How to Earn as a Graphic Designer And NOT Lose Authenticity

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 stand-out portfolio. It doesn’t give you much freedom and room for experimentation. For creative artists, that’s torture!

The good news is:

To make money as a graphic designer, you don’t always have to follow someone else’s vision. 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 10 artsy products to sell online – that people actually buy! Here you have them – active, semi-passive and passive income ideas for graphic designers:

    • comics and graphic novels
    • coloring books
    • web icons and custom illustrations
    • fonts
    • social media images and icon packs
    • emojis and stickers
    • printable wall art
    • printable party decorations
    • GIFs
  • 3D models

Let’s take a look at each of the ideas and why these are awesome products to start selling right now:

Comics and graphic novels

sell comics online


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 (that they hate to do!) when they order online.

Room for creativity: 5/5

Trend: 3/5

Type of income: semi-passive income

Good example

Note! To keep your sales steady, be ready to add new stories at least every couple of months.

Coloring books

sell coloring books online

Writing ebooks is one way you can sell your skill and knowledge as a graphic designer – write a step by step guide to graphic design for beginners. Or create a beautiful guide to product branding.

Another, more fun way is to design coloring books that 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. Now in 2018, while some say that the trend is 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 with all that, it is 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 taken over by small sellers, which is a great opportunity for new sellers because markets that are not dominated by big players are much easier to enter. Printable coloring e-books are therefore the perfect product for freelance designers to sell.

Room for creativity: 5/5

Trend: 3/5

Type of income: passive income

Note! While still greatly popular, coloring books have already experienced their peak point.

Web icons and custom illustrations

sell web icons online

With close to 200 million active websites found online and the number growing every minute, business owners today, more than ever before 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 is one of the main web design trends of 2018. 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 icon and illustration packs online will be a good way for graphic designers to earn with digital art on the side of one’s daily job.

Pro tip:

Offering illustrations that have already been designed, but then disapproved by the client, is a great place to start, as you won’t need to put in any extra work.

Room for creativity: 4/5

Trend: 4/5

Type of income: passive income

Good example

Note! When it comes to web designs, people tend to follow trends. That means, at first it might be a challenge to sell illustrations whose style greatly differs from what’s trending at the particular moment.


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, bet 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.

Room for creativity: 3/5

Trend: 4/5

Type of income: passive income

Good example

Note! You can’t get overly creative when designing fonts for websites – they must be rather simple and readable.

Social media image and icon packs

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 story highlight icons – something barely noticeable, yet essential to make a professional and polished image when people visit the profile.

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

Room for creativity: 5/5

Trend: 5/5

Type of income: passive income

Good example


Note! Social media recommended image sizes and other requirements are changing regularly – make sure you stay up to date and update your designs.

Emojis and stickers

sell emojis online

With more than 60 million emojis and stickers 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.

Emojis becoming an integral part of everyday communication, the popularity of smiley-faces will definitely continue to grow. Thus, more and more brands will be looking for unusual and witty emojis to use in their marketing, and this is where your designs can come into play – offer emojis and stickers that would help companies show their personality and sell their products.

Room for creativity: 4/5

Trend: 5/5

Type of income: active income

Good example

Note! When buying emojis, some brands will ask for full ownership, which means you won’t be allowed to sell the same emoji to multiple buyers.

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 – 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.

Room for creativity: 5/5

Trend: 4/5

Type of income: passive income

Note! By offering the same design in various sizes you can easily expand your potential customer base. Also – if you’ve decided that posters is your thing to sell, a logo on every design will help you increase your brand awareness and boost recognition.

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: today parents can easily spend up to $250 to decorate their kids’ birthday party, and couples are spending as much as $2000 to make sure their wedding looks picture-perfect.

There might never be a better time to use this trend to make passive income. And – 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 (eg., superheroes, disco, high tea party)
    • style (eg., rustic, minimal, the 20’s)
    • type of party (eg., birthdays, weddings, bachelorette party)
  • age (eg., adults, teenagers, toddlers)

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

Room for creativity: 5/5

Trend: 5/5

Type of income: passive income

Note! As you prepare printable decorations, make sure you optimize your designs, sizes, and formats for printing – make it easy for the buyer to adjust the decor to their needs.



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 that are selling on Instagram, saw them as another way to increase brand awareness. So, they started to upload 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.

Room for creativity: 4/5

Trend: 5/5

Type of income: active income

Note! Like with branded emojis and stickers, brands will probably want full ownership of the GIFs they purchase. So, once a GIF is bought, it’s gone. To keep your shop running, you’ll need to create new designs regularly.

3D designs

sell 3d graphics online

3D designs give opportunities that would otherwise impossible to reach in the online environment – they give face-to-face effect. Experts, therefore, 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 pre-made 3D models, as small businesses will be willing to use the trend – but on a budget. Instead of creating 3D models from scratch, companies will be looking for content that has already been made and can be customized, that way saving money. So, use this demand to sell assets that you’ve previously created for a different project or for fun.

Room for creativity: 4/5

Trend: 5/5

Type of income: passive income

Good example

Note! What’s especially hot is mixing 2D with 3D in graphics to create complex visuals and give viewers a new and interesting experience.

Get your creative juices flowing!

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

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

The best part?

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

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