side hustleMaking money from a side hustle

The side hustle has become a popular way to get extra revenue. It’s estimated 7 million Australians have an additional income stream outside their main job. That’s more than 50% of the workforce. So what does this mean for a design business owner?

For a start it means there’s a fair chance half your team have a side gig. In the design industry this usually means having a few clients they work for, or they’re freelancing for other design firms.

For your business this could be good because they’re getting outside influences that make them more creative.

Start your own side hustle

Many design business owners have planned or tried a side hustle to increase revenue. They often cite being client free as their main motivator. It makes sense; from experience you know how to identify an opportunity, define the market, develop a product or service, develop strategies and design a marketing campaign. Why not do it for yourself?

Design the work you want

From our discussions with design business owners we find side hustles empower them. It puts them in charge of their destiny, which leads to being emotionally and mindfully invested in the side hustle.

Research has shown the motivation for starting a side hustle are desires for pay, prestige, variety, autonomy, socializing and altruism.

This is the key to designing the side hustle you want. Find something that engages your heart and your brain.

Revenue and your side hustle

Deciding on your revenue model is one of the most challenging decisions you will make along with deciding what you’ll actually sell.

A revenue model dictates how you will charge customers for a product or service to generate revenue. Revenue models prioritise the cost effective way to make money.

Revenue models are not to be confused with pricing models, which is when a business considers the products’ value and target audience to establish the best possible price to maximise profits.

There are various revenue models that design businesses use:

Types of revenue models

Recurring revenue model

Recurring revenue model, sometimes called the subscription revenue model, generate revenue by charging customers at specific intervals (monthly, quarterly, annually, etc.) for access to a product or service.

Example: A Sydney based design business started a photo library subscription service for Australian photography. It began when one of the owners took a sabbatical and travelled around Australia.

Affiliate revenue model

Businesses using affiliate revenue models generate revenue through commission because they sell items from other suppliers.

Example: Some design businesses onsell SEO services as an affiliate. White labelling SEO and SEM services has been a profitable practicing for many design agencies.

Advertising revenue model

This model involves selling advertising space to other businesses. It works because the advertiser (who is selling the space) has high traffic and large audiences that the buyer (who is purchasing the space) wants to benefit from to give their business, product, or service visibility.

Example: A Melbourne design business with specialist product knowledge that produces an online trade magazine and sells advertising. In this example the design agency used the magazine as a new business pitch also.

Sales revenue model

The sales revenue model makes money by selling goods and services to consumers, online and in person. This is the most popular side hustle with design business owners.

Example: Four examples just in our network. A Melbourne design firm enjoys all things outdoors manufactures and sells camp chairs. It was the third attempt at a side hustle with each iteration being more refined. A great outcome combining a love of the outdoors and design. Then there’s a Sydney studio that designs and sells NFTs based on a side hustle where they developed the knowledge and expertise to work with NFTs. In Melbourne a branding agency took on a side hustle with a fresh pasta franchise. They traded a share of the business for the brand development. A regional Victorian designer who joined forces with her partner to develop a business making tiny offices. They’re on a journey to make it a design led business.


A side hustle can lead to a client free design led business where the designer become chief design office of their own enterprise.

Want more?

Here’s more information on side hustles:
1 Before taking on a side hustle
2 Side hustle or career investment
3 A collection of articles on side hustle successes

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Greg Branson

Design Business Council
Greg’s passion is the research and development of methods that improve design management and the role of design in business.
Greg has developed a series of processes and tools to help designers manage their business better along with a series of workshops that show designers how to use these tools.

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