Expanding Your Design Empire: 7 Other Careers that Benefit from Design Knowledge

Web design is a field that, while saturated, is very likely to keep expanding in the years to come. More businesses are moving online, more major companies and brands are embracing the internet as a business tool, and far more individuals are adapting their one-person businesses to incorporate the internet into their strategy.

Despite this ongoing growth in demand, the never-ending competition in the web design world can make it difficult to create a highly profitable business. Sure, thousands of designers carve out a comfortable business online, but the level of designers that are truly excelling in business is quite slim. There’s a big difference between a lifestyle business and an ultra-valuable one, and many designers who are currently enjoying a comfortable business want to push their business up to the next level.

These seven careers are best when combined with design knowledge. For any web designer that’s looking to expand their business, incorporate new avenues into their career, or merely experiment with something new, they could be the best places to start. From online side-businesses to long-term offline career options, these seven career choices can go hand-in-hand with an online design business.


The publishing world is in a bizarre state. Book sales are steady and constant, yet they’re still nowhere near the huge sales that mainstream films and albums achieve. However, with new publishing platforms like the Amazon Kindle – and soon the Apple iPad – publishing companies are looking at new ways to get their content online, available, and in the hands of potential customers.

This is where design is going to come in. When books are viewed as more than just printed media, but as a full-featured digital product, the value of design is going to be raised significantly. Rather than focusing on the same old website design projects, a number of designers would be best off predicting trends in publishing and setting themselves up as digital book designers, cover artists, or even application programmers.

PR, Marketing, and Offline Promotions

PR, Marketing, and Offline Promotions
Online and offline PR requires a direct understanding of what people do. Offline PR experts spend years predicting how their media contacts will react to a certain call, how to approach new clients, and how to secure deals and generate exposure for the people that they work with. These skills might seem entirely foreign to designers accustomed to working on a per-project basis, but in reality they’re not all that unusual.

Whenever you take on a web design project, you’re negotiating with clients and learning exactly what’s required. If you’ve worked with high profile clients before, you’ve even built up some knowledge of how media heavyweights operate. The ability to design and create marketing materials gives you a real advantage – the ability to baseline and start an online PR side business inexpensively.


Today, almost all animation is digital. While Pixar-style operations are outside the financial bounds of most marketers, almost all other digital animation is inexpensive and relatively easy to grow accustomed to, especially when you already have a level of design skill. While major animation can take millions of dollars in startup capital and years of experience, a wide range of online businesses are seeking basic animators for videos and company marketing materials. As a side-business opportunity, online animation is backed by a lot of growth potential.

Online Marketing

Online Marketing
Speaking of growth potential, few online businesses have more potential to scale massively than online marketing operations. From affiliate products to Adsense websites, the world of online marketing is wide, miles-high, and packed with potential to turn a valueless website into a powerful advertising resource.

While most designers focus exclusively on delivering websites for clients, few dedicate their time to their own online projects. A client project might bring in one-off income and stability, but it rarely brings in long-term recurring income. Most web designers have more than enough knowledge to put together a powerful CPA-powered website, which can bring in long-term income far beyond that of any short-term project.

Application Programming

Application Programming
Applications have changed dramatically in the last ten years, and they’re still changing. Ten years ago, you’d fire up Microsoft Word to take care of any documents, Powerpoint to cover your presentations, and Excel to graph out how much you’d bill your clients.

Now, you can write your documents in Google Docs, create presentations in Prezi, and deliver invoices online through Billings or Freshbooks. Rather than being local and limited, applications are online, open, and very user-friendly.

This might seem like a curse for any designer, but it’s really an opportunity. Big business used to be focused around offline applications, and now it’s focused very precisely on online applications. Rather than focusing exclusively on websites, marketing materials, and visual projects for clients, it could be worth focusing on online application design.

Direct Sales

Direct Sales
As Alec Baldwin so eloquently put it in Glengarry Glen Ross, sales is all about one thing – getting people to “sign on the line that is dotted.” While designers operate on a slightly different level and with a slightly different skill-set, we’re also salespeople in a way. We approach clients, deal with their needs and requirements, and ultimately push them towards a project that’s mutually beneficial.

We’re also salespeople in another way. When hired to create a commercial website, we’re expected to ensure that it’s user-friendly, commercially viable, and highly optimized as a sales and organizing tool. Google Analytics exists for a reason – to help us get the most from our commercial websites. In many ways, most web designers already have the mindset, knowledge, and application required to succeed in direct sales.

Webmaster – Own Projects

Webmaster - Own Projects
It’s never advantageous to run a business that depends on other people for revenue and success. While service businesses are an effective way to generate income, they’re also quite limiting. Almost all web designers have the skills required to create and control their own websites, yet very few put the time into creating their own portfolio of monetized websites.

Whenever you’re faced with a client drought and a shortage of direct work, don’t look at it as a lack of opportunity. The most successful web designers aren’t just designers – they’re webmasters too. A lack of short-term clients or ongoing work is really an opportunity to expand your design skills into different areas, primarily your own online properties. Dedicate some out-of-work time to creating your own websites, and in a year or two you could have some high-earning online properties of your own.

Your Turn To Talk

What do you think? Have you considered expanding your design business? In what ways? Please take a moment to share your thoughts with the rest of us. :)


  1. Drew says

    At the moment I’m still at school, aged 13 and looked at as a abnoxious silly little boy to strangers, just as you probably look at most teens. But I’m different, already decided on what I want to achieve in life and also quite a bit more maturer.

    I’n hoping I’ll be able to move on to college, then unerversity, and become a designer AND webmaster, this’ll give more to do at the peak tiems of design projects, aswell as extra work to do during projects. I have a friend who would be able to help out and obvioulsy get part of the shares if necessary.

    I know where I want to go.


  2. Niubi says

    There’s also scope for writing – most designers are creative enough to come up with some good copy, and talented enough to put 2 + 2 together to create an alluring portfolio item. There’s also good internet opportunities with places like DubLi Network for the more entrepreneurial amongst us.

  3. says

    I think many times that it would actually be more fun, to work in a related field, that could benefit from my design experience. If you are a designer working for a design studio your daily challenges can be frustrating at times, what we do is so custom which comes with a lot of unknown variables. That can make the design process frustrating, But imagine if you where designing for yourself, like if you where in direct sales or launching your own project. You will have complete creative freedom to do what you want to see instead of catering to the whims and fancies of the client you are working for…

    Thanks and Regards

    Noel for Nopun.com
    a graphic design studio

  4. says

    Great post, a good insight into different directions that we can all take. I beleive that all designers should set up side line ventures. I’ve set up the classic one (a t-shirt store) and am about to launch my own blog.

  5. says

    I often wonder if I made The right choice. with a programming and design background I somehow ended up printing shirts for a living. Nice post I may have to take a second look.

  6. Eric says

    Just wanted to comment on the next to last paragraph – All businesses depend on other people for revenue and success. There are no exceptions to that. You have to get clients as a freelance web designer, and if you work for an agency, the agency has to get clients. If you sell furniture, guess what? People have to buy the furniture for you to have any revenue and any chance at success. No matter what it is, EVERY business completely relies on other people.

    Just had to put that out there. I’m surprised to see anyone with the mindset that some business can operate without depending on other people. Maybe you worded that incorrectly? Maybe you just woke up when you wrote that part? But I don’t want anyone to get the idea that you can operate a business or even work for a business that doesn’t, in the end, completely depend on other people.


  1. Expanding Your Design Empire: 7 Other Careers that Benefit from Design Knowledge…

    These seven careers are best when combined with design knowledge. For any web designer that’s looking to expand their business, or merely experiment with something new, they could be the best places to start….

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