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118: How to Make Money in Surface Pattern Design

See the show notes for this Episode here.

This transcript has been automatically generated.

Bonnie Christine [00:00:00]:
One of the most frequently asked questions that I get from aspiring surface pattern designers is, well, how do you make money? And that's a great question, right? Well, this is something that I spend a lot of time addressing in my annual course, Surface design immersion. In fact, 2 entire modules are dedicated to monetizing your work and creating income from your artwork. Now just as a side note, this course is getting ready to open for enrollment on February 13th. We do that just once a year. So if you're interested, you can learn more at Bonnie christine.comforward/immersion. But today, I wanna give you an overview of how to monetize your designs and teach you what I've learned from not only my own experience in doing this for many, many years, but also from seeing really having a front row seat to so many students' success? I'm Bonnie Christine, and this is where all things creativity, design, business, and marketing unite. I'm a mama living in a tiny town tucked right inside the Smoky Mountains running a multi seven figure business Doing the most creative and impactful work of my life. But when I first set out to become an entrepreneur, I was struggling to make ends meet and wrestling with how to accomplish my biggest dream of becoming a fabric designer.

Bonnie Christine [00:01:32]:
Fast forward to today, I'm not only licensing my artwork all over the world, but also teaching others how to design their Creative life and experience the same success. I'm here to help you spend your life doing something that lights you up. I'll help you build a creative business that also creates an impact, changes people's lives, gives you all of the freedom you want, and is wildly profitable? Welcome to the Professional Creative Podcast. When I was first starting to learn surface pattern design or just starting to to be interested in it? I remember feeling so incredibly overwhelmed by not understanding how it was all Bonnie to unfold. Like, I wasn't sure what all of the steps were Bonnie be, what I would have to develop, what I would have to learn, what I would have to do, And that overwhelm felt crushing to me. And that's why I spent so much time in inaction Until I was able to break it down and just finally begin. So for me, this was way back in 2010 when I started to learn surface design? And what I realized was just to start and then it would all unfold from there. But one of the things that was the biggest Question in my mind was, how am I Bonnie make money from this? How do you actually license your work or approach a company? So if you have this question in hopes of reducing your overwhelm, I want to answer that question today.

Bonnie Christine [00:03:16]:
And I know that that's true for many of you because one of the most asked questions I receive from aspiring surface pattern designers is, but how am I gonna make money? So that's what we're gonna dive into today. But before I get to it, I have to tell you about the freebie for today's episode. It's a good one. So we have a guide. We call it Stu simple in surface pattern design. It's a 44 page PDF guide, And I'm just giving you just a little bit of it today. I'm just barely scratching the surface of what's in this guide with what I'm talking about today. And so I would love to invite you to go grab it.

Bonnie Christine [00:03:56]:
It's entirely free. It's also beautiful and it covers how to get started, how to pitch your work, What to charge for your work? How to choose an industry? So many different things. And so you'll be able to download that over at professional creative.com. So for this episode, we're gonna kind of jump forward to that moment when you have a body of work. So let's say you have a portfolio with collections of surface pattern designs ready to be licensed. And that moment is like, now what? Now what? How do I actually begin making income from what I've designed and developed? So we're Bonnie start with that point. Now the first thing that I always suggest is to choose an industry to start with. There are so many different industries And all of them are available to you.

Bonnie Christine [00:04:51]:
You can license your work and all different kinds of industries at the same time. But I find that when you're first starting, it's easier to just choose 1 to get started with and then add as you go. So it doesn't tie you down. Rather, it gives you a great starting point. So to get started, I would start thinking about What you love? What companies make your favorite products? When you start seeing products all around you that have artwork on them, you'll start Noticing notebooks and phone cases and book covers and rugs and aprons and fabric and wallpaper and all of these different things. Now typically, you can pick up that product and turn it over and see what company manufactured it. And Hopefully, most of the time, you can also see what artist did the design work. So from there, you make a list, and you can start visiting their websites And looking for contact information for aspiring licensing artists.

Bonnie Christine [00:05:54]:
You'll be looking for Art director or creative director of these companies or something that we call submission guidelines. Now when you find a company that you are interested in, a couple of questions that I love to ask myself is, First of all, am I a good fit for this company? Can I see my work in their lineup? You know, you don't want to just choose companies that seem popular or that seem available? You wanna make sure that it really makes sense for both of you, meaning your brands complement each other And your work doesn't necessarily compete with someone else's work in the lineup, but rather it's complimentary. So once you've decided that you are a good fit for this company, go ahead and really dive in. I suggest reading their about page and reading their mission statement, following them on social media? This is that extra mile that can make all the difference when you approach someone. Really being well researched and understanding the company, they will notice that and it could take you a long way. So let's just talk about some of the industries that come to mind when I think about licensing artists in surface design. Of course, we have wallpaper. That also includes things like wall decals and wall stencils, all kinds of textiles.

Bonnie Christine [00:07:20]:
So that includes fashion and what we call quilting fabric. Now quilting fabric kind of refers to the weight of the fabric? And so people use this for clothes and for curtains and for pillows for their sofa. And home decor is Typically heavier. So you can think about reupholstery or heavy curtains and things like that. But under home decor, you can also think about rugs and all kinds of accessories for the home? Think about things like ribbon, stationery, which includes things like gift wrap, Calendars, paper, tape. Also dinnerware, so partyware, enamelware, ceramics, All of those kinds of things. The kitchen industry is incredible. So you think about things like mugs and Pot holders and aprons and all of the things that you would use in your kitchen.

Bonnie Christine [00:08:16]:
And this doesn't even include using your work for supporting things like packaging and package design and website design, which is all something that is within your wheelhouse as well? One industry that I love is the tech industry. So custom phone cases and custom laptop cases, All of those things are a part of different industries, and one of the beautiful things about licensing your work Is that typically artwork that gets licensed in 1 industry can still be licensed in another industry in another industry in another industry? So while you're typically this is, of course, based on your contract, but you're typically Off limits to license the same artwork within the same industry. So you wouldn't necessarily license the same print to 3 different wallpaper manufacturers? Because that just doesn't really make sense. Right? So your contract will be for each industry, And then you can license on and on and on. So while it might take a little bit of time to get the ball rolling, Meaning you've got to spend time developing all of that artwork and getting your portfolio ready. When you begin to license, It can really begin to pick up speed quickly. So let's talk about different ways to promote your work once you have this portfolio and you're ready to start identifying industries? I like to suggest having both an online version of your portfolio and potentially a hard copy as well. And so sometimes we just use online, and I even know artists who just use platforms like Instagram to show their work, and they've all been licensed successfully? But oftentimes, I like to also send something in the mail.

Bonnie Christine [00:10:07]:
There's just nothing like a piece of Happy Meal. Right? So I love to send a hard copy of my portfolio. Now I typically don't expect this to be returned to me, so I'll have Several versions of my portfolio printed in a way that's not too expensive, so it's okay that I don't get it returned. But I make a beautiful package, Send my hard copy portfolio and then also follow that up with an online version. Now this is really important because as you can imagine, The art director of a company will typically have other key decision makers in the business that they may discuss, you know, new artists with as well. And sometimes those people may even be living in a different place or work from home or in a different city. And so having a quick Link Stu be able to send to someone and view it in that digital format is also really important. When you do this, I also recommend having a press So press kit sounds a little intimidating, but it's not.

Bonnie Christine [00:11:11]:
It's literally just a 1 page PDF about Who you are, what you do, and any credentials that you have. So if you have a large social media following or if you've licensed before Or if you have a feature in a magazine, all of those things will go into your press kit along with all of your links, your contact information, Photo of you and your about page. And so this is just a really nice thing to attach to those portfolios. Speaking of magazines and blogs, reaching out to other publications who need content is a great way to get your work out into the world as well. There are many magazines who feature artists and specifically even surface pattern designers. And, of course, Creative directors and art directors are Bonnie be picking those up and looking through them. I mentioned this before, but you can also use Social media as a version of your portfolio, but you can even more so be strategic with that. So post with the assumption that your most prized company, the art director, will be looking at your feed? So think about what you're posting, what you're saying, follow them.

Bonnie Christine [00:12:24]:
Maybe you contribute with some value in the comment section of their Stu, And maybe you connect over DM or something of that nature, but social media can be a really powerful tool in connecting with people and getting eyes on your work? There are also many different kinds of trade shows. So a trade show for an artist is typically where you would purchase a booth space, Go set up your booth with all of your artwork in it. So these could be banners on the wall, your hard copy Porterfield, or what have you. And then the people who walk the floor are the key decision makers at companies who are looking to license the work of artists, And so that's a pretty incredible opportunity. The most popular ones in the United States are things like Blueprint, Print Source and SurTex. But a quick online search will bring up many options for you, especially if you are outside of the USA as well? Now just Stu note that I've personally never exhibited at a trade show. Now I've exhibited my fabric collections at Quilt Market, but that entire event has a different mission. Right? So we're not there to license our work.

Bonnie Christine [00:13:42]:
We're there to promote our fabric. All to say that I think you can absolutely be a successful artist without attending a trade show, but I do think that it's A great thing to consider if you can afford it and potentially a way to kind of fast track the awareness of who you are and what you do. Have you ever wondered how some artists turn their passion into a profitable career? Well, the secret's out. In fact, my incredibly in-depth and entirely free workshop is coming up. It's called The Art of Business 7 Secrets to Success in Surface Pattern Design, and I would love to have you join us. Here's what you need to know. You can start at any experience level, so beginner, intermediate, or advanced. You can start at any life Stu, if you're a teen, a young professional, a mom, or an empty nester.

Bonnie Christine [00:14:39]:
And you can also start with any goal in mind. So if you want to reconnect with your creativity, start with a hobby, build out a side hustle, or transition into an entire career? This workshop is for you. You're gonna learn the opportunities available to You in the world of surface design, the Stu steps you need to take in order to get started, the 5 different types of surface designers So you can choose which one is right for you, how to create a personalized road map to reach all of your goals in surface design, and ways to create multiple streams of revenue and start making income from your artwork. Now throughout the workshop, I'll be sharing My top seven secrets for you to find success in surface pattern design. This workshop is truly transformational. We hear every year that through the free workshop, people have completely transitioned and transformed their lives. So come join us. All of the sessions are self paced, so you can go through it on your own time, but I am Also including live q and a sessions with Amy, and I would love to see you there and get to know you.

Bonnie Christine [00:15:51]:
You can head on over to bonnie christine.comforward slash workshop to sign up. Again, that's bonnie christine.comforward/workshop, and I'll meet you there. I would also love to talk about a good old fashioned printed promotion. Again, there's just something about getting something beautiful in the mail? And so I don't see too many artists do this, but my goodness, the ones who do and I receive it, I sit down with a warm, you know, cup of coffee and really devour this printed promotional, whether It's a magazine or a pullout brochure. It's just something about, you know, we used to do so many printed promotions And you used to get so much in the mail that they kind of lost their luster. And so now nobody does them. And I think now that makes a really Great opportunity for us. So something to consider there as well.

Bonnie Christine [00:16:51]:
Now when you're ready to reach out to a company, what you'll do is Find their name and contact information. Now this is more difficult than it sounds. I think that Many companies will have submission guidelines easy for you to find, and others, it will be more difficult, and so you'll have to really put your research Search head on. That just means really getting comfortable googling and looking at LinkedIn and really working to figure out who the best person is to pitch your work to. Then you'll either call or email or send them something in the mail or all 3. Now let's not underestimate the power of a phone phone call as well. This is something that's outside of our comfort zone. Nobody wants to talk on the phone anymore, But I can guarantee you that the art director would love to hear your voice, would love to meet you on the phone, And it's again, one of those things that just absolutely sets you apart from the rest because not many people are doing it.

Bonnie Christine [00:17:54]:
Now I always suggest keeping it short and sweet. When you email them or when you call them, how can you make it as impactful but concise as possible? Meaning, these people are busy. You know, depending on the company, they could be getting hundreds of submissions a week, And so you want to make sure that you deliver what you want them to see as effectively as possible, and then give them a little bit of time to work through it. I would say maybe give them a week or up to 2 weeks. If you haven't heard back, you can follow-up at that time. So that's a nice overview of how to get your work out there and begin licensing. The other thing that we have to talk About when we talk about creating money from your artwork is different streams of revenue. There are many different Ways that you can create income from your art outside of just licensing and royalties.

Bonnie Christine [00:18:52]:
You can also work with an agent. So an art agent will take your work and pitch it for you, which is a really lovely thing if you don't love that part of the business. If you don't love pitching your work and reviewing contracts and doing all of that? Working with an art agent could be the perfect solution because then Your primary goal is just to create more art, but of course they take a percentage. So the art agent will take a cut from your royalties, from whatever they have you licensed with? Other ways that artists make money from their artwork are things like art prints and all sorts of products. So wholesale products, having their own online shop, having their own p o d or print on demand shop, You can also sell digital downloads, so companies like Creative Market are a great place for artists to get started in selling their digital assets. Now that list is some of the more traditional income streams, but some of the more nontraditional would be to get into the education space. So you could teach. You could host workshops.

Bonnie Christine [00:20:03]:
Maybe you teach people how to paint like you do or how to frame how you do or how to do something that Comes naturally to you. You could also think about membership model, so either an online membership or something like a subscription model. So Perhaps someone wants some of your products. Let's say you create greeting cards. Right? Well, maybe you could do a subscription box where someone gets A set of your greeting cards every quarter to use for holidays and birthdays coming up that quarter. So there are many, many different ways. I actually think I only went over about a quarter of the different revenue streams that are available to us as creatives and as surface pattern designers? And so I would love to invite you to come download the free guide that I'm gonna give you today, Which has way more information in it. So more revenue streams, also things like what to charge for your work and what to say when you reach out to an art director? It's called Stu simple in surface design and it's completely free.

Bonnie Christine [00:21:11]:
So this guide is Forty 4 pages full of incredible information to get you up and running simply in a career or a side hustle or a hobby as a surface pattern designer? So you can get that at today's show notes. That will be at professional creative.com. So head on over to professionalcreative.com to download your guide. And I hope that this episode has been helpful just in Really showing you what's possible and also taking away that overwhelm or questioning how to even do the next step. So Amy friends, create the beauty that you want to see come alive in the world, and remember, there's room for you. I'll see you next time.

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