How to Make Money

How I Made $350 in My First Month as an Amateur Graphic Designer

November 2, 2015
by Vanessa Mullen
Contributor
blog design

I failed in my first attempt at blogging.

But while building a blog directory on that site, I noticed many of the blogs I wanted to feature didn’t have logos or badges to represent themselves.

To make my site look a bit nicer, I started creating basic logos for each one, and then one day it clicked: Why not offer blog design services?

Many bloggers use free platforms like Blogger and WordPress. While they may not have a lot of money to spend, they still want their blogs to look nice. I’d focus on these bloggers as I tested my new business idea.

One month and five paid clients later, I had made about $350 as an amateur designer. Now, after four months, I’ve more than doubled that income.

Here’s how I started making money with a freelance blog design business.

1. I Made a Plan and Found Free Tools

Google is a remarkable teacher.

From my own marketing studies and self-exploration, I knew I needed to build an incredible brand, construct a portfolio, grow an on online presence and determine what to charge for my services.

Since I was familiar with PicMonkey and Canva, I used them for my design work.

I discovered a treasure trove of digital art on Etsy, downloadable elements from various designers around the web and some pretty sweet (and free!) fonts at 1001 Fonts.

I also carefully followed the terms of use for each designer and element by keeping detailed records of where I got my materials as well as their licensing limitations and restrictions.

2. I Worked for Free

To attract paid clients, I needed a portfolio and practice. To develop my skills, I offered to do some design work for free.

I know working for free is a huge debate among creatives. Here’s my perspective: I had no work samples and little skill, and I was ecstatic when someone trusted me to rebrand their blog.

Without having a website or samples, I never even considered asking my first clients for payment.

This turned out to be beneficial, since these clients helped me grow as a designer, and many of them referred me to new, paying clients.

Webiny offers some great tips for newbie designers and even explains the pros of doing some pro bono work.

3. I Pitched Potential Clients

I trolled Facebook for small business and blog pages, and scanned the blogosphere to find accounts that would benefit from a makeover.

I found a few mom and lifestyle blogs with awesome content that needed some help in the design area. Then, I reached out on Facebook with this message:

Hi there,

Hope you are well :)

I came across your blog and I really love (enter something about blog here). I am an aspiring blog designer working on building a portfolio and was wondering if you would be interested in some complimentary design work that would include a blog logo, banner and matching background.

I would love to give you a unique look that would attract readers and really make your blog shine!

Please get in touch if you are interested. I look forward to working together :)

Enjoy your afternoon!

Vanessa

I did the same work I would have done on a paid project, and worked with the clients until they were satisfied and happy with their new brand image.

4. I Focused on Facebook

When my portfolio started to come together, I decided it was time to enter social media.

I created an official Facebook business page, and designed my cover and profile photos to represent my new brand.

I searched for bloggers, designer pages and anything related to better blogging so I could share their articles on my page to increase engagement.

In between sharing beneficial articles, I posted photos of completed design packages, so potential clients could peek at my work samples.

5. I Opened Up Shop

After I successfully established my brand, completed several projects and acquired a few glowing references, I knew it was time to set up a storefront.

I found an awesome $1 per month deal for managed hosting, a free domain and a custom email through GoDaddy.

While I worked on creating my site, I turned to Etsy, which charges just 20 cents per listing and a small percentage of every sale. In my shop, I offer pre-made blog design sets as well as custom logo and banner designs, complete makeover packages and custom orders.

6. I Networked and Promoted My You-Know-What Off

I joined a ton of Facebook groups dedicated to helping “Etsians” promote their businesses and blogger networks. This awesome exposure has increased my Facebook and Etsy engagement rates, and helped me find clients.

I got some great perks by bartering, offering free or discounted services in exchange for promotion.

If people couldn’t afford to pay but had great content, I offered to do their design project in exchange for an ad on their blogs and a review post once the design was complete. I now have some amazing testimonials, shout-outs on social media, banner placement on a few blogs and a few free sponsored posts and giveaways lined up.

In my experience, people are so tickled to get a facelift for their brand without spending a fortune, they will shout your name to the moon and back. I love bloggers!

Just the Beginning

Since opening my Etsy shop at the end of June, I have more than doubled my income from graphic design.

I launched my blog and business site in the middle of October and have already started earning money from affiliate advertising.

I have upgraded to Adobe Illustrator and my skills have increased, so I feel better about charging more for my services, which is awesome. Hard work certainly pays off!

Your Turn: Have you tried starting a business from scratch and building your skills as you go?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. We would have shared them with you anyway, but a true “penny hoarder” would be a fool not to take the company’s money. :)

Vanessa Mullen is a freelance writer, marketer, and newbie designer who adores her silly baby girl, loves chocolate, and finding new ways to make money online. You can find her building beautiful brands and blogs and inspiring creatives to live a life they love at www.simpleandvanessa.com.

by Vanessa Mullen
Contributor for The Penny Hoarder

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