Many of my friends are full-time graphic designers. At the very least, 5 has a large format printer. Ten of them started using the same strategy I’m about to describe in this article.
How to Start a Graphic Design Business
If you have the financial resources to start a graphic design business, this article may not apply to your situation. However, if you’re in the early stages and seek guidance on cost-cutting measures to establish yourself, you are warmly invited.
1. Learn the introduction to computer
Professional graphic design applications are complicated. Without acquiring basic desktop application knowledge; you will find them difficult to learn.
Also, you need to have basic knowledge of computers to be able to use computers effectively for business.
- Learn how to turn on/off the computer properly (you need this skill to keep your hardware & software functioning properly)
- Learn how to create a folder (for file organization)
- Save files (it should become your habit to keep changes in case of power outage)
- Copy/paste folder/files (for faster work)
- How to launch desktop applications
- How to use the computer mouse effectively (you will need this skill as a designer)
- Keyboard shortcuts for faster work (optional)
Source of study
There are many options available to start learning a computer. Follow one of the options below to equip yourself with the basic computer knowledge.
- Watch YouTube videos (free)
- Read blogs on your favorite operating system e.g., Windows, MAC, Linux (mint) (free)
- Apply for free beginner’s computer courses online e.g., Alison (free)
- Apply for a paid online course e.g., Udemy, or Skillshare, (paid)
- Enroll for a low-cost computer class near you (paid)
- Learn from a friend or family member (free/paid)
Everything we will be talking about in this post is based on practice. Without continuous practice, you can’t work with a computer and you cannot be good at graphic design.
That is why you need a personal computer to practice every day.
At the time I enrolled for a six-month computer course in college, I was not having a computer. I practiced with the school’s computer.
Since you are planning on starting a business, you should get a computer soon if you don’t have one already. It will help you stay on top of your lessons.
2. Select a graphic design software and OS
I use the Microsoft Windows operating system because it was what I studied in college. Moreover, this operating system is the most common OS in my country.
For the graphic design application, I mostly use CorelDRAW. I didn’t read graphic design in college. I am a self-taught designer.
Although, I design with Adobe Photoshop, Fireworks, GIMP, and Inkscape; CorelDRAW is my favorite application.
This may be because it was my first software.
Now let’s pick a software for you.
Since this is going to be your business for a while, you should think of a few factors before selecting software.
Selecting OS for graphic design
At the time I was teaching ICT in a private school (Junior High, Lower/Upper Primary), I used to compare the operating system with the human spirit and the hardware with the body.
As a beginner to computer, you must understand that, without the OS, the computer will not work at all. This is the software that controls the hardware (hard drive, monitor, memory, etc).
Your graphic designing software (CorelDRAW, Inkscape, GIMP, Photoshop) is controlled by the operating system or system software (Windows 11, Mac OS, Linux)
- Consider computer specs with OS and its version
- Consider your source of studies (self-taught/school near you)
- Are there enough experts in the operating system you want to select in your area?
- If experts are few, the cost of repairs will be high (your business is on a budget)
- Does the operating system support the graphic design software?
- For example, if you are choosing MAC, can you easily buy MAC products in your area?
- Can you buy MAC at an affordable price in your area?
Selecting graphic design software
- What type of computer are you using or can you afford? (consider your specs with the software’s OS requirement)
- What is the cost of the software?
- Type of work you will be doing often (if you will be doing lots of photo editing, consider Photoshop but for posters, flyers, broachers, business cards, banners, etc CorelDraw is my best pick for you)
- Your source of study
- Can you get help offline quickly? (do other designers use it)
- Are there enough free online resources? For instance, CorelDRAW has limited resources on the internet compared to Photoshop.
- Is it user-friendly?
- Can you easily grasp it? (all tools need practice to master but you should consider this)
3. Buy the equipment for graphic design
After considering your OS and graphic designing software, go ahead to buy your computer if you don’t have one already.
Buy a desktop or laptop
This stage is greatly influenced by your budget. Whether to buy a brand-new desktop or laptop.
If you happen to be on a tight budget like I was when I bought my first desktop in 2017, feel free to use my plan.
It’s funny but in the end, I bought a desktop.
- Firstly, I bought the system unit
- Later, I bought the monitor
- For the mouse, I had one from a cousin I was using for the laptop my younger brother gave me. It was a clone laptop shared by the government with students and teachers.
Buy a printer
You don’t need to buy a printer when starting a graphic design business. Though it’s convenient, you can print your designs from the printing press near you.
Why you may need a printer from the beginning
Even though a printer is not a requirement, getting one may help you make more profit and also help you test print your designs.
- In my area, designers don’t charge for designs, they put their charge on the printing cost. So, if you have a printer, you make a little on each design.
- Though what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) setting some designs is a bit complicated, especially for a beginner.
- For example, setting a book with CorelDraw is easier when you test print. It took me a while to figure this out. Having a printer made it easier. (you don’t need a color printer for this)
- With this, you only send your finished work to the press and cut down costs because they don’t have to edit anything.
- You are sure of your final colors. Sometimes, your screen can put a speck of dirt on you. Colors on the screen may not look the same after printout.
- With an Epson printer, Canon imageRunner, you can test print and set your printer and colors for final work.
As a beginner, having a printer can greatly impact your learning process but you shouldn’t worry about it.
If you do have money to buy a printer, I suggest Epson printers, Canon imageRunner photocopiers, and HP LaserJet MFP M129-M134 for black/white.
HP LaserJet MFP M129-M134 is a portable desktop printer and it’s economical. I bought this printer in December 2018 and I’m still using it. I abused it but it still got it.
I’ve used these printers for years and they are the best by far for starters and advanced designers.
Recently, two of my friends recommended Konica Minolta photocopier. Though I’ve not used it personally, I’ve seen it at work, it looks super good.
Besides, these designers have also used the above printers for years and other ones. They know the best tool for the job.
I ran into numerous problems with Epson Workforce so I don’t recommend Epson All-in-One printers to new designers.
In addition, Epson’s head can be very dramatic during harmattan and winter.
4. Design for friends and families for free
One way to master designing faster is to practice a lot of practice. Visit Ethoes.com to get free design lessons and replicate them.
You can also get free tutorials on YouTube that you can learn.
It took me a long time before I started charging for designs. The reason is simple. I didn’t learn graphic design as a business.
It was a supplementary skill. Remember the clone government laptop from my brother? That was when I started designing.
At the time, I was using the laptop to work on my formal website, mtvnews.org, I learned CorelDRAW so I could work on images for my articles.
After the website expired, It was time to take graphic design to the next level.
I designed birthday cards for friends and family members, tried to draw funny cartoons, and spent time working on different designs.
I even designed the book cover of my first motivational book “Get Inspired” published in early 2013.
5. Charge low price for your designs
From designing for free and mostly softcopies, I started charging penny. I started printing flyers, banners, business cards, etc.
Good for me you say!
I had a friend who was already in the business to check my design before printing. He had a shop, and printers but printed his banners and stickers at the printing press.
Because you are just starting and your designs may not be catchy, make your charge lower than the professionals so that you can get more jobs and become better.
6. Don’t reinvent the wheel
Take to those in the business. Ask them about the software, operating system, and type of computer they use. Take designs from them and spend time working on their design.
Approach your friends take their templates and fix in your customer’s info.
The plan is not to steal from others, but to learn how to create professional designs and offer services that your customers want.
Before you take another designer’s work, inform them about how you intend to use it. You can even give them a cut afterward.
7. Rent an office/work from home
Save money and rent an office. This is not the only option available.
You may work from home or pair with a friend who is already in the design space or has a photocopy shop.
I love working from home. But I have also paired with a friend. When working with someone else, make sure you have a good agreement to prevent unhealthy relationships in the future.
Since designing is my part-time job, my customers mostly communicate with me on the phone, I design, send them samples, and later print.
Make sure you don’t send customers the original copy of the design unless you trust them. If the customer is shady, they may decide that they don’t like your design and go on to print it.
Since designers don’t charge for design in my area, this can affect your business.
I charge for my designs and hard copies. I work with a few customers. Because my charge is a little higher than the rest of the designers.
It’s my business model. I don’t want many customers.
8. Register your company
This stage is very important if you finally decide to grow your business. You shouldn’t rush this process because it involves money.
Registering your business has advantages and responsibilities that you must be ready e.g., filling out your tax return.
9. Sell your company
Now is about time to promote your business. You don’t need lots of money to do so. Check your budget and start from there.
Some of the promotions can make you extra money in the long term. Take a look at some of the ways to promote your graphic design company.
As a reminder, it is easier to use some of the promotions when you are a registered company.
- Print banners
- Radio ads
- Print posters and paste them into your area
- Print stickers and share
- Word of mouth
- Build a website for your business and create a professional portfolio with your works
- Create a blog to teach skills acquired
- Create a YouTube channel to post graphic design content
10. Employ designers
Make sure your business is in good shape before taking this step. And don’t employ lots of people at the same time even if you are doing so well.
Pay your employees good money.
11. Invest your income
Don’t be fooled by your achievement. When you stop learning you stop existing. The new generation is always up with something sophisticated.
So, you should always go back to where you started from, acquire more skills, and do more.
Invest your revenue in your work but also remember to diversify your income. The world is changing every day. Find another profitable venture, and invest wisely.
This article is about how I started my graphic designing business. I have not done anything extraordinary that you cannot do. Just plan it and get going.
If you need a smart design, I have a team of designers that will attend to you quickly and present you with a nice design. Reach me through my email: email@example.com let’s do business.