Generating $15K/Month In Extra Income With A Graphic Design Library

Alexandru Dumitru
Founder, Designious
$15K
revenue/mo
3
Founders
2
Employees
Designious
from Bucharest, Romania
started March 2008
$15,000
revenue/mo
3
Founders
2
Employees
102K
alexa rank
3.9K
followers
162
subs
market size
$3B
avg revenue (monthly)
$32.5K
starting costs
$19.4K
gross margin
83%
time to build
300 days
growth channels
Facebook Community
best tools
Canva, Twitter, Shutterstock
time investment
Full time
pros & cons
34 Pros & Cons
tips
2 Tips
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi, I am Alex Dumitru and I am a co-founder at Designious. Designious is a graphic design library that provides extra tools like an online designer app and an API that helps both graphic designers and print-on-demand entrepreneurs. At the moment we make around $12-13k per month.

Our library and tools are used to create different types of products and clothing items like t-shirts and hoodies but also posters or mugs.

My background is in IT and business development, but I’ve worn many hats along the way, from sales to customer support.

generating-15-000-month-in-extra-income-with-a-graphic-design-library

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Back in 2007 I and my colleagues Viorel Popescu and Ciprian Dragut started a design studio. Our background was not in design but we hired some talented folks.

We were creating a lot of designs for different marketplaces and clients that were not becoming part of the projects we were working on. As this library got bigger and bigger in 2008 we tinkered with the idea of a website where we would publish all these designs and that’s how designious.com was born.

We’ve built presentation websites before for our other businesses but not a website to sell digital products, it was a great challenge to take on and start a journey that continues today.

The first iteration was very generic and it took a few weeks to build with mostly open-source eCommerce software but it worked. We got sales from the first month we launched. SEO was way easier than now and the competition was very small in the niche we were in.

Trends are good to follow when new technologies come out as there are very few competitors but building a business on top of a trend might be hard as you don’t know how it lasts.

It was built as a side project, something to tinker with from time to and make some money on the side. For all this time it remained as a side project but also a launching ramp for all our other successful projects.

The investment was small as we’ve created the website from the ground up, we were entirely bootstrapped.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

The first products that we had on the website were vector sets in different categories. We were creating based on what we and other designers used more often but also harder to design. At that moment we had some amazing designers working for us and their work helped with the growth of the company and our projects.

Design Process

A lot of our designs were hand-drawn first, then scanned and turned into digital designs in Illustrator. Again, we were hiring artists to create this stuff, not necessarily graphic designers.

Usually, the design process started with the brainstorming session where we would throw ideas about how the design should look like. After we have some rough ideas the designer would get started and start the design process on paper creating a couple of sketches. After that, the winning sketches would be further improved and then scanned and finished in Adobe Illustrator. From there to the finishing design would probably take one or two revisions to be done.

Hiring

Most of the staff we would hire directly from the university, either students or people that just graduated from an art university. It was easy to find talented designers that wanted to learn to create using digital tools and graphic tablets.

When it comes to hiring experienced graphic designers it’s a bit of a different story but we would attract them from other companies offering a more creative work environment, also freedom so that they could express themselves through their designs. Artists love to be unique and the freedom to create what you want trumps over other things.

Serve a small niche or category and if you do it well you will find ways to grow either horizontally or vertically and grow the business no matter how small the niche is.

It’s easy to teach someone how to use Adobe Illustrator or a graphic tablet, but it’s much harder to teach someone to create a design by hand. We were lucky enough to find some amazingly talented folks with lots of creativity.

This process made our designs special and different from others. There was the craftsmanship involved and not only dragging the mouse over the desk and creating a shape on the computer screen.

generating-15-000-month-in-extra-income-with-a-graphic-design-library

Describe the process of launching the business.

Honestly, there wasn’t much of a launch, we just created a website, added the digital products, and hoped for the best. We talked about it on some forums, social media wasn’t what it is today. We also added the website to different directories for designers. Directories were how people were discovering new things in 2008.

We also made a few of our designs available for free download. People could test the quality before buying by using the free stuff first. Some loved it and bought the bigger design sets.

We made a few hundred dollars in the first month and that fueled us to create more products and resources.

The biggest lesson we learned is that once you start and keep going you gain momentum, and that’s when the magic happens. If you keep pushing forward some cards are in your favor and help you grow. Consistency is what pushes you forward, you don’t need to do big things every day or every week, and brick by brick you build a house.

The business was bootstrapped and still is, we never had to get outside investment or credit to build the business. The products and services we launched were self-sustained.

generating-15-000-month-in-extra-income-with-a-graphic-design-library

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

For this type of business adding new items to the website always helps, designers and the like always look for new trends and styles. To attract visitors we use a combination of SEO, writing articles, free tools, and paid traffic. Newsletters work great to let people know about what we do and when we launch new design items.

Freebies

generating-15-000-month-in-extra-income-with-a-graphic-design-library

For SEO we try to be descriptive about the design and what it's about, how to use it, and link to other resources that are helpful for the design.

Tools and Resources

We constantly create cool resources that our customers can use in their businesses.

Like we’ve created a marketing calendar, a list of niches to help them start a business we even created a how to start a Print on Demand business tutorial using simple and mostly free software and tools.

generating-15-000-month-in-extra-income-with-a-graphic-design-library

These resources are created by solving little problems our customers have beyond their need for designs. Sometimes it takes just a few hours of research, sometimes it’s more complicated than that but the result is worth it to keep the customers coming back.

The articles we create must teach you something that you can use right away. There is too much content out there that is useless and we want to be more straightforward when it comes to publishing.

We’ve created simple tools and resources that help customers make more money with courses, or design quicker with our Online Designer. We also converted our library to PNG to help those that don’t use Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw to be able to use our designs.

We always strive to deliver a quality product and we work only with top designers. At this point, there is a lot of competition in the space we're in but we manage to get through the noise. Over time we’ve introduced different ways to help our customers achieve what they want faster and easier.

generating-15-000-month-in-extra-income-with-a-graphic-design-library

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

The website is profitable, we make around $13k on average per month and over 60% is profit. We provide users with a membership that gives them access to our entire library at a flat fee instead of paying per great item. That helps us also to have some predictability when it comes to income.

Digital products are great as you don’t need to worry about them too much, once you create them they bring value for a long time.

At the moment we are working on bringing in more products from other talented designers around the world and we will open Designious as a small marketplace and expand our product offering with more tools that help designers and print-on-demand enthusiasts. Hopefully, in January 2022 we will launch this and have at least 100 new designers on the platform in the first quarter.

Lately, the traffic is lower as we didn’t focus on doing a lot of promotion. We have around 12k visitors per month. We plan to hire a couple of people and grow our marketing efforts to earn back traffic and reach more audiences with our products.

We spend a few hours a week working on Designious, mostly adding new items to the website and creating a weekly newsletter. There are a few tickets per day to solve but that doesn’t take more than 30 minutes. In total, I think there are about 15-20 hours in total to manage everything, so it’s pretty light.

generating-15-000-month-in-extra-income-with-a-graphic-design-library

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Being focused on one thing only and not being distracted by the new shining object is key when starting a new business. Serve a small niche or category and if you do it well you will find ways to grow either horizontally or vertically and grow the business no matter how small the niche is.

Trends are good to follow when new technologies come out as there are very few competitors but building a business on top of a trend might be hard as you don’t know how it lasts.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

A few tools we use are:

  • WooCommerce for how easy it is to create a website and start selling things online.
  • Mailerlitefor email newsletters.
  • DropSpace, our new tool for image processing and background removal.
  • Socialbee for social media scheduling.
  • Integromatfor business automation and integrations.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Drive by Stephen Pink on what motivates people and how to use that in your favor. The Lean Startup by Eric Rieson how to start a business quickly.

Ikigai by Hector Garcia & Francesc Miralles is about happiness and doing what you love. I only listen to a couple of podcasts now, one of them is My first million with Shaan Puri and Sam Parr, highly recommended if you are a new entrepreneur.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Solve a problem first, not the other way around. I see a lot of people creating solutions and then finding a problem to fit the solution they’ve created and it doesn’t work.

Consistency is key and people give up too soon sometimes, and I am guilty of this as well. Usually, marketing & sales are killing companies. If you get money in the bank by selling your product or service the rest of the problems are solvable.

Also, I love the Ikigai concept in the book I mentioned earlier, love what you do, love the process itself as well as the outcome.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

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Alexandru Dumitru, Founder of Designious
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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