This blog post is mainly aimed at students who want to start their own freelance design business. Starting a graphic design business doesn’t involve a lot of start-up costs. You can be an effective designer without having expensive equipment. Here is the bare minimum you need to start your design business in South Africa.

Desk and chair

white office

Invest in a quality chair. Don’t buy something cheap because you don’t want back aches at the end of the day. You also need a desk/table that’s big enough.


dell laptop

When starting out it’s best to buy a desktop computer because they are more affordable than laptops. However, if you travel a lot and need to take your computer with you, buy a laptop. Just know that you will pay more for a laptop than a desktop with the same specs. It’s also nice to have a larger monitor.

Many designers use Macs but I personally prefer PCs because they are cheaper and I like shopping around for components and then building a custom PC.

If you can’t afford a new computer now, upgrade your existing computer with more RAM, a bigger hard drive, or whatever it is you need.


software for graphic designers

Most designers use the Adobe Creative Suite (now called Adobe Creative Cloud). I personally use Photoshop and CorelDraw. CorelDraw is more affordable than Illustrator, plus you can use it for layout as well.

If you do web design you will also need a text editor like Notepad ++. It’s free and it colour codes your code.

You will also need a word processor and a spreadsheet program. You can start off with Open Office or Libre Office, which are both open source software. You can do your invoices, estimates, proposals, etc. in the word processor and your bookkeeping in the spreadsheet program.

Internet connection

wifi letters

You will need to email your clients, gather inspiration, and more. Shop around for an internet connection that you can afford. Compare prices and ask friends what they can recommend.

E-mail account


Get a reliable e-mail account from Hotmail or Gmail.

Planner or organiser

printable weekly planner

When you start to become busy you will need to write down deadlines in a planner. You may also need a notebook to jot down ideas, make to-do lists and sketches.

More resources

Setting up the optimal work environment

How to effectively organize, manage and maintain your freelance design business

Starting a web design business

Starting a freelance design business

Is there anything I’ve left out? Please leave a comment!