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Resourceful Designer: Strategies for running a graphic design business

Offering resources to help streamline your home based graphic design and web design business so you can get back to what you do best… Designing!
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Resourceful Designer: Strategies for running a graphic design business
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Jan 30, 2023

Monetizing Your Design Skills: Making money without clients.

Do you dread interacting with clients? Have you ever considered monetizing your design skills to make money without working for clients?

Since starting Resourceful Designer in 2015, I’ve received many emails from designers worldwide seeking advice. People have sought my opinion on everything from naming their design business to my thoughts on specific tools.

The most popular questions I’m asked are about working with clients. It turns out, which should be no surprise, that many designers are introverted. And in some cases, these introverted designers have anxiety when dealing with clients. I can’t tell you how many people say they want to start their own design business, but dealing with clients is holding them back.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it. Working for yourself as a home-based designer, or as some people call it, a freelance designer isn’t for everyone. It takes a particular ability, personality and willpower to run your own business. And not everyone has what it takes.

There’s no shame if you don’t fit that mould. You can have a long and prosperous career working for someone else. Besides, working for someone else is usually less stressful than working for yourself.

But what happens when a designer reluctant to interact with clients starts their own business? Maybe they do it willingly, knowing their shortcomings. Or perhaps they’re forced due to no fault of their own. Such as after a layoff? Either way, these designers need to make money now and working for themself is their only option.

These designers have three choices.

  1. Temporarily push through their anxiety while searching for a job working for someone else.
  2. Face their fears and learn to interact with clients.
  3. Monetize their design skills and find a way to make money without working with clients.

It’s the third way I want to discuss today. Putting your design skills to work for yourself instead of for clients.

Let me preface this by saying most of the things I will mention take time. Working on client projects is your best option if you need money soon. But let’s say you do have time. Or, you want a way to supplement the income you get working with clients. Perhaps in the hopes of one day being able to forgo client work. What can you do?

11 Ways to monetize your design skills and earn money without working for clients.

There are several ways you can monetize your graphic design skills and can make money without working for clients. Here are 11 I came up with that you could try:

1) Design premade layouts, templates and design assets.

Suppose you like making logos, icons, and other graphics. Or you enjoy creating layouts for business cards, resumes, and social media posts but don’t like dealing with clients. Why not create and sell them on marketplaces such as Creative Market or Etsy? There’s a massive market out there for premade layouts and graphics.

What’s great about this is that once you create them, they can be sold multiple times, providing a passive income stream with little effort.

Are you familiar with Cricut machines? They’re becoming more and more popular. People use them for everything from creating custom birthday cards to printed t-shirts. Many Cricut owners rely on premade designs for their creations. I know one designer whose entire income is from selling Cricut designs on Etsy.

2) Selling merchandise via print-on-demand.

As a designer, you can create graphics for merchandise such as t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, tote bags, etc. You then sell them through online print-on-demand platforms such as Redbubble, Zazzle, Society6 or TeeSpring.

I have many designs across several P.O.D. platforms that earn me monthly money.

3) Create a course or write a book.

Are you particularly good with specific software programs, or perhaps there’s a particular design topic you know a lot about? Why not create and sell a course on platforms such as Udemy or Skillshare and teach others what you know?

The same goes for design-related books. It’s so easy these days to self-publish a book or ebook and sell it on platforms such as Amazon Kindle.

Put your skills and knowledge to use in helping others. Once the product is created and marketed, it can continue to sell for years to come, providing passive income.

4) Sell stock photography, illustrations, graphics, videos and more.

Have you considered selling stock Images? There’s a massive demand for stock photography, illustrations, graphics, video and more.

This is similar to the premade layouts and templates I mentioned earlier. Put your creative skills to use and come up with all sorts of designs and concepts you can sell online.

If you’re good at working with video, there are plenty of opportunities to earn income by creating YouTube intros and transitions where all someone has to do is add their logo to an existing file.

Once your creations are licensed, you can earn money from them without additional effort. Shutterstock, iStock, Envato and many other stock platforms are always looking for new items to add to their catalogue. Why can’t they be yours?

5) Create a typeface.

The funny thing about typefaces is that no matter how many are out there, there’s always room for one more.

Tools and resources are available to help you develop typefaces of your own. Then it’s just a matter of selling it on the many online font sources.

6) Sponsorships, Affiliates and Advertising.

Share your knowledge through a blog, podcast or YouTube channel. Then monetize it through sponsorships,  affiliates and advertising.

That’s what I do with this podcast. I’m an affiliate for many of the products I mention and make a small commission any time someone purchases one using my link. And I recently had a sponsorship deal with StickerMule where they paid me to talk about their product.

The more you put yourself out there, the more people trust you and your recommendations.

7) Create an authority website.

Are you a web designer with a passion for something other than design? Maybe it’s motorcycles, woodworking or field hockey? Why not use your web design skills by creating an authority site on that topic? Combined with affiliate links and advertising, you can earn a good income.

Check out sites like nichepursuits.com or authorityhacker.com to learn how.

8) Create and sell mobile apps or games.

If you know how to program, you could put your skills to work creating apps. Who knows, maybe you can create the next Angry Birds or Wordle and make a lot of money.

9) Develop a plugin or extension.

Put your coding skills to use and develop a website plugin or software extension people will use.

Look at Michael Bruny-Groth. He’s a designer who got tired of gathering all the logo variations to give to clients. He saw a problem and came up with Logo Package Express as a solution. Arguably one of the best Adobe Illustrator Extensions to come out in years. It’s now his primary source of income.

10) Website layouts and themes.

There’s a lucrative market for website layouts and themes. Whether they’re stand-alone or for use with page builders such as Divi or Elementor.

Marketplaces such as ThemeForest or TemplateMonster always look for new products to sell.

Not everyone that needs a website can hire a designer. Many of them rely on pre-built layouts and themes. If you have the skills, why not give it a try?

11) Offer your services in online design marketplaces:

Even though designers don’t like talking about them, there’s no arguing that people are making money on marketplaces such as Upwork, Fiverr or 99designs. You earn income from the design projects you complete.

This one is a bit on the fence since you are doing client work. But the interaction is very minimal, which even the most anxious introvert should be able to handle.

What are you waiting for?

So there you have it. Eleven ways you can monetize your design skills without working with clients.

It’s worth noting that while these methods can provide a passive income, they often require a significant amount of time and effort to establish. Still, once you have established a reputation or built an audience, they can generate passive income for years.

Do you have another way you’re using your design skills while not working for clients? I would love to hear about it. Leave a comment for this episode at https://resourcefuldesigner.com/episode311

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