You may be a great designer, illustrator, or just a generally creative person, but that doesn’t automatically translate to profitable enterprise, as we’re all probably painfully aware. However, there are a variety of services that provide an avenue to sell your services and make it easier to find customers.
Inkd is one such service provider, aimed at print designers. Like Threadless and Cafepress before it, it offers users the chance to use their own original designs to earn revenue. Indk’s model is slightly different, but will be familiar to people who’ve used either of those older services. People who contribute to stock image libraries like iStockPhoto will also recognize how this system works.
Basically, you sign up, choose a specific product to design (for example, letterhead), download one of Inkd’s pre-made templates, upload your own design once you’re ready, and, pending a quality control review by Inkd staff, you’ll start earning sales-based commission for your creation.
Obviously, the model isn’t perfect, and depending on your stance on spec work, you may strongly disagree with what Inkd is offering. But for people just getting started, who have no connections and no idea how to break into the print design industry, it might be the right solution for getting started.
Inkd also offers a lot of free resources that could be useful for novice and experienced designers alike, even if you aren’t looking to actually sell your material through them. For instance, you can download free starter kits — basically Adobe Illustrator files with pre-set layouts that you can play with, adjusting fonts, colours, images, etc. These could be useful in jump-starting your own creative process if you’re feeling stuck or you’ve never designed the type of product in question before.
The pay structure is decent, if not ideal. You take home 20 percent commission on any sale, and if a customer wants to enlist your help directly to polish or customize a design, you get all of the revenue, with Inkd making no claim on any of that business. I think this is better than the competition-based system Threadless is running.
On the other side, if you’re looking for some original design work for your business or company, you can request a design from Inkd. Of course, your results may be hit or miss, but you have the advantage of being able to look without commitment, and of ultimately buying only what you like or need. This opens the can of worms that is the spec work debate, but if you’re a real estate professional working on your own, for example, you might not have the budget to hire a design firm, or even know where to start looking for one.
Personally, I think Inkd is a nice resource for the beginner, but I do worry about yet another site that could encourage spec work, speaking as a freelance professional. There will also be concerns over Inkd’s marketplace devaluing print design as there have been over stock photography sites, like iStockPhoto, devaluing professional photography. As with most online marketplaces like this, I’d say “use, but don’t abuse,” is the best rule of thumb when it comes to Inkd. Basically, that means that if you can actually afford to hire a professional directly, you should do so, as you’ll likely get a better result and it will be better for the industry as a whole.
Will you consider selling print design work through Inkd?