspace? Conceptboard’s plans start at $0, making it an excellent choice. It’s a great way for remote teams to take an idea all the way from the generation stage to the final product. You can create as many idea boards as you want for each project, importing images and other files, creating notes, and having live discussions on top of your content.
Photographers will also love this team collaboration tool for pulling together reference images and other visual inspiration, ensuring the client gets exactly what they envisioned and avoiding an unhappy photography client.
Asana is a super-handy project collaboration tool that starts out with a free plan. Whether you’re a solo freelancer juggling a bunch of projects or a part of a team, efficient project management will make your workflow so much smoother.
Asana lets you follow projects and tasks through every stage, so that you can make sure all of your assignments and commissions are delivered on time. Good project management will make your clients happy, and managing your client relations well is definitely a win for your creative business!
Trello is another (totally free!) project management collaboration site. Those of you who are visually inclined will love the customizable layout that lets you drag around projects and images in whichever order is most useful to you.
An online portfolio website with built-in client proofing tools that allows clients to go over proofs right from your website is a great online collaboration tool for creatives. There are some third-party client proofing tools you can use, but if you look for an online portfolio with built-in proofing capability, you’ll get this collaboration tool for free! Plus, your clients will find it super-easy to navigate, since it’s all done right from your site.
Figma is a dream online collaboration tool for UI design teams; luckily, they offer a free basic plan that lets you take advantage of their wonderful features. You can design, prototype, and edit, all from within the Figma interface. The best part is the team libraries, where you can create design systems with linked UI components like icons and colours, so that all team members working on a project stay within brand guidelines.
Video conferencing can be productive, but it can also be a bit of a time-suck. If every member has to register for a video conferencing service, the chances of someone having issues creating an account or logging in are pretty high. With Appear.in, you just send a room link to your team and get to talking about your project.
This media collaboration and project workflow tool was built with designers, agencies, and in-house teams in mind. You can easily collaborate with others and move the needle on your projects, ensuring that you’re consistently putting out your best work. If you only need to manage one project at a time, Cage’s free plan has you covered.
Now that you have the collaboration tools to work with team members and clients painlessly, you’ll be creating award-worthy work faster than ever before. Make sure to upload all your creations from these collaborations to your online portfolio. Your portfolio is an awesome tool for landing new design clients, so you’ll definitely want to make sure it’s up to date!
If you don’t have one yet, no worries. With the right website builder, you’ll be able to create one that fits your business needs quickly and painlessly. If you do a lot of collaboration, you might want to choose an online portfolio with a built-in blogging feature, so that you can share your collaborating process with clients and other creatives. It’s also a good idea to find a website that offers a free trial, so that you can play around with how you want to set your site up before committing.
Collaboration can be one of the most gratifying parts of creative work—now that you can do it in a streamlined, we can’t wait to see what you and your fellow creators come up with!
Want more tools to help you stay productive and balanced?
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