Ever stumbled on a website that looked awful? Or been given a business card with a logo that seemed like it was made in Microsoft Paint? Quality graphic design helps build trust with your customers, and it’s equally important for small businesses as it is for larger ones.
Fortunately, it’s not as expensive or time-intensive as you might think to implement a few design changes that can positively impact on your business — whether that’s capturing a new audience, strengthening your brand or closing on sales.
Well-designed content creates a sense of professionalism and helps take your business to the next level. When you need design work done depends on what stage you’re at, but there are a few key instances when graphic design can help:
- Branding and logo design to establish your business’s identity
- Web design so your customers have all the information they need
- Packaging design if you’re selling a physical product
- Advertising design from social media to posters
- Create stylish communication with newsletter designs and email header templates
You have two main options when it comes to fulfilling your design needs as a small business.
- Online tools allow you to create and customize your own designs with a variety of templates for creating websites, social media posts, presentations, newsletters and infographics.
- Freelancer marketplaces connect you with skilled designers with transparent pricing options who will do all the designing for you.
Don’t have a design background? No problem. Many online tools are designed to be intuitive and provide ready-made templates to help you create professional-looking designs.
Most use drag-and-drop technology, allow customizations and can produce a new design in as little as five minutes.
Depending on what you’re working on, some tools are stronger than others. Canva and DesignBold are good all-rounders, but other tools specialize in different aspects of graphic design.
- Adobe Spark
- Gravit Designer
To help you decide, we’ve compared three of the most popular options available below.
- Free plan available
- Share directly to Twitter and Facebook
- 60,000+ templates
- Over 60 million premium stock photos
- Team collaboration
- Free plan available
- Schedule social media posts
- 10,000+ templates
- Over 40 million stock photos at $1 or less and 400,000 for free
- Team collaboration
- Free plan available
- Social media graphics only
- Integrated with scheduling tools like Buffer
- 1,000+ templates
- Over 2 million free stock photos
Many online tools offer a free plan for basic designs with fewer options to incorporate your brand.
For access to premium templates, stock images and the ability to use your brand’s logo, fonts and colors, you could expect to pay from $14 per month.
- Look for tools or paid plans that include images. A tool that has easy access to stock images can save you a lot of time and money. Also, consider where its stock images are sourced from and whether it fits your brand’s aesthetic.
- Don’t edit the templates too much. Remember that a designer was behind creating each template and has a better idea of what works than you do. Try not to stray too far from the original design.
- Don’t be hesitant to upgrade to the paid plan. While free always sounds good, you’ll get what you pay for when it comes to online tools. Many paid plans can save you money in the long run with access to a wider selection of templates, stock images and collaboration tools.
- Experiment with different tools. One tool may work well for one design, but that doesn’t mean it will for all. So, it’s a good idea to test out different tools to see which will suit your varied business needs. You might end up using one tool for social media posts and another for infographics.
- Ideal for quick tasks and small projects
- Templates help create graphics that look professional
- Default functions so you don’t have to design every aspect
- Low-cost with some free options
- Simple editing
- Popular templates can be overused and easy to spot
- Lack of full control means results may not be 100% on-brand
- Less experienced computer users will need a wider learning curve
- Fiddling with design might take longer than you expected
- The free and low-cost options are not as comprehensive as a professional design
An artist’s eye is a difficult skill to learn overnight and for some parts of your business design, you might need a professional to step in. A graphic designer can also consider the aesthetics and psychology that go into a great design plus it might be worth paying someone for the time it will save you in the long run.
While there are several marketplaces available to help you connect with freelancers online, there are three clear platforms that dominate the Internet. We’ve picked out the key features of each to help you decide which is best for your business.
- Reviews and ratings are provided for each seller
- Sellers are protected from fraud chargebacks
- A resolution center is available for any disputes
- Instead of receiving bids like other platforms, you review gigs posted by freelancers
- Ideal for one-off tasks or projects and when you’re not likely to need an ongoing relationship
- View job success scores and previous client feedback
- Freelancer identities are verified by ID and video verification
- Offers a Pro version for access to the top freelancers
- Due to the vetting process, Upwork tends to have a smaller but more qualified pool of candidates
- Browse through samples of previous work and read profile reviews
- Can pay safely using a milestone payment system to release payments according to a schedule
- Also allows design contests so you can pick the design you like best
- You can hire a recruiter to match you with the best candidate
Lili Digital Banking
Designed for freelancers, this no-fee checking account has early direct deposit and sets aside money for taxes.
|Minimum deposit to open
|Minimum balance to earn interest
Most options allow you to post jobs for free and usually charge a processing fee from 3% to 5% on the total billed amount.
Most of these marketplaces are very similar and some freelancers might even offer services on more than one. There are a few things you can take into account, though, to help you decide which is best for you.
- The lowest price, or the best quality. You can’t have both, so consider whether you’re simply looking for an immediate quick fix, or access to a pool of quality designers.
- Ongoing projects vs. one-time tasks. Upwork and Freelancer do a great job at managing freelancers through milestones and paying by the hour while Fiverr is more appropriate for one particular task.
- Let them come to you, or seek them out. Decide if you’d prefer to search through all the options available, or would like freelancers to bid for your work.
- How much do you know about what you need? If you have a vague idea of what you’re looking for but prefer to shop around, then Fiverr’s packages and upsells could help you choose.
- Easily find quality designers by viewing profiles, samples and reviews
- Know the cost up front
- Secured payment platform that protects buyers
- Quick turnaround possible, sometimes within a day
- Costs more than DIY options
- Turnaround could be up to two weeks for the best designers
- The time invested to screen the right candidates
- The cheapest options might be different than your expectations
Online tools and freelancer marketplaces are great options for smaller projects with a quick turnaround. However, there are a few other options to consider that might suit your business needs more.
- Design contest sites like 99designs. A logo can cost anywhere from $399 to $1,799 and product packaging starts from $549.
- Design agencies. If you’re looking to develop your entire brand with a full marketing strategy, then you could be looking at costs from $10,000 to $50,000.
- Do it yourself from scratch. For businesses that have the time and inclination to learn how to design for themselves, you can consider online training platforms like Lynda.com to learn how to use professional design software such as Photoshop.