How people are making money on Canva and turning their graphic-design side hustles into full-time gigs
- Canva's popularity is exploding, bringing with it a boom in creators selling digital products.
- Some have turned creating templates, images, or files to sell into a full-time gig.
After a tech startup fired 31-year-old Shruti Pangtey from her product marketing manager gig, she took the opportunity to start her own digital-products business — and she said she has no regrets.
Her online business, Digital Empires, sells digital-marketing courses for entrepreneurs made on Canva, a popular graphic-design platform known for being easy to use. Pangtey earns between $95,000 and $120,000 a year working at least 20 hours a week.
"I never want to go back to a nine-to-five," Pangtey told Insider.
And she's not alone. Canva's popularity is exploding, bringing with it a boom in creators who are making real money by selling digital products — templates, images, or files for others to use — with some taking it from side hustle to full-time gig. It gives the creators the opportunity to work fewer hours, spend more time with friends and family, and for some, make more money.
By putting in anywhere from three to 84 hours per week, creators can earn between $1,000 and $10,000 a month, four Canva business owners told Insider. One creator made a total of $1.4 million in sales in about three years.
But "it's not a get-rich-quick scheme," Meranda Dysart, an Arkansas-based Canva creator, said.
Dysart built a business that brings in approximately $3,300 each month. It allowed her to quit a full-time marketing position and become a stay-at-home parent. For her and other creators, starting a Canva-based business goes far beyond design.
Creators spend time on behind-the-scenes work like marketing, writing copy for sales landing pages, and sending emails to potential clients. The digital products creators sell include Instagram and Pinterest post templates, custom YouTube profile banners, wedding invitations, and printable daily planners.
These products are in especially high demand among bloggers and small-business owners, Rebecca Lake, a certified educator in personal finance with a side-hustle blog called Boss Single Mama, told Insider. Purchasing premade templates saves them time and money on their design efforts, Lake said.
How Canva works
Founded in 2012 and based in Australia, Canva uses a point-and-drag approach to graphic design so that users with little to no experience can create custom images.
More than 100 million users around the world use the platform, and the firm exceeded $1 billion in revenue in 2022, a spokesperson from Canva told Insider.
Entrepreneurs, who can use the site for free or subscribe to a paid version, choose a template idea and then customize the design using the platform's editing tools. After that, creators can export the design as an image file or PDF, and sell it on a third-party platform like Etsy or Amazon.
As independent creators, these digital-product store owners may need to go the extra mile to be discovered. Creators that have been successful selling Canva products find a niche in the market to fill and creative ways to market their businesses, they told Insider.
Jennifer Singer, who is in her late 20s and based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, doubled her salary to $4,000 a month by focusing on creating children's picture book, workbooks, and more. Creators like Singer found their niche by doing keyword searches on platforms like Pinterest, Etsy, and Google Trends to see what products were trending.
Canva did not comment on how the rise of entrepreneurship on the platform impacts its business model. But it supports the "huge range of ways people are using Canva to start and scale businesses," Rob Kawalsky, the head of product at Canva, told Insider.
Sales of digital products fluctuate, and not every Canva creator has seen financial gains
The market for Canva products has become flooded.
The independent-seller site Etsy yields nearly 300,000 results for Canva templates. But payoffs are uncertain, and it's not always clear which digital products will take off each month.
That means it's been hard for some creators like Raquel Kay, who is based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, to reap financial gains. She took a massive pay cut to focus on her Canva digital-product business, quitting her management-consultant job at Accenture in 2020 that paid $94,000 per year. As of October 2022, she was earning between $1,000 and $1,500 a month selling Canva templates and Canva coaching services for aspiring entrepreneurs full time, she told Insider.
"The transition has been difficult," Kay said. "I do love it, but it's very challenging."
And that's part of the reason why money isn't the only motivation for pivoting to Canva content creation full time. Millions of people have been quitting their jobs at record levels over the past two years due to burnout, poor management, low salaries, and a lack of work-from-home flexibility.
This is causing some full-time employees to reevaluate their career choices in search of employment that fits their lifestyle preferences, like creating a digital-product storefront from home. It lets creators like Singer have full control over their time.
"My life has completely changed," Singer said.
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