20 Ways to Earn as a Graphic Designer in 2020 – Real Examples

I bet you’ve been there:

Sitting at a client’s brief, realizing that the design you’re about to do is dull and lacks authenticity. But if that’s what the client wants… you have to put your ambitions aside and follow the instructions.

Here’s the but:

Always following instructions doesn’t help if you want to show your creative side, learn new techniques, and build a portfolio. It doesn’t give you much freedom and room for experimentation. For creative artists, that’s torture!

The good news is that you don’t always have to follow someone else’s vision to make money as a graphic designer. In fact, there are plenty of passive income opportunities that would allow you to design what you want, the way you want it.

In this article, you’ll find 20 artsy ways to sell online! Here you have them—active, semi-passive, and passive income ideas for graphic designers. Let’s take a look at each of these ideas and why you should try at least one of them to earn money:

  • Comics and graphic novels
  • Printable coloring books
  • Web elements and icons
  • Fonts
  • Instagram Highlights Covers
  • Emojis, stickers, and emoticons
  • Printable wall art
  • Printable party decorations
  • GIFs
  • Premade 3D designs
  • Ebooks and resume templates
  • Freelance on Upwork
  • Business branding
  • Teach graphic design
  • Illustrate publications
  • Merchandise
  • Wedding stationery
  • Start a monetized blog
  • Write guest posts
  • Create a YouTube channel

Sell digital products

1. Comics and graphic novels

sell comics online

Look:

Comic drawing is a billion-dollar industry. Just last month, 1194 new comic books and 391 new graphic novels were released, according to Wired. That allows us to safely assume that people are interested in this form of art, and more importantly, still willing to pay for it.

By selling digital comics online, you’ll have the chance to get a piece of the market share. What’s also important, selling comics as digital products will let you avoid the challenges traditional publishers face: the need to cover the costs of physical stores or convince people to pay for shipping when they order online.

Good example

2. Printable coloring books

sell coloring books online

Designing coloring books will allow you to show your design skills in full glory.

The adult coloring book trend surprised the world in 2015 when over 12 million books were sold, with some sellers making even up to $329,000 that year. While some say that the trend is now gone, Forbes argues that it may not be entirely true.

Adults and kids alike still enjoy coloring, but instead of buying from traditional publishers, people today prefer to shop from small self-publishers. Their sales numbers aren’t always reported precisely, yet it’s known that as much as 60% of hobby books today are sold by indie self-publishers.

What I’m saying is:

Coloring books are a product that has been taken over by small sellers. This is a great opportunity for new sellers because markets that aren’t dominated by big players are much easier to enter. Printable coloring e-books are therefore the perfect product for freelance designers to sell.

3. Web elements and icons

sell web icons online

With close to 200 million active websites found online, business owners today want to stand out from the crowd. One way companies can show off their personality is through unique web icons and custom illustrations that help them tell their story.

According to 99designs, custom illustrations are one of the main web design trends today. Looking further, we can assume that with the web becoming more saturated, the trend and demand for custom web illustrations will continue to grow. So, selling icons and illustration packs online will be a good way for graphic designers to earn with digital art on the side.

Good example

4. Fonts

Fonts are a huge part of any website. Especially nowadays when designers and programmers (and Google) pay extra attention to things like website readability and usability.

According to Monotype, the US company whose core product is fonts, the interest in original typefaces is growing steadily. Their sales results prove it: last year, the company reported $235.8 million in revenue, which was an increase of 16% in comparison to the year before.

Fonts have not only become a part of UX, but also play a serious part in branding which explains the growing interest. For freelance graphic designers, this might be the best moment to jump on the bandwagon and offer their creative fonts for sale.

Good example

5. Instagram Highlights Covers

Everyone knows that if you’re not on social media, you don’t exist. What people have also realized is that quality and eye-catching visuals are a must to attract and retain followers.

While Facebook is still the most popular social media platform in terms of daily users, Instagram is a close rival. That being said, Instagram is where visual appearance matters more, so if you wonder which platform you should focus on when creating your pack of visuals—this is it.

Besides images for the feed, a product that’s especially trendy right now is Instagram Highlights Covers. It’s something barely noticeable, yet essential for a professional and polished image when people visit the profile.

Even though brands have realized their need for Instagram Highlights Covers, the offer is still rather limited, so jump in on the trend while it hasn’t become too competitive.

Good example

 MS

6. Emojis, stickers, and emoticons

sell emojis online

With more than 60 million emojis sent on Facebook Messenger every day and half of all Instagram posts including emojis, it’s obvious that people love to communicate with visuals. And of course, if people love something, brands will make use of it.

As soon as Twitter introduced branded emojis in 2015, companies in various industries immediately started to add their custom emojis and logos. So far, over 250 companies have already created their own emojis, including Coca-Cola, Taco Bell, and Chevrolet.

With emoticons becoming an integral part of everyday communication, this trend will definitely continue to grow. Thus, more and more brands will be looking for unusual and witty emojis to use in their marketing. This is where your designs can come into play—offer emojis, stickers, and emoticons that would help companies show their personality and sell their products.

Good example

7. Printable wall art

sell poster print files online

According to research analysts, the global home decor market is steadily growing by almost 20% a year. In fact, Printful, the drop-shipping company that offers custom-printed products, reported that posters are their second best-selling product of all time, with hundreds of thousands of pieces of wall art sold every year.

As long as people and companies will move and renovate spaces, decor like posters, canvases and wall stickers won’t leave the best-seller’s top. But the best part is that selling wall art doesn’t mean you need to print and ship physical products. Instead, skip the hassle and offer downloadable print files, leaving the printing part to the customer.

8. Printable party decorations

sell party decorations online

In the era of Instagram and Pinterest, people are putting a special emphasis on decorations. Think about it—parents today can easily spend up to $250 to decorate their kids’ birthday parties. Couples are spending as much as $2000 to make sure their weddings look picture-perfect.

There might never be a better time to use this trend to make passive income. Besides the chance to make money as a freelancer, selling party decorations also offers you endless possibilities to express yourself.

Focus on a specific:

  • theme (e.g. superheroes, disco, high tea party)
  • style (e.g. rustic, minimal, the 20’s)
  • type of party (e.g. birthdays, weddings, bachelorette party)
  • age (e.g. adults, teenagers, toddlers)

There are no limits to your creativity and earning potential, so just pick a niche and go for it.

9. GIFs

via GIPHY

Animated images have been around for over 25 years, but it’s the last three years when the trend has really taken off. From telling stories to expressing emotions, GIFs today are used by nearly everyone and everywhere in digital communication.

When Instagram introduced GIFs in stories, many savvy brands on Instagram saw them as another way to increase brand awareness. So, they started uploading custom GIFs for everyone to use.

Now, with the trend in full swing, more companies are looking for original GIFs to purchase and use in their communication. So, if creating moving graphics is your hobby, this is a great time to put your work for sale and start making money with it.

10. Premade 3D designs

sell 3d graphics online

3D designs give opportunities that would otherwise be impossible to reach in the online environment—they give a face-to-face effect. Experts predict that realistic-looking 3D graphics and animations are something we’ll continue to see more in the following years. And not just in big-budget campaigns, game designs, and Hollywood movies.

The point is:

We can expect that in the following years there will be a growing interest in premade 3D models. Small businesses will be willing to use the trend but on a budget. Instead of creating 3D models from scratch, companies that want to save money will be looking for ready-made content that can be customized. So, use this demand to sell assets that you’ve previously created for a different project or for fun.

Good example

11. Ebooks and resume templates

sell ebooks and resume templates

While many still read print books, digital publishing has grown ever popular in the social media world. According to Statista, user penetration is expected to hit 15.9% by 2024. That tells you that ebooks are here to stay.

Writing ebooks is one way to sell your skills and knowledge as a graphic designer. You can write a step-by-step guide to graphic design for beginners, or create a beautiful guide to product branding. Whichever way you choose to sell, there’s no doubt that your ebooks will sell like hotcakes.

When you take a look at online marketplaces like Creative Market or Etsy, it’s evident that ebook templates are in high demand. Social media influencers, creators, and makers—entrepreneurs from all walks of life sell at least one as part of their brand. 

So, putting pre-designed templates up for sale is a great way of earning passive income. Apart from selling ebooks online, you can also try to sell resume templates. These are quite popular as well, as more job seekers these days care about the look and feel of their resume.

Offer courses and services

12. Freelance on Upwork

freelance on upwork

Freelancing could work for you when you have a diverse set of graphic design skills, but you’re not into selling products. If you’d rather experiment with different gigs (like social media post design, illustration, etc.), Upwork could be a potential source of income for you. 

With hundreds of jobs for each skill set, Upwork is the world’s largest freelancing website. Once you sign up, you can easily filter graphic design jobs by using their search function. Upwork makes it easy to find suitable jobs faster than you would on your own by matching you to offers that need graphic designers.

While freelancing may not be the most reliable option for earning a steady income, it’s a great way to build a reputation and earn positive feedback. For example, you can try part-time freelancing while working on other side projects, and use the reviews you’ve received on Upwork for future reference.

You can also have a look at our blog post on other websites for finding graphic design jobs online.

13. Business branding

business branding

In recent years, business branding has seen a huge spike in popularity. As entrepreneurs and startups don’t always have in-house designers, they need someone with the talent and the vision to help them come up with a strong visual identity

From logos to business cards, designing the critical components of a new brand is a great way to utilize your talent and earn an income. Not only will you have a stunning portfolio, but it’ll also ensure similar future opportunities. 

Business branding can be emotionally rewarding as well, especially when a brand reaches fame on a global scale—thousands of people will be in awe of your design work.

So, why not jump in on this potential source of income and start selling your services with Sellfy? Read our article on how to get started the quickest and easiest way possible.

14. Teach graphic design

teach graphic design

Not into selling products or freelancing? Then perhaps online tutoring might be your thing. If you’ve noticed that you enjoy teaching people, why not teach them your passion?

The rise of online tutoring can be attributed to an increasing interest in acquiring new skills from the comfort of one’s home. Previously, people would sign up for courses in their local neighborhood and then try to match their busy lives with the program’s schedule. 

Now that e-tutoring is available to all, people no longer need to struggle with time slots—they can learn at their own pace. So, if you’re a highly skilled graphic designer, you could give this a shot by selling courses online via learning platforms like Udemy, Teachable, or Skillshare. Your clients will definitely appreciate the chance to learn from you at their convenience.

15. Illustrate publications

illustrate publications

The indie publishing industry has enabled thousands of books to be sold by just about anybody. Oftentimes, with similar book covers due to the availability of free stock photos.

So, here’s your chanceuse this to your advantage and offer private photoshoots or unique illustrations. Most authors these days want to ensure that their book covers are one-of-a-kind and not an almost exact copy of somebody else’s.

Illustrating publications don’t just stop at book covers, though. You can also illustrate magazines, comics, or even fictional characters and world maps. So, if this something you’d love to do, consider becoming an illustrator on freelance marketplaces like 99designs or Behance.

Sell physical products

16. Merchandise

sell merchandise

Selling merchandise has quickly become one of the most popular ways to earn an income. Perhaps the main reason lies in how promising the prospect looks to an entrepreneur. Although not every business owner will end up selling their own merch, almost everyone has considered it at some point. Maybe you should, too?

According to Statista, apparel and accessories retail e-commerce is projected to generate $194.4 billion in revenue by 2024.

In fact, the rise of dropshipping with on-demand fulfillment companies like Printful has proven that selling merch has never been easier. Now you can literally start an e-commerce store, upload print files, and design any products you want to sell:

  • T-shirts
  • Sweatshirts
  • Mugs
  • Tote Bags
  • Jackets
  • Tank tops
  • Leggings
  • Stickers
  • Accessories
  • Pillows

17. Wedding stationery

Apart from dropshipping merchandise, you can also go local with your graphic design skills and sell wedding stationery. The chances of this business succeeding are quite highas long as weddings happen, there will always be a demand for beautifully illustrated wedding invitations.

Selling wedding stationery is a relatively low-cost business that can be operated part-time until it becomes lucrative.

If you decide to go the brick and mortar route, you can either use the help of a local print shop or start making hand-painted wedding cards. You should also make sure that you have a portfolio and website set up where people can make orders or pay for your illustrations.

Create content and get paid

18. Start a monetized blog

start a monetized blog

Blogging is one of the oldest ways to generate money online. It’s also incredibly easy to launch—all you need is a platform, a theme, and a domain name. For example, you can start a personal blog about graphic design where you share tips, tricks, experiments, results, and stories.

The key to success with blogging is in being active and consistent. If you follow SEO best practices and monetize your graphic design blog, your content will be read and shared by hundreds of thousands of people. High-quality content will eventually lead to a loyal following for years to come.

The key to driving traffic to your blog isn’t just on-site SEO, but also connecting it to various social media channels. For example, boosting a popular post on your Facebook Page can really attract new followers

Apart from that, you can also use your blog to sell graphic design-related products or services such as ebooks, merch, business branding, and so much more.

19. Write guest posts

get paid to write guest posts

Another way to earn money as a graphic designer is to write guest posts. While this isn’t as profitable as most ideas in this article, it’s still a doable side-hustle. 

If you’re already into blogging, you can also do guest posting or freelance writing about graphic design. There are all kinds of paid guest posting opportunities out there—all you have to do is find them. Search engines like Google are the best help in this case. 

However, Upwork is by far the easiest option if you’re looking for paid writing opportunities where you can share your expertise in guest posts or articles.

20. Create a YouTube channel

create a youtube channel

If you’re comfortable on camera and know how to connect with an audience, starting a YouTube channel could be the right choice for you as a graphic designer. 

YouTube is arguably the best choice if you want to create a channel and grow a list of subscribers. As you probably already know, many creators are able to make a huge income from through the platform. 

Just think about it—YouTube has around 2 billion monthly active users and is localized to 91 countries. This is quite a significant number if you consider the fact that the total number of internet users in the world is 4.4 billion

A couple of ideas you can try out:

  • Vlogs about your life as a graphic designer
  • Art supplies and tools reviews
  • Speed designing videos
  • Graphic design tutorials

Get your creative juices flowing!

Now that you’ve seen the many ways to make money as a graphic designer, the next step is to pick the product or service and open your online shop. Then, start earning with graphic design.

Sellfy is a great platform for creators like graphic designers—you can set up your store in seconds and put literally any digital product up for sale.

The best part?

Sellfy features handy built-in tools, such as email marketing and upselling, that will help you market your business and have customers pouring in.

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