Transition from Freelance to Product-Based Business as a Designer (Guide)

Last year I've made the transition and switched from my service business completely over to my digital product business.

Jan 6, 2024

5 min

Eventually, you are a designer who is currently freelancing for certain clients and making money exactly with that. But have you ever thought that there is another way of making money online as a designer without the need to deliver services that are bound to your time?

I’m sure you have heard from many people selling digital products online and making thousands of Dollars with it. Some just as a side hustle, others as a full-time income.

I’m one of the second groups since last year. I’ve worked endlessly to achieve my biggest goal in my design career. Complete freedom when it comes to time, money, and location. I’m currently making a living from selling Framer templates online. It brings me a monthly revenue of about $5-7K.

Previously I worked at agencies and freelanced myself. I was in this trap of selling my valuable time and just didn’t find a way out.

Until 2022. "When my way crossed Framer. In case you don’t know Framer, it’s a visual web development platform, that has recently pivoted from a design prototyping tool into this new web builder. It became my favorite tool of choice in a few weeks when it comes to designing and building websites (at the same time). Since the tool was very new at that time, there were plenty of opportunities around. I started to create my first templates and freelanced for a few companies. Nothing wild. I also started a few other projects, some of them failed. But one thing sticked: Selling templates. So I built more and more templates. Until the end of 2023, I’ve made $55K with it. And this was the moment I decided to double down on my products and leave the service space for now, since my monthly revenue was enough to live from, even in such an expensive country as Switzerland.

I’ve reached one of the biggest goals I’ve had when I was still an employee or freelancer. I’m now an independent designer and founder of 3 businesses. Of course, my goals changed, and I’m not even close to where I wanna be now.

But I want to explain to you how I’ve made this transition possible.

Create your first product

I assume you are having some sort of monthly income. Either a job or an existing service business. For now, you must be keeping this revenue stable and consistent. You need it because building a product business needs some upfront work that isn’t paid and takes a while to pick up.

Now it’s time to create your first product.

Ideally, it’s something you are very good at already, so you won’t need to learn the skill first. This can be graphic assets like 3D models or fonts, web design goods such as design systems or templates, or motion graphics if you are a motion designer. As you can see, this is totally up to your skill. In my case, it was prebuilt website templates since I had experienced skills in creating websites with low-code software, such as Webflow and Framer. And web/UI design skills, since I am a software designer.

Build it in public

I believe you are starting from zero, exactly as I did. No followers, no audience. To launch a successful digital product, we need an audience to sell it to. Makes sense right? If no one knows that you have launched a product, how should it be sold?

As you can see, you need to build an audience on the way while building your first product.

This means I want you to share sneak peeks, thoughts, work-in-progress screenshots, and designs from the upcoming product you are working on. As a social platform, I recommend Twitter, LinkedIn or TikTok. (Newly also Threads). Those platforms enable us to make use of so-called network effects (other people reposting your posts). Make sure that people like and repost it. This will attract more people who end up as followers in the best case.

While you are sharing your work, it will automatically attract the right people who are even potential buyers once you launch your product.

Continue sharing until you’ve created your product. Then, prepare it for distribution by putting it on a payment platform such as Lemon Squeezy, Gumroad, or Stripe. In the end, you should be able to just add your product’s payment link on your website and social channels, so people can easily buy it.

Read more in this article if you need more information on how to use social media to grow your business.

Launch with a boom

Until now you should already have a decent amount of followers. To launch your product, create a catchy post that briefly explains what your product is and what it can solve for your audience.

Also add the link to your product in this post, so everyone has access to buy it.

This post should have the goal that as many people as possible are reposting it. So go with either a very catchy copy, or experiment with contests, giveaways, etc.

Using media like images or videos also helps a lot to make the post even more attractive. I’m launching with a promo video nearly every time.

Promote your product (consistently)

Now as your product hopefully sells, it’s important that you are also promoting it here and there again after the launch, otherwise it might get missed by your audience.

Share videos of you explaining how to use the product, share small but important details of it, share testimonials, and listen to customer feedback.

If you get critical feedback from existing customers, improve the quality of your product as well, and share the updates on your socials.

You now have built your first revenue stream in the digital products sector, congrats! 👏🏼

Repeat & scale

Once you have your first product set up, it is time for another one so you can scale your business up. You can repeat this process of building in public and grow your audience even more.

If things go well and right, you should generate a good amount of money after a few months. Build more products until you reach the point that your revenue is enough. Depending on your country of residence, you find yourself making enough money from digital products that you can make a living from it.

For myself, it took me 8 Framer templates and 8000 Twitter followers to make a living. In your situation, these numbers might be different, and that’s fine!

Now as you are making a living with digital products, you can quit your job, or your freelance business. Huge congrats! You now achieved time, location, and financial freedom! 👏🏼

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