A sketchpad is a designer’s friend – always present, ready when inspiration strikes to take down an idea for a logo, a postcard or just any whimsical image. Sometimes these doodles make their way into a graphic design assignment for a client, but other times they just don’t fit a specific project. What to do with all that extra creativity? Earn a little cash on the side!

Somewhere I believe there is an Island of Misfit Designs. It contains Moleskine notebooks filled with sketches that never found a home – graphics that didn’t match a company’s vision. But all that effort doesn’t have to be for naught – below are a handful of outlets for your creativity. Not only can you make some money off your rejected work, but you also might earn some new business!


This popular website has a huge catalog of unique T-shirts emblazoned with designs submitted by anyone. The Threadless community votes on its favorites, and winners get their submissions printed on shirts – along with $2,000. Pop culture references, trendy owls and ninjas as well as gorgeous illustrations reign on this site, so scan the pages of shirts in categories such as Zombies, Ironic, Typography and Bikes and then submit your graphic designs that have the most chance of getting votes. Don’t forget to rally your networking crew to vote for your submission!



Etsy has become a full-time job for some crafty people, but it can also be a way to come up with new mediums for your graphic design on the side. Think about printing greeting cards or stickers – something you can do affordably – with one of your bold images or witty statements. Then set up a shop on Etsy, which provides you with an easy-to-navigate page in which you provide photos of your wares and descriptions. Signing up is free, and fees are minimal: 20 cents to list an item for four months and a 3.5 percent transaction fee for each item of yours that is sold.


CafePressand Zazzle

But maybe you don’t have any spare cash to invest in products – that’s where CafePress and Zazzle come in. You set up your own gallery on each site and choose your design to be on T-shirts, posters, mugs or an array of other products. Visitors to each site can then find your items. Each site has different levels of shops, so you can spend a little to make more or simply opt for the free shops.


99 Designsand Brandstack

99 Designs is aimed at businesses rather than consumers. Companies hold contests by submitting a design brief, and then designers enter their submissions for prize money. The company chooses the winner as well as a prize amount. Categories include logos, web design, merchandise and more. Meanwhile, Brandstack has the same idea as 99 Designs but in reverse – graphic designers submit their logos, and companies sift through the site until they find one that meshes with their vision. It’s free to sign up with Brandstack, and you get 85 percent commission when your design is purchased.


About the Author

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Mirko Humbert is the editor-in-chief and main author of Designer Daily and Typography Daily. He is also a graphic and web designer based in Fribourg, Switzerland, as well as the co-founder of We Jobshare.