What's the Point of Buying Stock Graphics?

Posted by John Shaver on Feb 09, 2015 in
What's the Point of Buying Stock Graphics?

Design Panoply has been selling — and giving away — resources since 2008, and we do our best to describe how we can help make your design work better, faster, and easier.

Recently, I received a (rather aggressive) email questioning the validity of paying for stock graphics. In this article I'll explain many benefits of buying templates and premade designs.

The Email in Question

Before we get started, I wanted to share the email in question (with errors corrected for easier reading).

The $79 they are referring to is the current price of a PanoPass.

"Tell me why I'd pay $79 for "things" which are readily available elsewhere on the internet for less or for free? It appears you are sitting on your business philosophy. Perhaps you need to retake Business 101."

There are hundreds of thousands of companies and individual designers collectively making millions selling stock graphics, so it's very clearly a legitimate business model. I also make my entire living off of selling creative resources through Design Panoply, MyDesignDeals, and other marketplaces, but we'll just ignore those facts for now.

There are three basic ways to create designs. From scratch, using freebies, or using premium stock graphics, and we'll be comparing all three throughout this article.

The Benefits of Buying Stock Resources

Let's take a quick look at some of the benefits of paying for stock resouces.

  1. Buying stock resources saves you time
  2. Buying stock resources saves you money
  3. There is a larger selection to choose from
  4. You can broaden your design style
  5. Premium graphics are higher quality
  6. You can create more original work
  7. You get free product updates
  8. You get better product support
  9. Licensing is more flexible
  10. You don't have to worry about copyright infringement

*I'll add more to this list as they are brought to my attention.

1 and 2. Buying Stock Resources Saves You Time and Money

I've combined the first two points into one because they often go hand in hand.

These are probably the most obvious reasons to pay for anything when you can find alternatives "elsewhere for free". It's more convenient to pay someone else a few dollars so you can be more productive with your time.

Have you ever seen a successful business with $0 in spending? To a large degree, the more money you spend, the more money you can potentially earn. It really is Business 101.

For example, let's say I have a local client with a $100 budget that wants me to design a business card. A pretty typical request, right?

There are a few scenarios to consider.

Scenario 1: You create a design from scratch. This could require multiple concepts, sketches, and layouts leading up to the final product. It could easily take 3 hours to finish the project, which translates into $33/hour. Not bad right?

Scenario 2: You scour the internet for freebies to fit your project. It might take 30-60 minutes to find a design in the right style, that is high quality, and that hasn't already been used a million times. Customizing the design takes about 1 hour, meaning the total time you spend on the project is 2 hours, which translates into $50/hour. Even better!

Scenario 3: You visit an online marketplace with a large selection of premium templates to choose from. It takes no more than 15 minutes to find a design that will work, because everything is in one place and categorized for ease of use. You're more likely to find exactly what you need, so customizing the template only takes 30-45 minutes.

The total time spent on the project in this case is only 1 hour, which translates into $100/hour. Of course, you have to subtract the $10 you spent on the template, bringing your profit to $90/hour.

How much money per hour would you rather make: $33, $50, or $90?

If your goal is to make a living as a designer, the third scenario is clearly the best for your wallet. If you're happy living with roommates and eating ramen noodles for every meal so you can craft completely unique designs for even the smallest project, you're free to do that too.

When you cut your production time in half, you can find new clients, work on other projects, or start up Netflix and marathon watch Game of Thrones. That's the beauty of your time, it's yours to spend however you please.

You can always design from scratch, or you can find a freebie that works. If you want to make money as a designer, buying a design template not only saves you hours of your life, but is the most profitable way to go.

3. There is a Larger Selection to Choose From

For every 10 quality freebies in existence, there are probably 10,000 that cost money. On the contrary, for every 10,000 designers using freebies, there are only 10 who pay for stock graphics.

That leaves the majority of designers using the same templates over and over, and plenty of online portfolios looking identical. The people using paid graphics stand apart from their competition, which is what most designers strive for.

I've even had clients request that I NOT use free templates, because they've seen them in use by their competition.

There is simply a much larger catalog of premium goodies out there to choose from, and new ones get published more frequently. Not only can you find something that better fits your projects, but it takes less time as well.

A lot of times there are sales on bundled items. It's smart to grab them at a discounted price even if you can't use them right away. Just make sure that you can make use of them sometime in the future.

4. You Can Broaden Your Design Style

Most designers have one or two styles that they stick to. That's fine if you enjoy doing the same kind of work for the same types of clients every day.

What happens when you snag a new client looking for a design style that you've never tried? With hundreds of thousands of designers out there creating stock resources, you have access to a nearly unlimited selection of personal styles to choose from.

The best part is that when you start customizing templates that you normally wouldn't create by yourself, you start to learn the ins and outs of each new design style, increasing your value as a designer.

5. Premium Graphics are Higher Quality

This obviously isn't always the case. There are some stunning freebies out there. I've also come across some really expensive items that were total stinkers. The key here is that the good-to-bad ratio is much better when browsing through paid resources.

One reason is that no one is going to frequent a shop offering low quality items, so shop owners have to make sure that what they put out is worth the money to keep everyone happy.

Unless you're working for someone with no interest in quality, paid resources will make you look better the majority of the time.

6. You Can Create More Original Work

This goes back to number 3 above. The amount of paid resources available gives you a bigger range to work with. Since less people are using paid designs compared to people using freebies, your finished work will be more unique.

The more original you appear, the more valuable you become as a designer.

Nobody wants the same design as somebody else, and with premium stock resources, there is a much smaller chance of that happening.

7. You Get Free Product Updates

Designers take customer feedback very seriously. If they hear of a way to improve their products, they'll update them both for past and future buyers.

Oftentimes, I've bought something small for $5 that gets added to multiple times until it's a much more useful, $20 product. Obviously, you shouldn't count on that happening every time, but rest assured knowing that you'll get what you paid for, and in many cases, even more.

Freebies on the other hand, are often used to capture emails for future promotions. You give someone your email, and they send you a freebie. They have your information already, so there's no incentive to update or improve free products.

8. You Get Better Product Support

Part of the reason online design shops charge money is so they can provide a high level of support. Freebies are oftentimes unsupported, so you simply get what you get, which is OK for some more advanced designers.

If you don't know everything there is to know about Photoshop, paid resources will help you out, not only with instructions, but with a real person to talk to if you get stuck or have a question.

I've personally answered over 10,000 support emails in my life. Imagine if just 10% of those people couldn't get the help they needed. That's a lot of wasted opportunities and unfinished projects.

9. Licensing is More Flexible

Licensing is a huge issue when it comes to digital resources, and it shouldn't be ignored.

A lot of times, freebies only include licensing terms that allow for use in personal work, or on a single project, whereas paid resources typically let you work on an unlimited number of commercial projects.

If you're looking for freebies to use in items you create for resale, good luck. You might find 1% that offer the extended licensing you need. There's simply no other option that paid graphics when you need extended licensing.

10. You Don't Have to Worry About Copyright Infringement

To add to #9, many freebies are (illegally) distributed on multiple sites without permission. I've personally found my own designs on hundreds of other sites for free download, and was never even asked, or credited.

Even worse, some sites will buy or steal resources and then redistribute them for free. If you end up using those items in your work, you could be required to pay back part or all of your profit from that project if you get caught.

The way the law sees it, you are 100% responsible for obtaining rights to use the elements within your designs, so you'd better make sure and stay far away from infringing on any copyrights.

Paid resources are much safer, especially if you're using them for paid client work.

When You Should Pay for Design Resources

These aren't hard and fast rules, but are good guidelines to follow if you've never paid for stock graphics before.

You should pay for design resources when:

  • You want to make more money as a designer
  • You want to spend less time Googling and more time designing
  • You enjoy a large selection of items to choose from
  • You want the product to be updated with new features and for compatibility reasons
  • You don't want to worry about low quality items
  • You want to be proud of the work you present
  • You feel secure knowing that help is only an email away
  • Your client specifically asks that you not use freebies
  • You need licensing flexibility
  • You want to be safe from copyright infringement

When You Should NOT Pay for Design Resources

Not all of these apply either. Some people just like buying stock graphics simply because they like them and have the money to spend.

You should NOT pay for design resources when:

  • You are a hobbyist making no money with your designs
  • You want to create 100% custom designs for every project
  • You enjoy the search for just the right freebie
  • You like figuring things out without any help
  • Your client specifically requests something from scratch
  • You only want to use items in personal projects, or work for a single client

The Reasons You Buy Anything

Why do some people pay for email accounts? There are tons of free alternatives like Gmail and Outlook.

Why do some companies pay for banner ads? Word of mouth costs nothing.

Why do some people pay for cable TV? There are plenty of programs on over the air channels.

Why do some people pay for a gym membership? You can run and find all kinds of heavy items to lift outside.

Most of the inventions in the current technological revolution are wants, not needs, yet people still buy things.

The answer for almost every question above is that it's simply more convenient. If you can pay someone for a product or service that improves your quality of life or earns you more money in return, what's stopping you?

One of the main reasons designers refrain from buying stock graphics is that they see it as a one time expense when it's really an investment in their career that will pay for itself ten times over.

Some of the most successful graphic designers use premium stock designs every day, and that's no coincidence.

The point of this post was not just to promote our resources, but to help you see how paying a little can help you a lot. If you agree, check out our PanoPass now.

Have you ever paid for stock graphics? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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