How to Start a Graphic Design Side Hustle

It seems there’s talk of side hustles, entrepreneurship and starting your own business everywhere. Side hustles can be a great way to make extra money or even passive income 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 or you're a self taught 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.

how to start a graphic design side hustle 1

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 there are many different free and premium software products and apps that offer high-quality tools that graphic 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. 

Adobe Express

adobe express graphic design tool

Adobe Express, a graphic design app developed by Adobe Systems, has an intuitive interface and offers thousands of templates for designing almost any type of project.

Designed for designers who need flexible tools, the software can be accessed either via a browser or mobile app. The free version offers basic features but a subscription model provides access to enhanced ones (storage space and over 20,000 licensed fonts).

With its minimalistic interface and intuitive design, Adobe Express is a popular choice among both amateur and professional designers.

It's one of my favorite tools and it's so easy to get started with it.


figma design studio for graphic design freelancers

Figma comes with some of the business's slickest design tools, but it also packs prototyping capabilities. This is great for side hustle designers who want to offer prototypes to clients. While that might sound complex, it really isn't. Yet, it's a way of differentiating your work from the other also-rans, and for charging a higher rate. 

This is a professional-grade tool that you can use for free. 

Figma recently introduced its Dev Mode, bridging the gap between design and development. This new space provides developers with the tools they need to translate designs into code effectively, ensuring seamless cooperation between teams. 

Freelancers who work with multiple clients will love the ability to create libraries of components to reuse across client projects.

The benefit over other tools is that the entire design process from brainstorming to prototyping can be done in one place, keeping freelancers, side hustlers, clients, and contractors aligned throughout. 

Figma's availability on both Windows, macOS, and web browsers makes it hyper-flexible and ideal for people who work virtually anywhere, anytime. Access your work from any device.

The free version offers a huge amount of power and will be a valuable toolbox for graphic design side hustlers at any level.


pixlr image editing software for beginners 1024x488 1

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.

Get Pixlr


You've probably never heard of BrandBird but you'll soon hear about it everywhere. Don't miss this superb design tool for busy side hustlers.

BrandBird is an incredible tool for guaranteeing that your images are perfectly sized and stand out on social media. It's also super simple to use—simply take a screenshot or upload an existing photo or image, and BrandBird lets you add 3D effects (you have to see this to understand), quickly position images with perspective, blurs, and crops, and add backgrounds and text with the click of a button.
It's essentially like having the world's fastest design studio at your disposal. You can even include your own logo or watermark to let your customers know where the images came from.

There is an excellent free version that includes almost all of the functionality, but you will need the inexpensive paid version to receive all of the benefits. This is essential if you're going to use it for client work. 
Still, if you're satisfied with the excellent free options and don't mind the unobtrusive watermark, this is an excellent choice for quick social media graphics creation tools.

Designed for people who are short on time and want to create really nice images for Twitter posts, Instagram stories, Product Hunt, and even the Google Play Store without devoting hours of time to it.

There's no reason why graphic designers can't take advantage of BrandBird's intelligent graphic rendering capabilities. Any tool that not only helps you create content that clients love but also saves you a lot of time is a design tool worth keeping.


Offeo is a great choice for graphic designers thanks to a sharp set of tools and templates. The platform was built to help you design videos 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:

Get Offeo


pixelied online graphic design tool 1024x552 1

Pixelied is a fast and intuitive online design tool to replace backgrounds, retouch product-based images, and generate branded designs for blog posts, social media accounts, and websites.

One of my favorite things about Pixelied is how easy it is to create new designs. If you've ever wanted to create something beautiful but didn't know where to start, then this tool will help you get started right away. Discover tons of great templates that you won't find on other tools in this list.

It's a great option for anyone who wants to get started with graphic design, but doesn't have the time or budget to learn how to use professional tools like Photoshop. The templates that come with Pixelied will help you get up and running in no time

Try Pixelied

VistaCreate [Crello]

VistaCreate (previously known as Crello) is a beautiful design 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 that 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. VistaCreate is often called the best alternative to Canva, one of the most popular tools for graphic design

Try VistaCreate


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 piece 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

Get InVideo


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 2022, I'd expect Canva to maintain its position as the most popular design and publishing tool for small businesses, bloggers, entrepreneurs, and freelancers.

canva interface 1024x605 1

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.

Canva also allows you download templates and production-ready designs like art prints, so you can sell digital products that you created on your own website or platform for some extra cash (or turn it into an on-demand business). You can even sell your creations to stock sites or publish them on marketplaces like Creative Market.

Get Canva


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 such as the Magic Import feature which lets you pull images and branding assets from any site. It's a great time-saver. Here's how it works:

Get RelayThat

Other graphic design tools to add to your toolkit:

Looka – With Looka's AI-powered platform, graphic designers and side hustlers can quickly create logos, boost workflow efficiency, and broaden their design versatility. Providing the perfect balance between automation and creative control, it offers the best of both worlds.

Snappa – Your creative journey just got a lot easier, and way more fun with one of the most popular online design suites. From tailored templates to quick resizes and easy sharing on social platforms, Snappa simplifies designing and is a goldmine for graphic designers and side-hustlers alike.


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.

Places to find virtual assistants include Freeeup,, and UpWork.

Here's another option: Outsource design projects you don't have the capacity to handle on the Penji platform for graphic design services. The process of creating a project is simple, and the platform assigns the design job the best graphic designer. Check the result after 24 to 48 hours. The revisions are unlimited until you're happy, and when you're ready, download them instantly. 

Another graphic design services option is DotYeti, a creative unlimited graphic design service, like Penji, that delivers high-quality social media designs, infographics, and marketing materials for a flat fee.

As a freelance graphic designer with a backlog of clients, you could use DotYeti or Penji as supplementary help. It could even serve as the backbone of your business. Why not? As long as you keep your clients happy, manage your pipeline, and ensure that your customers are satisfied, you've got a business in a box.

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 graphic design 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 thoughts on how to market your new side hustle:

  • Create helpful content for potential clients. 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 on 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.
  • If you'd like more control over your pin creation and automation, you should look into Switchboard Canvas. This incredibly useful tool gives you API access to a powerful image generation platform. Create images with text based on your own templates and combine them with Zapier or Pabbly to automate the posting. It works amazingly well. So well, that's I've started incorporating this process into all of my social media image creation.
  • 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. Use WordPress, WebFlow, Carrd, or Framer.
  • 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. Twitter is one of the best places to share your journey and grow your authority as a freelancer or creator. Tools like Social Dog can really help you grow a relevant audience.
  • Invest in Google Ads or 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 to use Pinterest, Instagram, and TikTok. 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. TikTok is leaving other social platforms in its wake so it would be a mistake to ignore this really useful platform for side hustlers. Anyone with visual content needs to be on this platform.


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 side hustle 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.

Marketing Nuggets Newsletter: Advice, Tips, News & New Blog Posts

Get a curated list of the lastest posts on Fat Frog Media and marketing tips from around the web.
A couple of times a month. Free. Packed full of good stuff.

Scroll to Top