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.
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, 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 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 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.
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:
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
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
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
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.
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.