Effective Financial Management Tips for Graphic Designers
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 10 min read


  1. Create a budget
  2. Separate personal and business finances
  3. Save for taxes
  4. Invest in quality equipment
  5. Consider a business credit card
  6. Save for retirement
  7. Invest in professional development
  8. Plan for dry spells
  9. Review and adjust your budget regularly
  10. Hire a financial advisor

Figuring out how to manage finances as a graphic designer can be a bit like piecing together a complex illustration - it involves a lot of detail and careful planning. But, don't worry! Just like mastering the best design techniques, financial management can also be perfected with patience and practice. In this blog, we'll go over some effective tips to help you navigate the financial aspect of your graphic design journey.

Create a Budget

Let's start with the basics: creating a budget. This is as essential as understanding the color wheel in graphic design. It helps you understand where your money goes and how to manage it effectively. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you set up a budget:

  1. Know your income: As a graphic designer, your income may come from different sources. It could be from freelance projects, a full-time job, or maybe a mix of both. List down all your income sources.
  2. Track your expenses: Monitor all your spendings. It's like keeping a sketchbook of your financial life. Include everything from software subscriptions like Adobe Creative Cloud to smaller costs like art supplies or your daily coffee.
  3. Set financial goals: Just like you might aim to get featured in a design magazine, set some financial goals. It could be saving for a new laptop or putting money aside for a professional course.
  4. Allocate funds: Now that you have a clear picture, assign your funds accordingly. Be realistic, but don't forget to treat yourself occasionally. After all, who doesn't appreciate a good font bundle deal or a new set of sketch pens?
  5. Stick to it: The hardest part of budgeting is sticking to it. But remember, just like mastering a new design software, it'll take time and practice.

So, there you have it: a simple way to create a budget. It's just like sketching out a design before you start working on the final piece. And remember, the beauty of a budget is that it can always be tweaked and adjusted, just like your designs.

Separate Personal and Business Finances

Okay, let's move on to the next step in managing your finances as a graphic designer: separating your personal and business finances. It's kind of like keeping your layers organized in Photoshop; it makes things a lot easier to manage.

Having separate accounts for your personal and business finances helps you keep track of your business expenses and income. This way, you'll always have a clear picture of how well your graphic design business is doing. It's a bit like having your workspace and your chill space in different rooms.

  1. Open a business bank account: This is where you'll receive payments from clients and pay for business-related expenses. Imagine it as your professional workspace, where only business matters are handled.
  2. Get a business credit card: This can help you build a credit history for your business. Plus, some cards offer benefits like cash back on business purchases, which can be pretty handy.
  3. Pay yourself a salary: This is a key step. Treat yourself as an employee of your own business and pay a fixed salary into your personal account. This keeps your personal and business expenses clearly separated.

Remember, separating your personal and business finances is not just about keeping things tidy. It's also about protecting your personal assets. Just like you wouldn't want coffee spills on your sketches, you wouldn't want your personal assets at risk due to your business liabilities.

Save for Taxes

Talking about taxes might feel like discussing the plot of a complex movie — a little confusing and overwhelming. But don't worry, we've got this. As a graphic designer, it's important to put aside money for taxes so that you don't get hit with a big surprise at tax time.

Here are some pointers on how to manage finances as a graphic designer when it comes to taxes:

  1. Understand your tax obligations: As a self-employed graphic designer, you're obligated to pay self-employment tax and income tax. On top of that, depending on where you live, you might also need to pay state and local taxes. Think of these as different shades of color you need to add to your financial canvas.
  2. Estimate your tax payments: Rather than waiting for tax time to figure out how much you owe, it's wise to estimate your tax payments in advance and save accordingly. Think of it as adding guidelines to your sketch before you start adding details.
  3. Set aside money regularly: Make it a habit to set aside a portion of your income for taxes every time you get paid. This way, you won't have a large sum to come up with all at once. It's like saving your work regularly — we all know the pain of losing hours of work because we forgot to save!

Remember, paying taxes is a part of doing business, and preparing for it in advance will keep you from scrambling to find funds at the last minute. It's not the most exciting part of being a graphic designer, but consider it like cleaning your brushes — necessary for smooth operation!

Invest in Quality Equipment

Just like a chef needs good knives, a graphic designer needs quality equipment. You wouldn't paint a masterpiece with worn-out brushes, would you? Investing in the right tools is a key step in figuring out how to manage finances as a graphic designer.

Here are a few pointers on investing in your tools:

  1. Quality over quantity: It's better to have a few high-quality tools than a cluttered workspace full of subpar equipment. Whether it's a top-notch computer, reliable software, or a high-resolution monitor, the quality of your tools can significantly affect the quality of your work.
  2. Periodic upgrades: Technology evolves fast, and so does the world of graphic design. Staying up-to-date with the latest tools and software is like learning new painting techniques — it keeps your work fresh and relevant.
  3. Consider the ROI: Good equipment might seem pricey, but consider the return on investment. Investing in quality tools can save you time, increase your efficiency, and improve the quality of your work. It's like investing in a good set of paints — the results speak for themselves.

Remember, the right tools are not an expense but an investment. They're the foundation of your work as a graphic designer. So, make sure to budget for them in your financial plan. After all, a painter wouldn't skimp on buying quality paints, would they?

Consider a Business Credit Card

Another tip on how to manage finances as a graphic designer is to consider getting a business credit card. This little piece of plastic can help you in many ways. Let's see how:

  1. Separate business expenses: Using a business credit card can help you keep your personal and business expenses separate. This way, your personal finances won't feel the heat when you need to purchase new software or equipment for your graphic design work.
  2. Earn rewards: Many business credit cards offer rewards like cash back or travel points. This can be a great way to save money on business expenses, or even treat yourself to a vacation once in a while.
  3. Build business credit: Just like individuals, businesses also have credit scores. Using a business credit card responsibly can help you build your business credit, which can be useful if you decide to take out a business loan in the future.

Before you rush to apply for a business credit card, make sure to do your research. Find a card that fits your spending habits and offers rewards that are beneficial for your business. And remember, it's a tool to help manage your finances, not an excuse to spend beyond your means.

Save for Retirement

Let's face it, we won't be in the prime of our working years forever. That's where the next tip on how to manage finances as a graphic designer comes in — saving for retirement.

It might seem too early to start thinking about retirement, especially if you're just starting out in your graphic design career. But the truth is, the sooner you start saving, the more comfortable your retirement will be. Here's why:

  1. Compound interest: The concept of compound interest is pretty simple — the money you save earns interest, and then that interest also earns interest. The longer your money stays in the retirement account, the more it grows. So, start saving now to take full advantage of compound interest.
  2. Financial security: Having a retirement fund gives you a safety net for your future. It means you'll have a source of income even after you stop working, which can give you peace of mind.
  3. Lower taxes: Many retirement accounts have tax benefits. For instance, the money you put in a traditional IRA or a 401(k) is tax-deductible. That means you can reduce your taxable income now, while saving for your future.

Being a graphic designer often means dealing with unpredictable income. That's why it's important to make retirement savings a fixed part of your budget. Even if you can only afford to save a small amount each month, every little bit counts. Remember, retirement is not an expense, it's an investment in your future.

Invest in Professional Development

Another key aspect of managing finances as a graphic designer is investing in your professional development. The graphic design field is always evolving — new software, techniques, and trends emerge constantly. Staying updated is not just a suggestion; it's a necessity.

But, how does professional development relate to finance management, you ask? Here's the connection:

  1. Higher income: The more skills you have, the more valuable you become in the market. Learning new techniques or software can help you take on more complex projects, which often come with higher pay.
  2. Job security: Graphic designers who stay updated are more likely to keep their jobs in a competitive market, and job security means financial stability.
  3. Personal growth: Investing in your professional development also means investing in yourself. It boosts your confidence, makes your work more enjoyable, and can even open up new career paths.

So, set aside a portion of your earnings for courses, books, or workshops that can enhance your graphic design skills. It might seem like a big expense now, but in the long run, it's an investment that pays off.

Remember, professional development is not just about spending money. There are plenty of free resources online, like YouTube tutorials or design blogs. The key is to dedicate time regularly to learning and growing. Because in the end, the best investment you can make is in yourself.

Plan for Dry Spells

Even the most successful graphic designers face periods of slow business. Clients come and go, projects end, and sometimes, it's just a slow season. These "dry spells" can be quite stressful, especially if you're not financially prepared. So, how do you manage your finances as a graphic designer to withstand these periods?

Firstly, it's important to understand that dry spells are part of the freelance life. They do not reflect on your talent or worth as a designer. They're just part of the game.

The trick is to plan ahead. Here are some steps to help you brace for dry spells:

  1. Build an emergency fund: This is a must for any freelancer. Aim to save at least three to six months' worth of living expenses. It might take some time to build, but it's worth it. It's your safety net when the work slows down.
  2. Diversify your income: Don't rely on one client or one type of project. Try to diversify your sources of income. For example, you could sell your designs on platforms like Etsy, or teach design classes online. This way, if one income stream dries up, you have others to fall back on.
  3. Market yourself: When work is slow, use that time to market your services. Update your portfolio, reach out to potential clients, or improve your website. Remember, the more people know about you, the more likely you are to get hired.

Dry spells can be tough, no question about it. But with careful planning and a positive attitude, you can navigate these periods and come out stronger on the other side. After all, a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor, right?

Review and Adjust Your Budget Regularly

Managing finances as a graphic designer isn't a set-it-and-forget-it kind of deal. It's like a garden—it requires regular care and attention. And that's where reviewing and adjusting your budget comes in.

Think of your budget as a living document, a financial roadmap that evolves with your needs and circumstances. It's not enough to create a budget and then just leave it be. You need to review it regularly and make adjustments as needed.

  1. Review your budget monthly: Set a time each month to review your budget. Look at your income, your expenses, and your savings. Are you meeting your financial goals? If not, it's time to tweak your budget.
  2. Adjust for changes: As a graphic designer, your income may fluctuate. Maybe you landed a big project, or maybe it's a slow month. Adjust your budget to reflect these changes. If you have extra income, consider putting it into savings. If you're short, see where you can cut back.
  3. Plan for big expenses: If you know a big expense is coming up—like a new laptop or a design software subscription—plan for it. Adjust your budget to accommodate these costs so you're not caught off guard.

Remember, your budget is a tool to help you manage your finances as a graphic designer. It should serve you, not stress you. So, review it, adjust it, and make it work for you.

Hire a Financial Advisor

Now, let's talk about hiring a financial advisor. If you're thinking, "I'm a graphic designer, not a Fortune 500 company," hold on a second. Hiring a financial advisor isn't just for big corporations. It can be a smart move for anyone looking to manage their finances effectively, including graphic designers like yourself.

A financial advisor can guide you through the financial maze, helping you make informed decisions about your money. They bring expertise to the table that you might not have, and that can be incredibly valuable. Here's why:

  1. Expert Advice: A financial advisor knows the ins and outs of money management. They can help you plan for taxes, save for retirement, invest wisely, and more. It's like having a money coach in your corner.
  2. Time-Saving: As a graphic designer, your time is better spent creating awesome designs, not poring over financial statements. A financial advisor can handle the financial stuff, freeing you up to do what you do best.
  3. Peace of Mind: Managing finances can be stressful. But knowing you have a professional guiding you can bring a sense of calm. You can focus on your work, confident that your finances are in good hands.

So, if you're struggling with how to manage finances as a graphic designer, or if you simply want to make your financial life easier, consider hiring a financial advisor. It could be one of the best investments you make in your career.

If you found the financial management tips in this blog post helpful and want to further improve your financial skills as a graphic designer, we highly recommend checking out Kelsee Thomas's workshop, 'A Freelance Artist's Guide At Making Finances Make Sense.' This workshop will provide you with even more valuable insights and practical advice on managing your finances as a freelance artist.