Most graphic designers work under the client-hire umbrella: they market their services to those who need their designs but never realize profits above and beyond the originally commissioned work. While it's a great gig for some and a highly lucrative profession for many, it's not the only way to make money as a graphic designer.
Graphic design actually offers many opportunities to earn a relatively passive income, and one such opportunity is to print posters for sale. If you're like many graphic designers, your artwork started out as a hobby before it became a career; and you probably still enjoy crafting original, non-client funded masterpieces. Market these works as posters, and you can easily print your way to profit. The following article demonstrates how you can design, sell and print commercial posters for a secondary or full-time income source.
Test your niche
Successfully printing posters for sale can be a difficult path, particularly for the unestablished who do not have a contact for breaking into the business. One great way to leapfrog the competition is to test your niche before you bring anyone else on board. Design a few posters in your favorite topic, or at least with subjects you believe to be marketable and enjoy working with.
Next, print posters - a handful of each - for distribution. Then approach smaller, high-traffic shops located where your target audience shops and see if you can place your posters in the rack in exchange for a profit share. It might be difficult to find favor with a nationwide company early on, so partnering with smaller mom 'n' pop shops will make it easier for you to get your work in front of your customer base.
Track what sells and what doesn't so you can start building a loyal customer base from a single niche.
When you first started out you had an assumption of what might sell and who it might sell to, but after you tested your niche you should know beyond a shadow of a doubt what sells and who buys it. Armed with this information, you can set up your own poster shop via your own website and/or sites such as Ebay and Etsy. You will have to market your work, but this will become easier since you know who to target.
You can also continue to target mom 'n' pop shops, and you can also start seeking licensing deals with larger retail establishments. In each scenario you'll have to continue to print posters, enough to deal with the demand, but you should start to get a good sense for sales volume. When you know this, you can print ahead and save money at the printing press, which will make your endeavor more profitable.
Go even bigger
If you have great artwork and are already selling posters to an established market at a predictable rate of profit, it's time to hit the big time by seeking licensing deals with large-poster distributors, manufacturers and retail chain outlets such as Wal-Mart. When you make it to this step the actual poster production will likely be out of your hands, and you will be paid for the sale of your artwork. This is where a poster artist can truly make serious money from original designs. You can try to jump to this step out of the gate, but if you already have achieved success it will be far easier to ink profitable deals for yourself.