9 Ways to Make Money as a Web Designer

Ways to Make Money as a Web Designer

If you love design and you’d like to make money as a designer, whether part-time or full-time, there are several options. This article will serve as a guide that covers many of the most popular options that you could choose to pursue. Read through the details of each and see what might be a good fit for you.

1.Work for a Design Agency

You could work as an employee for a design agency and spend your time working on designing websites for clients. As an employed designer, you’ll be able to focus on the design work without the need to deal with business related issues like landing clients.

Working for an agency would likely pay you a set salary, and (depending on the employer) you’d probably have benefits like paid time off and health insurance.

Pros:

  • Consistent income as a salaried employee.
  • You’ll spend the majority of your time designing.
  • You’ll get to work on projects from a variety of different clients.
  • You’ll interact with co-workers and (hopefully) learn from them.

Cons:

  • You’ll have no control over the projects that you work on.
  • You won’t have the same freedom and flexibility that you would have as a self-employed designer.
  • You’ll be dependent on someone else to give you a job.

2. Work as an In-House Designer

Another option that allows you to work as an employee is to be an in-house designer. In this case, instead of working on projects for clients, you would be working on the website of your employer. For example, you could be an in-house designer for a financial company and your job responsibilities would involve designing and maintaining the company website.

Working as an in-house designer offers some of the same pros and cons as working for an agency, except you won’t be working on a variety of different client projects.

Pros:

  • Consistent income as a salaried employee.
  • You’ll spend the majority of your time designing.
  • You’ll work on one project that you get to know very well.

Cons:

  • You won’t have the same freedom and flexibility that you would have as a self-employed designer.
  • You’ll be dependent on someone else to give you a job.
  • You won’t get the same amount of variety in your work as you would if you were dealing with client projects.

3. Freelance

Freelance Web Designer

Now, stepping away from the first two options where you would be working as an employee, freelancing is an entirely different ball game.

If you work as an employed designer for an agency, you’ll spend almost all of your time designing for clients. As a freelancer, you’ll also spend the majority of your time on client projects, but you’ll also have responsibilities related to running the business, which includes finding and securing clients, dealing with contracts, bookkeeping (although it can be outsourced), and all aspects of communication with the clients.

One of the really nice things about freelancing is the flexibility that it offers. You’ll have some control over the types of clients that you work with and the projects that you accept. You’ll also have more control over your working hours, although your projects will still have deadlines that need to be met.

The flexibility of freelancing also allows you to work part-time or full-time. Maybe you have a full-time job as an in-house designer and you freelance on the side because you like to work on some different projects.

Or maybe you have a job in another field and you’re looking to transition into a design career. As a freelancer, you don’t need to rely on an employer to hire you. If you’re able to land clients, you can make money as a designer.

Pros:

  • You’ll have control over the clients and projects that you accept.
  • Benefit from a flexible schedule.
  • Work part-time or full-time.
  • You can work on a variety of different projects.

Cons:

  • Inconsistent income.
  • It’s up to you to land the business.
  • You’ll need to handle other business-related aspects like invoicing.

4. Start Your Own Agency

If you enjoy the business aspects, starting your own agency is an option. Instead of working as a solo freelancer, you could hire other designers and developers to work for you.

If your ultimate goal is to start an agency, a low risk approach would be to freelance first and build up your business slowly. When you have enough of a workload and income to justify hiring someone else, you could expand.

If you’re a Vandelay Premier member, you can check out From Freelance to Agency Owner: An Interview with Brennan Dunn.

Pros:

  • Potential for a high income.
  • You’ll have control over the clients and projects that you accept.
  • Freedom to create and grow your own business

Cons:

  • Inconsistent income and financial risk.
  • You’ll probably spend less time designing and more time running the business.

5. Start a Design Blog

Another option to make money as a designer is to start and run a design blog. You could use the blog as a way to promote your own design services and take clients while also running the blog, or you could focus on making money with the blog in other ways (like ads, affiliate programs, or selling products).

The Vandelay Design blog was originally started with the purpose of attracting traffic and landing more client work. As the blog grew, it basically became a business of its own, and the client work took a backseat.

Growing a blog definitely takes a lot of work and some patience (you probably won’t make money for a while), but the long-term payoff can be great.

Pros:

  • Anyone can start a blog (low barrier to entry).
  • Potential for high income.
  • You can use the blog to promote your design services or make money in other ways.
  • Flexible schedule.
  • Freedom to run your own business.

Cons:

  • You probably won’t make much money for the first year.
  • You might put a lot of time into it and never make money.
  • Your primary responsibilities will involve writing the content and running the blog, which may leave little time for actual design work.
  • Inconsistent income.

6. Be a Freelance Writer for Design Blogs

If you like the idea of writing blog articles on design, but you don’t want to start your own blog and wait a long time before making money, working as a freelance writer can be a great option.

There are a number of design blogs that hire freelance writers, and if you have some design and writing skills you can get paid to do it. Most likely, this would be a part-time thing, but it’s possible that you could scale up to full-time work.

Way back in 2007 – 2009, I did a lot of freelance writing for other blogs like Smashing Magazine, Tuts Plus, and Webdesigner Depot. I really enjoyed the work, and it was very flexible.

Pros:

  • Get paid for your writing now, as opposed to starting a blog and waiting to make money.
  • Very flexible hours. Can easily be done on the side of a full-time job.
  • Can be a great supplement to income that you’re making from your design work.
  • It’s also great for networking and meeting other people in the industry.

Cons:

  • Better as a part-time thing than a full-time job.
  • You won’t be spending your time actually designing.

7. Sell Themes or Templates

There is a lot of demand for website templates and themes for popular content management systems like WordPress and Shopify.

There are a few different ways that you could go about this:

Set up your own shop – Create your own website and sell themes or templates on your own. You’ll need to get traffic and build up the business, but you’ll have full control.

Sell on a marketplace – Instead of dealing with building up traffic to your own site, you could sell at a marketplace like ThemeForest and benefit from their huge, established user base. You’ll have to split the revenue and you’ll give up a lot of control.

Some template/theme creators do both. That way you can benefit from the exposure of a marketplace, but you’re not totally at the mercy of the marketplace either.

Pros:

  • Potential for high income.
  • You can choose the themes and templates that you design.
  • Freedom to run your own business

Cons:

  • Extensive customer service is needed (although you could hire someone else to do it).
  • There is a lot of competition.
  • Selling on a marketplace involves giving up a lot of control.

8. Sell Stock Graphics and Files

Graphics

If you’re more into graphic design than coding, you could design stock graphics or files like PSDs that can be used by other designers. The resources that are available in the Vandelay Design shop are perfect examples.

This is another approach that gives you a few different options:

Set up your own shop – You could take the approach that we’ve taken and create your own shop to sell your resources. You’ll need traffic and an audience, but you’ll have full control and you won’t have to split the revenue with a marketplace.

Sell on a marketplace – You could sell your designs at a site like GraphicRiver, Creative Market, or Etsy. You can also sell some types of files at stock photo sites.

Freelance – Another option would be to design resources that are sold at other shops. There are so many websites selling these types of files, and many of them hire designers to create the products for them.

Pros:

  • Can be done part-time or full-time.
  • Great way to make some money in your downtime between client projects.
  • Flexible schedule.

Cons:

  • Selling on a marketplace involves giving up a lot of control.
  • The amount you’ll earn per sale from most marketplaces and stock photos sites is pretty small.

9. Create a Course

The last option that we’ll look at is to create your own online course about some aspect of design or development. You could create a course on web design, logo design, WordPress development, Photoshop, Illustrator, or any number of other topics.

When it comes to selling your course, there are a few different options:

Sell it at your own website – You could create the course on a platform like Teachable and sell it at your own site. Or you could use a membership WordPress plugin to set up the course area and protect content so only paying customers can access it.

Sell at a marketplace – You could also host your course at Udemy, Skillshare, or another marketplace that will allow you to reach a larger audience. Of course, you’ll give up some control with this approach, but if you don’t have your own audience, it may be a way to actually get your course in front of people.

Pros:

  • Potential for high income.
  • Lots of different possibilities, and you could create a course on a topic of your choice.
  • Could be done part-time or full-time.
  • Flexible schedule.

Cons:

  • Your income potential may be limited if you do not have your own established audience.
  • Inconsistent income.
  • You’ll need to provide customer service to students.
  • You won’t be spending your time actually designing.

Finding Design Jobs

Now that we’ve looked at the different options, take some time to consider the pros and cons to see what might be the best fit for you.

When you are ready to start looking for opportunities, be sure to see my article on the best websites for finding web design jobs. The websites covered in that article can prove to be extremely valuable resources.

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