Turning graphics designing skills into a stable source of earning passive income is an idea that any graphics designer would appreciate learning about. Several graphics designing platforms are giving designers the potential to earn a living online including Canva, which is one of the most used graphic design platforms in the world.
Most people use Canva as an online drag and drop tool to create social media graphics, presentations, posters, documents, and other visual content. The tool comes with free and paid templates for users to use which most people love because it makes everything easier.
What people take time to notice is that these templates are created by graphic designers who upload them on the platform and publish them either for free or charge a small fee from each user that uses them. These graphics designers working on Canva are secretly earning hundred of thousand of dollars up to millions passively by simply creating and selling graphics templates on Canva.
In this article, we are sharing a case study from Katya Varbanova, a graphics designer and founder of Viral Content Templates, that earns over $750 000 per year from creating and selling graphics templates on Canva while spending only about 10 hours a week to maintain the business.
"I saw an opportunity to design and sell Canva templates that replicated this viral Instagram aesthetic that my clients could customize," Katya says.
Katya Varbanova worked in a bank when she started running a Periscope Facebook group. She quit to pursue a career in freelance social-media consultancy and coaching but found it tiring. Here is her backstory on how she started selling Canva templates for viral content, as told to the team at Business Insider.
After graduating from Liverpool Law School in July 2013, Katya was offered a position in banking and signed a two-year contract with Santander Bank in the UK. In July 2015, she started watching Periscope streams. She considered the as a fun thing to do and therefore she also started streaming.
Periscope is an app specifically for live streaming. It's the same as going live on other social media networks.
Katya began live-streaming her life, and her audience grew to 1 300 regular viewers in 3 weeks. She started a Facebook group for Periscope streamers in early August 2015 and her goal was for the streamers to help each other grow their Periscope followings.
Katya says that she, later on, decided to charge for access to her Facebook group:
"Someone suggested I charge for access to all the valuable tips our community offered. In late August 2015, I launched my first membership and charged starting from $15 a month for the first 20 people, $25 a month for the next 20, and then a standard $35 a month.
Members got access to guest training, collaborative calls, daily events where people would collaborate to grow their audience, and access to a private Facebook group."
After a while, Katya got tired of working at her 9 to 5 banking job and running the membership simultaneously, so in September 2015, she registered her membership as a business.
At that time it had grown to 60 paying members, but she says that it was hard managing work and this side hustle.
Quitting Her Job to Focus on Online the Online Business
By October 2015, Katya’s membership income had matched her $26 000-a-year salary at Santander, so she decided to quit the job to focus and go all in on the business.
Katya says that she expanded to coaching and consulting for other social media platforms using the insights learned from her experience in sales at Santander and marketing from working as a campaign manager in a marketing agency while still at college.
Over the next four years, from 2015 to 2019, Katya built an audience of more than 100 000 entrepreneurs on her social media and email platforms and explored ways to help these entrepreneurs with their marketing and social media. She did coaching, consulting, workshops, free books, videos, and digital information products.
Katya found coaching or offering free resources to be exhausting and she wanted to grow her business while working less. And in late 2019, she decided to ditch free guides and coaching to focus on creating self-study digital information material she could sell.
She started by selling a guide about engaging live videos and a PDF guide with content prompts, but she wasn't satisfied.
Getting Started with Canva
In 2019, Katya noticed that the kind of content that performed well on Instagram was shifting. Posts with valuable educational graphics, carousels, and reels were going viral and most of her clients were struggling to adapt. They didn't have the design skills or the marketing expertise to know how to create these graphics.
Immediately, Katya turned to the online graphic design tool Canva which she had been using to create her own social-media graphics since 2017.
Katya says that she loved making these kinds of assets and put a lot of effort into the visuals for her business. She saw an opportunity to design and sell Canva templates that replicated this viral Instagram aesthetic that most of her clients could customize.
"If I was going to pivot my business and spend time creating these templates, I wanted to see whether there was a demand for them. I decided to pre-sell my Canva templates to ensure it was a viable product."
Before creating any templates, Katya asked her followers whether they'd buy a pack of 100 templates to help them create viral business content. Within a day, 100 people said they would pay for the templates.
This gave Katya the go-ahead to do the presale. She created a basic checkout page where people could preorder the template pack and within a day, she got 100 preorders.
In the first few days of opening presale in December 2019, she sold 255 Canva template packs for $7 647.
Another week passed, and she sold 779 for $23 362, and by the third week, she made more than 1 300 sales, all organically from her social-media following.
Scaling the Business
Katya says that she took $1 000 from her sales revenue and bought Facebook ads, which brought in $6 000 in sales. The demand was bigger than she ever could have realized. This led to the idea of creating the business Viral Content Templates and the first set of 100 Viral Content Templates was born.
When she started making the templates, she asked pre-order customers what they wanted, and researched what templates were on the market already and what content performed best on her accounts and other people's.
This was when she created the first iteration of the Viral Content Templates website alongside Jamie, her fiancee.
Katya and her fiancee spent a few weeks making the templates on Canva before releasing them on December 23, 2019, to their pre-order buyers.
She says that some of their pre-order customers loved the templates and asked to become affiliates. They shared the templates with their friends and followers, and they were given a small commission on each sale through their affiliate link.
Katya also invested more cash in ads. From December 2019 to April 2020, her new business made $105 013 in revenue and spent $36 502 on ads. After paying out affiliate commissions, she made a $52 619 profit in the first 5 months.
Taking Viral Content Templates to the Next Level
Katya says that at this point, she started receiving customer success stories and people asked them for more templates. This was when she created the Viral Content Club membership.
The membership starts at $499 a year or $57 a month.
The idea was that with the tools and templates they provide, members can create 30 days of social media content in one to two hours a month and revamp their online presence.
The membership grew to 1 500 members in the first 13 months and since its launch, it has made over $688 957 in revenue.
Since the templates launched in December 2019, Katya’s template business has brought in $1 400 000 million in revenue altogether and continues to grow.
She says that her working hours kept decreasing over the two years and in 2022, she has worked about 10 hours a week.
"I spend most of my time creating marketing materials. I worked for about one hour someday and still made 23 template sales totaling $2 444 — all from social-media engagement." — Katya says.
Katya currently has over 13 000 customers and more than 1 000 affiliates sharing her templates and the membership. She is the sole owner of the business and she has a lean team that includes Jamie, her fiancé, who does operations; a freelance designer who does all things design, branding, and templates; a finance manager; and a few freelancers on the side for ad hoc jobs. Nobody is a full-time employee.
Katya and her fiancée Jamie
Katya says that templates are a significant part of the business, but her business now offers more. It has courses, workshops, training, and consulting.
"I'll always be glad I found Canva because it's a resource that's helped me build a $750 000-a-year business," Katya concludes.