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Want to use your illustration skills to earn extra income?

A conversation I had with Andrew, a member of the Resourceful Designer Community, inspired me to write this post. Andrew is a very talented illustrator and designer. He’s created many illustrations for his clients as well as illustrating and publishing his own children’s book Heyward the Horse! In his book, children follow along with Heyward, a carriage horse from Charleston, South Carolina, as he takes them on an illustrated tour of local landmarks.

Andrew and I were discussing various ways he could use his illustration skills to earn extra income. After our conversation, I started thinking, Andrew is not the only designer with illustration skills. So why not use our discussion as a starting point for a podcast episode?

Just to preface, you do not need to be an illustrator to benefit from what I’m about to share. I am not an illustrator, and yet I’ve generated a decent amount of passive income over the years by putting my design talents to use on things other than client work.

Also, these are not ways to earn money quickly. That’s not the point of all of this. What I’m sharing today are ways to put things into motion to generate a form of recurring income down the road. Be it a year from now or even ten years from now.

Earning extra income.

I’ve always believed that creative people should never lack for work. A creative person has the skills to make money from their creations. As graphic and web designers, you earn your primary income by completing projects for clients. But there are numerous other ways you could make money with your skills.

We’re living in an unprecedented age for creative people. There are more opportunities today than there has ever been before. Take Etsy, for example. Before platforms like Etsy, a craftsperson could only sell their wares in local bazaars or craft shows. Now, they can reach clients around the globe. The same opportunities are available for illustrators and designers.

Here are some ways for you to use your creative skills to earn extra income.

Talent Marketplaces

Talent marketplaces such as Fiverr or Upwork have a bad reputation amongst designers. However, these are perfect marketplaces for illustrators. Many people search these platforms for illustrators for both small and large projects. If you are an illustrator, you should create an account on talent marketplaces to showcase your services.

Don’t think of these marketplaces as cheap discount services. You can charge whatever you like for your illustrations. Showcase your portfolio of work, and even if your prices are higher than other illustrators on the platform, clients who love what they see will find it within their budget to hire you.

If you’re not on these platforms, there’s zero chance of being discovered.

Stock Image Sites

Earn extra income by digitizing and uploading your illustrations to sell on stock image sites.

A friend of mine has been doing this for years. He’s uploaded hundreds of illustrations to various stock image sites. He doesn’t make much money on each sale, but the volume of sales adds up to a nice income.

Stock image sites are one and done platforms. Meaning you create something, upload it to the platform, and forget about it. Allowing you to draw your next illustration as the first one earns you money with each sale.

The trick to earning extra income through stock image sites is diversification. While some images will sell very little, others will bring in a steady earning each month. The more images you have for sale on these sites, the better your chances of a monthly payout.

Add in compounding by uploading the same image to multiple stock sites, and you increase your return for that one image.

Design Marketplaces

Design market places such as Creative Market and Design Cuts offer a platform for designers and illustrators to sell digital products. Fonts, digital brushes, and illustration bundles, amongst other digital products, provide various opportunities for creative people to earn extra income.

Designers and other creative people frequent these marketplaces looking for ways to simplify their process. Make money by offering a solution to their needs.

Unlike stock image sites that sell individual images, the benefit of design marketplaces is the bundles they offer. Bundles contain many similarly themed illustrations packaged together for one price.

An example of a bundle might be a collection of illustrations of farm animals all drawn in the same style. Floral packages are also trendy.

Whatever you enjoy illustrating, try to find a way to turn it into a product to sell. If you’re not an illustrator, you can create brochure templates or logo templates that people can use as a starting point for their projects.


Print-on-demand services allow you to upload your image or design and sell it on merchandise in their marketplaces. Popular merchandise includes T-Shirts, mugs, phone cases, stickers, pillows, leggings, notebooks, wall art, and so much more.

You don’t have to be an illustrator to make money on these platforms. A well-designed image or a word or phrase written in a beautiful font can also sell very well on merchandise.

Not sure what to design, consider Fan Merchandise. Platforms such as Redbubble, CafePress and Zazzle have license agreements with entertainment properties that allow you to create and sell merchandise without infringing on intellectual property.

Design merchandise for popular movies such as:

  • A Christmas Story
  • Elf: The Movie
  • Dumb and Dumber
  • the Matrix
  • National Lampoon’s Vacation movies
  • The Exorcist,
  • The Hangover movies
  • The Wizard of Oz

TV Shows

  • Amazing Race
  • Big Bang Theory
  • Black-ish
  • Breaking Bad
  • Flintstones
  • Friends
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • How I met Your Mother
  • Westworld
  • Star Trek

You can also design merchandise promoting the U.S. Military.

  • U.S. Air Force
  • U.S. Marine Corps
  • U.S. Army
  • U.S.Navy

Here are links to available licensed fan properties on each platform: Redbubble, CafePress, Zazzle.

It’s a long game.

If you decide to put your illustration skills to use on any of these services, keep in mind this is a long game. You probably won’t make much money this week, or this month or possibly for months to come. You are doing this to generate extra income down the road.

These platforms work because of compounding. You start slow, with maybe one or two images per week, or possibly even per month. And over time, if you’re persistent, you’ll end up with lots of designs that bring you money regularly.

Even if the payout from each platform is small, they all add up over time. Wouldn’t it be nice to know your monthly car loan or mortgage payment was taken care of through the work you created long ago?

It only takes time.

You’ve heard the saying, “you need money to make money?” In most cases, that’s true. However, for everything I’ve talked about above, the only investment on your part is time. If you’re willing to put in a little bit of time now, it can pay off tenfold in the future.

And there’s something satisfying when you see that first $1 come in because some random person, somewhere in the world, purchased an image you created. That’s when you know you’ve got something. Because if one random person thought what you created was good enough to spend money on, there must be others out there as well.

That feeling should encourage you to keep on producing and uploading. Who knows, maybe one day, you’ll be able to retire and live solely off this passive income you’ve created with your creative skills.

Let me know how you earn extra income with your creative skills.

Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.

Resource of the week Four Week Marketing Boost

The Four Week Marketing Boost! is a free guide I created that will help you strengthen your marketing position, boost your brand’s awareness & social presence and ultimately ensure you are in tip-top shape to offer a best first impression to potential new clients.

This guide is divided into 20 short actions that comfortably fit into your regular day and are designed to take as little time away from your client work as possible. Although you can complete these exercises quickly, it is recommended you tackle only one per day, spending no more than 30 minutes per task. After completing this four-week plan, you will be in a better position to present yourself to, and win over new clients.

You can download the Four Week Marketing Boost for free by visiting marketingboost.net. Or, if you are in the U.S.A., you can text the word MARKETINGBOOST to 44222.

Improve your business' image and create the best first impression possible to attract more clients.

Help nominate Resourceful Designer for the 2020 Podcast Awards.

Podcast Awards

If you enjoy the Resourceful Designer podcast, please help nominate it for a 2020 People's Choice Podcast Award. Once on the site click the line that reads "CLICK ME TO NOMINATE MY FAVORITE PODCASTS". Then select Resourceful Designer in both the Arts and the Education categories. Feel free to chose your favourite podcasts from the remaining categories.

If you're not sure who to select in the Sports category, Wayne Henderson, the voiceover guy you hear at the beginning of every Resourceful Designer episode, hosts the Packers Fan Podcast also on the nomination list.


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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com