Though you may not realize it, graphic design is almost everywhere you look, it’s a skill and career that is always very much in demand. If you’re wondering how to make money as a graphic designer, this guide will help you, whether you’re just starting on your journey or you’ve already begun.
It’s effortless to earn money online designing.
Nowadays, you don’t even need to have a degree in graphic design from a university to get started because there are so many online platforms that can help you learn techniques, such as Teachable, YouTube or Skillshare.
I’ve managed to make design one of my largest income streams after recently graduating from university with a dual degree in Media Arts and Graphic Design — but, as I said, you don’t need a degree in order to get into this career.
I have been studying graphic design and using what I’ve learned in the real world for the past 7 years, and my journey is only just getting started.
If you’re wondering how to become a freelance graphic designer, read on to learn the ins and outs of my personal experience in the industry. It really is one of the best, high paying online jobs, and is great for those who are looking to find work they can do while travelling.
Here’s how to make money as a graphic designer.
What is Graphic Design?
Before we begin to answer how to make money as a graphic designer, it’s essential to understand precisely what graphic design is.
From billboards and logos to the packaging of your food products. That’s all graphic design.
Essentially, graphic design is finding visual solutions for a specific purpose, whether that’s to make someone want to purchase a product, watch a television show, or come to a large event. Graphic design truly encapsulates almost every visual aspect of your life.
Within graphic design, there are a few different buckets that you might choose to specialize in, including package design, layout design, branding and logo design, or even typography if you’re interested in making fonts and playing with type.
Each bucket is equally as important, though some niches might pay a bit more depending on your skill level.
Essential Graphic Designer Tools
If you’re wondering how to become a graphic designer, you first need to make sure that you have all the proper tools. A lot of these can easily be purchased online, but keep in mind that graphic design is an expensive business to start in.
The first thing you’re going to need is a computer, which can be either a laptop or a desktop of any brand. The majority of professional graphic designers will tell you that it’s best to use Apple products and have a desktop instead of a laptop.
I started out using an Apple MacBook Pro, and I had no qualms with it, but I recently purchased a Mac desktop with a much larger screen, and it’s so much easier when designing tiny details. See this post of the best laptops for remote workers.
You’ll also need to purchase a membership to the Adobe Creative Cloud. Prices for this depend on which package level you choose; I recommend purchasing access to all of the Adobe apps because you never know which one you’ll need for a client.
If you’d rather purchase a monthly subscription, then consider buying a package that includes access to Photoshop (which is perfect for creating web images) and InDesign (geared more towards print design).
Students can purchase access for just $19.99 a month, while I spend closer to $50 per month to have access to everything.
The last graphic design tool that I recommend might sound a little silly, but it’s always great to have a ruler handy, especially for print design. This way, you can get a feel for just how big the printed item that you’re designing is — in case you don’t have access to a printer for practice prints.
10 Ways To Make Money As A Graphic Designer
There are tons of ways to make money online as a graphic designer, no matter what niche you’re interested in! If you’re wondering how to become a graphic designer, have a look at this list and start selling or making some of these items.
1. Create and Sell Templates
This is arguably one of the most profitable ways to get passive income for graphic designers. With this approach, all you have to do is make templates of any kind, which could be for ebooks, posters, invitations, or Pinterest graphics. Then, sell the templates online.
Many small business owners and bloggers who are always in a time crunch or who don’t have the skillset to create their own designs from scratch love purchasing these products because of how simple it is to customize them.
Once you have your own template shop set up and you put in the work, you could earn income without doing much else besides marketing your products.
2. Share Knowledge Through Workshops or Webinars
Online learning is at an all-time high, and I’m sure many of you reading this would even attend an online workshop on ‘How to Make Money as a Graphic Designer.’
If you’ve studied graphic design or feel that you know enough about it, then sell access to online courses, workshops, training, or webinars where you introduce others to the topic who may not know a whole lot about it.
Even if you just discuss basics, you’d be helping out many people and making some money along the way. Learn about the best online platforms for selling courses here. Teachable is a great platform for creating online courses! Learn more here.
3. Sell Stickers
Due to the recent popularity of TikTok, small sticker shops are on the rise. To make stickers, all you need access to is Photoshop or Canva to make text-based stickers or an iPad for illustrative stickers.
The great thing about creating stickers is that you can use dropshipping, which essentially means that you don’t have to be in charge of packing and sending them out if you don’t want to be.
You can hire a third-party vendor to manage all your sales, and you’ll still get more money in your pocket at the end of the day.
The best places to sell stickers include Etsy, RedBubble, and Society6. You can also consider hosting your own website with your designs on Shopify.
4. Be A Design Consultant
If you want to make money as a graphic designer with high-ticket items, then becoming a design consultant might be the job for you.
With this, you essentially sell an hour or two of your time to someone who wants your opinions and ideas on graphic design for their own business. You set your hourly rate and coach and advise potential designers — giving them advice and pointing them in the right direction.
You can find jobs as a design consultant on FlexJobs, Upwork or Fiverr.
5. Design Fonts for Creative Market or Etsy
Fonts are a great way to make passive income for graphic designers if you’re interested in typography. There are many ways to easily make fonts, even just with your own handwriting, which you can then sell for up to $100 on websites like Creative Market or Etsy.
6. Make Pre-Made Logo Packages
Similar to creating and selling templates, you could create and sell a wide variety of different logos that are already set up as vectors.
This is a popular way that many smaller businesses that can’t afford personalized branding packages create their own logos. All they have to do is open the design file and swap out the words and colours, and voila, they have their own new logo.
7. Sell Customized Branding Packages
Branding is one of the other high-ticket services that you can offer as a graphic designer, as these can cost up to $4000 if you’re in high demand.
These packages include a personalized logo, colour scheme, fonts, patterns, and other similar items that help brands define themselves.
8. Create and Sell Printables
Passive income for graphic designers is easy to come by if you create and sell printables online through a platform like Etsy. You could make printables for teachers, students, travellers, literally anything that you can think of!
The great thing about printables is that they are a digital product, so all you have to do is automate your process to immediately send a PDF version of the printable once it’s purchased. You don’t even have to worry about shipping.
9. Work With Clients As A Freelancer
Working with clients is a great route to take if you like a variety of tasks to work on.
By working with clients, you could be designing logos one day and then helping with the layout design of a printed magazine the next. More information on finding these jobs can be found further down in this article.
10. Design Social Media Graphics and Highlight Covers
Social media graphics are another popular way to make money as a graphic designer. Everyone needs help with social media, and you could sell packs of social media templates or pre-made Instagram highlight covers for a small price which can add up over time.
Where to Find Freelance Graphic Design Jobs
Luckily, it’s easier than ever to find jobs using online resources. Below are a few of the best places to search if you’re wondering where to find a graphic design job.
When I was first wondering how to become a freelance graphic designer, this is where I looked.
Upwork provides an easy-to-use interface where you can create your own profile, set your rates, and connect with clients from around the world. Plus, contracts are all made for you, and you can always guarantee that you’ll get paid under Upwork’s protection policy.
Read more in my detailed article: How To Make Money on Upwork
Similar to Upwork, Fiverr is another popular online freelancing platform that works the opposite way.
On Fiverr, the freelancer creates pre-made packages for services with a set price, usually starting at $5 and having tiered prices going up after that. There are tons of graphic design packages that you could make on this website. Learn more about making money on Fiverr here.
Flexjobs is one of the best websites out there to find remote work-from-home positions. There are usually around 1,000 graphic design positions on this website at a time, ranging between a whole bunch of different industries, so you can choose what you’re most interested in.
Click here for a list of the current graphic design jobs on FlexJobs. Use promo code NOMAD at checkout and receive 30% off your FlexJobs membership.
Believe it or not, Facebook Groups are a great place to try to find open positions for graphic designers. There are many nomadic job groups and freelance groups where you can find posts daily of people who are looking for help.
Just remember always to do your research and make sure that a posting is legit before applying.
This social media platform is often overlooked as a great spot to find freelance jobs, but their jobs posting board has a fair amount of freelance gigs.
LinkedIn is also a great place to go to connect with other small business owners who may require your services in the future.
How Much Money Do Graphic Designers Make?
The average graphic designer salary is around $45,000 per year, but that’s if they work full-time hours. This equates to about $22 per hour, but this can quite obviously change depending on a designer’s skill level, specializations, education, and more.
If you want to make money as a graphic designer, I recommend that you create fixed-price packages for your services rather than working by the hour.
This way, you can account for all overhead expenses that may occur during the process, and often clients prefer that you do fixed price so that they know how much it’s going to cost them in total.
Remember, as a graphic designer, it’s pertinent to let your client know the number of revisions that you will make per deliverable, or else you could quickly be taken advantage of. I recommend allowing two revisions maximum and putting it in your contract with the client for precaution.
When I do hourly work, I charge at the minimum of $25 per hour but have had some clients where I’ve charged up to $40.
It truly varies, and as a freelancer, you can also sometimes ask your client what their budget is before you give them a hard number for your rate. I have also done a wide variety of fixed-price projects, which is what I prefer doing. This varies depending on what the project is.
I mainly specialize in layout design (workbooks, lead magnets, ebooks, print books, etc.) and charge on a scale.
Here’s an example of a recent workbook I made, where I created the following tiered system: 30 pages for $600, 31 to 40 pages for $800, and 41 to 50 pages for $1,000.
Tips For Being Successful as a Graphic Designer
To be a successful graphic designer, there are a few guidelines that you should hold yourself to.
The first essential thing is being realistic about what you can accomplish, and holding yourself accountable to any deadlines and agreements. Don’t give yourself deadlines that you don’t think you can easily make, and always be in communication with your client in case something comes up.
If you find that you’re working outside of a platform like Upwork and you’ve managed to snag a client of your own, always make sure that you create a contract for legal reasons.
Some of the best websites for storing and creating these include And.Co and Honeybook. PayPal Business is also a viable option.
Keep A Spreadsheet for Tax Season
I can’t recommend this enough: keep track of all of your income and expenses as a freelance graphic designer.
These will come in handy later in the year when it’s time to pay your quarterly taxes (or annual, depending on how much you make).
Stay On Top of Industry Trends
With any creative service-based business, you must stay on top of what’s currently popular. You don’t want to create something for your client that isn’t going to appeal to today’s audience unless it’s genuinely what your client wants.
Set Your Own Guidelines
As a freelancer, you get to set your own guidelines, which is something to keep in mind.
You decide how much work to have at a given time, you help to set deadlines with your client, and you create your own work hours. If you find that some part of the puzzle isn’t quite working out, then change it!
Pros and Cons of Earning Money Online Designing
Like with many jobs out there, being a freelance graphic designer has its own pros and cons. Some parts of the work I love, and others I don’t!
Pros of Working as a Freelance Graphic Designer
Here are a few of the pros:
1. Work from Anywhere
The main pro for being a freelance graphic designer is that you can truly work anywhere. I always said I wanted to make my dream of being a freelance designer work so that I wouldn’t be tethered to one location. This is one of the best remote jobs.
2. Set Your Own Hours
As mentioned earlier, freelance graphic designers are essentially in charge of themselves because they’re their own boss. I love being able to set my hours, but it can be challenging if I accidentally overbook myself.
3. Work With Clients Worldwide
Being an online freelance designer allows you to connect with people that you might not have had the chance to connect with otherwise. For instance, I’ve worked with clients all over the United States and also in the United Kingdom.
Cons of Working As A Freelance Graphic Designer
Here are a few of the cons:
1. Takes Up A Lot of Storage Space
The amount of storage that graphic design files take up is crazy. I swear that my computer is a lot slower than it used to be because of all the stuff I’ve had to do on it related to graphic design.
A way around this is to purchase an external hard drive or using an online platform like Dropbox or Google Drive, but even then it still takes up a lot of storage.
2. Some Clients Aren’t Easy to Work With
Some clients aren’t amazing… there, I said it. Every once in a while, you sign a contract with a client that you end up not being very happy with because they keep trying to add on extra work.
Be sure to always refer to the contract and remind them of the services that you initially signed for.
3. It’s Expensive
Being sure that you always have the proper equipment and tools to be a graphic designer can add up. I pay $50 a month for Adobe Creative Suite in addition to having an Apple desktop computer and laptop, which is another couple thousand dollars.
But, those things are an investment. And, depending on your tax situation, they can be a write-off.
Charging fixed prices is always a good idea because you can calculate how much you are spending on expenses per month and add that into your rate.
It’s a lot easier than you might think to earn money online designing! There are so many great educational tools out there to get you started in the process, and the number of job boards makes it easy to connect with clients.
The royalty-free images in this post were sourced on Shutterstock.