10 Files Every Designer Has & Could Start Selling Today
Since the world of a graphic designer is usually done through files and hard drives, it can be easy to forget what kind of things we produce on a regular basis. We make a draft, shove it in a folder somewhere and forget about it, just to find it months later when we’re trying to clear out space on our hard drives. But what if all of those files could make you some money?
It’s all about passive income: the concept where you make cash regularly out of a product that can be resold with minimal intervention. By creating a digital product that requires no actions on your part other than the initial upload and certain distribution tactics, all you have to do is an initial amount of work and then let the sales to come in. It’s why authors with big catalogs can still make money years after they’ve stopped writing. And considering that most of these files you already have sitting on a hard drive somewhere, it seems silly not to use that stuff for profit. Why not, right?
Why not indeed. That’s why I put together a list of the 10 files you’ve already got in your collection that you can use to your advantage. Now get out there and start selling!
(But obviously read this article first.)
I have so many random vector files it’s silly.
Since most of my work is done in Illustrator, there are many projects that I begin and then don’t complete for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s the start of a pattern, or maybe it’s just the rough concept that never comes together the way I want. Or there are also times when I create something that just doesn’t work for me; it’s done, but not up to my standards. So I shelf these things by putting them in folders called “rough” and “drafts”, then move on my way.
You know what those files are? Gold. Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean that someone else will feel the same. In fact, there might be someone out there that wants that same type of design. Why not sell it? Even if it’s for a few bucks, that’s something — which is always better than nothing.
I’m a photographer so, naturally, I have a lot of photos stored on various hard drives. And no, not every designer is a photographer, I understand that. But many of us do dabble in the photography world, and even if we don’t, we’ve all collected photos along the way that we’ve taken. All of them are potential dollar signs.
Let me use myself as an example. My Creative Market shop is tiny at the moment, but in there I have pictures that I’ve taken over the years as I’ve shot photos of trucks and cars. Some of them were done years ago, just while I fooled around with my camera to see what worked and what didn’t. And those little experiments sometimes came out cool, so now I have them for sale. In fact, that’s made me $5 so far.
Now that isn’t a lot of money, admittedly. But my shop has six photos — SIX — and I can continue to make it grow. The more I put up, the more potential I have, and that’s all found money. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a win.
Whenever I make a sticker, I open up Illustrator and I open up one of my many templates and get started. One of them, for example, has my company logo in one corner, a creation date in another, a client name in another, and Pantone-style boxes in the last one. Now that’s targeted at me, sure. But if I made it more generic, I could sell it. And if you have something similar, so could you.
Templates aren’t just about blank pages. You can do templated logos (I’ll get into that later), patterns, mockups, business cards, or any number of things. And all of them could go up for sale. Frankly, I think that’s an excellent idea.
Ever create a texture? It can be kinda fun. Sometimes I combine a few to create something original, or I create one out of whole cloth. And once you create a texture, it’s not always something that you go back to unless it suits the piece, so it can languish on the sidelines. Why not sell it?
Textures are big here at Creative Market, and there’s a reason: people like and need them. So why not sell one of your textures, hmm?
Workflows and Actions
I love actions more than anything. Automation is my jam, and as a result, I have lots of different workflows and actions in both Illustrator and Photoshop. Some of them are highly specialized, but others could be sold. For example, one of mine takes images of a certain size, crops them, then adds specific effects to tailor the image to my liking. It’s just one click to get the results I want.
Take those actions and put them up for sale. I’m telling you, there’s gold in them thar actions.
Going back to the vector thing, occasionally I’ll start up by making an illustration myself — either by hand or on the computer — and then use it for a piece. But the individual item itself is something that I could pluck out of the design and sell on its own. Or, I could take several of those illustrations and combine them into one pack. Or maybe put the illustration in a pattern — see where I’m going here?
Illustrations can be versatile and popular, so chances are if you like something, someone else will, too. Remember, the more flexible an illustration is, the more likely people are to buy it.
I’m not even sure why I’m listing this here, because it’s just so obvious. Every designer has to work with mockups at one point or another, and, if you’re like me, you’re probably not always happy with what you’ve bought. Maybe you cheaped out on a purchase, or you took the freebies that you find online. What I ended up doing was taking my own photos and using those as mockups. And because of that, I now have mockups that I can sell. I’m willing to bet you do, too.
OK, now I’m not personally a web designer, so I can’t vouch for this on my own. But I was talking to a buddy of mine the other day about this article, and he mentioned that he has tons of partially done WordPress themes that he could clean up and sell. See, his job involves making sites for clients, and since many of them want to use WordPress, that’s what he builds. In the process, sometimes designs get turned down, and those sit. Now, he can sell them, just like you can.
That same friend from the paragraph above? He dabbles in font design, as I have, too. Now my results haven’t been super awesome, but his have been, so he’s already putting them up for sale online. And since fonts are just so popular, he’s been making a killing.
Never designed your own font before? Don’t worry, it’s easy. OK, maybe not easy, but it’s totally doable, particularly if you’re a designer (which I assume you are). So get out there and do it!
When I design a logo, there are often lots of versions that either myself or the client turned down. Sometimes they’re highly specific, other times there are elements that I can make my own. And in the case of the latter, those are files that I can sell.
Seriously, you must have been in this scenario before. Just because a client doesn’t like your design, doesn’t mean it’s crap. In fact, it’s possibly good to put up for sale. Just give it a shot, because there’s no reason not to.
Now go sell!
And just like that, I’ve given you 10 ways to make some cash off stuff you already have. The way I see it, I just made all of you millionaires, and for that, I think I deserve something. How’s 10% work for you? 5%? 2%? A crisp high-five? OK fine, I’ll take that last one. But it better be crispy, or I’ll get upset.