Is graphic design a profitable business

How to become a profitable online graphic designer

Graphic design is known to be a difficult endeavor, but more designers than ever before are freelance. Nowadays you need an edge to keep your business profitable.

By 2020, 50% of the American population should be freelancers. This freelance industry is growing, and the number of graphic designers in this industry is making this notoriously difficult online career path even more of a hurdle than you might expect.

Fortunately, as a graphic designer, there are tons of options available to you when you are struggling to make a profit. We've detailed just a few of these ideas below, and we'd love for you to add your own suggestions to the comments too!

Land more customers

There are a variety of online platforms designed to match qualified freelancers with potential clients. While many designers shudder at the thought of competing with other designers with the right tone and an impressive portfolio, with the right tone and an impressive portfolio, there are plenty of designers on these platforms who charge at least $ 150 an hour .

Of course, it takes some time to get to the point where you are able to calculate what you are actually worth. However, if you take on some small projects like low budget logo designs first, you can quickly create positive reviews and sample designs to showcase your talent and thereby increase your hourly rate.

Some of the most popular freelance graphic designer websites are the following. I purposely left out Fiverr because it's incredibly difficult to make decent money when you want to take the time to serve your customers with what they have Really need:

  • oDesk
  • Elance
  • freelancer
  • FreelanceSwitch
  • Microlancer
  • PeoplePerHour
  • 48 hour logo

Design competitions

While this may not be your natural choice if you are a seasoned designer with some "risk" time and want to build up some samples for your designs, websites like 99Designs can occasionally pay $ 249 for logo designs. $ 599 for web designs and so on. This may not be enough to justify your time as there is no guarantee that the company will pick your winning design, but you think it is worth considering.

Make money off of your unused files

You probably have hundreds of old designs lying around (icon sets, Photoshop filters, fonts, designs, logos, web designs, photos, texture packs, etc.) that have never seen the light of day. Instead of getting these files gathering dust, consider selling them on marketplaces like the following (make sure you keep the rights to these designs first!) ..

  • Graphic flow
  • Graphic remnants
  • Creative Market (you must first be approved as a seller)
  • Theme Forest (the leading provider of WordPress themes and web templates)

Many of these marketplaces have exploded in the past few years, making competition tough, buy by including some unique designs, detailed descriptions and help files in your designs. You can use yourself for some passive sales.

If your designs are selling well, who knows, you could make all of your living selling graphic sets in these marketplaces!

Write a book

As a designer, you have unique skills and a unique view of certain topics. By summarizing these thoughts in a book or e-book, you not only create a passive source of income, but also build your reputation as an expert in your field. When you publish to Kindle, you use Kindle Direct Publishing. If you choose to get a printed book, there are several print-on-demand services available. The 4 best online print-on-demand book services for self-publishers The 4 best online print-on-demand book services for self-publishers Self-publishing has never been easier than it is today. Find the best print-on-demand book services here to help you create and sell your book online. Read more available.

If you're not sure if this might work for you, check out how designer Nathan Barry made $ 6,000 in one day when he published "The App Design Handbook" ..

Sell ​​your prints

If you have unique, commercially viable designs (especially illustrations), have you ever thought about selling them as reprints on sites like DeviantArt and Etsy? By selling products like posters, canvas prints, wallpaper, or even mugs and mousepads, you can quickly add another source of income to your repertoire and get more people to see your designs.

Guest post on other blogs

Guest posting (on sites like WebAndDesigners) is a fantastic way to get your name out to as many potential customers as possible while constantly increasing the number of inbound links to your own website (which will improve your SEO ranking. Some tips on that here .) Blogs for Search Engines Without Becoming a Content Mill Blogs for Search Engines Without Becoming a Content Mill (Read More). By writing in-depth articles aimed at solving very specific problems, you can position yourself as an expert (or even a point of contact) in your niche, which can increase your prices and become a more profitable designer. If that's not reason enough, some of the bigger design sites will be willing to pay you for a well-written article too!

Form strategic partnerships

Having a strong portfolio in specific areas of design (e.g. ebook covers, landing pages, etc.) allows you to partner with other relevant companies that have easy access to your target market. For example, if you're designing album art, you can partner with independent record labels to get more work from them. If you specialize in converting WordPress themes, you can team up with SEO specialists, copywriters, and consultants to recommend them to your own clients.

Changes you need to make in your company

Now that we've talked about various tactics that you can use to increase revenue and add a few additional sources of income, there are a lot you can do too within Your business to improve your profitability.

Reduce expenses

Are there any additional services that you offer your customers that cost you time and money, but do not offer any real added value? Do you offer five redesigns when only three or four do? Are you signing up on member sites or paying for magazine subscriptions that you don't really need? By eliminating all unnecessary expenditure of time and money, you naturally increase the total profit per hour.

Use your previous customers

As an established designer, you likely have a list of previous clients who may need a designer soon. Add the email addresses of these past customers to a Mailchimp or Aweber email list so you can easily keep in touch with them. Send monthly updates, keep them up to date with any blog content you post, let them know when you have special promotions, or just ask about any design work coming up. By introducing your name and work to these past clients, you are more likely to be the designer they go to when they actually need some work.

Narrow down your niche

Having a wider range of services can potentially target more potential customers, but also have a much lower conversion rate than people who specialize in a particular niche. For example, if you're looking for a design for the cover of your new book, would you go for Joe Bloggs, the general designer, or a designer like Scarlett Rugers who specializes in standard professional book covers for himself-published authors?

Picking a niche that you are either passionate about or where other people just aren't doing a great job, it's easy to target the area, build a hugely impressive portfolio, and really work on mastering your very special craft, to be able to charge much higher fees than most other designers. If your customers know what to expect, you should have a higher conversion rate and be able to market your services more effectively.

Encourage referrals

Once you've set up this email list for your past customers, feel free to use it to ask for recommendations. The more recommendations you receive, the less money you will spend on acquiring each customer, and thus your profit per project increases.

Personally, I don't want to offer any incentives for referrals. I'd rather people recommend their network to me based on my work and customer service. So focus on bringing as much value to your customers as possible and let them know you are attracting new customers and be grateful if they would tell your network your name if you think they were good enough. You will be surprised how many new customers you will get if you just ask.

Find out more about your worst customers

Often times you will find that your most demanding customers are the ones who bring you the least profit. Learn to identify these customers so that in the future, when someone wants to work with you, you can easily determine if the project is indeed worth your time or if you should decline and wait for a better opportunity. This is arguably something that will come with time.

Focus on the important work

Different parts of your job are likely to be repetitive tasks or tasks that are not making full use of your valuable time. Whether it's gathering information from customers, signing contracts, developing simpler aspects of design, marketing, etc. If your time is better used elsewhere, consider outsourcing some of these tasks. How To Outsource Your Daily Business To Make You A Super Product - Daily Tasks How To Outsource Your Daily Operations To Make You A Super Productive Task Do More In One Day. Learning what to outsource and a few best practice tips for delegating your day-to-day tasks can help you become extremely productive. Read More

Stop charging every hour on the hour

If you charge by the hour, you will find that the more powerful you become and the more streamlined you make your processes, the less you get paid, even though the work improves. Start by considering the entire project, what it's worth to the customer and how long it actually takes you, and base your design quote on it, rather than how long the design actually takes.


It's all too easy to say “yes” to every opportunity you can think of as a graphic designer, but to really make your business more profitable you need to be more strategic about your processes and marketing. You need to make sure that you rate your time accordingly. You need to make sure that you are getting the most out of your time.

There are, of course, many more ways you can make your graphic design business more profitable, but I hope these few approaches help.

Do you have any tips on how to increase profitability?

Photo credits: Graphic artist via Shutterstock

Learn more about: Freelance, Make Money Online.