While there are many different ways to make money outside of a traditional day job, offering a service is one of the best options because you can start generating revenue almost immediately. As soon as you have your first client, you’ve got a profitable side gig.
If you’re naturally creative and you have some design skills, starting a graphic design side hustle is an ideal way to earn extra cash.
Graphic design talents are in high demand and will always be needed. And while there are many design agencies and studios already out there, you can definitely find work as a new freelancer.
Most small businesses, entrepreneurs, and non-profit organizations need the services of a talented designer, but they may not be able to afford an agency. As an independent freelancer with no overhead costs, you can offer your services at affordable rates and still make an excellent hourly rate. And as you gain more experience and have more demand for your services, you can raise your prices and increase your income.
Whether you’re just looking for some extra income on the side or you’re interested in building a full-time business, working as a designer is an excellent option. While many side hustles allow you to earn anywhere from $10 – $20 per hour, or less, the average freelance graphic designer earns more than $30 per hour according to PayScale.
And aside from the income, you’ll also develop skills and experience that can help you to become more valuable as an employee.
Looking for more ways to make money? See our list of 150+ side hustle ideas.
Services You Can Offer With a Graphic Design Side Hustle
There are many services you can offer as a freelance designer. Most businesses need help with one or more of the following:
- Creating a logo, signs, and other branding materials
- Designing a website or landing page
- Designing print materials such as flyers, brochures, and business cards
- Creating illustrations or infographics
- Creating graphics for social media, blog posts, and thumbnails for YouTube videos
- Developing an email marketing campaign
- Designing labels and product packaging
If you have experience with any of these graphic design tasks, great! If not, there are plenty of online resources and courses that can help you to develop the abilities you need. For example, Skillshare offers thousands of different courses, including classes on just about everything related to graphic design.
For side hustlers who are starting out, it’s a good idea to offer a variety of services so that you can appeal to a wide range of potential clients. Once you’ve established yourself and have a strong portfolio, you can focus on the design tasks that you enjoy the most and that fit your strengths.
Starting Your Freelance Graphic Design Business
Now that you know what services you can offer, it’s time to start building your freelance business. The first step is to build a portfolio that showcases your talents and experience. If you don’t have any professional experience, include any personal projects or designs that you’ve created. You might even want to start a passion project or do some pro-bono work for an organization you support to get some work that you can include in your portfolio.
Your portfolio doesn’t need to include a huge number of work samples. Quality is much more important than quantity. Even if you have just two or three high-quality designs to start with, that’s enough for now.
Creating Your Portfolio Website
Your portfolio site will be the most valuable asset for your own business. It’s where potential clients will go to learn more about you and your work. It will serve as a salesperson for you, promoting your services to anyone who is looking.
Your portfolio should be easy to navigate and should highlight your best work. You can create an online portfolio using a website builder such as WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. Or, if you prefer, you can use Behance, Dribbble, or another platform that’s specifically for designers.
Aside from your work samples, your portfolio site should include a section about you and your design process, testimonials from past clients, and your contact information. If you don’t have any clients yet, reach out to others you’ve worked with in the past who might be willing to provide a character reference or a testimonial that endorses you and your work ethic, even if it doesn’t address your graphic design ability.
It’s critically important that you make it as easy as possible for would-be clients to contact you. Include an email address, phone number, and/or link to a contact form on every page of your site. You may also want to include links to your profile on popular social networks so people can connect with you there if they prefer.
The Best Free Graphic Design Tool
Canva is free web-based graphic design software that is ideal for many of the projects you’ll work on as a freelance designer. Not only can you save money by using it (compared to Adobe Photoshop), but Canva also provides many helpful templates that can be a starting point for your project.
Once you’re making some money, you can upgrade to Canva Pro for a small monthly fee to access millions of stock photos, more premium templates, and powerful tools like a background remover.
Ways for Graphic Designers to Find Clients
Now that you have a portfolio site, it’s time to start marketing your services and finding clients. Here are some of the best ways to find work as a freelance designer:
Your Existing Network
Your very first step should be to let your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, and other contacts know that you’re available for freelance graphic design work. Send an email, post on social media, or even hand out business cards letting people know your services. You never know when someone in your network might need help with a design project. And if they don’t need help, they might be able to refer you to someone who does.
Craigslist is one of the most under-appreciated ways of finding clients for any type of service. It’s free, you can create an ad very quickly, and the site has a huge audience of people searching for service providers. You may or may not get any response from a post on Craigslist, but it won’t take much of your time to try it. And you can bump your post to the top by re-posting it occasionally.
Upwork is one of the most popular platforms for finding freelance work of all kinds, including graphic design work. You can create a profile, set up your payment information, and apply for jobs all in one place. Upwork also makes it easy to communicate with clients and track your hours.
Fiverr is a freelancer marketplace where you can offer your services. You can create a gig that features one or more graphic design services you offer, such as creating a logo or designing a business card. Fiverr is great for getting started because it’s an easy way to build up a portfolio of work and get some positive reviews from clients around the world. You can also increase your prices or create gigs for bigger projects as you go.
SolidGigs is a bit different from the other platforms on this list. Rather than being a marketplace where you can find work, SolidGigs sends you hand-picked job leads every day. You’ll have to pay a small subscription fee to get the leads, but it can save you many hours of time. You can get started with a free trial to see if the platform is a good fit for you.
Dribbble is a community of designers where you can showcase your work, find inspiration, and connect with other designers. You can also use Dribbble to find clients. Many businesses and individuals post design jobs on Dribbble, so it’s a great place to look for work. You can also use the platform to build your portfolio and get your name out there.
Behance is another platform where designers can showcase their work. Adobe owns it, so it’s a very well-respected site. And like Dribbble, many businesses post graphic design jobs on Behance. So it’s worth checking out if you’re looking for work as a designer.
DesignCrowd is a marketplace that connects businesses with designers who can help them with their projects. You can sign up as a designer, browse through design contests and projects, and submit proposals for the ones you’re interested in. If your proposal is accepted, you’ll complete the project and receive payment from DesignCrowd
Sometimes a proactive approach is the best option. You can reach out to businesses in your local area or those you think would benefit from your services. This can be done through email, social media, or even in person. It can be a bit daunting, but it’s worth doing if you want to find work as a freelancer.
Optionally, you could offer something free to get your foot in the door. You might offer a free evaluation of their current marketing materials, an audit of their website, or a brief consultation. This gives you a chance to provide an example of what you can do for them.
Referrals are one of the best ways to find new clients because they come with a built-in recommendation from someone the client already knows and trusts. When you finish a project, always ask your client if they know anyone who might need your services.
Alternatives to Client Work
Working as a freelance designer is an excellent side hustle, but if you’re not interested in client work, there are several other ways to use your graphic design abilities for extra money.
Start a Print-on-Demand Business
One option is to start a print-on-demand business as a side gig. This involves creating designs and selling them on products like t-shirts, hats, tote bags, mugs, puzzles, blankets, and more. The great thing about print-on-demand is that you don’t have to worry about inventory or shipping. The products will be printed and shipped by the supplier as they’re purchased.
T-shirts are the most popular print-on-demand product, and many designers enjoy using their creative talents to design unique t-shirts. If you’re looking for a fun side hustle that allows you to explore your creative side without relying on clients for work, this could be an excellent option.
Sites like Redbubble and CafePress make it easy to get started with print-on-demand. You simply create an account, upload your graphics, and start selling. However, your income potential with these sites is limited. Building your own online shop with Shopify will give you a much higher income ceiling.
If you want to learn more, check out From Design to Product: Sell Your Art Online Through Print on Demand.
Another option is to design and sell printables. This could be anything from planners and organizers to stickers, templates, checklists, and worksheets. If you’re crafty and enjoy creating things like this, it can be a fun and lucrative side hustle.
Printables are free to produce and have a high profit margin. You can sell them on your own site or sites like Etsy. Selling on a marketplace like Etsy is an easy way to get started, but you’ll have higher income potential by starting your own site (you can do both). Podia is an excellent platform for selling digital downloads, and they offer a free plan so you can get started with no upfront expense.
Access this free workshop and learn how to generate passive income by selling printables on Etsy. You'll learn about the types of products that sell, how to get your Etsy shop set up, and how to make sales and ensure that your shop is a success.
This is the perfect side hustle if you:
- Want to work from home
- Don't have much time
- Like the idea of selling on Etsy
- Don't have prior experience
Start a Design Blog or Niche Website
If you’re passionate about design, you can start a blog or niche site. This is a great way to build an audience and eventually make money through advertising, sponsorships, affiliate marketing, and selling products or services.
Starting a content-based site is a long-term project, but it can be very rewarding financially and personally. Most blogs and niche websites make very little money for the first six months or even longer, but once you have some established traffic, your income can grow very quickly. This is an excellent option if you’re interested in starting an online business with a long-term focus.
For more details, see my Guide to Building a Profitable Niche Website.
Create an Online Course
Another option is to create an online course and teach others what you know. This is perfect if you enjoy teaching and helping others learn. Creating an online course requires some upfront work to create the content, but once it’s complete, it can provide passive income for months or years.
Teachable and Podia are excellent platforms for hosting and selling your online course. With either, you can easily create a professional-looking website to promote your course, accept payments from students worldwide who want to enroll and provide an intuitive dashboard for students as they work through the course material.
To learn how to create and sell an online course, see Online Course Masters.
Write an E-book
Writing an e-book about a specific aspect of design is another way to teach or share your expertise, but it may be a little less involved than creating a video course.
E-books can be sold on your own site or platforms like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. Selling on your own site gives you more control, and you’ll be able to build up your own customer list and continue to market future e-books or products to them (which isn’t possible on Amazon). Thanks to platforms like Shopify and Podia, selling a digital download, like an e-book, from your own site is simple.
If you have experience with typography, you could create fonts or typefaces and sell them online. This requires some design ability and knowledge of font creation software, but it can be a fun and rewarding side hustle, and it could even turn into a full-time business.
You can sell your fonts on your own site or sites like Creative Market and Creative Fabrica to people worldwide. These marketplaces have large audiences of designers looking to buy fonts, so they present a quick way to get exposure for your products.
To learn more, see Build a Better Font: An In-Depth Guide to Creating Fonts.
Design Stock Resources and Templates
If you create design resources like icons, Photoshop files, templates, WordPress themes, and other stock graphics, you can sell them on stock sites like Creative Market and Creative Fabrica for passive income.
Selling on stock sites is a great way to get started as a freelance designer because it’s quick and easy to set up a new business and start selling your products. Plus, you can work whenever you have spare time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, it can! There are several ways for side hustlers to make extra income, many of which can be done in your spare time. If you’re freelancing, you can take on as many or as few clients as you want. You can earn a good hourly rate and develop valuable experience as a bonus.
According to PayScale, the average freelance graphic designer makes $49,435 per year or $30 per hour. Of course, these are averages, so there are designers making more money or less money than this amount.
If you want to become a freelance designer, the first step is to build a strong portfolio that showcases your talent and style. Then, start marketing yourself. You can do this by networking, attending design events, or creating a site or online portfolio. Once you’ve landed some clients, deliver high-quality work on time and within budget. With satisfied clients, you’ll be well on your way to a successful freelance career!
When setting your freelance rates, be sure to account for your experience level, the project’s complexity, the client’s budget, and the amount of time it will take you to complete the work. It’s also important to research the going rates for freelance designers in your area. Once you have all this information, you can set a fair and competitive price for your services.
Yes, you can! Many designers are self-taught. There are plenty of books, online courses, and tutorials that will help you to learn without a formal education.
Final Thoughts on a Graphic Design Side Hustle
If you’re a designer, there are plenty of ways to make extra money on the side of a full-time job. Whether you’re looking for freelance work, selling fonts or templates, or creating e-books, there’s an option for you. With a little effort, you can start earning some extra cash and doing what you love!