It seems that everywhere you look in 2020, there’s talk of side hustles, entrepreneurship and starting your own business. With turmoil in the economy, employees forced to work from home, and uncertainty for the future, side hustles are one way to make money on the side. But there’s no reason you can’t turn your creative side project into a lucrative business. Here’s how you can get started with a creative design business today, even if you don’t have experience as a graphic designer.
Let's look at the tools and methods that will help you start a business today. Get some ideas about the kinds of work you'd like to do. Then learn about how to scale the side hustle and market it.
Tools for Your Graphic Design Business
Yep, it's a business. Think of it as a real business and you'll make more money and have more success than if you always consider it to be a hobby or a supplementary income source. So what kind of software do you need to get your graphic design business off the ground? Luckily, in 2020, there are many different free and premium software products and apps that offer high-quality tools that designers could only dream of 10 years ago. The power of online web design and graphic design tools for freelance graphic design hustlers is comparable to the most high-end products of a decade ago.
Expensive Graphic Design Software Not Required
Graphic design jobs were once the realm of people with highly-specialized Photoshop and Illustrator skills. Years of college and post-college study was generally required to make money from a career as a graphic designer. And to some extent, that’s still true. High-end graphics and image production requires a professional with a powerful toolset of software. But not every client is Saatchi and Saatchi. Many small businesses need help with social media images, website graphics, simple custom illustrations, infographics, and other marketing materials. They want fast results at a price they can afford. They do not need a team of people working on a website banner or a Facebook ad. And that’s where the opportunity lies for people willing to create a graphic designer side hustle serving small business owners who don’t have the time or patience to do the work themselves.
This list wouldn't be complete without mentioning the company that helped bring easy-to-use design tools to the masses.
I used to dismiss Canva as too basic and too popular (it's used to be easy to spot Canva graphics everywhere from Pinterest to Facebook). The same-same graphics were ubiquitous on the internet. But things have changed. Canva received millions of dollars in investment, upped their game (in the face of stiff competition) and has released some really cool features. In 2021, I'd expect Canva to maintain its position as the most popular design and publishing tool for small businesses, bloggers, entrepreneurs, and freelancers.
The new features that have really caught our eye are the background removal tool, the social media scheduling feature, the desktop computer app, and the design marketplace. If you're getting in to
Canva lets you create Instagram Stories, YouTube videos and YouTube Ads, Facebook Ads and Profile covers, and a lot more besides.
If your side hustle has reached the level where you begin to hire a team, Canva's special offer of 5 accounts for the price of 1 will surely be of interest. Buy one account and get 4 more. Give everyone on your team an account and collaborate to build a solid business or full-time job for you or your employees.
Once you've established your static image-based production side hustle and you've got systems in place for producing consistently good work, why not expand into the video realm. It's not that hard thanks to some really clever software options. Video production, like graphic design, is no longer the realm of big production companies or expensive graphic designers. Anyone can get involved with a tool like InVideo.
You no longer need a degree in video design to create amazing-looking clips. The cost of a subscription to InVideo is minimal when you consider the powerful features and time-saving abilities.
Grab a template, add in some stock graphics or add your own, and edit the video using drag-and-drop actions. It's so simple, even I can make awesome graphics that look like they were made by professional studios. Why not market your freelance graphic design business as a pro studio. Customers want results and if you can deliver professional results, you have earned the right to become a pro freelance side hustler.
You can also use InVideo to easily turn a text-based pirce of content into a killer video for sharing on social media or a site.
Here's a video showing just how simple it is to create assets using InVideo
Offeo is a fairly new online video platform (started in 2017 and gaining a lot of traction in 2020) but one that has turned heads thanks to a sharp set of tools and templates. The platform was built to help you design video quickly and easily. There are thousands (increasing weekly) of premium templates and fully customizable graphic assets that you can use for your client's branding.
Some of the one-click video effects look like they came straight from high-end software like Adobe After Effects.
Here's a video showing some of the template previews and a quick edit of a video for demonstration purposes:
Crello is a slick tool for quickly putting together social posts, blog headers, images for content marketing, general marketing materials for any business, ads, and video content. It's an all-rounder but doesn't fall short in any category. And now there's even a really impressive background remover tool which completely transforms your designs, especially when working with images of people.
Here's a video displaying how easy it is to create videos from templates
And using an Instagram template, you can have great-looking designs ready quickly. You can even animate them with the click of a button. The possibilities are endless really
Stencil is definitely one of the easiest tools for getting started with. That doesn't mean it's not powerful. It's one of the primary tools I use in my marketing agency (and other properties) for creating graphics. I like it because it's fast and does 90% of what I need. For fancy editing of images, background removals, transparencies and the like, I use other tools. But there's a lot to be said for simplicity. When you save you hours on editing, you can make more money with your side hustle.
High-quality output X Volume = More revenue
If you want an easy way to produce images that have consistent branding and are simple to edit, RelayThat is a great choice. The software focuses on making it simple to create on-brand images in different formats. Rather than add tons of complexity, RelayThat removes a lot of the guess-work and potential for mistakes. Some people might find the editor a little constricting. It's certainly not a tool for control freaks and it might be too basic for true graphic designers. But for the rest of us, those that just want to get our side hustle running like clockwork, RelayThat does the job.
RelayThat offers a few killer features that you will find once you being working with the tool. One of these is the Magic Import feature which lets you oull images and branding assets from any site. It's a real time-saver and a very cool tool. Here's how it works:
Pixlr is one of the newest tools on the market. It's has been available online for a while as a completely free product. There are now paid options but the free tool is still available. It's a competent graphics tool that
Many people compare it to Adobe Photoshop. While it's not nearly as powerful, it performs many of the functions of Photoshop. And in fact, the workflow can be much quicker when using Pixlr online.
Working part time on your side hustle is a great way to bring in the extra cash. But what happens if the business takes off and you need to work on it every day, all day. Success can many a lot of things but it doesn't always have to mean changing career or giving up the precious hours in your day. If you want to ride the wave of success but you don't want to make your new business a full-time gig, you can outsource your extra work. If you can't (or don't want to) do the work yourself, outsourcing to people around the world or in your local area is a great way to free up your time.
It’s time to get an assistant. Find a freelancer with a creative eye with the ability to understand software tools. Train this person on your methods using your chosen software. Spend your time managing the business.
Passive income is a goal of many entrepreneurs. Lifestyle entrepreneurs and digital nomads are the biggest proponents of the earn-as-you-sleep mantra. It is, in some ways, the holy grail of working online. And while side hustles are not generally associated with passive income, it is possible to generate income without having to sell your time for money. It all comes down to creating systems.
Once you start designing systems to automate client orders you can earn extra money without having to sacrifice all of your time or impact on your day job.
Marketing your side hustle will be one of the most important tasks to focus on. And while buying ads on Google and Facebook can get you jobs, it's not the only way. Even worth of mouth is a form of marketing. Referrals can be some of the best leads. People love to refer designers that they know and trust.
Here are some ideas on how to market your new side hustle:
- Create helpful content for potential clients. In 2020 and heading into 2021, blogging is still a top marketing channel. And I don't imagine it will ever lose that status. Google is a massive search engine, serving up answers to billions of people on a daily basis. If you get SEO right, you can enjoy free traffic from searchers on relevant topics. For example, if you like designing for the fitness niche, write about modern trends in fitness social media. If you work with food blogs, create guides on how food bloggers should approach SEO or Pinterest image design. The result will be more exposure, visitors, and clients. Take my advice, blogging works.
- Build a website that showcases your work. Clients will want to see what you can do. And there's nothing better for converting visitors to leads on your site than impressive visual examples of your work.
- Share your journey. This could be part of the blog or a separate personal journey blog. This might sound counterintuitive as for a lot of people, maintaining the “professional” persona right from the start is important. But these days, people are looking for authenticity. People want to know who you are and about your business.
- Invest in Google Ads and Facebook Ads. Use the graphic design tools you've mastered to make irresistible ads for Facebook. Incorporate the words your customers use in testimonials and emails into ad copy for Google Ads. When people type phrases like “Graphic Design Companies London” into Google search, you can be sure they are warm leads. You just need to convince them to click on your ad.
- Learn Pinterest and Instagram. Understand what works on these platforms and how to advise clients on best practices. Pinterest is a search engine and a source of millions of clicks a month for some businesses. Instagram is where the cool kids want to be so that's where the opportunities for businesses that serve these communities lie.
So there you have it. An introduction to the tools you can use to start a side hustle in the graphics and video creation space. Maybe you've come up with some ideas of your own about how to get started. The next step is getting clients. And that's where marketing comes into the equation. But once you've got some great design chops, it's easier for others to send work your way.