How to Make a Living as a Surface Pattern Designer | Maja Faber | Skillshare

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How to Make a Living as a Surface Pattern Designer

teacher avatar Maja Faber, Surface Pattern Designer

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      What is This Class All About


    • 3.

      Your Project


    • 4.

      Identify Your Core Values


    • 5.

      How to Get Started


    • 6.

      Find Your Signature Style


    • 7.

      Build Your Portfolio


    • 8.

      Multiple Income Streams


    • 9.

      Do You Need a Day Job


    • 10.

      Start Small Grow Big


    • 11.

      Marketing Yourself


    • 12.

      How to Get Clients


    • 13.

      Present Yourself Professionally


    • 14.



    • 15.



    • 16.

      Is Your Work Good Enough


    • 17.

      How Long Will it Take


    • 18.

      Pep Talk


    • 19.

      Thank You


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About This Class

Do you want to know how you can make a living as a surface pattern designer? Then this class is for you! I’m Maja Faber. A full-time surface pattern designer, who has been in your shoes. I also used to wonder about how I could make a living as a surface pattern designer. I know how overwhelming, frustrating, and downright impossible it can feel to build a creative business when you might not even know where to start.

So in this class, I will teach you what I’ve learned along the way. You’ll learn my process and the steps that I’ve taken to making a living as a surface pattern designer. And I will share my personal tips and tricks, that I wished someone would have shared with me when I first started out.

This class is a guide for beginners that are just starting out, or for you who need some direction in your newly started surface design business. By the end of this class, you will have gained more clarity of what it really means to build a creative business, you’ll understand the steps that you need to take and how to build up your business in a sustainable way. You’ll learn how you can work towards your goal of making a living as a surface pattern designer and to avoid overwhelm while you do so.

If you are starting your first creative business as a surface pattern designer, or have a dream of doing so one day - this class is for you.


Skillshare class: Find Your Signature Design Style

Skillshare class: Build Your Portfolio Website


Download the workbook at the Project & Resources tab here in class.

Download my free collection overview template here:

P.S. there’s some more fun freebies for you to download at my website here:


Meet Your Teacher

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Maja Faber

Surface Pattern Designer

Top Teacher

If we haven't met before, I'm Maja Faber, your pattern-loving teacher and fellow creative.

I'm here to help you every step of the way! I've been in your shoes! Yes, I'm talking about YOU I've been frustrated, overwhelmed, and wanting to give up more times than I can count. Learning a new skill is hard! I know the struggle.

After spending years of trial and error, trying to find my style and my unique path in the surface pattern design industry, I found my love for creating patterns in Procreate. My creativity started to blossom, and I haven't looked back since then.

As a surface pattern designer and educator, I've helped over 100,000 students grow their creative practice and overcome creative blocks through my fun and easy-to-follow online courses. I'm excited to h... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Intro: Hey. I'm Maja Faber. I'm a Surface Pattern Designer from Stockholm, Sweden. I started my creative business a little more than two years ago, and have since then, built a sustainable business where I work full-time as a creative entrepreneur. I've been in your shoes. I also used to wonder how I could make a living as a surface pattern designer. I know how overwhelming, frustrating, and downright impossible it can feel to build a great business when you might not even know where to start. In this class, I will teach you what I learned along the way. You will learn my process and the steps that I've taken to make a living as a surface pattern designer. I will share my personal tips and tricks that I wish someone would have shared with me when I first started out. This class is a guide for beginners that are just starting out or for you who needs some direction in your newly started surface design business. By the end of this class, you will have gained more clarity of what it really means to be a lucrative business. You'll have an understanding of the steps that you need to take and how to build up your business in a sustainable way. You will learn how you can work towards your goals on making a living as a surface pattern designer, and how to avoid overwhelm while you do so. If you are starting your first creative business as a pattern designer or have a dream of doing so one day, this class is for you. 2. What is This Class All About: Before we begin, I want to take a moment to talk about what you can expect from this class. This class is all about how to make a living as a surface pattern designer from my perspective. I can only teach what I know, and as with many things when it comes to having a great business, there aren't always hard rules of how you should do things. Although I can share my experience of what have worked for me and not, it is of course not certain that what has worked for me in my business will work for you. We are all different, we have different styles, are different as persons, have different experiences, we live in different countries, we have different circumstances, and the list goes on. So I can't promise that by following my steps and personal tips and tricks, you will take the same journey as me. In fact, I highly recommend that you try to figure out your own unique path and journey. But by sharing what I've learned along the way, I'm giving you a guide of how to start and move forward. The topic is huge and there is so much to be said, actually I feel that each lesson could easily be a class of its own, so that's why I'll keep it to the essentials. We won't do a deep dive into every step of the process because I feel that it would be hard to do so in this type of class. You shouldn't expect to get it all covered from this class, however you can expect to get my personal tips and tricks and an insight into my process of how to make a living as a surface pattern designer. I've also included some pep talk that we all need once in a while. This class is made out a request for my students and it's built up to answer the most common questions I get within this topic. The class in itself won't of course make you create a livelihood as a surface pattern designer, you'll still need to do the work. See this class as a guide that will help you to get on track and understand the essentials of how to get started and move forward. I hope that you will find this class useful as your own unique journey of making a living as a surface pattern designer. 3. Your Project: I've created a workbook for this class that you can download, and use to get clear about where you're at in your journey, and what steps you need to take to move forward. Use the workbook as a guide alongside with this class to gain clarity and focus. If you find it hard to just sit down and write your answers, see it as a process. Don't expect that you will be able to have all the answers right now. But you can have some answers and you can write what makes sense to you now. Nothing is set in stone and you can always change it later on. What's important is that you keep moving forward and don't get stuck along the way because you might not have everything figured out yet. The project in this class is to use the workbook to share a bit about yourself, where you're at in your journey. To make you really get down to business, I wanted to share three things, big or small, that you will do this year to move forward in your journey of making a living as a surface pattern designer. 4. Identify Your Core Values: The first step to take is to identify your core values. This is a step that you might feel like wanting to skip in the beginning of your journey because if you're anything like me, you just want to get started with the nitty-gritty and work towards getting clients and actually making a living out of your art. But in my opinion, this first step is essential to be able to keep you on the right track and to stay focused when you feel overwhelmed, and frustrated, and just want to give up because, yes, that will probably happen somewhere along the way as a creative business owner. What do I mean with identifying your core values? You could easily also call this to set your main goals, but I would like to name it core values instead. For me, goals is something that can be accomplished, values is something that you can live by that stands in the very core of your business. You will use your core values to stay focused and to remind yourself why you're doing what you're doing. You will use them to stay on the right track to say yes to the right opportunities and no to the ones that might not be a good fit. Your core values can, of course, change along the way, but as they usually come from the very core of you, they might pivot but often stay within the same theme. What could a core value be? A core value could be that you want to spend as much time with your family as possible. It can be that you want to have financial freedom. One core value can be sustainability and to always make sure to be environmental-friendly in all that you do. Another one could be that you want to work from anywhere in the world or from home. It can be that you want to be your own boss and decide for yourself what tasks you'll do all day every day. It can be that to value social contacts in your work and that you want to keep meeting new people regularly. You could also value to great artwork every day. To keep your creativity flowing could be something that stands in the very core of your business. Your core values could be anything that comes from you. We are trying to figure out the base of what you want to do here how do you want to work, what is important in your life and business. One of my core values is to be able to work from anywhere in the world, to be location independent. That value, amongst a few other ones, stands in the very core of my business. What does that mean to work with that as a core value? For example, I built my business in a way from the start that makes it possible for me to work from anywhere in the world. I work digitally and online. As an example, I don't take on clients that needs for us to meet in real person on a regular basis. That will typically be something that would stand in the way of my core value. In all of the decisions I take, this stands as a core and I constantly check so that my business is aligned with this value. To identify what your core values are, try to think about why you really want to make a living as a surface pattern designer, what is it that drives you towards this profession, how do you want your day-to-day life to look like when you're making a living as a surface pattern designer, what is important to you. There's no limit to a certain number of core values that you need to have, maybe you have one or maybe you have five. What's important is that it's your values and that you don't just copy someone else's values and think that you can live by them because they sound good. I think it's also important to narrow down your core values to what really is important to you. It's more effective to have three really strong core values than 10 that you don't care that deeply about. You can use the workbook that you can download in this class to identify your core values. 5. How to Get Started: One of the most common questions that I get is how to get started, which is a really big question that can have so many answers. One thing I can share is that I've been in your shoes. I also used to wonder how I can make a living as a surface pattern designer. I know how overwhelming, frustrating, and impossible it can feel at times to make your way into this business. How did I get started and how can you do the same? As this is a huge question. I have narrowed it down to five essential tips in this class that I wished someone would have shared with me when I first started out. Number 1 is take in all the knowledge you can. Learn all you can, Google, take courses, do everything you can to constantly gain new knowledge. In fact, I think that to never stop learning is essential for thriving and sustainable business. There are both awesome Skillshare classes and other amazing courses from many talented creatives out there you can learn so much from. You should of course not overspend. But in my opinion, if it's one thing that is worth to invest in, it's educating yourself. I have spent a lot of money and time on learning and I will never stop doing so. Yes, you still need to do the work. The courses, teachers or Google can't do that for you. But the more knowledge you have, the easier it will be to work towards your goal to avoid overwhelm and to gain confidence as a creative. When you gather knowledge from many teachers and creatives, you will find that you get a broad spectrum of techniques, tips, and tricks, which in turn will make you able to sort out what suits you and create your own unique path from that. You can use the workbook to create a list of things that you want to learn next. Number 2 is to set goals and make a yearly plan. In the beginning of your journey, it might feel hard to set goals and make a yearly plan and that's totally fine to feel that way. How should you know what your goals are and how can you make a plan if you just started out and have no idea what you're doing. However, I can't mention enough how important it is with setting goals and making plans to get started and to stay on track, and make sure that you move forward. Identify your goals for this year and make a plan of actions to take to fulfill those goals. In the workbook, there's a page where you can set your goals and make a rough yearly plan. I suggest that you plan out your year starting in quarters. That's how most successful businesses plan the years and it's a great way to get an overview of what actions you need to take this year to fulfill your goals. Number 3 is to set your priorities. Isn't priorities the same as goals? You might wonder. Well, yes and no. They can be the same. However, you can have a bunch of goals that you want to accomplish, but you can't do them all at once, so to get started, set priorities. If you for example have a goal of creating five income streams in your business during the next three years, prioritize, which is the first thing comes to him focus that based on your circumstances, where you're at today, and what you are most interested in at the moment. You can't do it all at once. Built and focus on one thing at a time. Especially when you first start out and it feels like there's so many things you could do. Overwhelm can easily strike and priorities can help ease your overwhelm and make you keep your focus on moving forward. Use the workbook to set your priorities for this year. Number 4 is to start before you're ready. Start before you already might sound like a strange thing to do. But this is actually one of my most important tips to not getting stuck along the way. What do I mean with starting before you're ready? Well, if you look at many successful entrepreneurs, one thing that they often have in common is that they start before they feel completely ready to do so. They just make things happen. Even if they're not sure about how to do something or even if they aren't 100 percent confident that they know what they are doing. In fact, in my opinion, you are never ready. You could always keep adding details to a piece of artwork or you could always be a bit more experienced before you dare to contact that dream client of yours. Do yourself a favor and just start. It doesn't matter if you feel completely ready to do something. Do it anyway. The only bad thing that can happen is that you learn from your mistakes and making mistakes is a natural part of being a business owner. Number 5 is to share your work. Have the courage to share your work, even if you feel that your work isn't good enough or that you're no way near having a signature style yet. Sharing your work will make you grow in your creativity and increase your confidence. When I first started to learn surface pattern design, it took a while before I dare to share my work. But when I finally did, I got such lovely feedback which increased my creative confidence. Creating and sharing is for me, one of the keys of constantly moving forward in my creative journey. 6. Find Your Signature Style: For me, I feel that one of the most important reasons why I managed to get those first licensing deals and also why I continue to get clients, is that I have a strong signature style. If I can say so myself. You should not aim to be everything for everyone, if you want a strong signature style. Your work will suit some markets and companies and not others, and that's okay. In fact, that's how it should be. Having a strong signature style means that you will stand out from your competition. You will be able to aim your work towards certain markets if you wish, which will make it easier to focus on certain clients. Your style will pull potential clients towards you. I would say that having a strong signature style is one of the most important aspects of making a living as a surface pattern designer. As I have a whole other class about finding your style, I won't go into the details about this here. I've added links to my class in the workbook and in the description of this class, so that you can dive deeper into the topic of finding your style. 7. Build Your Portfolio: One key aspect of being able to sell your artwork is to create the portfolio so that you can show your artwork to potential clients. That's obvious, isn't it? You need artwork to be able to sell it. But if you, for example, only would work with freelance commissions and not licensing, you actually don't need pre-made artwork, do you? However, a portfolio isn't only for you to be able to sell or license the pre-made artwork. A portfolio is how you show potential art buyers and clients what your style is and what you can create. You might have heard that you need a certain amount of pattern collections or single patterns or illustrations in your portfolio to get started. I wouldn't agree on that. There's no hard rules about this. Your portfolio can be as big or small as you wish. What's important, however, is that your portfolio include pieces that you feel happy with and that is strongly showing your style. You can start with having one pattern collection in your portfolio, or you can start with having 10 collections or single patterns for that matter. It isn't the quantity that matters, it's the quality, especially in the beginning of your journey to make a living as a surface pattern designer. You need to start somewhere, and it's better to get started with a small portfolio with quality artwork that strongly shows your style than a huge portfolio of many, many pieces that aren't that good. Don't worry about your portfolio being too small when you first start out, it will grow as you create more artwork down the road. You don't have to wait for a magic number of designs before you show your portfolio. You will, however, need to be prepared to license or sell the pre-made designs in your portfolio if you show it to potential clients. Your actual published portfolio doesn't need to be that big at first. But you probably do, however, need to practice a lot and create loads of artwork before you're happy with the result and feel ready to share it in your portfolio. Nowadays, in our global world where most of our work happens online, I wouldn't say that you need a physical portfolio at all if you don't work with clients face-to-face or go to trade shows. I have never had a physical portfolio, I show all of my work online. All you need is a digital portfolio, preferably on your website, that you can send a link to potential clients to view your artwork. I have a class about how to build your portfolio website where you can both learn how to actually build your website and get a look at how you could showcase your artwork in a simple way on your website. I'll link to the class in the workbook and in the description of this class if you want to check that out. Now that you know that you can start small and grow your portfolio with time, you might wonder how much artwork you need to keep creating to build and keep your portfolio up to date. Well, this is totally up to you. For some surface pattern designers, it's reasonable to create hundreds of patterns each year; and for some, it's enough to create one collection every year. It completely depends on both what style of patterns you create, how complex they are, what your prices per pattern, and also how you like to create. If you like to have a regular art practice and create artwork every day or every week, then my guess is that you might end up with creating hundreds of new patterns every year. But if your art creation only is one part of your business, you might instead plan in to create a certain amount of collections per year. You might also have recurring clients that wants you to create a certain amount of patterns each year. Then it's the demand that decides how much artwork you create. In the beginning of your journey of making a livelihood as a surface pattern designer, don't worry about needing to create a certain amount of patterns or collections each year. All of that will work itself out as you go and as you understand both how you like to work and what type of clients or markets your artwork get licensed or sold to. Or if you choose to focus on creating and selling your own products, you might not need to create the same amount of artwork every year as if you work with clients. 8. Multiple Income Streams: How do you really make an income as a surface pattern designer? For me and many others in the field, the key is to have multiple income streams. Sure, you might have heard of those who only license their designs and make a living out of that. But my guess is that it's much more common to have multiple streams of income as a surface pattern designer, even if you possibly could live by only licensing your designs in the long run, it will take years to build your brand in a way that will give you that steady amount of licensing clients that you need to make a reasonable income. I won't say that it's impossible to only live by licensing your artwork, but I would argue that it's more common than not to have multiple streams of income. Multiple income streams is not only a smart move in the beginning of your creative journey, it's also a smart choice, even when you're an experienced creative entrepreneur. Why? Well, life is unpredictable and so is being self-employed. One month or year, you might do really well with, for example, your online shop and then all of a sudden, you hardly have any sales anymore and you have no idea how to turn it around again. If you secure your income with multiple streams, you will feel more safe financially if one area of your business suddenly get a lack of income. Multiple income streams take time to build up. My tip is to start to build up one or at most two ways of earning money at first in your business and grow that stream to something that's somewhat sustainable before you move on to build up another source of income. Yes, this will take some time, but it isn't for nothing that a common saying says that it takes at least two years to build a business, and that you are still in the young years of your business, the first five years. So how many income streams do you need? Well, this all depends on, first of all, what you expect to earn every year and secondly, it of course depends on how much you expect to earn from each stream of income. All of this is probably hard to figure out when you're first starting out. My tips is to start thinking of three income streams that might suit you. You can't know for sure until you try to build those income streams if those three is enough or if you need more. But for me, three seems like a good first goal to have. If you have three income streams that you have built up in a sustainable way, you will have yourself a good safety net to fall back on. There are so many possible income streams that you can grow, so here are 10 ideas for you to choose from. Licensing your artwork, upload and sell on Print-On-Demand sites, sell original artwork, take commissions and freelance work, sell digital design assets, affiliate marketing, create and sell your own products, use dropshipping such as Printful to sell products with your own art, teaching, sell art prints or other products at craft fairs. Apart from these ideas, you can go ahead and create multiple streams of income from something that isn't exactly surface pattern design related as well such as if you, for example, know how to create different graphic design materials like business cards, flyers, logos, or even websites. This is something that I have done myself. In my business today, I have a bunch of different income streams. At the moment, I license my artwork, I sell art prints at Print-On-Demand sites, I take on freelance work, I sell digital design assets, I create other online products and sell in my web shop such as e-books, and I teach. My main focus is within licensing my artwork, freelance work, and teaching. Those are the three income streams that I put most effort and energy into growing to this point. I found that it is with income streams, like with many things in life, where focus goes, energy flows, meaning that the place where you put your effort will be the thing that grow, which in this case means that you will get more of that or those income streams that you focus on so it's up to you to decide what you would like to work with in your business now and in the future. Think about what you enjoy to work with and how you would like your future everyday to look like, when it comes to your business. How would you like to work? What suits you? Connect this to your core values and then decide on a few income streams to set as goals in your business. You can use the Workbook to set a goal of a few income streams that you want to build in your business. 9. Do You Need a Day Job: To continue a bit on the income theme, I wanted to take a quickie to talk about day jobs because I often feel like it's a common belief that you shouldn't have a day job to get by in your art business. In my opinion, there's absolutely nothing wrong with having a day job underside of your creative business. In fact, it can be just what you need to take the financial pressure off your creativity, which is something that can make you get stuck along the way in your creative journey. For some, a part-time job might be an absolute necessity to get by while building up your business, while some might not need it because they get financial support from other sources. Or maybe you have saved up money which will bring you a couple of month or even a year until you need to get income from your business. There's absolutely nothing wrong with having a part-time job. Whether it's in the beginning of your creative journey or all the time for that matter. I'm all for creating your own path, figure out what would be the best way for you to go. As an example, I had a part-time job during a few years before I started my business. I used that time to learn, practice, build my portfolio, and grow my style. I actually even started to share my work online during this period, which probably is one of the reasons why I got my first licensing deal. So if you need a day job or not is a thing that only you can decide. But I think that you never should be embarrassed or feel like a failure if you do have a part-time job on the side of your business, it's all your choice and your unique path and journey. 10. Start Small Grow Big: To start small and grow organically with your business is one of my top advices when you start to create a business, and are trying to make living as a surface pattern designer. In fact, I think that it's such an important advice, so I decided to create a whole lesson just about this. What do I mean with this? Well, I feel that many times when you're a beginner or just are starting out, you think that you should or need to be at a certain level to even be worthy of starting your business. Maybe you feel that you are not worthy of calling yourself a surface pattern designer before you've gotten the first licensing deal. I feel that it's important to understand that everyone has been a beginner when they first start out. You can't compare where you're at today with someone who are years ahead of you. You shouldn't expect to get that dream client right away, start small and grow big. In the beginning, it's likely that you don't have a huge budget as well, and this goes into the start small and grow big advice as well. As an example, when I first started to teach, I didn't have any fancy equipment at all. I borrowed a camera and I used a window as my only light source, which is a great light source even when you're an experienced online teacher as well. But I live in Scandinavia and we have very dark winters, so I would have needed studio lights in the beginning as well. But when I started to earn more money from teaching, I invested in equipment that makes my courses both look more professional and that makes it easier and faster for me to create them. But you don't need all of that fancy stuff in the beginning, it's much better to start small, try things out. Because the thing is that you might think that you for example would love to work with a certain source of income, but you might as well figure out when you give it a try that it's not a great fit for you. To start small and grow big is something that can be applied to many things when it comes to starting to make a living out of surface pattern design. Start where you're at and let your business grow with you as you develop into a more experienced and confident surface pattern designer. 11. Marketing Yourself: Marketing is such a huge part of being a self-employed surface pattern designer. It's how you build your brand, how you pull potential clients towards collaborating with you. It's how you bring people to your shop and how you make sales. I know that some creators don't like sales and marketing. That you may feel weird and pushy trying to sell your artwork, and that you don't want to push clients towards working with you or customers towards buying your products. As a former marketing manager, I can tell you that if you don't market yourself, no one will know you exist, except maybe your friends and grandmother. But there's a limit to how much they can support your business by buying your artwork. There's nothing ugly with trying to sell artwork or to market yourself to your audience. If you don't delegate this task by hiring someone who works with marketing for you, you need to market yourself to get anywhere in this business. Sure, you can choose to get an agent which can ease a bit off the sales tasks from your back, but you still need to show the world that you and your artwork exists. How do you market yourself as a surface pattern designer? This is a huge question and there are so many answers and tips and tricks to share about marketing. It can be a huge full class of its own, but to make this lesson a reasonable size, in this class, I've narrowed it down to five essential steps. Step number 1 is to build your brand, create a logo, work actively with your brand. What do you stand for as an artist? What is your signature style? How do you stand out compared to the competition? Building a brand is something that takes time and you should let it take time, but you still need to start somewhere. Start to create a logo and write down a few sentences about your brand. What is it that you do? What are you inspired by? What is the style of your artwork? You can and will continue to work with your brand along the way, but you need a starting point to build from. You can use the workbook to gather your brand identity. Step number 2 is to create a website. If you want to make a living as a surface pattern designer, you need a website nowadays. See your website foremost as your digital portfolio. A place to show the world and potential clients or customers what it is that you do. I have a whole class about building a simple portfolio website, which I linked to in the description of this class and in the workbook. Check that out if you need some guidance in building your own website. Step number 3 is social media. Social media is such a huge part of the design world. Choose one or a few social media channels to put your effort in. It's better to do one channel really good than many so and so. I would say that Instagram is the number 1 social media channel to be on as a visual artist. In fact, I get most of my licensing deals and collaborations through Instagram. Potential clients find me there and contact me to see if I'm interested in a collaboration. Step number 4 is Pinterest. Do you use Pinterest? My guess is that you do. In 2020, Pinterest had 459 million users worldwide. That's a lot of people who use Pinterest as one of their search engines, whereas Pinterest name it themselves, a visual discovery engine. You can work actively or more passively with Pinterest. The more you work with it, the more you will get out of it. But if you feel in the beginning of your creative journey that it's one more thing to learn and that it feels like a two big task to take on, then just make sure that you start to upload your artwork to Pinterest and then you can grow that later on. Step number 5 is email list. Have you heard that you need an email list as a surface pattern designer? I would say that you don't absolutely need one. I'm sure that there are a lot of successful surface pattern designers out there without an email list, but I would say that it's a smart thing to have an email list. The thing about email list is that you own your own list and no one can take that away from you. Social media algorithms can change so that your followers don't see your content anymore. Anything can happen as you yourself don't have control over social media platforms. However, with an email list you gather the email addresses from your audience, the ones who really wants to follow you. What should you send to your email list? Well, this can grow with your business, but for starters, why not send out a newsletter once and a while to keep your subscribers updated about your business. 12. How to Get Clients: How to get clients is one of the most common questions that was asked from my students, when I asked what you wanted to learn in this class. However, to get clients is a huge topic, and it could definitely be a class of its own. In this class I will name some essential tips as usual about getting clients. I can't possibly go through all that there is to this topic in this lesson. When I refer to clients here, I mean both licensing clients and freelance clients. To find clients that you want to work with might feel like an impossible task at first, but really, it's just a matter of research and taking it one step at a time. One thing that will help you to narrow your search of clients is to have a strong signature style that you feel matches some certain industries. As an example, I create playful patterns that I know suit kids and baby products perfectly. There are a few more markets that I aim towards to, of course, but let's take kids and baby products as an example here. If I know that I want to find potential clients in the kids and baby industry, I start to research companies that I would feel is a good fit. I could Google, use Pinterest, read blogs, even go to storage to have a look at baby products in real life and figure out who creates them. Another source of finding clients is Instagram. Normally, this goes organically and over time, so if I follow other artists on Instagram, I will see who they collaborate with. If I see a client of theirs that I feel would be a good fit for me too, I contact that client directly. Normally, I don't actually sit down and research a bunch of clients, I learn about potential collaborators organically as my business grows. How do you contact potential clients once you learned that they exist? You simply send out a short professional email presenting you and your artwork. Most people nowadays are very busy, so I found that a very short email is the best way to start getting in touch with potential clients. People don't have time to read your life story or all the things that inspire you. They want to know if you will be a good fit for their company to work with. Remember, you are a business owner, and you are in their inbox to present your business in a short but sweet pitch. You could send an email with a link to where they can see your artwork, preferably your website, and maybe your Instagram account. You could also send a few low risk dapping images of your artwork if you wish, or an overview of a pattern collection on a presentation sheet. I found that there's no one way to contact potential clients that fits all, clients are different, the same way us creatives are different. Some potential clients, such as, for example, fabric companies might want you to send a presentation sheet with a full collection for them to view. Some other clients might not want you to send any files, but would like to click into your website themselves to see if they feel that you would be a good fit. If you don't know what type of submission the client wants, I would start with sending a quick link to your portfolio on your website and maybe Instagram account. You could go to trade shows and maybe even exhibit at trade shows with your artwork. I have never done that, so I can't share more about how to do it if that is something that you're interested in. However, I know that you don't need to exhibit at trade shows to get licensing deals. Online marketing works really well nowadays to get potential clients' interest. You could also get an agent which will work for you to get licensing deals and clients. For some, that will probably be a great way to go about it and for some it's better to take care of your own sales and marketing. This all depends on who you are, how you like to work, and also who the agent is and how they work. I haven't had an agent yet, I might in the future if the right opportunity arise, who knows? But until now, I haven't felt the need for an agent. As I don't have any experience with agents, I can't teach you more about working with one. I contact potential clients that I would like to work with once in a while, however, I've gotten most of my collaborations from clients finding me online and contacting me to see if I would be interested in a collaboration. This is why I feel that marketing and having a strong signature style are the two most important aspects of how to get clients, at least for me. Many have found me through Instagram or my websites. The potential of landing a deal is, of course, much higher if a client reaches out to you because they are interested in a collaboration than if you are contacting a bunch of potential clients who probably never have heard of you before. Now, I don't mean that you shouldn't do both. Even if the ratio of landing deals is much higher when a client contacts you, you shouldn't just sit around and wait for it to happen. Contact potential clients, pitch your artwork in a professional way, have a strong signature style, and work a lot with your marketing. I will say that those are my top tips of how to get clients. If you contact potential clients and don't hear back from them, don't worry about it, rejection is a part of this game. There's an unwritten rule that says that it's okay to take contact with the potential clients a few more times, maybe one or two more times after your first email if you haven't heard back from them. With a few weeks in between, you can send a new email. I definitely think that this is a good idea. People are generally busy, and an email can easily be forgotten or unopened in our busy inboxes. Write a polite and short email, maybe one or two weeks after you haven't heard anything back. Just ask if they received the email and if they've gotten a chance to have a look at your artwork. That's all there needs to be in that follow-up email. If you tried to get in contact a few times with the potential clients and haven't heard anything back, let it go, and then you can try to contact the potential client again after a few months if you want to. However, don't be afraid of rejection. It's part of being a self-employed surface pattern designer. If you're rejected, train yourself to let it go and get back to work. Remember the importance of treating your business like a business. If you want to make a living as a surface pattern designer, your artwork will be a part of your business. I understand that you can feel strongly for your art, that you feel that it's a direct reflection of you, but it is also your art that will make your livelihood. In my opinion, you also need to be able to detach yourself from your art and understand that what people think of your art doesn't determine your value as a person. You can't expect everyone to like what you do, and you actually shouldn't aim for that either. It's better to have a strong signature style and be niched than to be general. Or as Carrie Bradshaw said in Sex and the City, "I'd rather be someone's shot of whiskey than everyone's cup of tea." 13. Present Yourself Professionally: Presenting yourself professionally is something that might not need to be said. Maybe it's obvious, but I'm going to say it anyway. I can't mention enough that you need to treat your business like your business if you want to be able to make a sustainable living out of it, and this goes for how you present yourself as well. In everything you do, I think it's important to present yourself professionally. This goes for all of your communication, from all of your marketing efforts, such as social media and your website, to how you write emails and contact potential clients. Be polite and professional. Sure, there's nothing wrong with showing your personality in your communication; you are a human and not a robot. But stand up straight, be confident in what you do, and communicate in a professional way. Create presentation material with good quality which means both that it looks professional and that you create formats that are appropriate to share in the channel that you will share them. If you, for example, will send images of some patterns to a potential client to show your style, create small-size JPEG files. No one wants to get large-size files in their inbox if it's not necessary. There are no one way of how you should present yourself to potential clients, at least as far as I know. As I mentioned before, some clients might want you to not send any images via email, but only links. Some wants you to send small-sized JPEG and some wants a full collection presentation sheet. You can download a template for a collection presentation sheet like this one to be used in Adobe Illustrator on my website. Just go to to snatch your free template, or click on the link in the description of this class. 14. Contracts: Pricing and contracts seem to be two of the most daunting things about starting your business as a surface pattern designer. How much should you charge? How do you read or write a contract? Let's talk about contracts first. In my opinion and I would guess that most professional surface pattern designers would agree, you need a contract for all of your licensing deals and commissions. If you have a contract that is a formal agreement, both you and your client will know the boundaries for your deal. For companies that are used to working with freelance designers, they normally have a standard contract. Then it's your job to read it, and if you're not used to reading contracts, you might need to get help from a lawyer when you first start out. Some use lawyers' help for all the contracts and some never use lawyers. I can't say what you should do when it comes to this as I'm not a lawyer and I'm not qualified to give you any legal advice, and it's also different depending on which country you live in. If you're unsure, use a lawyer just to be on the safe side. If a company isn't that used to working with designers, they might not have a standard contract or mind even talking about a contract before they would like you to get down to work. In that case, it's your job to bring the contract to the table. You can use the lawyer's help to write a standard contract for you that you can reuse when the client don't have one. Personally, I don't use lawyers to read every contract. I have experience with contracts and I feel confident about reading and understanding them. Although if there would be something that I would feel unsure of, I would take a lawyer's help to understand the contract before I sign it. As with many things when it comes to this business, contracts can vary depending on the client, the country, your deal, and all those sort of things. I will not give you any legal advice at all. The only advice that I will give you is to make sure that you always sign a contract with your clients. For further reading about contracts, and also pricing, and templates that you can use, I recommend the book Graphic Artist Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines. 15. Pricing: How about pricing then, what should you charge? This lesson is focused on what you should charge for licensing. Freelance work can be charged very differently depending on what type of freelance work you do, which country you work in, the client's wishes, and reef and all of that. For licensing it can also vary. Normally, you license your artwork in one of these three different terms: royalty, flat rate fee, or outright sale. Royalty is when you get a percentage of the sales. How much the royalty is depends on things like which company you collaborate with, the industry and how big their production will be. Royalty is normally a couple of percent. I would say that somewhere between 3-15 percent is normal. At least that is the range of what I've got to royalty. However, there are probably exceptions with the percentage here as well. I found that if the company wants to pay a royalty, this is something that they normally would bring up to the table. You as a designer, probably have no idea about how many products they normally sell and all of that. To know if you will earn a reasonable sum on a royalty rate, you probably need to ask the client how many units they expect to sell with your pattern. Royalty is normally paid within a time period. It's common to get paid every quarter or sometimes on a monthly basis. It can be a small or huge paycheck for you depending on how the product have sold and your percentage of the sales. It's common to get your first royalty paycheck a year or even 18 months after you have signed your deal. Flat rate fee is the most common way for me to license my patterns. It's when I license the patterns for a flat rate during a certain period of time to a certain market, which means a certain industry and also a geographic market. What's good with flat fee is that it will give you money in the pocket right away as you license the pattern. You can also license the pattern to different industry within the same time period, as long as your contract doesn't state otherwise. There are no waiting periods for a year or more for you to get your first payment, which it can be with royalty due to the speed in production. The price for a flat fee can also vary. I would say that a normal fee worldwide is somewhere between 400 and 1,500 euro per design. However, I've heard of experienced designers with well-known brands that can make up to 8,000 euro for one pattern. The fee depends on such as the complexity of the pattern, how long it has taken for you to create it, how experienced you are as a designer, how well known your brand is and it can also depend on the industry; which products depend on will be used on. For me, pricing is something that comes with experience. When you start out, you should just make sure that you don't go below the standard pricing in the surface pattern design industry. You should get a fair amount of money for your work, and you shouldn't bring down the value of our industry by accepting a lower fee than the standard. Outright sale means that you sell your work exclusively to a client. They buy the full art work and have full copyright of this design for all future, and can use it for any products they want within their business. Naturally, you take a higher fee for an outright sale, as you can't license this pattern to anyone else ever again, you yourself should set the price for the outright sale. I will say that you at least should add a couple of hundreds of euros If you sell your patent outright compared to the flat licensing fee, as you never can use this pattern again. Which of the different income streams are the best to work with? You will probably understand with time, which is your favorite way working. But I will say that to create a sustainable surface pattern design business and also to be flexible, It's good to have a little bit of everything. With royalty and flat fee, you can normally license the same patterns within another industry at the same time period, which can give you a multiple amount of licensing deals for one single pattern. That's a great way of making your patterns work for you and earn more money. Without direct sale, you'll get a larger payments straight away in your bank account, which is good when you need a quick cash-flow into your business. Generally, I would say that the best way to go is to adapt to your client. Normally the client will know what they want if they want to pay with royalty, flat fee or outright sale. Be flexible and creative. But whatever you do, make sure that you get a fair amount of money for your work. Don't be afraid to ask for more money that they offer you at first, if you feel that their offer is too low. As with all things of starting a business as a surface pattern designer, you will learn and grow with time. Don't worry about the pricing too much. Just makes sure that you get paid accordingly to the standards of this industry. 16. Is Your Work Good Enough: How do you know if your work is good enough? Well, firstly, it's a confidence issue. The more you create, practice, and learn, the more positive feedback you get, the more you'll feel that your work is good enough. When you also start to land licensing deals, you'll have an actual evidence, that your work is good enough. However, I think that it's a part of being a creative to have doubts, once in a while, or maybe all the time. It's a natural part of the creative process, and doubts and fears also makes us grow. Don't be afraid of having doubts. Embrace the doubts and accept that they are a part of your creative journey. To know if your work is good enough, I would start with looking at the commercial artwork out there that sells. What do you see? Do you feel that your work would fit somewhere into the market? Because that is what commercial art is about. You need to be able to sell it. You can't create a very interesting style of artwork and then expect clients to come running to you. That may happen to some very lucky ones out there. However, if you work as a surface pattern designer, you work with commercial art. You are trying to sell your art to a market to make money out of it. I don't mean by this that you should only look at the market and create what seems to be selling. No. You should definitely take the time to develop a strong signature style, and do things your way. However, if you have no idea of what sells, you have no idea where you will fit into the market. One way to get started is to have an industry in mind when you create the artwork. Now, I know that this might be hard to decide when you're a beginner. How on earth should you know on what products your designs would fit. But give it a try and see how it goes. It's really a matter of practice. When you created a bunch of patterns and have started to see your artwork on products, you'll soon understand where your style fits into the market. Until you reach that point, just start somewhere, and give it a go. Sometimes you need to try things out, before you know if it works. 17. How Long Will it Take: How long will it take for you to make a living as a surface pattern designer? Well, I can't possibly answer that for you. It all depends on where you are at in your process, who you are as a person, what circumstances you have, the experiences you have, how much time you have to put into this work, and all of those sort of things. What I can say though, is that you need to be persistent. If you give up when you get your first rejection, you'll never be able to make a living as a surface pattern designer. Another thing that will affect is how flexible you are. If you only want to live by licensing, then it will probably take a much longer time than if you are open to have multiple income streams. That doesn't only depend in you getting licensing deals. I've heard somewhere that it takes two years to start up a business, as I mentioned before, to actually make a profit out of it. This of course, varies as well, but I will say that you should expect at least two years before you settled in your business and maybe are starting to get a reasonable income that you can live by. There's also a saying that the first five years are your young years in your business. They count as the early days, and it can take five years until you feel that your business is more stable and sustainable. What do I want to say with this? That good things take time, and you should also expect this to take time. I'm not saying all of this to make you feel that it's impossible. The opposite, actually, it takes time to build a business, any type of business. It will take time to build your surface pattern design business as well. However, just because it might take some time, doesn't mean that you're not going to have fun while you do it. 18. Pep Talk: To wrap up this class, I want to take a moment to share some cheesy but important pep talk. There's no secret on how to make a living as a surface pattern designer, not as far as I know anyhow. It's a matter of hard work, persistence, timing, a little bit of luck, never giving up, and courage. As I've said through this class, starting a surface pattern design business is starting a business, and you need to treat it like a business. If you want to create art and surface pattern design only as a hobby, that's totally fine. But if you want to make money out of this, you need to understand that you are not only a surface pattern designer, you are also a business owner. It isn't impossible at all to make a living as a surface pattern designer but it isn't easy-breezy either. But if your dream is to make a living as a surface pattern designer, then I can promise you that it's all worth it. As I mentioned before, it takes a lot of energy and effort to build a great business, but just because it's hard work doesn't mean that you won't have fun while you do it. I absolutely love my business and I'm super proud of what I've accomplished in just a few years since I started out. Sure I worked my butt off at times, but I haven't minded doing so. In fact, it has been the most inspiring and giving working years of my life. I've grown so much as a designer and as a person by starting my own creative business and it is definitely worth all of the hard work and energy that I put into this. To end this class, I want to leave you with some cheesy but inspiring affirmations that might sound cliche but that I live by in my day-to-day life as a creative entrepreneur and surface pattern designer. 19. Thank You: That's all for this class. Thank you so much for watching. If you liked this class, hit the "Follow" button by my name to make sure that you don't miss out on my future classes. If you have any questions at all, please ask them on the Discussions page here in class, and feel free to leave a review to let me know if you enjoyed this class. I would love to hear your thoughts. Make sure that you share your project here in class. If you post it on Instagram, feel free to tag me with maja_faber. Thanks again for watching.