While there are several ways to make money as an icon designer, it's important to understand which options might make sense for you to pursue.
Find ways to get your work out there
Getting your work seen is pivotal to making money as an icon designer. Some ways to help this are:
Discover your signature style
As you design icons, you may naturally start to gravitate towards a certain style of work. Latch onto this. Explore it. You'll be much more desirable as an icon designer if potential clients have a firm understanding of the work you do. You'll be recognized for your work the more you clearly define this.
Develop a personal brand
One important piece of the puzzle when making money as an icon designer is having a strong brand. This goes further than having a distinguished visual style. It encompasses everything you do as a designer. How you message and market your designs is just as important as the colors you pick. Building a strong personal brand—whether it's your name or another moniker—takes time and effort. Yet, the return on investment is worthwhile.
Publish your work consistently
Here at Iconaday, we're firm believers that posting regularly helps you grow as a designer. You'll have more opportunities for feedback and be able to see how far you've come when you look back on your work. Designing icons that sell takes time. Putting your work out there can be a catalyst.
Sell icons on a marketplace
One way to earn money as an icon designer is to sell icons on a marketplace. Here are a few options available to you:
Icon Design Marketplaces
Icons go through a moderation process once they're uploaded. If they meet The Noun Project's standards, the icons are added.
There are two ways you can earn: when someone buys your icon through a single purchase, or when they use your icon through a pre-paid, subscription, or API. When a Noun Project user purchases your icon, you earn 60% royalties. On the other hand, when a Noun Project user pre-pays, uses a subscription or API—you earn 40% royalties.
What's interesting about Iconfinder is that they allow you to set the price for your icons—although Iconfinder does mention that they can change the price of your icons (with notice given). When someone buys your icon(s), you'll split the sale 50/50 with Iconfinder.
Payment for icons is calculated on a daily basis. At the end of each day, Flaticon calculates the total amount of subscription fees and calculates the "per diem" subscription amount. The total daily subscription average is divided by the number of downloads to calculate the "per illustration" price for that day. That number is multiplied by 0.5 to calculate the 50% rate.
On Creative Market, you're able to set your own prices (changing them anytime) and keep 60% of sales. Their platform offers stats and support—making it easy for you to keep track of everything you need as an icon designer.
Shutterstock has different tiers for commission based on how much you've sold on their platform—$0-$500, $500-$3,000, $3,000-$10,000 and $10,000+
They'll initially pay you 25 cents every time one of your images is downloaded, with a tiered set of raises to 33 cents, 36 cents and 38 cents per download as you reach the $500, $3,000 and $10,000 lifetime earnings milestones.
While this option is vastly lower than the others, it could be another way to bring in money—especially if you've already created the icons. Both Iconfinder and Creative Market mention non-exclusivity which means you can sell the same work on other sites.
Whatever marketplace you decide to sell your work on, it's a great way to have a recurring stream of income.
Design custom icons for clients
Create a list of your dream clients
Who would you love to create icons for? Make a list and start working towards it. Think of the type of client that would align with the style of work you actually want to create. Better yet? Try reaching out to the client. You never know what could come from taking action.
Start within your network
Who do you know that could benefit from icon design? If you have a good relationship with this connection, consider reaching out and seeing if they'd be interested in working with you.
Create a course
Know a lot about icons? Have a unique angle to icon design? Maybe teaching a course to sell is in your future. While there's a few ways of going about this, here's a few possibilities:
Use an established platform
Based on the number of minutes watched, you'll earn money from Skillshare from a royalty system. Each month, between 30% and 50% of Skillshare’s total Premium Membership revenue goes to a royalty pool for its teachers. The size of the royalty pool and the amount of minutes watched on Skillshare fluctuates from month-to-month.
Best yet, there's no cost to publish a class on Skillshare.
If you're looking for something a little more robust and you're willing to pay for it, Teachable remains a great option. You'll be able to have a website to point people to, charge what you want, have third-party integrations, and more.
Use your own platform
If you have your own website, you could consider hosting your content there—especially if you already have traffic.
Diversify your income streams
Doing more than one of these options is a great way to earn a living making icons. Diversifying your income streams, if you can manage it, can make being an icon designer full-time possible. On the other hand, if you're having success utilizing just one of these, it might make sense to double down on your efforts.
Get started and don't look back
Making money as an icon designer can be tough, but it doesn't have to be. By creating consistently, posting regularly, and connecting with others—you'll begin to find opportunities. If you have a client or two, think about ways to create for the type of clients you want to continue working with. If you don't have any clients, start making stock icons to sell. If you've been making icons for a while, consider creating a course and teaching what you know. Whatever you decide, don't let the fear of starting hold you back. You can make money as an icon designer.