If you’ve spent any time looking for online design tools in recent years, you’re probably all too familiar with the painful truth—there are way too many options. And, even if you happen to stumble upon one or two tools that you love, there’s still that whole rigamarole. You know the one. . . .
Sign up for an account. Figure out how things work. Wow, this tool is amazing! Wait, why isn’t it working like they said it would? Hmmm, let’s just export my design. UGH, can’t get the right file type. Back to the drawing board. Again.
When you’re already handling everything else about your business—solo!—these little wastes of time can compound into a serious headache.
The good news is that you absolutely can find a design tool without giving into overwhelm or throwing your hands up in the air. You can accomplish DIY branding and design using the tools available.
Let’s see how.
A Simple Tip for Avoiding DIY Design Overwhelm
The very first thing to understand about online design tools is there’s no such thing as perfect. Why? Because the concept of perfect implies “one-size-fits-all.” It suggests that there’s one tool out there that will meet all your needs, all my needs, and all the needs of millions of other solopreneurs around the world.
It’s just not possible.
So, instead of framing it as finding the “world’s best design tool,” think of it as finding what’s best for you. To do that, start by asking yourself some essential questions:
- What am I looking to do with this design tool?
- How much graphic design experience do I have?
- Am I willing and/or able to spend time learning this tool?
- How much time do I want to spend on each design?
- What’s my budget for this tool?
Put another way: The most important part of the search for a design tool is YOU.
Before you start sifting through hundreds of tools on the internet, you can proactively avoid overwhelm by getting clear on what it is you really want and need.
With that in mind, you’ll be more ready to weigh the factors we’ll discuss next.
8 Factors to Consider When Choosing an Online Design Tool
Like practically anything else in life, choosing the best design tool for you comes down to asking the right questions and understanding the tradeoffs.
Since there’s no such thing as the perfect tool for everyone, the key is to find one that balances the tradeoffs in a way that works well for you and your business.
To help you evaluate online design tools, here are eight key factors to consider (and why).
1. Design Functionality
For most solopreneurs looking to bootstrap their branding and marketing, the essential functionality of a design tool would include the ability to:
- Upload your own assets, such as a logo
- Remove any built-in watermark from the tool
- Freely size and resize designs to fit any print or web need
- Customize all design elements by cropping, changing colors, removing backgrounds, etc.
- Try out different fonts (without downloading anything)
- Add multiple pages to a design
- Export any design at different sizes for different social media platforms
2. Ease of Use
The major trade-off with functionality is always going to be ease of use. A powerful tool that lets you do truly limitless things will take some serious time to figure out. (After all, there’s a reason pro designers spend years of their lives learning the Adobe suite!)
For most solopreneurs, the sweet spot of “ease of use vs. functionality” will lean toward user-friendly without getting too simplistic.
If you have to pore through documentation written in developer speak, think twice.
3. Stock Assets
Unless you’re a professional photographer, you’ll almost certainly need stock assets throughout your branding and marketing collateral.
Choosing a tool with a built-in stock asset library will not only save you from having to purchase another subscription, but it’ll also allow you to maintain productivity.
No need to interrupt your creative flow to search online for images or videos, download them, and bring them back into your tool.
The more templates (and the better designed), the more versatile your design tool will be for your business.
The exact types of templates you’ll need will depend on your industry, but here are some must-have categories that apply to most solo businesses:
5. File Types
Nearly all online design tools will allow you to export web-ready file types like PNG and JPEG. If you plan to print your designs, though, you’ll want to check for two additional options:
- The ability to download a PDF (or another lossless file type)
- The ability to download a PDF with bleed—essential for getting clean, professional-looking prints without margins
Another important file consideration is compatibility. Some file types, notably those of the Adobe Creative Cloud, can only be opened in native programs.
For example, if you create something in Adobe InDesign, but later stop paying for the subscription, you won’t be able to open or edit the .INDD file.
Just something to keep in mind.
6. Ease of Future Updates
When things change—as they always do in businesses—you need to be able to update what you’ve created without redesigning the entire thing from scratch.
To avoid a major and all-too-common pain-point for future you, look for tools that save your projects to a private account in the cloud.
This will make it easier to keep track of files over time and edit them from anywhere.
The cost of online creative platforms runs the gamut from completely free to hundreds of dollars per month. While some people believe that more expensive must be better, this isn’t necessarily the case for many design tools.
But, for the majority of solopreneurs creating their own designs, affordable tools will offer plenty of functionality (and probably better ease of use).
8. Overall Workflow
Design tools never exist in a vacuum, so it’s important to think about how you’ll use this tool in your overall day-to-day workflow.
Are you going to be brainstorming in one tool, moodboarding in another, designing in yet another, and then getting things print-ready in yet another? Sounds exhausting, right?
Reducing the number of tools in your process will help prevent some of that DIY design overwhelm.
An All-in-One Creative Tool for Solopreneurs
If you’re looking for the right design tool for you—one that offers a nice balance of all the factors listed above—try Shutterstock’s Creative Flow suite.
Creative Flow is an all-in-one platform that hits the sweet spot for many folks who run their own full-time solo businesses, side hustles, and creative passions.
Through a single online platform, you’ll get all the tools you need for DIY branding, marketing, and design.
- Browse Shutterstock’s massive asset library, home to millions of photos and illustrations—with AI Powered Search to help identify which assets will best connect with your audience. (Want to save time on layout? Start directly from a pro-designed template instead.)
- Whether you edit a stock asset or a template, you can customize everything to perfection in Create. Remove photo backgrounds, change colors with a click, add text, apply filters, touch up photographs, and more.
- Save the right file type(s) for professional printing, at-home printing, or sharing on your website or social media.
- Need to update your designs in the future? Projects are saved to the cloud, so you can return to edit them any time. It’s also easy to leverage your existing designs to create new ones, building out a seamless brand.
If you’d like a little expert validation when designing your assets, Creative Flow can help there, too.
Thanks to six billion+ data points aggregated and analyzed by Shutterstock Predict, your creative decisions won’t be based on personal preference or a gut feeling. Instead, you’ll know that you’re always capitalizing on the most current and clickable trends.
That’s how you build a solo brand with confidence.
While online design tools can certainly be a lot to sift through, you do have the resources to make a great choice for you. (After all, you’ve succeeded as a solopreneur thus far, right?)
Start by getting clear on what you need, and then weigh the key factors discussed above to find the right design tool for your solo business.
And, if you’d like to start tackling your design to-do list right now, give Shutterstock’s Creative Flow a try.
License this image via Alphavector.