Maddy Osman from BlogSmith tells us that some of the hottest job skills in the modern age revolve around knowing code or having a flair for graphic design. Being a graphic designer usually means that you are in the uniquely awesome position of loving what you do and earning from it—many would describe it as one of the best jobs in the world.
You know how people say that artists will never make money? And if you want to make money, you have to sell out? These generalities just don’t seem to apply to the art of graphic design. There are always jobs available for graphic designers, and you can even make your own job or business out of this skillset!
Even if you’re working for someone else, there are several website ideas you can adapt to your graphic design business to make some extra money.
Of the many ways to generate income from your graphic design business website, some will require a concerted effort on your part, while others are largely passive. Ideally, you’ll combine elements of both to maximize your earning potential. Who doesn’t want to try and make more money: especially if you can do it even while you’re asleep or on vacation!
Passive Income Website Ideas
Let’s start with the most enchanting revenue-generating ideas for your design website—passive income.
Some companies offer affiliate programs to help push the sales of their products or services. Affiliates (you) usually sign up for a company’s affiliate program, and from there, affiliates can choose what kinds of products and services to promote to their online audience, using an affiliate link. Affiliate links are URLs that contain an affiliate’s ID or username for tracking purposes.
For every purchase made using an affiliate link, the affiliate earns a commission from the company—like a salesperson. As far as your design website and audience is concerned, there are several online companies offering affiliate programs, from e-commerce websites to your own web hosting provider.
Earning potential: Anywhere from $20,000 a year (for just 2,500 views/month) to as much as $1 million a year. The key to success is an audience that trusts you, and who believes in your design expertise.
Tips to Succeed at Affiliate Programs
Choose only a handful of products to promote. These should only be the ones you truly believe in. As a designer, these can take the form of design resources, books, or online courses.
Promote these products across your different online channels: blog, social media, email, etc. Incorporating elements of automation can make it possible to set this up as a truly passive system.
If you’re promoting on a blog, you can put up flashy banner ads or incorporate content marketing tactics. For the latter, create helpful posts that feature the products, but not blatantly so. Don’t forget to include a disclosure policy (as required by the FTC).
Be informed. Stay on top of current trends so you can adapt your strategies when necessary.
Although you can make money by being an affiliate, most people don’t go this route because they don’t like the idea of selling other people’s products—many people would rather create their own.
If you’re a graphic designer with a lot of experience, you are in a position to teach other people who know nothing about the topic. If you want to create a product that is easy to sell and requires but a medium one-time effort, try writing and selling ebooks.
It’s easy for many reasons:
- You don’t need to know how to write; you can opt to publish a book of your art.
- Some people actually outsource the actual writing of ebooks.
- You don’t need to worry about publishing because all you have to do is create a PDF file to upload on a site, and setup/optimize landing pages and channels to sell it on.
Where to publish: Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo, iBooks, Gumroad, and more.
Earning potential: If you’re really successful? Up to $2 million or more, as Amanda Hocking, a “paranormal romance” writer who has sold more than a million books on Amazon did; or get your book published by a traditional publisher, as 50 Shades of Grey EL James did (she started out with a self-publishing platform).
Another way to earn money passively if you don’t like writing, but want to share your knowledge on design, is by teaching online courses.
There are several popular platforms for teaching online courses, like Udemy, Teachable or Skillshare. These platforms allow you to setup and host your course on their site—no technical coding skills necessary to get up and running. Each one offers numerous resources to walk through onboarding and successfully getting your first course online.
All that’s necessary to get a course online is recorded videos of you walking through various skills, or if you’re willing to go the extra mile, offering some workbooks to help people follow along. You technically don’t even have to show your face on video if you’re not comfortable with that. Especially when teaching technical skills, you can just record your screen. After creating the course, success comes down to effective promotion.
Earning potential: Up to multiple millions, like Melyssa Griffin, who started out offering graphic design services, but has earned millions in revenue from course creation. Her engaged community online continues to bring her success.
Here’s a look at the most popular platforms for online course creation:
You don’t have to have your own site or even worry about promoting your course on Udemy. It functions as a marketplace that connects searchers with the best content matches for their queries. Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks when it comes to earnings. Income Diary reports that they’ll deduct 50% of payments if students signed up through their site (50% yours, 50% theirs). If the students signed up through an affiliate, the affiliate gets 50% of the sale, and you and Udemy get 25% each. They let you keep 97% of what you earn if the students sign up through your link. Another sour grape? They frequently discount courses to $15+, and there’s nothing you can do about it while being represented on their marketplace.
Teachable allows you to create your own online school, with multiple courses if you please. With Teachable, you can host your lessons on their website, but direct a custom domain to it. The Teachable platform looks more professional than the others on this list.
As an instructor and course creator, you earn money by selling your courses. You pay Teachable anywhere between $39/month and $299/month, with the $39 plan charging transaction fees and the $99 and above plan working without additional transaction fees.
For Skillshare, teachers earn through royalty payments and premium referrals. Skillshare operates on a subscription-based model, meaning students pay a monthly (or annual) subscription fee to get access to all the courses they want.
If students sign up for Skillshare through your link, you get a commission. As students watch minutes of your course videos, you also get a commission depending on how long they watch. You also earn new teacher bonuses, if you complete certain program requirements.
Though passive income is often the gold standard, there are plenty of other website ideas to make money for your graphic design business.
With sponsored posts, companies pay you to advertise their company on your online mediums. With a professional (and well-designed website) and a portfolio that contains big names or stunning projects, you can be considered an expert in design, and thus, trustworthy.
Similar to affiliate marketing, creating sponsored posts allow you to promote other people’s products by either writing about them as a commissioned article or by companies buying ad space on your website. Unlike affiliate posts, where your article can continuously earn money as your target market finds it, you earn money from sponsored posts only once—when the company pays you for it.
Many people are wary of writing and reading sponsored posts because they can come off very sales-y. Of course, this type of advertisement tends to perform a lot better than actual ads, as up to 30% of people use ad blockers.
Although affiliate links require some effort to set up, sponsored posts require more effort over the long term. If your blog income relies solely on sponsored posts, you will need to set up a lot of them to make a substantial amount of money, on top of a need to first build a large following to consume your content. Another issue with having too many sponsored posts is the possible reduction of your audience, who will resent this overarching focus of your website.
Being a graphic designer and endorsing PVC pipes just don’t add up. To be effective, only endorse products and/or services that you genuinely like or are related to your industry.
Sell Your Services
The most common and perhaps the easiest way to earn money as a graphic designer is to take on freelance projects. If you don’t like your day job as a designer (like if you’re designing stuff you don’t like), freelancing on the side allows you the freedom to design what you want and choose clients you really want to work with. That said, it can also take up a lot of your free time because graphic design projects, even just one at a time, can be time intensive.
Here are a few additional website ideas you can use to communicate your unique offerings and make money off your services:
- Build a graphic design agency. If you receive too much work to handle yourself, you can hire other people, and retain a portion of the profits.
- License your creative designs. Sell your designs/work, be it logos, photos, art prints, etc. There are several sites you can use to do so.
Website Ideas for Portfolio Design
Every great graphic designer has a portfolio that showcases some of his or her best work. This is necessary for getting new jobs as well as helping to establish the expertise that lends well to many of the aforementioned website ideas to make money.
From a visual perspective, your portfolio is a great way for clients to get to know your style and brands you’ve worked with, to determine whether you’ll be a good fit for their organization.
There are several sites that graphic designers use to showcase their design portfolio, but it’s better to host your portfolio on your own website so that:
- It looks and sounds professional.
- You don’t have to compete with other portfolios on these websites.
- You can control everything about it. If the portfolio site you’re hosting your work on changes radically or closes down, yours could be negatively impacted.
A lot of people choose to self-host their design portfolios on content management systems such as Squarespace or WordPress. Squarespace has stunning, easy-to-use designs that showcase your portfolio nicely, but WordPress offers more customizable options, with several portfolio themes you can use for inspiration. If you need more website ideas for your portfolio, ElegantThemes and ColorLib offer their own comprehensive resource of themes that are portfolio-ready.
Website Design Ideas for Inspiration
Besides having the right attitude for work, another thing that a designer needs constantly is the creative mindset to come up with new ideas. For the times artists feel their creative juices running low, here are some website ideas for inspiration:
- siteInspire. SiteInspire features websites for every type of design inspiration you need—from animation, architecture, product design, photography to typography, wedding and app development.
- Webdesign Inspiration. Another comprehensive gallery of beautifully designed websites. You can choose to view websites according to color, industry, style, and website type.
- Behance – Behance from Adobe is one of the leading platforms for showcasing and discovering creative work. Behance allows for easy uploading of your work to the site via the Creative Cloud. This is a feature specific Adobe since a lot of graphic design work is created by using their software.
- Awwwards – A website that describes itself as “the awards that recognize the talent and effort of the best web designers, developers and agencies in the world”. You can check out their gallery for graphic design/website ideas and vote for your favorite sites.
Design Website Ideas to Show off Your Skills & Make Money
Having your own website as a graphic designer is a must nowadays—helping you to showcase your work, and also giving you the opportunity to be discovered and earn additional income doing work that you love.
What are your favorite design website ideas to show off your skills and make money? Share your insights with @Icons_8 on Twitter, and we’ll share the best ones!
Check out our ultimate guide on becoming a badass graphic designer. If you already happen to be one, check out this interesting workflow you may find inspiring.