Tips for web and graphic design students to make extra cash


So you took the long road of becoming a designer and enrolled in a design school. Good for you. Well, the first step is taken and now you have to cope with a lot of challenges: lectures, projects, jobs, exams, and late nights, lack of sleep, wild parties, lack of cash … If you are a first year student, you will find everything a bit overwhelming. Especially, if you are not a rich kid that is supported by their family. Or if you are willing to be earning some extra cash for great design books…

If you are a person who wants to kick off a design career while still at university, I can tell you that there is a way to do that. You need to be hardworking, willing to try new things and skip a party or two.

There some ways that you can help you start earning cash to support you while studying.

Selling Icons

Mobile app design is really thriving now. There are millions of iOS, Android and Windows applications now and new ones are emerging every day. Google Play and Apple App store are the leading mobile app stores and generate 90 percent of worldwide app revenues. The graphic below shows the number of free and paid mobile app store downloads worldwide from 2011 to 2017 and as you can see the numbers are steadily increasing so mobile app design will certainly grow.


So all these mobile apps need icons for their designs and development. There are some websites that offer to pay you for you icons. The two most popular ones are The Noun Project and IconFinder.

The Noun Project is a website where you can download either free or paid icons and the authors upload their icons and they are available for everyone. The money that you can earn are not a lot, at least at the beginning. The more great icons you offer, the more money you will earn. It is a great idea to research the market, to see what is currently popular and make icons that relevant. Try to come up with new ideas for a certain visual representation. As a beginning author you can earn from $20-$70 per month. Money is sent to your PayPal account every month if you generated more than $10. If you are determined and make one or two icon sets a month, you may have some extra cash to rely on.

IconFinder is the same, you can either choose to release an icon set for free or paid downloads. It is different from The Noun Project as you can be more creative in terms of icon design. The Noun Project only allows to add black icons but IconFinder allows flat, coloured, glyphs, hand drawn.. etc.., so you can unleash your creativity. You get 70% of the price. Earnings are transferred to a PayPal account when you generate over $100.

Selling Illustrations, Photos and Fonts

If you are a graphic design with a flair for illustrations, font or anything vector-related, you can start drawing and sell your artwork in Creative Market marketplace or in stock websites such as ShutterStock or IstockPhotos.

Don’t struggle alone with projects

Join the creative community of UX, graphic, web designers and developers to get help with any design or dev project.

Creative Market is very popular and a preferred place for creative designers and artists to sell their work. Artists can open a shop and earn 70% on each sale. You can sell whatever you feel like creating. If you are good at illustrations and patterns or typefaces, you can apply to open a shop. Creative Market do not make product approvals, they approve you as an artist, so you have to be careful when you are submitting your portfolio. Be critical when selecting your work. Choose the best and unique creations.

ShutterStock and IstockPhotos have both different process of becoming an author and earnings schedule. I would recommend to start with one marketplace and see how things go. On both websites you can sell photos, icon sets and vector illustrations.

Selling Web Templates

If you are a web designer, you may be interested in selling website templates. There are many marketplaces for selling website templates and it is a matter of discipline, creative flair and coding skills to start earning extra money from coding.

To name a few, ThemeForest, WrapBootstrap, ShapeBootstrap, Codester, BootstrapBay. By no means, TF is the largest and most popular. Codester is a relatively new where you can sell mobile apps, scripts, plugins and website templates.

WrapBootstrap, ShapeBootstrap and BootstrapBay are dedicated to selling website themes created with Bootstrap Framework. On some of these websites, there is an exclusivity clause that will get you more money but you cannot offer your theme on other marketplace.

WrapBootstrap offers also bounties of $100 – $250 if you create a good website theme that becomes popular and you generated sales.

Think about the benefits

The benefits of selling your work, even when you are still studying are many. First of all, you will become better by doing. Seeing what others can do will make you eager to learn new skills and apply them on various projects. Experimenting with design is part of the learning process. I also believe that your design lecturers will be happy with you diving in the industry. Some design schools encourage their students to work in the industry to see the difference between the design education and real life. You can also include some the work (created for the different marketplaces) in your end-of-year portfolio submission. Nobody will punish you for being a pro-active design student and there is a bonus – you will receive valuable feedback. Total win.

Do not give up

Starting in the industry is tough, especially if you are still learning and not very confident. Confidence and skills are built up by doing and being stubborn. Believe in yourself, even if the first month you earned only $5-$10. Do not give up, seek feedback from people you believe are good and honest. Redo your work, keep an eye on the trends but do not follow them blindly, and if you are rejected, keep going.

To be completely honest, I have been rejected many times in the past. But every rejection gave me the strength to become a better design. Even the best designers, coders and artists are rejected. Be confident and keep working. Small steps taken every single day will get you there.

Good luck!

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