There’s never been a better time to be a graphic designer, whether you’re looking for a full-time gig or a passive income stream to fund your wanderlust. Society’s appetite for pretty pictures has become insatiable and companies are scrambling to meet demand.
Years ago when I was choosing a major, graphic design was considered a risky career path. Fast-forward to today and design has become a very viable option, thanks to the many ways you can make a living using your creative skills.
Considering a career as a graphic designer? Here are six ways you can shatter the starving artist stereotype and make money as a creative professional.
This is the most stable way to make a living as a graphic designer. Whether you’re working for an agency or a business, you’ll have a consistent paycheck with all the benefits that come with a full-time, salaried gig.
Agency work tends to be more fast-paced and varied, so I always recommend starting your design career at the agency level. However billable hours and clients demands can quickly lead to burnout, which is why many leave the agency world to serve as an in-house designer for a company.
Client work is the most common way graphic designers make a living. Although there are many perks to being your own boss, finding clients and generating consistent work can be a challenge leading to a feast or famine income situation.
One of the best parts of freelancing is the ability to set your own rate, which is usually higher than what you would make hourly as an in-house designer. This means, if you are able to establish a steady stream of client work, you could potentially work less for more money.
Sell Digital Products
This is one of the best ways to make passive income as a designer. You create the design once and sell it multiple times using a site that will digitally deliver your product like Etsy or Creative Market.
Some common digital products are pre-made logos and marketing materials, fonts, graphics and art prints. Because the products you sell are digital, you won’t have the headache of managing inventory, payments or shipping. Although keep in mind, the service you use to sell the product will take a small cut of the profits.
Sell physical products
Selling physical products, like art prints, is another way a designer can make a living. Goods can either be sold online (and shipped), at a retail store or via art fair booth. Unlike a digital product, physical products require a larger upfront investment in order to produce the items that will be sold. Because of this, it’s a bit more risky than going digital. A few examples of start-up costs include printing fees, product packaging and shipping supplies.
One way to sell physical products without the upfront investment would be to upload a design to a sites like Zazzle or CafePress, which will make it available on a number of goods, like t-shirts, mugs, hats, totes, etc.
Online education has become a $100+ billion industry. Graphic design is a highly sought after skill making online design courses a very viable income stream. So what types of courses could you teach? Here are some ideas:
- Logo design & branding
- Design software tutorials (Adobe Creative Suite, Canva, etc.)
- Web Design
- Business (e.g. how to find clients, growing a freelance business, running an Etsy shop, etc.)
- Designing for social media
And the list goes on. Art school is very expensive, which is why so many people are turning to inexpensive training courses to gain a skillset without accumulating tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.
My Income Stream
For the past few years I’ve worked as an in-house graphic designer who freelances on the side. I love the stability of having a full-time job and the ability to generate additional income through client work as my schedule allows.
Starting in 2017, I hope to establish a passive income stream so I’m not entirely dependent on trading hours for dollars to make a living. My Illustrator 101 class will be launching soon – sign-up for my pre-launch list here!
With so many different income options, deciding on a career path might feel overwhelming, especially when you’re first starting out. If there was one important takeaway from this article, it is to always make sure your income stream is in alignment with your lifestyle.
For instance, if you’re planning to buy a home, having a full-time salaried gig will make you more attractive to mortgage companies because you’ll have a steady income. Or if traveling the globe is your goal, make sure you can conduct business effectively on the road.
Now I want to hear from you! What ways do you make a living as a graphic designer?