The Internet is rife with possibility, if you know where to look.

Kristi is a storyteller from the United States, whose curiosity about the world and other cultures has led her to explore far-flung places and unsung corners on five continents, including the Middle East, camera in hand. Her degrees in journalism and nonprofit management have inspired her to never stop learning. She is most passionate about tech startups, gender equity, and the future of work.

If you’re bootstrapping a startup, you know that being frugal with your existing funds is smart. Those who hire too quickly, or take on expensive external resources in the form of consultants or freelancers can wind up learning an extremely costly lesson: when you have little money, spending it on others’ help won’t necessarily lead to a windfall for you. In fact, it could bankrupt you.

Without outside funding or a significant amount of your own capital to invest, you’re a bit stuck.

Essentially, you’ve got three choices:

  • dish out some equity to a cofounder (or two) with a complementary skillset;
  • shell out cash on a talent marketplace like Fiverr or Upwork, with varying results;
  • or suck it up and take on the tasks yourself.

If you’re working on a product-based startup, you’ve likely already developed a prototype or MVP. If your business is service-based, you probably already possess the skill set that you’re selling. (So, for example: if you’re running an development company, you/your team know how to code apps.) But what if you’re in need of branding? (Hint: if you haven’t developed that yourself as well, you need it.)

Today’s marketplace is crowded, noisy, and saturated with options. Therefore, any product or service-based business needs great branding in order to stand out from the competition.

Not a creative person, you say? Well, you’re in luck. You don’t need to be a marketing guru, ninja, or expert to create an eye-catching logo, clever social media campaign imagery or content promotions–which means that you don’t have to waste time sourcing and hiring someone for gig work. Today, there are many free or low-cost online tools to get you and your business where you need to go.

Here’s how you can DIY design that’ll get you noticed–in a good way:

Design Programs

Canva is a super flexible online design tool that enables you to create using an array of free or low-cost designs for social media, websites, marketing collateral, and much more. The program contains free and paid designs ($1 each), including text options, photos, iconography, illustrations, graphs, charts, and symbols, and you’ll find plenty of tutorials on their blog. You can create something from scratch using customized dimensions, and export your work with crop marks for printing (or without). I’ve used it for blog hero images, social media campaigns, identity and logo design, even revamping my resume.

Pablo by Buffer is another great option for social media posts, with a simple interface that enables you to create photo-based posts for channels like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Remember: studies have shown that posts with visuals get shared much more than those that are text-only.

So it’s worth the minimal time investment to bolster your brand.

Stock Images

Gone are the days of shelling out hefty royalty fees to use lame, homogenous, and (let’s face it) laughable stock images in pitch decks, one-pagers, social campaigns and advertisements.

Although photographers like won’t ever experience real job insecurity, there’s also little need for your startup to hire one for a photoshoot.

A number of photographers and organizations have begun democratizing great imagery.

Check out Unsplash for scenic landscapes, conceptual photos, and shots illustrating daily life; for stock images with an entrepreneurial bent, head over to Startupstockphotos (

Your imagery should reflect the diversity of your customer base; to that end, WOCinTech has fantastic images that continue to raise the visibility of women and nonbinary people of color working in tech. (They’re free to use as long as you provide attribution.)

Web Design Templates

Nowadays, there’s no excuse for an antiquated or just plain bad-looking website. If you don’t have the resources to hire a professional web designer, you still have a plethora of options.

Here are two that won’t take the average tech-savvy person more than a couple of hours to master.

Wix’s website platform offers an intuitive experience for web design newbies. (This might be why it’s currently used by more than one million people around the world.)

I used Wix to build my company’s webpage, Founders Marketing, in one sitting. I’ve since used their CMS to tweak copy and CTAs further, and have added new client logos. Wix also provides users with SEO-building tips and tools right within its platform; their recent global SEO Hero Challenge underscored this newer feature.

If you’d prefer to go another route for web hosting platform, such as WordPress, there are themes aplenty available online for a low one-time cost.

I like ThemeForest, which offers a variety of pre-existing designs that reflect different industries–cutting down the time you’d need to rework the site’s look and feel. Once you get started, you won’t be far from having your branded corner of the web!