Nowadays, many graphic designers are underpaid and I went over 8 different reasons on why that’s the case in detail in a previous article of mine.
That post of mine started gathering quite a lot of traction which made me think of the aspiring graphic designers who aren’t being rewarded for their efforts.
So, I compiled this post of 8 effective ways to increase your graphic designing income so you can get the fruits of your labor that you deserve.
How Can Graphic Designers Make More Money?
If you already have the skills of becoming a graphic designer but are struggling with making enough money to make ends meet, you might need a different approach.
Although, it’s not necessary to further refine your skills it would definitely benefit you in your career.
I have come up with 8 ways graphic designers can make more money which you can implement right now:
- Stick to a specific niche
- Create your own product
- Diversify your income
- Make your portfolio better
- Polish your skills further
- Don’t rely on one platform
- Pitch high-paying clients
- Be more confident in your skills
Below, I will explain in further detail and provide you with some steps you can take to increase your graphic design income.
1. Stick to a specific niche
The biggest mistake I see many beginner graphic designers make in their career is that they aren’t sure of what to specialize in.
Many graphic designers in the start of their career are desperate for some work which leads them to trying to please every individual – stating they can work for them.
This leads to many employers doubting the ability of the designer as many would want to work with an “expert”.
You can’t be an expert in everything so in order to prove your expertise you have to stick to a specific niche and master it.
A niche is a smaller subset of an existing market so for example, other than becoming a graphic designer you can niche down to specializing in web design.
You don’t have to stop there, you can niche down further by making specific website designs by working exclusively for consulting firms or hotel businesses etc.
By mastering your niche, you will prove to be an expert in what you do, which would allow you to charge more for your work.
2. Create your own product
As a graphic designer you already have the skills to design cool stuff for clients but have you tried to make something that you own and can sell to other people?
If you have something to share with the whole world why not write a book on it?
You can document your progress, your experiences, and your techniques which have helped you in your graphic design career.
Michael Beirut does this wonderfully in his book, “How to…” by detailing his personal journey on becoming a graphic designer and giving sound advice on working with clients. You can check it out here on Amazon.
Even if you are a beginner and haven’t done much client work you can still offer what you know – even if it isn’t some mind-blowing discovery.
You should focus on creating a product once you believe you have enough value to offer something.
Writing a book doesn’t cost anything and neither does making a course online.
3. Diversify your income
This point is closely related to the above point but can be looked at from several different angles.
Diversifying your income means to expand your sources of income rather than relying on just on form of payment such as, client work.
In this competitive environment, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to survive on just one source of income.
Clients come and go all the time which isn’t great if you are looking for a secure future. Fortunately, as a graphic designer, you already have the basic skills to start something on the side.
There are several ways to start a side business – you can start a blog, create a course, or open a YouTube channel.
There are multiple ways to monetize your work and thanks to advancement in digital marketing the most common way to monetize is through ads.
So, start a YouTube channel or blog on the side to add an extra layer of income so that when you are struggling to find clients you have something to fall back on.
Not to mention that if you already have clients this is just extra passive income.
4. Make your portfolio better
Yes, the rumors you heard are true. You don’t need a degree to become a professional graphic designer as long as you have a good portfolio.
However, if you are pitching potential clients day and night and all that you are getting are low-paying clients it might be because you have a poor quality portfolio.
Remember that your portfolio is essential to your graphic designing career as it is responsible for the kind of opportunities you get.
For many employers, the main concern isn’t even your resume rather how good your portfolio is.
If you already have a portfolio you can make it better by making it more professional, only including your best work, or adding testimonies of satisfied clients you have previously worked with it.
However, if you haven’t worked with any clients yet and don’t have anything to show in your portfolio this video by Satori Graphics shows you different ways you can create your portfolio without client work.
5. Polish your skills further
Many people who have studied graphic design are eager to pitch clients and start working which means that most of them tend to rush the whole learning process (fun fact: it never ends, you always keep learning).
These overly excited designers then get frustrated when they aren’t getting clients or getting extremely low-paying clients.
Working hard on a logo design for only $5 can easily get you worked up and feel like a burden so a better thing to do would be to stop the work and go back to learning.
Learning about different fields of design and practicing your skills, improving them overtime will lead you to find your true passion.
Once you have something that many employers are looking for you would rise above the crowd and be able to attract much higher-paying clients.
Even though buying a course or book would help, it doesn’t mean you should start blowing money on them.
Many people assume that the more books you read the better you become but all that knowledge won’t mean much if you don’t practice and apply it somewhere.
If you have already bought a course or book – focus on that.
If you are a total beginner or intermediate, start with YouTube.
And finally, if you are an intermediate designer and wish to learn more advanced graphic design techniques here are some courses and books I’d recommend:
- The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst (book)
- How to by Michael Bierut (book)
- Graphic Design Masterclass – Learn GREAT Design (Online course on Udemy)
6. Don’t rely on one platform
Unfortunately, I don’t see many beginner graphic designers take advantage of those opportunities.
Nowadays, you can start as a graphic designer from anywhere. Start an Instagram page and share your design work there, go to LinkedIn and apply for jobs, Register yourself on Fiverr and create a gig etc.
There are countless opportunities on these different platforms and you don’t know which one might lead you to a long-term deal with a high-paying client.
My advice, register yourself on a freelancing platform and try building up a presence on social media platforms that are highly visual such as, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.
Do this by documenting your work, sharing your design concepts, ideas, and client work.
7. Pitch high-paying clients
This is easier said than done but can lead to a breakthrough in your graphic design career.
You might be excited to finally dip your toes into the real world and design something worthwhile for real-life clients.
However, this eagerness to work can lead to desperation which could then lead to pitching every single person that comes to mind.
This is not the right approach as you will find various clients. Some would be long-term or short-term, professional or unprofessional etc.
To almost guarantee an increase in your chances of earning a higher income try pitching high-paying clients in your industry.
These are usually big brands or companies that seem to have an inconsistent design theme.
If you see a job post on LinkedIn or some other forum/board you should go ahead and google the company to see what they’re like.
The size of the company can really give you an idea of their budget and can lead to a possible high-paying opportunity.
8. Be more confident in your skills
The final advice I can give you to increase your graphic design earnings is to just be more confident in your skills.
You know you can design a great logo or poster and you should let clients know too.
You shouldn’t be arrogant nor should you make false claims such as being an award-winning designer when in reality all you have done is some unpaid work for family and friends.
A good confident tone, body language and a great looking portfolio is a killer combination for successful graphic designers.
The story that really inspires me to be confident in my skills is that of Paul Rand who was the greatest graphic designer of his time.
Here’s an extract from a Steve Jobs interview from 1993 where he talked about his experience working with Paul Rand when creating the NEXT logo:
“I asked him if he would come up with a few options. And he said, ‘No, I will solve your problem for you, and you will pay me. And you don’t have to use the solution — if you want options, go talk to other people. But I’ll solve your problem for you the best way I know how, and you use it or not, that’s up to you — you’re the client — but you pay me.’
…He’s a very deep, thoughtful person who’s tried to express in every part of his life what his principles are. And you don’t meet so many people like that today.”Steve Jobs
So, be confident and believe in yourself that you deserve to be paid higher if you have the skills to show for it.
If you don’t have the skills however, you should work on refining them.
Many graphic designers are paid less because clients undervalue their work leading them to be underpaid.
However, it is totally possible for graphic designers to increase their income as long as they work on refining their skills, target the right clients, and be confident in their work.
Ibrahim Ahmed is the founder and CEO of Mediacaterer – an Art & Design blog covering the latest news, tips, guides, and product reviews for beginners, intermediates, and professionals. He’s a self-taught graphic designer and writer hoping to help aspiring artists and designers make it big in the industry