How to Start a Graphic Design Business (2023)

In this article, you will get a walkthrough of the 5 steps you need to start a successful graphic design business in 2023.

It’s the next step every designer dreams of and offers an increase in design skills and personal growth as a business owner.

This post will walk you through :

  • Systems to put together to start a graphic design business.
  • Actionable guides you can take to implement for each system as you read.
  • Factors like the cost of starting a business in design.

Your 5 must-do steps To Start a Graphic Design Business In 2024

  1. Assessment :
  2. Structure setup
  3. Authenticity
  4. Client hunting:
  5. Client Retention:
  6. Scaling:

Ready to learn all these and establish a successful business? Let’s go.

The points below are sourced from interviews with with successful freelance graphic design businesses.

Our interviews with them showed these factors below as the most important when starting a design business.

1. Assessment : Ready To Leave?

Starting a design business is the dream of every designer working agency or doing a gig every now and then.

It’s like a fruit on a tree; you are bound to drop and start up your own business someday. But the question isn’t if you will but if you can ?

Here’s how you know?

  • Side gig demand:  When Side gigs eat considerably into office time and demand equal attention
  • Side Earnings: When Earnings from side gigs raise to a an amount almost equaling your main pay
  • Skill:  Place of work offers no more opportunities for skill growth,
  • Leadership skill:  You possess critical skills to manage clients directly or motivate employees.

These factors help you determine if  you’re meant to leave and start up your own graphic design business or if you need more time learning the ropes.

It helps you tick must-have checkboxes and know if you’re ready to kick start your dreams and have funds to to take care of yourself  during the early stages of your business.

Ready to set up shop? The next steps show you the exact things you need to make your graphic design business legit.

2. Structure Setup 

Graphic design businesses offer several design services, e.g., print, consultancy, web design, social media graphics, etc. ; it’s crucial to determine what type your business will offer.

It’s easy to assume you already know your offering to the market but it never hurts to do a recheck.

Here are 4 ways to determine  your business offer:

  • Passion: What are you passionate about? UI/UX, social media design, web design, etc. Working according to a design passion increases your chances of success.
  • Earning potential: What’s the earning potential of your chosen field, what skills do you have to generate value for clients?
  • Define clients: Who do you want to work with as your graphic design business starts? Startups, coaches, fully established businesses, NGOs, small and medium-scale businesses.
  • Identify their problems: What problems do your target audiences face? Build your business around responding to these problems.

Established freelance design businesses are relevant when tailored to real-life problems and solving these to bring value. Knowing your business, clients, and adapting your business accordingly helps your business become a  relatable to clients.

Look good storm ahead to get those who pay – clients.

3. Legal Setup

A design business differs from side gig endeavors; there are documents and paperwork that offer your business a legal status, provide credibility and also protection to your business.

Here’s what you need to make your design business accepted as one:

  • Registration: Business registration at the CAC to secure your business name.
  • Bookkeeping: Monitoring and recording cash flows to understand the financial health of your business and even offer this to investors.
  • Insurance: Take creative insurances to protect your business from lawsuits e.g., professional indemnity and protect your creative outputs. Legal documents seem a stretch when working as a freelancer but creative businesses are expected to work on a larger scale and more complex projects. These legal steps ensure protection for your business when mishaps occur.
  • Taxes: Know much taxes are determined by businesses in your areas, there might be tax cuts to take advantage of?

Graphic design businesses often work with clients on terms e.g. retainers or project based and  having the right legal backing helps you stay protected and ensure fair pay.

You also want to present your business as credible which tools like registration and corporate bank accounts do for you.

4. Client Hunting:

Client search brings in individuals who keep your business running,  offer a sense of fulfillment and a place to make good work.

The client search can be a daunting task to freelance graphic designers when done wrong…. it’s a series of proven strategies not jaw breaking methods like a hundred emails a week.

Here are 4 proven strategies for seeking clients:

  • Utilize SEO: Optimize online profiles for your business to include keywords related to your service and location e.g., design business in Lagos, design business in Connecticut.
  • Socialize: Attend events or gatherings with business people where your services are needed e.g tech events.
  • Send cold emails: Identify dream businesses requiring your services and send cold emails to decision-makers.
  •  content creation: Put out content on a podcast on social media detailing areas of your business like approach or interactions with fellow designers, industry knowledge, etc.

Clients as you start your graphic design business provide funds to keep the lights up and scale your business. Utilize the tips above or check out more marketing tips for landing clients.

5. Keep Clients:

As it starts off maintaining clients is for your business is essential; it helps you spend less time and money sourcing new ones and concentrate on improving your output.

Statistics show that the cost of acquiring new clients is 5x more than the cost of retaining existing ones and recurring clients spend 33% more than new ones.

In essence, keep your clients closer to start a graphic design business.

Here are 4 sure ways to keep your clients longer:

  • Customer service: Offering reliable customer experience is the most successful way to keep clients coming back. Communicate clearly and utilize empathy to show understanding
  • Improved output: Creating works for clients that improve profit margins or adds to their social capital is a great way to retain them.
  • Engage outside work: Find out birthday dates, use systems for noting these dates and sending scheduled messages to stay top of mind with clients.
  • Keep them abreast: Just as you pop out on their notable dates keep clients abreast of your business activities and milestones.

6. Scale and Expand

Scaling helps your business take the next big step, strengthen design muscles for something stronger. For many graphic design businesses, scaling could take different forms.

Here are sure killer ways to scale up your business:

  • Hiring: Take in required hands  to increase the amount of work executed by your business.
  • Focus on improving offering: Add more value services to clients to increase revenue? For instance designing for social media could include marketing too.
  • Pay for resources: Paid resources like photo stock libraries offer faster turnaround times and better output.

Scaling is a deliberate attempt at improving revenue and efficiency of your businesses and helps anyone starting a graphic design business.

Is A Graphic Design Business Profitable?

Yes a Graphic design business is profitable. The industry is worth $45 Billion in 2023 and set to increase in its valuation. The key thing here is an improvement of players in the creative industry.

These improvements could be in soft skills to help communicate better with clients, technical skills to utilize design software for better output or marketing to seek and retain clients.

As, the value of your services to clients  increase you should start to see an increase in how much you charge and how much design makes.

How Much Does It cost to start a Graphic Design Business?

Sources like Freshbooks say it Cost $2000 t-$10000 for a graphic design startup however a graphic design business can be started with no funds at all.

Here are must-have tools:

  • Laptops
  • Knowledge of design principles and graphic design skills
  • Internet connection for seeking new clients and maintaining existing ones.
  • Access to online training for graphic designers to make use of for free
  • Mentors

Start a Successful Business in 2024

In Nigeria there are over 4.2 million individual engaged in it’s creative industry, its safe to say that each s a graphic design business on its own .

Your interest in starting a business won’t be the first bit it can be a long lasting one in comparison to the 80 percent of businesses that fail in the first five years.

The steps  outlined above will help you do this

Here’s a recap :

  • Know if you’re ready,
  • define your business,
  • setup structure ,
  • find  clients
  • keep them
  • expand so you can do more

Check out the original interview spring boarding this topic for some juicy insight.

Will you be starting a business in design soon? Let us know in the comment section.

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