10 Excellent Tips For Designers To Improve Their Income

Sometimes, it seems absolutely impossible to keep up with all the design work you’ve got coming in. But, other times, it may seem like you just don’t have enough work to meet your income goals.

In these times, it makes sense to offer a few more services to your clients — to make sure that you can make a little more money.

The ten services below can make it easy to boost your income and take advantage of the design skills you’ve developed.


1. Blog Setup

Everybody and their dog wants a blog these days — but a lot of these would-be bloggers aren’t up to much more than opening a free account on Blogger or WordPress. Setting up a hosted blog, installing plugins and customizing a theme are all beyond them. But if you can provide these services, you can pick up some easy cash.

While setting up a blog can require a little technical knowledge, it’s generally a fast process, especially when you get a little practice. In general, customers looking for blog set-up services don’t necessarily want a custom design: they usually have a theme in mind that they just want to slap their own images on. WordPress takes about five minutes to install, making blog set up surprisingly lucrative.


2. Hosting

Many web design clients don’t really want to worry about hosting their own website. If you’re willing to take on that worry, you can make plenty of money and increase your chances of repeat business. After all, if you both designed a website and are hosting it, a customer is unlikely to go to someone else to update his or her site.

You don’t have to mess with servers of your own, either: using a virtual server from one of the many web hosts available can handle the needs of many small websites. There is a little worry that goes along with hosting — if a client’s website isn’t up, it’s on your shoulders — but it remains a relatively easy source of income.


3. Ad Design

For your clients who are buying ad space online, it’s worth their while to use ads that match their website’s design. Offering an online ad design service saves your clients from trying to turn their logo into a banner ad and puts some money in your pocket. Because there are certain common ad sizes, you can offer a single ad design or a package of several common sizes.


4. Templates

Many web design customers aren’t actually looking for a unique design for their website. Instead, they’re more than happy to accept a template — especially if they’ll pay less for it than for a custom-designed site. Some customers are just looking for files they can set up themselves, while others want to hire a web designer to fully implement the template.

Either option allows you to continue making money off a design long after you’ve finalized it. In addition to selling your templates on your own, there are many market places with significant traffic for specific types of templates (i.e. WordPress, Joomla, etc.).


5. Icons

There are certain icons you’ll spot all over the web — such as the RSS icon. While there’s one set symbol, though, there are thousands of design variations upon that theme. Not only can you sell such icons to individuals setting up their own websites, but you can also sell them to other web designers to help them speed up their work. Icons are commonly sold in sets related either by theme or design qualities: you can often earn more with scalable vector icons. There are thousands of potential icons you can work with, as well.


6. Sub-Contracting

Design is not the only aspect of a website that a client might hire out. While you might be given all the text the client wants included in a website, you may not. Rather than trying to help your client find someone up to writing copy, you can agree to take it on as part of the website design. From there you have two options — write it yourself or sub-contract to a writer.

You effectively earn a finder’s fee from providing a writer with the work, and if you have a writer you can work with regularly, you can take on more projects than you might otherwise. You don’t have to limit yourself to writing, either: web applications, marketing and other projects associated with setting up a new website all offer sub-contracting opportunities.


7. User Testing

Putting a website through its paces can require money, leading many web designers to simply skip it. But if you offer this service to your clientele you’ll be able to provide another layer of quality work. User testing can be as simple as sitting down with a couple of people and asking them to try to use the site. It can be as cheap of offering them lunch in exchange for their time. You may have to spend more time explaining to your customers just what user testing is than you might need to spend on your other services, but that bump in income is often worth it.


8. Training

Especially when you’re setting up a website that a client expects to update on his own, you have to expect lots of questions on how to use the site. Those questions don’t have to be just another cost of doing business, though.

Instead, you can offer a client the service of walking him through every part of the completed website and explaining each step. If you and your client are in the same area, it might be worthwhile to go in and educate the client in person. However, with all the various online conferencing applications that allow you to share your desktop with an observer, physical proximity isn’t necessary.


9. Search Engine Optimization

The methods search engines use rank websites change quite often. Part of good website maintenance is updating a site as necessary to keep up with search engines’ needs. Offering search engine optimization offers you a chance to revisit past clients’ websites: they may not need visible changes, but a little tinkering under the hood may get a website better search results. You can also offer SEO services to potential clients who already have well-designed websites.


10. Marketing

While web marketing can be a full-time job, you can provide your clients with a basic web marketing package: setting up accounts on social networking sites, emailing bloggers on your client’s behalf and other small tasks. Most designers don’t have any interest in doing a large amount of marketing, but a few simple services can help a client get started as well as generate a little income.

If you’re interested in adding any of these services to your web design offerings, consider starting with your existing clientele. Send out an email explaining what you’re adding to your offerings and see if you get any bites. From there, you can start thinking about new customers. It may not be practical to add all ten services in one go (and you may need to brush up on a few skills before marketing your work), but these options can give you a starting point.

Additionally, there are far more than ten services a web designer can offer. Think about how you might combine your non-design skills with your web work and see what you come up with — you might find an option that works better with your skill set than those listed above.

Bonus Income Source: Passive Income

If you’ve still got a couple of hours left over after you finish helping your clients, consider passive income opportunities. Every service you offer results in active income: you’re trading your time directly for money.

With passive income, however, once you’ve established an income source, you get money with only minimal time and effort. Traditionally, passive income came from investments — you needed a large amount of money in order to earn income. However, these days there are plenty of opportunities for web designers to create passive income streams: most require an upfront investment of time (rather than money), but can continue to pay off indefinitely.

  • Stock Graphics: You can sell a variety of graphics through stock graphic sites. You create one image, upload it and the stock graphic company sends you money whenever someone purchases a copy of your graphic. You can often sell website templates in much the same way.
  • Niche Websites: You can create a website on a specific topic, fill it with content and set up either ads or affiliate programs. With ads, you’ll get money whenever someone visits your site and clicks on an ad. With affiliate programs, you’ll get paid whenever anyone purchases a product through your website.
  • Web Application: Projects like web applications can take a lot of upfront work. But, depending on your payment model, you can earn money for every person who uses your web application.

These are just a few examples of passive income streams. There are thousands more available to you, and they’re just a matter of figuring out how you can sell your skills without selling your time.

Do you offer extra services to your clients that improve your income?  Have we missed some good options?  Please share with us!

  • http://www.thedesigncubicle.com Brian Hoff

    Great read! Never really thought about providing some of these extra services but might have to add them to my “list of specialties” :) Thanks!

  • http://dpdesign.in/ Raul

    nice article

  • http://inspirationbit.com inspirationbit

    Excellent article, well thought out and put together! Better than the one I just read on 24ways.or on pitching/charming clients.

  • http://www.jorgelinares.com Jorge Linares

    Nice articles, I’m actually provide a bit of everything but this articles it’s really helpful

  • http://designc7.com christopher

    Nice article, and there are still long way to go with them for me.

  • http://alanvalek.com/ Alan Valek

    Thanks, good advice!

  • http://www.saddacrackers.com John Cardwell

    Nice article. I have doing all of these for years, but never thought of charging for them as options. Thanks!

  • http://www.css-design.fr rezolutions

    Thanks for those advices!

  • http://www.designforsite.com Lee

    As I redo my website and change for the new economy, I’ve been thinking about some of these ideas and so this is a great article!

    Can someone recommend a realistic charge for blog set up? My avg hourly rate for website design is way higher I’m sure so I want to be realistic.:)

    thanks and thanks again for the article,

  • http://www.designforsite.com Lee

    One more note:

    I actually offer #2 (hosting) as a separate cost and agree that it helps generate additional income when I have a new design client.

    I actually include #7 (testing) and #8 (training on using the website) as a part of my website product automatically. User testing is done automatically because the website should look the same across major browsers — but I do include the cost of the testing in the creation of my sites.

    For #8 (training) I include this for free because I consider it a ‘value-added’ service (albeit a small one). Sometimes adding value added services like this, submitting a URL to search engines for free, free occasional tech support (just for questions), etc. can help increase the value of your regular service (i.e. web design).

    I’m not sure if I agree with #4 (templates) because I’ve had many customers come to me and say that they do not want a template, “cookie cutter” website like others. Then again, the current economy might change that mentality. Thoughts?


  • http://www.nukegraphic.com Hans Hendrady

    Nice Info, really appreciate it.

  • http://www.ideabox.lk praveen

    Thanks a lot.Comprehensive article

  • http://www.yxtc.com Web Design

    This is a great post! I am bookmarking it for future reference.
    Thanks for the tip.
    Sindy Fagen

  • http://www.danielbryan.com Daniel Bryan

    While these are all good suggestions, as someone who has freelanced for over a decade and offered all of these servics in one form or another, take your time and fully consider the ramifications of providing these services.

    If you provide hosting, you will absolutely be fielding calls on how to setup an email account in Outlook, how to forward my other email, and other nagging issues. Individually, these are easy and quick fixes. Together across all of your hosting clients, it ads up to haf your time. If you want to host, be extremely up front about what you will provide and take the time to build a strong help page – or work with a host that offers a Plesk or cPanel with client access. If you plan to host you must TRAIN your clients from the outset to not expect freebies and not annoy you 24/7.

    Blog setup and implementing other people’s software. If you take on this role, you will be expected to troubleshoot that software, provide answers to questions you would never expect and willl be annoyed by instantly. If there is not a significant recurring revenue stream, you will not break even provinding these types of services because you need volume to make a profit and as a freelancer, you cannot get to that level. I’m not saying you can’t provide these services to one or two clients, but pick those clients very carefully and know in advance how “needy” that are or might become.

    There are no expanded services that do not come with added stress and time commitments. While this is a good list of potential ways to earn additional income, my strongest advice would be to be very selective in your clients, understand the potential time commitments, and have an exit strategy so that if and when providing these additional services becomes too much, you don’t wind up losing good clients.

  • http://totail.us Michael

    Thanks for the excellent post.

  • http://www.geenius.co.uk George Wiscombe

    Interesting article, the listed above are all good ways to increase your earnings as a designer… But (and yes, there is always someone with a but) – I would add be careful you don’t end up working too much!
    On a side note, I would quite be interested to see a post about making the move from employed to freelance – I know it’s been covered before but I think perhaps the current economic climate puts a slightly different spin on it. (thinking about it, a mashup of resources might be sufficient?)

    Great read though, thoroughly enjoyed it.

  • http://www.bwn.net Big W. Noodle

    Don’t forget logo design contests. Oops. I wasn’t supposed to mention that. They are bad for some reason. But all this other stuff is great. I won’t do it again.

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  • http://www.smallboxsoftware.com Shawn Bouchard

    Hi there,
    All good points and definitely great tips for folks to increase their revenue. One other thing I might mention is to partner with a production company to build the sites. That way you offload the programming aspect of the web design, allowing you to focus more on the design and usability aspects. Also, it lessens your exposure for tech support and other time draining services, ultimately making you more profitable!

  • http://www.realgroup.co.in Designer4u

    very useful article. some concepts are new for me like the stock graphics selling and the Niche Websites creation.
    Thanks for taking time to write this article.

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  • http://www.patternhead.com Patternhead

    Great article.

  • http://www.maxdistro.com Las vegas Web design Company

    Really good tips and advices.

  • http://canvasgrafix.com/?=kids-wall-art Kids Wall Art

    I think a lot of these things are overlooked methods of acquiring some extra income, especially in today’s economic situation. Another suggestion would be partnering with a local web developer to help take some of the burden off you and help with the technical things such as setting up web hosting, search engine optimization, marketing, etc. If you try to do too many of these things yourself you may overhwhelm yourself and spend every waking hour at your computer. These are great tips and I have used them myself to make extra money!

  • http://martineau.tv Zander

    These are great, I always do these but never charge for most of them, rather they’re included in the development budget. I shall separate them out from now on.

  • sachin khobragade

    Really a great Article,will help me a lot,
    Thanks for sharing such valuable Information.

  • http://www.boomerang-design.com Jen Ohs

    Great article, however I’d be careful about offering SEO without really knowing what you’re doing. Lots of designers are offering it and I’ve heard time and time again how SEO professionals end up undoing a lot of what has been done (note: metatags aren’t the SEO heavyweight they once were). Just food for thought.

  • http://www.webdesigntipsonline.com/site_design.html Business Website Design

    Great Article
    I like the passive income options for a couple of different reasons. Firstly you only have to do the work once, and you can keep getting paid for them. Things like templates and screensavers are great.
    Secondly you can get links back to your website from this content and also from the directories that you list them on which will help with your own search engine rankings and business development.

  • http://www.chiefs.at/ Chiefs Hockey

    I can confirm that reselling finalized templates is lucrative. Using WordPress to customize your client’s needs, adjusting colors etc. makes it easy to earn money in a few minutes. Inform your client if you want to reuse a template and always keep the original files (AI and PS files)!

  • http://comingsoon-justsodesignstudio.com Surya Osborne

    I have been asked by companies (generally ones starting out) to rip some of the graphics from the website and manipulate the images for use on company literature – business cards, compliments slips etc. This means a bit of resolution tweaking and does involve having to introduce oneself to a local/national printer to complete the work. The bonus here though is that on completion you will have provided a company with nearly all of its marketing/promotional material and set a template from which they can work all new material from, oh and its quite profitable if you send a lot of business the printers way.

    I have found that this provides me with quite a bit of extra income, not least because of the complete service provided, but also because the company has only had to come to me for all of its branding I almost always get repeat business and most of the time I get referrals from said companies.

    If on the other hand, I don’t have time to do all this for the client, my printer will take on the work – using my designs (which lowers the overall cost – leaving me with time free and marginal profit from outsourcing the job).

    Being web based doesn’t mean you should shy away from other graphically orientated solutions to your clients needs. It can be rewarding – I converted/translated a design I did for a website into billboard posters – and there is nothing sweeter than seeing your work in-situ while your out and about.

  • http://dailycycle.co.uk Tim

    Great article, an excellent read. I have my own server running at home but think it would be better to move to one of these virtual servers. Can anyone recommend a decent host that has this service?
    Thanks in advance.

  • http://www.webdesigncapetown.co.za Mark

    Interesting ideas and some of these, i will definitely incorporate into my business.

  • http://increasewebtrafficeasy.com Martin


    There’s some good ideas there – some of them would fit well into a membership site type service too, such as the training. Other marketers could join up to your membership site and get their affiliates trained by you for example. The membership site approach might cover a lot of stuff you mention and gives you the recurring income too.

    Very cool.

    Thanks :)


  • http://www.squareonemd.co.uk Web design cheltenham

    Good tips, some hadn’t occurred to me before.

  • Nate

    The idea of selling templates was AWESOME! Does anyone know of sites or resources to get started doing that? I’m familiar with selling stock “graphics”, but not whole “templates”.



  • http://www.webcoursesbangkok.com Carl – Web Courses Bangkok

    And Consulting…which can be easily done via Skype.

  • http://www.chotrul.com/skills/seo-marketing.html Chotrul Web Design

    These are all great suggestions … and many thanks for sharing them. I do hosting and SEO on top of design, and you are absolutely right – they do create a lot of repeat business in particular, and that is always a good thing.

  • http://www.kaplang.com/blog Kaplang

    these are really interesting ideas, the only problem I have is that people do not always wanna pay.

  • http://www.bdinframe.blogspot.com/ Armaan Reza

    Some of my thoughts have completely matched with the article you wrote above. Your language is clear and precise.

  • http://www.fdesign.co.za Jem

    Its great that some one put these valuable comments down. We will certainly use this info to improve our web design service offering.

  • http://www.montpellierinteractive.com/web-design.htm Web Design Cheltenham

    Good call on the Niche bit – some advice I always give my SEO clients is “make it niche” that way they get relevent, targetted traffic without the hassle of huge competition.

  • http://www.webseobg.com/blog Radoslav

    Really a great article, I always do these but never charge for most of them, rather they’re included in the development budget.

  • http://www.milkbottledesigns.co.uk Ben

    Thanks for the article, I pretty much offer all of these but it has inspired me to make it clear to my customers what they are getting for there money too. Queue a new page on my site!!

  • http://www.creativewebdesignsolutions.co.za Rudi Roux

    Good article. Interesting points made here. I agree with most of the points however i think that a more in depth view is needed to really take these points and implement them as a web designer.

  • http://www.cloudhope.com Mizan

    i considered hosting some time ago. but, its a lot of trouble. blog setup can give you some quick money.

  • http://www.hayvancilik1.com hayvancılık

    you can take on more projects than you might otherwise. You don’t have to limit yourself to writing, either: web applications, marketing and other projects associated with setting up a new website all offer sub-contracting