5 Ways to Monetize Your Old Designs

By . Filed in Web 2.0

After a couple of years as a freelance designer, you’re going to build up quite a collection of work you’ve done for clients, and ideally, for yourself as well. If you have a bunch of old designs, it seems like a waste to let them just sit on your hard drive, doing nothing.

There’s a good chance you could be making some extra money on the side from these designs. And there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. Let’s have a look at 5 tips on how you can do just that.

1. Make Sure You Have The Rights To Your Work

First, you have to make sure you have legal permission to reproduce old client work. If you don’t, either get it or skip that particular project. Even if you own certain reproduction rights, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have the right to repurpose or even alter your own work.

If someone has bought the exclusive rights to reproduce the work, then you are not allowed to do anything with it (however, I hope you got paid a whole lot of money for those rights). This is where a good contract comes in handy. You want to always be aware of exactly which rights you’re giving over to your client, and which ones you’d be better off retaining.

The fewer rights you need to give away, the better. Non-exclusive reproduction rights should be enough for the majority of client projects, unless it’s a logo or something specific to the company’s brand.

2. Selling Prints

This is the most obvious course of action. Plenty of people enjoy purchasing prints of designs they like to decorate their homes and offices. If you have a style that grabs attention and your pieces would look good framed and hung up on a wall, then selling prints of your work is the way to go.

Of course, printing on paper is just one way you can sell prints. There are many websites now that will print your design on just about any type of merchandise, as well as handle the production and shipping for you, whether you want to print on a sticker sheet, a t-shirt, a coffee mug, or a throw pillow.

3. Licensing

This is potentially the most lucrative option, and – go figure – it’s also the most difficult to do successfully. The basic idea behind licensing is: you find a company that’s already manufacturing products that your designs would look good on, and convince them to reproduce your designs on those products.

In exchange, you receive a percentage of the royalties, about 8 to 10 percent. With licensing, you make money every time your licensee sells a product with your design on it. Also, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of manufacturing or fulfillment. The licensee handles all of that for you.

In order to make any real money from licensing, you or your licensee will need to have some sort of brand recognition. If both of you are relatively unknown, you’re going to have a difficult time making enough sales to cover the cost of production. Your licensee may decide that it’s not worth the time and money to license your designs, and you will be dropped.

To prevent that from happening, you need to do your part to help market your designs to your own platform. The more buzz you can create around your designs, the more excited people will be to purchase them.

4. Showing In Galleries

Now, you may be thinking “wait a second, I’m not some fine art painter who shows their work in galleries. I’m a designer, darn it.” But let me explain. Even if you’re not an artist, some of your more artsy or conceptual design pieces can still appeal to gallery buyers.

You never know what collectors will be willing to pay for. And who knows – you may find yourself in demand more for your “art” pieces than you were for your design services. Not a bad gig, really.

Shop around for the most appropriate places to show your work. The thing you need to know about most galleries is that they keep around 50% of all profits earned by the sale of a work. That means, if your piece sells for $1000, you only get to keep $500.

But in exchange, you get to say that your work has been shown in galleries and is owned by art collectors. This may seem frivolous, but believe me, it can lend a lot of legitimacy and value to your personal brand.

5. Don’t Forget To Market Yourself

Whether you sell prints, license, or show in galleries, it’s very hard to make any sales without promoting yourself. So don’t forget about marketing and building an audience for your work. Consider blogging or social media to reach out to people who might be interested in buying.

Cultivate a presence online that people can see and appreciate – let them get to know the designer behind the curtain, as it were.

What other ways can you think of to earn extra profit from your design work? Have you tried any of the above methods, and if so, how did it work out for you? Share your insights in the comments.

Author:

Addison is the author of Food Identities, a blog that explores the crossroads of food, design, and culture. She's written some things, designed other things, and eaten a whole lot of food.

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