You don’t have to be a great designer to start making money online as a graphic designer. You just have to be better than other people. So if you’re starting to get comfortable in Illustrator (or any of the free options, like Canva or PicMonkey*), and you like design work, there are a bunch of ways to make money using your skills.
No art school degree required.
8 Ways to Make Money Online as a Graphic Designer (Even if You’re Not Very Good)
1. Create an Image Template for Pinterest
Come up with a custom-branded pin style for other bloggers. Need help getting started? Take the “Create Your Own Branded Pin” mini course. That course uses Google fonts as a base, but if you want to go the extra step when creating image templates for other people, buy fonts.
Pros: One-time project, high perceived value, done in less than an afternoon
Cons: If you don’t end up designing pins, you have to create the template in the program that works best for the client instead of the template that works best for you
2. Design Pins
Combine stock images (either free or paid) with the template you created and actually make pins for bloggers. Become an integral part of your clients’ publishing process and help them stand out in the crowd and get more eyes to their site.
Pros: No shortage of work, relatively easy once you’ve set up the template, it’s fun to see your work “out in the wild”
Cons: Becomes tedious after awhile, low perceived value, sometimes takes forever to find “just the right” image
3. Create “Swag” ($ Make Money Online as a Graphic Designer)
I’ve been playing with RedBubble* to create branded swag for Stacking Benjamins, and it has been really fun.
If you’re not familiar with the site, it’s a place where you can upload digital art and it’ll turn it into all kinds of physical products, like this clock:
Of course, this is a silly example (because nobody needs a Stacking Benjamins clock!), but I like it because it helps get my creative juices flowing. You can create anything you want and have it for sale on RedBubble in just a few clicks. What will you make?
Pros: Really fun to create, good thing to do when you’re stuck on heavy stuff and need a little levity, actually creates really great quality stuff, not time intensive, you can have a lot of branded stuff without actually carrying inventory
Cons: Their “shop” interface is ridiculously confusing (or I’m doing something wrong), you make money on the margins between the wholesale and retail cost (downside of not having to carry inventory)
4. Create Printables to Sell on Etsy
You know those quotes you see on Instagram or Pinterest? Well, you can make (and sell) your own on Etsy. They call them “digital downloads” and there are hundreds of them. This one (pictured below) sells for $5.
Pros: Easy to create, allows you to play with fonts in a purposeful manner, helps you get more comfortable with Illustrator because you’re creating things that will be sold
Cons: Low perceived value
5. Create a Logo and Brand Package
Walk your clients through the guided brand discovery (or have them fill it out themselves!) and create a brand vision plus a logo for them. You’ll need a program that can create vectors — the online tools won’t work in this case — and you’ll need a clear idea of what kind of logo your clients are looking for.
Pros: High perceived value
Cons: Easy to bite off more than you can chew because the scope of a logo is always bigger than you think
6. Install and Customize a WordPress Theme ($$$ Make Money Online as a Graphic Designer)
Theme customization is easy, but only if you compare it to creating a website completely from scratch. That’s why so many people end up using a free WordPress theme without much customization. They end up thinking they have to hire a fancy designer if they want something other than “Twenty Seventeen.” But you and I both know that’s not the case. You can buy a premium theme from StudioPress* or Creative Market* and customize it for someone. Hey, I know designers who build their whole sites around customizing Divi from Elegant Themes*! Your clients don’t have to pay a billion dollars for some high-end design, so they’re happy to pay you less (half a billion dollars, say).
Pros: High perceived value, can be done relatively quickly (especially if the website in question needs a redesign and doesn’t have to be created from scratch)
Cons: You can end up “on the hook” for future updates if your contract isn’t clear
7. Design Sidebar Ads/Twitter Cover Images/Facebook Images
Creating those little pieces of someone’s visual brand is both fun for you and appreciated by the recipient. In fact, you can do this kind of work “on spec” to see if someone wants to do more with you in the future. Here’s how: use Buzzsumo to figure out which post is the most popular on someone’s site. Let’s use Anne’s site, Unique Gifter, as an example. Buzzumo says “60+ Linen 4th Anniversary Gifts for Men” is her most popular post right now:
Let’s make her a sidebar ad for that!
I spent about five minutes creating this (that’s the key for spec work — don’t spend too much time on it!), and could send it to her as a gift, or the start of a conversation about how we could work together. You could do the same for social media cover images as well.
Pros: Great way to build your network and be seen as the “design person” for your peers, easy to create, fun way to start a conversation with people
Cons: No guarantee people will take a free ad and turn it into paid work, perhaps low perceived value
8. Design Ebooks
Ebooks — especially the free kind — are dead simple to make. In fact, they’re typically just a little longer than a blog post, so they tend to be design forward. You can make them in Google docs, PowerPoint, or Keynote, and they’ll look better than 95% of other ebooks out there. Approach bloggers who might think this kind of thing is beyond them, and you’ll be seen as a real pro once they see what you can do.
Pros: High perceived value, looks way more impressive than the effort required
Cons: Might be hard to find clients who need this kind of work done
There you have it — eight ideas for you to turn your love (or even strong like) of design into a profitable income stream. Will you approach people with your skills? Who can you help? Can you make contact with people in the next few days?
I can’t wait to see what you come up with!
How will you make money online as a graphic designer?
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