Finding Clients for Surface Pattern Design

There are many ways of finding potential clients for your surface pattern design.

You need a marketing strategy and most importantly you need to allocate time to it – I block out two days each month just to work on my social media.

Another way to find clients is to actively go looking for them and contact them with examples of your artwork and a link to your portfolio.

This blog post is about how to do this and things to consider:

Finding companies to pitch to

This exercise you can start at any time in your surface pattern business, even if you haven’t got a website or social media set up. Just start a list of companies you would love to see your work on. Think back to the industry you want to design for, and spend some time googling or searching hashtags on Instagram to find companies. Have a look at their website and social media and see if your design style fits their aesthetic? Do you have similar values? Does it look like they may use external designers (this can sometimes be hard to work out, if you are unsure just contact them anyway).

I like to use Airtable to keep a list of companies, as it allows me to include a date when I last contacted them. Shannon McNab has an excellent Skillshare Class on setting up Airtable if you want to use this program to get organised.

photo of a woman holding her hands to her face and looking out, with a caption referring to her finding clients for surface pattern design
clients clients where are you?

What to say to companies

You want to set up an email template you can use for pitching – introduce yourself and your business, explain why you think your work would suit the company, and make sure you include examples of your work and a link to your online portfolio.

You can write this however you like, just keep it fairly simple and to the point, you want the person to perk up when they see the email and get excited to read it. Think of your brand image and how that could come across in the words you use.

Show examples of your work

I like to include an A4 size JPEG of some of my patterns to the emails I sent to companies. An low-res attachment is quite easy for someone to look at quickly before they decide to go through to your website and online portfolio.

You may want the same JPEG to send to all companies, or you may want to tailor it to each specific company. I have a template set up in Photoshop where I select which patterns to include on the JPEG so that I ensure the designs I am showing that particular company really suit their aesthetic.

an image showing nine different pattern designs - shown as an example for what to send when finding clients for surface pattern design
the JPEG template I use to show examples of my work

Licensing Agreements and Pricing

Before you email any companies it is so important to have an idea of your pricing, and also a draft licensing agreement.

Pricing is a tricky area as there are no standards across surface pattern design, what you charge is really up to you. There are many great resources available though such as the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook (though this is for the US market), Facebook groups like Fair Pricing for Surface Pattern Design, and online classes specifically about pricing for surface pattern design.

It can take awhile to work out your pricing and you will find as you gain confidence in your work, you can adjust your pricing. You may find you end up doing a lot of negotiating with potential clients on pricing, just remember though to value your work and never go too low – after all, those clients cannot sell their products without the artwork!

You will also need a draft licensing agreement to ensure you are protected legally – the last thing you want is someone buying your design and then using it in a completely inappropriate way.

Other ways to find potential clients

Apart from directly contacting companies, you can also consider listing your work on freelance sites like Patternfield, Creative Pool, and Hire Her. Another way to find clients can be through local small business groups on Facebook.

Final thoughts on finding clients for surface pattern design

It is really up to you if you want to actively contact (or pitch) to potential clients – and alot of this comes down to confidence. It took me ages to start contacting companies, but once I started it became much easier. The best way to think of it is to imagine yourself as an employee of the company (the company being your surface pattern design business) and one of your jobs is to send these emails on behalf of the company, i.e. do not put any emotional/personal attachment to your work and the responses you may get. Most of the time you will get zero response. Some of the time you will get a thank you but we are not interested response. And occasionally you will get a ‘yes please we love your work’ response.

If you are still not sure then use your energy towards making a beautiful on-brand marketing strategy but always keep a list of those dream companies you think would be perfect for your art, as one day you will feel confident and you can press send on that first email!

If you feel upset when you are told your work is not suitable, think of an art gallery. Do you love absolutely every artwork that is there? Would you have every artwork hanging in your home? My guess is probably not, you could probably pick a handful at the most that you love that much and would suit your home and you could happily look at every day. Well your art is the same for these companies, they will see a lot of pattern designs but only a few will make them sit up and think, yes this is perfect for us. And if that is not your design do not despair, as there will be a company out there that will love it!

I hope this post on finding clients for surface pattern design has been useful – this is the final post in my little series all about the business of surface pattern design – I’d love to know if you have enjoyed them!

I'd love to know what you think!

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