How to Start a Graphic Design Business in 2024; 9 Simple Steps

Reading Time: 11 minutes

You’re ready to start your own graphic design business. You’ve got a portfolio to die for and a dream of making it big in graphic design.

But how do you go about it? What steps do you take? How long do those steps take? Do you need a college degree in graphic design?

Well, here’s an article to answer all those questions and more. This step-by-step guide will walk you through what you must know about starting your own graphic design business or any of our 189 lifestyle business ideas, from finding clients to pricing your services.

notebook, board with letters, keyboard, mouse and monitor on top of a table

Quick Takeaways:

  • Identifying Your Niche: “Finding your niche in graphic design, such as specializing in Shopify, game characters, or branding, is vital to attract the right clients and build credibility.”
  • Building a Strong Portfolio: “Create a diverse portfolio showcasing digital and print projects to demonstrate your unique style and skills, which is essential for attracting clients.”
  • Choosing the Right Business Model: “Consider starting as a freelancer, especially if you’re a digital nomad or solopreneur, and use platforms like Upwork or Fiverr to build your client base.”
  • Effective Pricing Strategy: “Begin with competitive pricing and adjust as you gain experience, ensuring you value your skills appropriately while attracting new clients.”
  • Finding and Retaining Ideal Clients: “Focus on understanding and solving the problems of your ideal clients, and use targeted strategies to find and retain them, like niche-specific marketing and social media presence.”

1. Determine Your Niche

If you’re thinking about creating your own graphic design business, it’s essential to determine what niche you’re going to be in.

Being a generalist is fine if you’re just starting and don’t know where to begin. However, as you develop your skills and expertise, getting more specific is important to provide better value for your clients.

The reason for this is that when you start working with a client, they’ll first want a clear idea of what their project entails and how much it’ll cost them. They’ll likely go elsewhere if you can’t immediately provide those answers.

Perhaps you want to become a Shopify expert and design only for projects on this platform? Or maybe your vocation is drawing game characters, illustrations for children, branding, or probably book design? Ask yourself these questions and try to find the ultimate answer!

This isn’t just about making money. It’s also about building trust and credibility with each new client that comes through the door.

screenshot of graphic design courses at fiverr

2. Create A Portfolio

A portfolio is integral to starting a graphic design business because it shows potential clients what you can do. It also helps you get your name out there, bringing more clients and opportunities.

A good portfolio includes samples of your work and descriptions of each project you’ve completed. When creating your own portfolio, it’s best to include both digital and print projects to show off your skills in both disciplines.

A portfolio helps you:

  • Stand out from other designers by showing off your unique style and skill set;
  • Demonstrate that you have the experience needed for any design job;
  • Get clients by providing samples of past projects;
  • Build trust with potential customers.
sample graphic design portfolio

Image source: beneli.studio 

3. Choose Your Business Model

If you’re interested in starting a graphic design business, you must decide how you want to work. There are many different ways to start and run your own business. Here are some common choices:

  • Freelancer: This is the traditional way of working. You’ll find clients who need design services and then provide them with those services. As long as you can keep finding new clients, this can be a great way to make money as a designer ;
  • Partnership: You may want to start a partnership with another graphic designer or even an artist or photographer. You can share equipment, services, and clients so that you both make more money than if you worked separately;
  • Company formation. You can also start a small company of several employees, allowing you to have experience with larger projects than if you were alone. This means you can scale your business if you have that need and desire.

My personal recommendation particularly if you’re a digital nomad or solopreneur and want to start a graphic design business on the road or from your kitchen table, would be to start as a freelancer.

Sign up to sites like upwork.com or fiverr.com, load some portfolio pieces and build your client base and reputation from there.

When you’re ready and you have enough clients/reviews you could build your own website (see point 8 below) and grow your business into a bigger concern.

screenshot of sample profile of a Graphic Designers at Upwork

4. Design Your Pricing Strategy

Before starting your own graphic design business, you need to consider pricing. Most designers start with low prices and then increase them as they gain experience. If you start with high rates, it’s hard to lower them later on.

The best way to set your prices is to find out what other graphic designers are charging in your area. You can do this by talking to other designers, looking through their websites or simply seeing what others are charging on the freelance sites.

Once you know what others charge, you can decide whether your area of expertise is more valuable or charge according to your experience/background.

Remember when starting out you’ll likely charge less just to encourage the onboarding of new clients and attracting work and reviews. However, don’t underprice your skills too much.

Know your worth and consider how much time each project will take and how many projects you can handle each week or month before considering raising or lowering prices again based on how much time it takes to complete each job.

5. Find The Right Clients

When you’re starting your own graphic design business, it can be tempting to take on every client that comes your way. But this type of thinking is a mistake.

If you’re not careful, you’ll spend more time on less profitable clients, making it harder for you to grow your business. You also might lose valuable time working on projects that don’t align with your core values or interests.

So how do you find the right clients when starting a graphic design business? Here are some strategies to help:

  • Get clear on who your ideal client is;
  • Focus on solving their problems;
  • Be clear about what they need from you.

Building a good portfolio is important to getting clients and jobs. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most complex steps in starting your own business. Many people begin their careers without real experience or education in design, so they have to start from scratch when building their portfolios and client base.

One of the fastest ways to attract clients is to niche down to get started. Perhaps you target fitness brands, retail, online ecommerce stores. Once you’ve built a solid portfolio you can expand into other niches.

screenshot of sample Graphic Design Business portfolio

6. Sign up to Freelance Sites

When you’ve decided what value you can bring to clients and who they are, it’s time to set up your profiles on freelance sites. Here you can get top orders in real competition mode.

UpWork, Fiverr, etc. are great options.

To get started, take the following steps:

  • Fill out your profile. Clearly indicate what you deal with, what tasks you can solve, what niches you work in;
  • Constantly monitor job offers and apply for the ones that suit you best. Don’t spread yourself thin. If you apply recklessly and randomly to all jobs in a row just to get some work, you may be blocked by the site administrators;
  • When applying, make sure you carefully write a cover letter.

Voila! This can be one of the best ways to find the finest customer deals.

screenshot of sample Upwork profile

7. Get The Word Out

The graphic design business is a competitive field. For this reason, you’ll need to get the word out about your business before you even begin.

Here are some tips for marketing your graphic design business before launching:

  • Identify your target audience. Who are you designing for? What kind of business do they run? What kind of design do they want? Once you know your ideal client, it will be easier to find them and sell them something they actually want;
  • Get on social media. Social media is an excellent way to reach potential clients and market yourself as an expert in your field. You can share industry news and articles about design trends and even post about things that inspire you. This can help build trust with prospective clients and drive traffic to your website;
screenshot of shwetacreates a Graphic Designer Instagram profile

Image source: instagram.com/shwetacreates 

  • Create a portfolio website or blog where people can see samples of your work and contact you directly through email or phone number if they’re interested in hiring you for a project.

Later on, it will also enable you to reach clients and projects that appeal to you.

8. Build A Business Website

If you’re a graphic designer and would want to start your own business, you should build a business website. This is recommended even if you’re just starting a side hustle or if you have no intention of turning your hobby into a full-time gig.

Even if you already have an established business, it’s still worth building a website for yourself, even if it’s only for personal use.

A business website is often the first place people will go when looking for a graphic designer, so yours must stand out from the crowd.

Here are some tips on how to do just that:

  • Start with an industry-specific domain name;
  • Make sure your website looks good on mobile devices;
  • Keep things simple by using only one font on each page;
  • Use photos of your work as well as written testimonials.
screenshot of Tom Satori website

Image source: satorigraphics.net 

9. Stay Organized

One of the things that you need to do is ensure that you stay organized throughout the whole process. This will help you out in so many ways because it’ll make everything so much easier for you and help keep your stress level down.

The main thing that you need to remember when it comes to staying organized is that there are a lot of different things that go into creating graphics for websites, advertisements, and other such things, so if you don’t have a good system set up, then things could get really messy really fast.

Here are some tips on how to do it in the first stages of building a business:

  • Don’t dive headfirst into the business. Yes, you are enthusiastic and energetic and seem ready to move mountains if it takes to make your business a success. But that’s the most direct path to total burnout. Have fixed working hours so that you don’t get bogged down and are able to maintain all business processes in the long run;
  • Implement a scheduling solution. There are many scheduling options online (cloud-based systems are especially handy), where you can build a work plan and never lose it. Your notebook with pen notes can easily be left on the coffee shop table. With solutions like Todoist, Clickup, etc., you’re definitely not in jeopardy of missing all your data at a glance;
  • Manage all expenses and profits. In the initial stages, not everyone has the opportunity to hire an accountant who will keep track of all of the company’s financial flows. This may have to be done by you. When you don’t have a large income yet, it’s easy to let things slide. But that’s the wrong strategy. It is perfect to have a separate bank account for the business to help you manage it more smoothly;
  • Budget in advance for quarterly taxes and marketing campaign expenses;
  • For easier organization, keep paperwork to a minimum. All contracts can be signed online using the appropriate services.

How to Start a Graphic Design Business: Summary

So you’ve made it through this step-by-step guide of how to start your own graphic design business. You’ve got a solid understanding of what it takes to get started, and you’re ready to take the leap.

The graphic design industry is a great place to start a business, but it’s also a competitive field. You can make it happen if you have what it takes to be successful.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://yourlifestylebusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Image-16-11-22-at-08.47.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Dmytro Sokhach is an entrepreneur and the 6-Figure Flipper Club member. Founded Admix Global (web agency) that builds websites, makes them profitable, and sells them as business[/author_info] [/author]

How to Start a Graphic Design Business: FAQs

What is a graphic design business?

A graphic design business is a venture where professional designers, including freelance graphic designers, create visual content to communicate messages. By applying visual hierarchy and page layout techniques, graphic designers use typography and pictures to meet users’ specific needs and focus on the logic of displaying elements in interactive designs to optimize the user experience.

How can I start my graphic design business?

To start a graphic design business, first, define your business idea and identify your niche in the market. Develop a comprehensive business plan that outlines your marketing plan, business expenses, and projected business finances. Decide on your business structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, LLC) and legally register your business, obtaining a business license and an employer identification number. Focus on building a strong portfolio and use freelance job boards to find your first few clients.

How is graphic design useful for business?

Graphic design is instrumental for businesses in creating a strong brand identity, like a memorable logo design, and effective marketing materials. It helps in making complex information more digestible through effective design, thereby enhancing client communication and helping the business grow. Graphic design service providers are essential in today’s digital world, where visual content significantly impacts customer engagement.

What can a graphic designer do for a small business?

For a small business, a graphic designer can create marketing materials, design a basic website, and develop branding elements like logos. Their expertise can help in creating a cohesive visual identity, which is crucial for small businesses trying to establish themselves in a competitive market.

How to manage business finances in a graphic design business?

Efficiently managing business finances involves keeping personal finances separate from your business finances. This means having a personal bank account and a separate one for your business. Track all business expenses meticulously, budget for state and federal taxes, and consider getting business insurance to protect your personal assets.

What are some effective marketing strategies for a new graphic design business?

To market a new graphic design business, leverage social media platforms and create engaging content for your social media accounts. Develop a marketing plan that includes networking with other business owners and ad agencies. Attend industry events and join online communities to increase your visibility.

How important is a business name and brand identity for a graphic design company?

Choosing a unique business name and developing a strong brand identity are crucial steps for any graphic design company. These elements help in differentiating your business from competitors and play a significant role in how clients perceive your services. Your brand identity should be reflected in all your business online presence, including your website and social media accounts.

What legal considerations should new business owners be aware of in the graphic design industry?

New business owners in the graphic design industry should be aware of the importance of establishing a legal business entity to protect personal assets. This involves understanding the implications of different business structures, obtaining necessary business licenses, and ensuring compliance with federal taxes and other regulations. Additionally, business insurance can offer extra protection.

How can I find graphic design clients for my startup business?

To find graphic design clients for your startup business, start by showcasing your work on freelance design business platforms. Network with small business owners, senior graphic designers, and ad agencies. Utilize social media marketing to reach potential clients, and don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth referrals from your first graphic design clients.

What are some key tips for maintaining client communication in a freelance graphic design business?

Effective client communication is key in a freelance graphic design business. Always be clear about timelines, deliverables, and how clients pay. Regular updates, being responsive to feedback, and understanding the client’s vision are vital. Use professional tools for communication to maintain a professional image in your personal life and freelance business.

About the author

Disclaimer: Please note this post may contain affiliate links, from which, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. Also as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I only recommend products and services I’ve used or would use myself. If you choose to purchase from any of my links, thanks so much for your support! 😊

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