How to start a graphic design business

Use your design skills to set up an enterprise you can run from the comfort of your own home.

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If you have a sharp eye for visual composition and love being entrepreneurial, then you may want to launch your own graphic design business. Whether you've just completed your training or you have years of creative agency experience under your belt, the chance to be your own boss is one that appeals to many.

Use this guide to learn the key information you'll need to start a graphic design business.

What is a graphic design business?

A graphic design business works with brands to bring to life their ideas and concepts. Graphic designers use captivating imagery, shapes, colour and layouts to get across the brand message.

Find your niche

Before you start your own graphic design business, identify and home in on the specific niche you're interested in. Then obtain the necessary skill set. Graphic designers can pick from a variety of skills including:

  • Logo design
  • Web design
  • Brochure design
  • Animation
  • Typography
  • Infographics
  • Custom WordPress templates

It's hard to master all of these, so many designers specialise in one skill and offer services in that area. For example, designers who focus on logo design offer logo services. Those who focus on infographics, on the other hand, seek out clients wanting this on a regular basis.

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Create an online portfolio

When you are just starting out, use a portfolio to attract clients. Getting paying clients will give you the motivation to continue your graphic design business. Create a website and include a portfolio of your best work to showcase your skills. Create social media pages for your business and regularly post your finished creations there. As you build your audience, you can convert some of them into clients. You can also buy ads, both digital and in print.

Another option is to list your services on online marketplaces like Airtasker, hipages, Upwork and 99designs. These platforms can match graphic designers with paying clients. You can also list your services on online directories like True Local and Yellow Pages.

Courses and qualifications

You can learn graphic design through formal education at a higher education institute. Another option is to take an online graphic design course. Once you've completed your learning, you can work with a senior graphic designer. This way, you get real-world design experience before setting out on your own path.

Compare websites that offer graphic design courses

Name Product How many courses are available? Are free courses offered? Are accredited courses available?
Training.com.au - Graphic Design
Training.com.au - Graphic Design
1,100+
No
Yes
Shortcourses.com.au - Graphic Design
Shortcourses.com.au - Graphic Design
200+
Yes
Yes
TafeCourses.com.au - Graphic Design
TafeCourses.com.au - Graphic Design
840+
No
Yes
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Buy the right equipment and software

Some essential furniture and equipment for your graphic design business could include:

  • A dedicated office space from which to run your business. If you have an extra room in your home, you can convert this into office space.
  • An office desk and chair.
  • A computer that is powerful enough for graphic design.

One software option is to subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud. This will give you access to essential graphics tools like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign. An alternative to Adobe is CorelDRAW.

Structure and set up your business

Once you've sharpened up your graphic design skills and purchased your equipment, you'll need to think about how you're setting up your company.

Here are five key steps to take to get your business ready:

  1. Choose a name for your business.
  2. Buy a domain name. Find out more about how to launch a website for your company.
  3. Choose a business structure. You can find out more about these business structures in our comprehensive guide:
    • Sole Trader. You are the sole owner of your business and take full liability over its profits and debts.
    • Partnership. You run the business together with a partner and share liability over its obligations.
    • Company. You register the business as a Company with shareholder owners and its own legal personality. The company is liable for its obligations and will be taxed at corporate rates.
  4. Register your business on register.business.gov.au. After registration, you will get an Australian Business Number (ABN). This is an 11-digit number that will identify your business for tax purposes.
  5. Get a business licence. States have different requirements for business licensing. Consult your state authority for more details.

As a graphic designer, you may need to use the following legal documents:

  • Privacy Policy. If you will be collecting clients' names, addresses and payment details, a Privacy Policy will assure them that you will not give away their information.
  • Service Agreement. This is an agreement you will sign with clients setting out the terms of your business engagement.
  • Copyright notice. This protects your ideas, including artwork.

These are just a few of the legal documents you may have to use as a graphic design business owner. Thankfully, you do not have to prepare any of these from scratch. Simply access customisable templates from one of the services below.

If you need legal assistance in the customisation process, you can hire a lawyer from the same services.

Where to find free lawyer quotes and online legal resources

Name Product What's offered? Starting price to become a member Annual Fee from Free legal documents available?
Lawpath
Legal documents and templates, Access to lawyers, Legal guides, Legal advice
$79 per month
Essentials: $288, legal advice: $828
You can view samples for free and you can create your first document for free.
Choose an annual plan from just $288 and get unlimited revisions to your legal or business documents. Plus, unlock exclusive partner offers.
LawDepot
Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
$4.99 per month
$59.88
Free one week trial available which gives access to hundreds of documents.
Customise and download legal documents in as little as five minutes. Plus, LawDepot offers peace of mind with two service guarantees.
Legal123
Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
Varies per template
N/A
No
Legal123 offers a range of individual templates or document packages for consultants, app developers, personal trainers and more.
LegalVision
Legal documents and templates, Legal guides, Legal advice
$49 + GST per week
$2,548 + GST
No
Your business can take advantage of unlimited lawyer consultations, fast turnaround times and free legal templates with LegalVision.
Law Central
Legal documents and templates, Legal guides
Free for the Silver membership
Gold: $99
You can view samples and create your own document for free with the Silver membership.
Law Central offers a large number of legal templates for super, trusts, estate planning, employment and commercial uses.
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How much to charge customers

You can charge your clients by the hour or offer a flat fee per project. On Airtasker, for example, graphic designers typically charge between $50-$500 per project. The equivalent median per hour is $50.

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Frequently asked questions

Is starting a graphic design business expensive?

If you don't have a background in graphic design, you'll first want to pursue training in the area and this can be costly depending on the course you take. However, if you already have a background in the field, your biggest costs will be equipment purchases, including a quality computer as a starter.

How can I make more profit?

You can make your business more profitable through collaborations. For example, you could collaborate with a marketing and advertising agency to offer add-on graphic design services to the clients they already have. Similarly, you can collaborate with another graphic design business owner who specialises in a niche different from yours to offer comprehensive design solutions.

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