EntrepreneurshipFebruary 12, 2018

How to make more money as a designer selling digital assets

Today I’m going to tell you how creative professionals can start their own business and make more money. You don’t even have to borrow cash from your granny, sell a kidney or quit your job.
Vladimir Kudinov
Co-Founder @Foculty

8 years ago I was lying on a green carpet from IKEA in my rented apartment in Moscow staring at the ceiling and thinking why I was so poor. I constantly changed my full-time jobs getting a slightly bigger salary. But my income always remained average. I went to mediocre restaurants, wore mediocre clothes, rode the subway and didn’t understand what I needed to change to make decent money.

At that moment I couldn’t even imagine that the company I was going to co-found would earn its first $1,000,000 in as little as three years. It seems that I’ve found a way out of the mediocrity trap and now I want to share my experience with you.

I started my business accidentally. I gathered my design assets, made a UI Kit, uploaded it on Designmodo and made it freely available. We got an incredible number of downloads during the first month - 100,000! I thought it was a sign and made a paid version in a couple of days. I added a few dozens of additional elements, set a $19 price tag and put it up for sale.

Two months later I made enough money to quit my job. Leaving for nowhere scared me but I knew it was the only way to abandon my mediocre life and start to build the one I had always dreamt of.

Gradually, we began to make larger UI Kits adding new elements and improving the design. At that time products like this were free on the internet. Alternatively, we constantly raised the price while improving the product quality. First - $39, then - $89. Sales were gradually growing.

We were always thinking how to make our products useful. We knew that the majority of people bought our UI Kits because of their appearance. But most of them didn’t even open the archive with the elements after downloading. People buy hope, not the product.

We didn’t like that. So, we decided to make Startup Framework. This is a kit of HTML and CSS components. People could use the design as well as had the access to the blocks’ code. This allowed our clients to create a full-fledged website in a couple of hours.

We grabbed a camera and went in the streets to shoot a promotional video for the new product. Though we had no experience in video recording it was clear to us that a video would big up the product’s status and draw people’s attention to it. We were right. We set the price at $249 and launched the new product.

This was a success! We received calls from satisfied clients throughout the week. They happily told us that it was the best product on the market. We worked hard on our sales strategy and, as a result, made a good deal of money.

I became an example for myself of a person without special talents, money and influential connections who managed to get off his ass and start his own business.

Here I’ve gathered for you several ideas of how you can start making money without quitting your job. Start following these steps today and dedicate each day to it. You will see the results and say “Thank you!” in as little as a month.

Find the things you are good at and come up with a product idea

Grab a pen and a piece of paper. Write the things that you can do well. What are the services that clients pay you for most frequently and are satisfied with? Are there any parts of your work that you are ready to do for free? What parts of your work satisfy you most?

If you are a User Interface Designer

Let’s say you are a user interface designer who is really good at making admin panels. You are capable of creating a design which could be liked by a great number of clients.

Find a programmer who knows Bootstrap in your friends list or in facebook connections. Set it as a goal: to release the product as soon as possible.

The guys from Creative Tim are a good example. They develop brilliant products for Bootstrap and are successful earners. They have definitely figured out the market needs, and they know what people, who purchase their components, actually, need.

If you develop user interfaces, you can create a UI Kit and showcase it on the same platforms. When you realize that your pack is profitable, you can code it in HTML.

If you don’t have friends among developers try to search for them on Upwork. This is the platform where we found our genius front-end developer.

The Great Simple team is known worldwide for their superb component kits. Take it as an example of how a single designer started a business on his own.

If you are an Illustrator

If you are an illustrator, you’ve won a jackpot. There is a great demand for good illustrations for product websites. They are especially relevant for the newly appeared companies without an in-house illustrator. Those companies want an appealing website for their products created by professional illustrators as well.

That’s exactly the ‘aha’ which you can take an advantage of. Draw a dozen of illustrations and put them on the different websites freely available. See how it goes and if you feel that people love what you do, make a big illustrations pack and begin selling.

This strategy is called freemium. You give some part of your product for free and people from all over the internet begin to actively try it. The better is the free pack, the more effectively it advertises the premium version.

A shining example of this model is the product designed by Lstore. You definitely saw their amazing work on hundreds of inspiration boards.

If you are a Front-end Developer

Think what the market lacks and find a professional who can help you with the design or hire a freelance designer. Take a close look at the services where people sell their code and think what you can do better. Sort products by popularity - it helps to keep abreast of the market demand.

I’ve got a good example for you. The Wpmudev team makes real money selling plugins for WordPress. More than 600,000 users already use their products. It took some time before they came to success. They improved their product step-by-step.

Every time I bump into such entrepreneurs on the web I remember how much money there is near us. Someone’s unsolved problem is a chance to make money. Having solved a million of people’s problems you will quickly solve your own problem of getting a million dollars.

Find the missing link

Who can help you with creating your product? Start searching for those people as soon as you have an idea. You can use Facebook, Twitter, Slack Communities and Upwork. Find what you are missing.

Validate your idea

Before spending evenings on realizing your idea, try to measure the demand. Check if there are similar products on the market and determine how popular they are. You can search on Creative Market, ThemeForest or simply Google.

Open Google Keyword Planner. It is an amazing tool that helps estimate the demand for certain keywords. For example, if you want to make a Bootstrap Theme in a Material Design style, you can easily check how often people search for it on the web. The higher is the demand, the greater is the chance to be found by internet users.

Use Google Trends to gauge how the popularity of your niche changes with time. Your idea is a part of a greater wave that brings it to the customers. This wave is called a trend. If a trend is going down, your product loses popularity. If it is going up, thousands of people become interested in your product. You will eventually learn how to see if a trend is popular.

Create your product as soon as possible

Turn on the Hulk mode. Don’t be scared to ask people for information if you don’t have it.
Vladimir Kudinov, Co-founder at FocFoc.

If you feel that the idea is too global and requires spending too much time and effort to materialize, refine the idea. Put aside all the unnecessary tasks so that you would be able to complete your project within a month.

A product rated 4 out of 5 is better than an unfulfilled product, isn’t it?

Launch it

Find the websites where people sell similar products, sign in and launch your product. If you need to get access to a closed platform try to contact the support team and ask them how to do it. If they don’t respond, find the people who are already there and ask them.

Turn on the Hulk mode. Don’t be scared to ask people for information if you don’t have it. Directly contact the people who have reached the desired goals and begin asking.

Start promoting the product all over the place: design boards, blogs, communities in Facebook and Google+. Communicate with blogs administrators and offer them to test your product for free and write a review.

You can do it on your own or hire an assistant who will perform routine tasks.

Now you can have plans for tonight

Everyone can start his own business today. Maybe, you think it’s too late; the trend is over and the situation on the market is unfavorable. But how about thousands of designers, programmers, and illustrators who make money selling their products? We’ve already done it, and we are not going to stop.

Take your first step! Don’t let this article just get lost in your browser bookmarks after catching you in a swirl of emotions. Today is the day when you can begin your journey towards the life which you’ve been dreaming of all these years.

If you need a sign, this is it.

P.S. Share this post with your fellow designers. Help them make up their minds to start changing their lives for the better.

P.P.S. I can work out a step-by-step instruction on how to advertise your design product on the internet, what platforms to use, how to land your first clients, embed file storage and a payment system. Are you excited? Let me know in the comments below.

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