How to Start Your Own Graphic Design Business in 8 Simple Steps

Graphic design is a booming industry. With more and more companies turning to internet marketing, the need for graphic designers is projected to grow by 21% between now and 2024.

Looking at those numbers, you might be thinking that maybe it’s time to start a graphic design business and you’d be right! As the online freelance sector grows, more and more businesses are using the services of freelance designers or agencies.

However, navigating the path to actually starting a business can be a little tricky, so we’ve made it easy for you. Check out our 8 simple steps to starting your own graphic design business.

Step 1: Establish a Plan

Before you can actually start your business, you need to know some key things about it, such as:

  • What is your business name?
  • What services do you provide?
  • How will you price your services?
  • Who is your target demographic?
  • Will you work solo or have employees?
  • How will you get your customers?
  • Where will you get funding from?
  • What is your company mission?

This step serves as the foundation for your business, so take the time to really think about it and make sure it’s a solid one. While you’re probably a gifted graphic designer, owning your own business is a whole other ballgame.

Now, you’re not just a graphic designer. You’re also a marketer, accountant, business owner, customer service rep, etc (you get the picture).

But don’t let this intimidate you–over 627,000 businesses open each year. If they can do it, so can you!

With that being said, there’s no substitute for planning and preparing. Check out Entrepreneur’s handy guide for starting your own business.

Step 2: File as a Business Entity

While it may be easier to just operate a business under your own name, this can open you up to all kinds of business hazards if a business or client decides to take legal action against you. By filing as a business entity, you define your personal assets as separate from your business, protecting them from any kind of legal repercussions.

Usually, when forming a business entity, you need to file a form with the agency that handles business filings within your state. Typically, this is your secretary of state, but it might vary depending on the state you live in.

Once you’ve filed with your state and paid a fee (which also varies from state to state), you’ll receive a certificate defining you as an official company.

Now, you can begin business!

Step 3: But First… Contracts

Now that you’re an official graphic design business, you need to protect yourself. Yes, your business entity protects your personal assets but it doesn’t protect you from clients who might try to take advantage of you.

Before going into business with a client, make sure that you have a comprehensive contract written up that details the conditions of your work with them. Both you and your client should agree upon the terms and sign it before any work can begin.

Otherwise, you could find yourself dealing with a headache if any misunderstandings begin to come up.

Step 4: Manage Your Money

Money is a critical component of your business and it’s important that you have a firm grasp on where yours go. While you can just bill clients using the classic email/Paypal combo, this is a messy and ineffective way to manage your money (especially when tax time comes around).

Instead, use cloud-based accounting software.

Cloud-based accounting software is hosted online, meaning you’ll be able to access your finances anywhere you go. This type of software usually includes invoicing, billing, and tracking systems at a minimum while more advanced software can include payroll and sales features.

Even better, certain accounting software, like Wave, are completely free and include a host of features including custom invoicing, billing reminders, and cash flow reports. Their processing fees are comparable to (or cheaper than) many other accounting software systems out there and they feature everything on an easy-to-use interface.

Another important aspect of managing your money is having a bank account that is separate from your personal account. By opening up a dedicated business account, you can track your income and expenses more easily.

Step 5: Create a Logo

Logos are an important part of your graphic design business–often, they’re what comes to mind when customers think of your business. As a graphic designer, you might be able to create a logo of your own, but it may pay off to hire a graphic designer who specifically specializes in logos.

If you’re looking for a custom graphic designer, Fiverr is a great resource. Although they were originally marketed as a budget platform for various services (you could get everything for a “fiver”), they’ve since expanded to feature everyone from novices to industry veterans.

Step 6: Establish an Online Presence

In this day and age, you need to have an online presence. Many companies choose to have a dedicated website as their digital storefront. This gives you a customizable platform through which you can sell your services, market to customers, and let the world know what you’re all about.

However, maybe you only offer digital products, or maybe you want something easy to set up that can operate both on your website and as a standalone storefront. If that’s the case, you can choose an online platform, like Sellfy, to sell your digital art on.

Step 7: Market Your Services

You can create the most beautiful graphic designs in the world, but that’s not going to help you if nobody knows about them. That’s where marketing comes in. Take a look at some of the most effective ways to market your graphic design business:

  • Email Marketing: By using strategic lists composed of businesses that fit your target customer persona, you can send them emails that make them aware of the services you offer.
  • Social Media Marketing: As more and more people join social media platforms, they become a valuable place for businesses to market their services. Many social media sites will allow you to sign up as a business and offer marketing features.
  • Networking: Whether it’s attending a networking event or frequenting websites your customers spend time on and offering advice, networking is still an effective form of marketing. Just make sure you’re networking effectively!

Step 8: Last But Not Least… Provide Value!

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the final and most important step: provide value! This is, arguably, the most crucial part of beginning your own graphic design business.

The value that you provide your clients, especially early on in your business, will be the deciding factor on your reputation. This, in turn, will decide the success of your business.

Do you want to be known as a run of the mill company that’s just okay? Or as a top-notch company that others love to refer their friends to?

If the latter sounds better than the former, make sure you provide your clients with valuable services that exceed their expectations. If you do this, the success of your business is inevitable.

Starting a graphic design business? Let us know which step helped you the most!