8 Free Tools To Streamline Your Creative Business

posted in: Start Up and Freelance Advice | 0

If you run a creative business, you want to spend more time making and less time on admin. Here are our favourite free apps, websites, and tools to help you save time and streamline the running of your creative business.


I always feel quite reflective at this time of year, and I’m putting aside time each week to try and review what has gone well and what I can improve for next year. With that in mind, I wanted to share some of the tools I use personally, or we use here at Print & Press, that have helped us to streamline how we work, and helped me to feel more organised and (slightly) more on top of my to do list.

Everyone works differently, and they might not all work for you or how you run your business. But if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, or think there’s probably a better way of running your business, why not try some of these out and see if they help?

While most of these tools do have a premium option, I have used, and am recommending the free option for all of them, although of course if you do enjoy them and want to help out another business I’m sure they would appreciate your custom.


Quill Engage

Google Analytics is one of those things you know you should spend time on but always put off – or is that just me? This free tool is for people who either always forget or just don’t understand Google Analytics. It sends a weekly and monthly email, reviewing your Analytics’ stats and putting them into easy to understand sentences. There are a couple of graphs, but again they are nice and clear. The whole point of this tool is keeping everything very simple and straightforward, so you can easily track how your website is performing week to week and month to month.

Of course you do need to get your analytics set up properly first of all, but Quill Engage means it keeps an eye on it for you. Even if you are quite technically minded, the weekly email is still a great prompt to remember to go and look at your analytics in more depth, or to flag if you’re having a particularly good or bad week.



One of the most common complaints I hear from other creatives is how long social media takes to organise and manage. It feels like half my time is spent taking photos, planning captions, and hunting down hashtags. Unfortunately you still need to spend time on the first two, but Makelight’s hashtag tool will save you hours, by suggesting similar hashtags to the one you entered. It also shows how many people have used it, so you can target more/less popular hashtags, and also spot new ones that haven’t become saturated.

They also have lots of fab things like a review of your colours, what is helping your account to grow, and your brand personality, all in their tools section.


Missing Lettr

If you write a blog or use content marketing, Missing Lettr will help you to keep your blog posts working hard, even months after you’ve written them. It takes images and quotes from your article, and automatically creates a schedule to post them to your social media accounts in the coming weeks and months.

This is the one tool on this list where I use the premium version – I started on the free version (which is great), but liked it so much after a few months I decided to buy it. This tool has saved me so much time, and it means there is always content for social media if we’re having a busy week and I don’t have time to post anything.


Creative Choices

The Creative Choices website is a great place to head to for personal development tips and business advice. They have lots of short articles on a variety of topics, including how much should you charge, setting up as a freelancer, and growing your creative business. It’s a good starting point when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Not only do you realise how many other people have asked the same questions, you also understand just how much help and support is available.


Print & Press Creative Business Support blog posts

Designers: How To Manage Your Time (and some free tools to help)



I’ve tried Trello before and never really got the hang of it, but this year I watched this video, which completely changed how I manage my week and my to do lists. I started using it for my freelancing work, and it worked so well I introduced it to Print and Press, and we now use Trello to manage our weekly plan and our print jobs.

I love that it’s on my phone and my computer, so I no longer have several different lists that I’m always updating (or forgetting to update). I also like that I can separate tasks into different topics, so if I want to just focus on marketing or finance I can look at that list and ignore the others.


Soulful PR

If you haven’t come across Janet Murray yet, you need to visit her website asap. Janet’s blog and podcast are full of time saving templates, tips and general advice to help with your PR and marketing. Favourites include how to write emails journalists will actually read, media enquiry services costs and comparisons, how to get PR for your product launch, and how to get started with email marketing.


Union Metrics

Another one to help with your social media, Union Metrics analyses your accounts and helps you to see what types of post are driving the most engagement, when is the best time to post, and who should you try and target or engage directly with. If you’re spending all that time on social media, it’s worth making sure your posts are having an impact.



Slack is meant to be used by businesses to connect workers so they can communicate easily, without generating hundreds of emails. However I’ve found it’s a great way to archive information I find online. This is an app I use in my personal creative business – I set up an account and then just didn’t invite anyone else to join. I have channels for different topics – potential collaborators, podcasts to listen to, courses to take, time management advice, etc, and whenever I find an interesting article/website/app/social media account, I just save it in the relevant channel.

Again I have it on my phone, so I can easily add things when I’m out or having conversations with people, and it stores all of the useful and interesting things I come across in one, easily searchable place. I know it’s not really how it’s ‘supposed’ to be used, but it has made such a difference to how I work, and means I no longer have 30 tabs open in my browser – pages I want to read but don’t quite have enough time for – I just save them in Slack instead!


I hope some of these suggestions are useful, especially if you’re just starting out and wondering how to manage everything without spending a small fortune. And if you use another tool I haven’t mentioned please let me know and I can add it to the list.

Just to let you know, if you do buy anything from some of the above links, I may receive a small portion of the payment. It won’t cost you anything extra, and I haven’t received any payment or free items for including these links in this post.

Independant Designer Makers Christmas Gift Guide 2017

posted in: Inspiration | 0

Present ideas to help you give the perfect gift, and support local designer makers and indie businesses.

Independant gift guide for UK designer makers, support your local indie businesses and designer makers with these gorgeous Christmas 2017 gift ideas

Created by Victoria Jowett, links at the bottom of this post

Every year I start shopping for local gifts, and then panic and pop into Anthro or John Lewis and pick up the first pretty things I see. But it’s still November, and this year I’m taking it seriously. I’m pledging to only buy my Christmas gifts locally or from independent businesses. It might take a bit more organisation, but I’m remembering that not only will my gifts be thoughtful and unique, but I’ll know I was the reason someone who is trying really hard to make their business succeed did a happy dance – and is there any better feeling?!

How To Stay In Control Of Your Creative Business, In 5 Easy Steps

How To Stay In Control Of Your Creative Business In 5 Easy Steps. Practical, easy to follow advice for creative businesses covering promotion, time management, and keeping calm, written by textile designer Victoria, the mastermind behind accessories brand TORIA by Victoria Jowett

Practical, easy to follow advice for creative businesses; covering promotion, time management, and keeping calm. All written by small business owner and textile designer Victoria, the mastermind behind accessories brand TORIA by Victoria Jowett. Click the heading and scroll to the bottom to download your FREE self promotion help guide.


Hi, I’m Victoria and I run a small independent design company that makes limited edition, one-of-a-kind bags and homeware accessories. My aim is to keep designs fresh and forever evolving, to create something vibrant, unique, and practical for people’s homes. However, it hasn’t always been plain sailing! I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you what I’ve learnt the hard way.

1)      Don’t get bogged down with the things you can’t do
I let this hold me back from actually starting for waaaay too long. All I could see were the things I couldn’t do, like finding the right suppliers or not having a shop function on my website (still not done this!). I had a list as long as my arm of all the things I felt I needed to get right before launching a product range. Everything felt really overwhelming and I just didn’t know where to begin, so I began with the things I could do and knew how to do. It’s that simple.
As soon as I started ‘ticking’ my list, then all the things I couldn’t do fell into the correct priority AND one at a time were much easier to problem solve!
 Action step 1 – Make a to-do list but keep it manageable, I try and give myself 3 main priorities for the day, remember things always take longer than expected.

2)      You can’t do everything at once – and that’s ok!
I had so many things that I felt all needed to be done before I was ‘professional’ enough to even start telling people about it. Making my website, getting good product photos then editing and reworking, getting an online shop set up, the tags, the descriptions, the SEO… PANIC sets in and mind spirals out of control! But when I let my business dictate my to-do list, and by this I mean not what I perceived was an important job but what I most needed to do to move my business forward,  things fell into place as I did them one. at. a. time!

Action step 2 – Look at your to do list, evaluate your jobs that will help generate an income, ie get your products listed on Etsy BEFORE you start drawing a new design. You need to make your products available for people to buy otherwise you’ll have no idea which designs are successful.

Designers: How To Manage Your Time (plus some free tools to help you)


3)      Expand your social media bubble
I generally used Instagram for my own inspiration and to keep in touch with the Surface Pattern Design world. However, this lead to serious self-doubt, everyone I followed was probably years in front of me business wise, so much more experienced, excellent product photography with a strong brand – how could I compete?
The answer was I couldn’t, but I started to reach out to other crafters; I have a textile degree and specialised in knitting, so naturally I find constructed textiles really inspiring. By expanding my IG bubble not only did it have a positive effect on my mind-set, it actually started to engage another audience which is has led to sales. In short, I felt more inspired than before and my business benefited.

Action step 3 – Look up #meetthemakers or #marchmeetthemaker on Instagram or Twitter, you can find some really interesting creatives out there with a breath of design skills at all levels.

Designer Interview: Georgie St Clair (and how to improve your Instagram following)

4)      Make the mind switch
Although of course for most of us our businesses are, first and foremost labours of love, you still need to take it seriously, otherwise nobody else will! This means treating your business like you would any other job. This is where I went wrong at first; my ‘real’ job was at work and my ‘fun’ job was at home. This meant that, although I was incredibly disciplined, everyone else around me just thought I was ‘at home’, so would just call to pop round, catch up for coffee or just not quite get it when I’d tell them “I’ve got design stuff to do”. It meant that I got more and more stressed because I felt so up against it time wise, it has almost bought me to breaking point on several occasions! When I started saying the words “I’m still at work, I’ll be finished at …” then not only did people take what I was trying to do more seriously but it opened up communications with friends (and then friends of friends) who wanted logos or design advice and actually lead to paid work.
Action step 4 – Be disciplined and stay focused.  Keep your phone away from your desk, this way you should limit getting distracted by a text or call, only look at social media when it is truly for business reasons, schedule the post (or whatever it is you want to do) and shut it down again.

Which leads me on to my final tip…

5)      …Tell people!
I don’t know about you, but I struggle with self-promotion! I asked a very successful freelancer what her advice would be for someone just starting out and the advice was;

“I told everyone and anyone that I was a designer (pause)… especially the hairdresser, they talk to a lot of people!”

OH SO SIMPLE – So, I had to get some test prints done at the local library. The printer broke and the lady that came over to help said “oh these designs are beautiful!”. Very bravely, I took a deep breath and said, “Oh, thank you! They’re mine. I’m a designer and they are for cushion covers”. What happened next is slightly unclear because I was SO nervous about saying those simple words that I didn’t take in much else, but before I knew it I had others gathered around me all discussing my designs! Cutting it short, the manager came over and said when the samples are done to bring them in as she’d like to stock them in the library shop! I genuinely think if people ask, they are interested, and it’s not that hard to say “I’m a designer”. If people aren’t interested they will change the conversation and you’ve lost nothing, BUT if they are interested you never know what doors may be opened to you!

Action step 5 – An easy way to do this is 1) make sure your personal Facebook profile is updated under the work section, this way when you participate in groups it’s easier for others to find your business without knowing the name. 2) Use a pinned Tweet or Facebook post on your business page that communicates quickly what you do and/or how to get in touch with you (see my Twitter example here and my Facebook example here ).

9 Creative Ways To Use Personalised Fabric To Promote Your Business (without having to ‘sell’ or be pushy)

Running your own business is HARD, but remember it’s a long game not a sprint, nothing happens overnight and most of the time things go wrong before they go right! If you only do one thing from this list, my advice would be number 5; this has been an absolute game changer for me. I know self-promotion is scary but have a look at my self-promotion checklist for some ideas, the main thing is, take a deep breath and say “I’m a designer” and see what happens.



Have a look at Victoria’s gorgeous bags and accessories, and keep in touch with her on social media:

5 Adobe Illustrator Techniques To Add Life To Your Surface Pattern Designs

Struggling to improve your Adobe Illustrator skills, or wondering how professional surface pattern designers use Illustrator to create unique and eye-catching print designs? Textile designer Kelsie Makes Patterns explains her top 5 Illustrator techniques to develop your skills and add life to your designs.


Adobe Illustrator can be a bit overwhelming for beginner surface pattern designers. Your first thought might be to research and watch tutorials, but after watching 20 videos describing the same 5 Illustrator tools it’s hard to know how to improve. Most tutorials will teach you enough about a subject to help you get started, but it’s hard to learn past the basics. So what do you do if you want to improve your designs? Well, here are 5 Adobe Illustrator tools that I find useful to add depth to your surface pattern designs.


Simple Shading

Shading is one of those techniques that can be hard to accomplish. With a little experience you can use the gradient tool, however many different factors can affect how your gradient prints. A solution is to create a simple two-toned shade with your knife tool. Take this simple circle for example:

I want to turn this circle into a sun but right now it is looking a little flat. To make it stand out more, I like to take the knife tool and separate the circle into two pieces. The knife tool is hiding underneath the eraser tool and can be accessed by clicking/holding down your mouse on the eraser tool to reveal more options and navigating to the knife tool. Since we are working with something that is round I typically like to cut the circle following the circles curve:

The key to using the knife tool is not to second-guess yourself. If you are unsure of yourself or too slow you will start to get wavy lines and you want your lines as smooth as possible. It helps to select the object you want to cut first so you are only cutting that object and nothing else.

Also, where you cut the circle is important. For this circle you don’t want to cut directly down the middle because then you have just created a circle that is half one colour and half another. Figure out where you want the light to be coming from and then cut about a centimetre to half a centimetre inward.

Take the smallest section of your circle and slightly darken the colour. To do this, navigate to your left side toolbar and click on the ‘fill colour box’ to open your colour options. You’ll end up with a circle that looks like this:

It’s a minor change but it can add a lot of interest to your patterns.

If you hold down alt while using your knife tool you can cut your vectors using a straight line which is good for creating a glare affect on things like electronic screens, sunglasses, etc.

Here is an example of how a tablet illustration can look shaded vs non-shaded:


Applying Simple Patterns to Your Existing Elements

Creating simple repeating patterns to overlay on top of different elements in your pattern is clever way to elevate your patterns to the next level. To achieve this, you need to know a little bit about repeat patterns. If you’re unfamiliar with creating repeat patterns, Teela Cunningham has a great tutorial on YouTube to help. Illustrator also has its own simple textures you can use if you don’t want to make your own patterns. You can access these by navigating to the ‘Swatch Library’ in the swatches panel, >’Patterns’ > ‘Basic Graphics’ > ‘Basic Graphics_Textures’.

Now you know how to create basic patterns, here comes the fun part!

So you have a graphic you want to add a little more interest to. With a pattern selected, use your blob brush tool to paint over your graphics. Here are some balloons I created using this technique:

The final thing you need to do to make sure Illustrator is able to create a pattern out of your designs is grab all of the patterns you just applied to your graphics and go to ‘Object’ > ‘Expand’. Essentially, you’ve created a pattern within a pattern and Illustrator doesn’t like that, so you have to expand the pattern so Illustrator can convert it into a reusable swatch. Once you have clicked ‘Expand’, drag your pattern over to the swatches panel and that’s it.


Using the Roughen Tool

The Roughen Tool is pretty straightforward. You can find it in ‘Effects’ section of your top toolbar in the ‘Distort & Transform’ section. To use the Roughen Tool, select your object and open the roughen options popup.

Make sure preview is selected so you can see your graphic being manipulated live and then mess with your size and details. I usually make sure ‘Absolute’ and ‘Smooth’ are selected because I like the look of them best, but you can play around with the different options and find which combinations you prefer.

TIP: If you’re having trouble seeing the results of the Roughen Tool as you’re manipulating it, click out of the roughen popup and press control-H. Then you can go back into the roughen popup and start over.

I created an edge with a size of 3 and a detail of 10, which makes a subtle wave at the edges of my vector graphics. If you want to create a more noticeable wave, just increase the size.


Creating Negative Space

There are so many ways you can also use negative space in your patterns. My favourite thing to do is take a vector graphic and add strokes to all the elements. For this tutorial I used a pencil:

I wanted the pencil to look like it had been cut out of the background, so I made the background black and added a stroke. For those unfamiliar with Illustrator you can find both the ‘Fill Colour’ box and ‘Stroke Colour’ box in the left-side toolbar. To change the fill colour, double click the top square box. To change the stroke colour click on the box with a square hole in it that is usually underneath the fill box.

The key is to make the stroke the same colour as the background. In this case, the stroke needed to be black. I then changed the fill colour of the pencil so that the whole fill colour of the pencil was one colour. At this point, you can make the fill be any colour that you want. You might end up with something like this:


Creating Off-Centered Stroke Outlines

I probably use this technique the most since it is so easy to accomplish. The other day I created this pencil pattern:

I think we can all agree that it’s a little flat. To fix this, select all of your graphics, in this case the pencils, and copy (control-C) and paste in front (control-F). Remove the fill colour of your graphics by pressing the white box with a red line in it underneath your fill box, and add a stroke of any colour. I find that black is often the best for this technique.

Take your top layer of only strokes and drag them slightly diagonal in any direction and you’re done:


Salt ‘N’ Pepper: How To Improve Your Printed Textile Designs

Tips For Selling Your Surface Pattern Designs To Print Buyers


I hope you like these Illustrator techniques that I use to liven up my patterns. Do you have any other favourite techniques to use on your patterns?


About Kelcie

Kelcie is a Surface Pattern Designer and blogger at kelciemakespatterns.com, where she provides in depth tutorials on Adobe Illustrator and Surface Pattern Design. In her free time you can find her attempting to make fonts and singing terribly to classic rock music. Follow Kelcie on social media:


How To Start Teaching Creative Workshops

How To Start Teaching Creative Workshops and Classes | Use your creative skills to teach a workshop or class to earn extra income, perfect for freelancers and designers

 As a creative, you normally need to have multiple income streams to keep your job exciting and the money coming in. Lots of designers run creative workshops or classes, but if you’re new to teaching you might not know where to start. Beki from Print & Press outlines some of the main things to consider when planning and promoting your new class.


“I am SO pleased with my lampshade, I honestly can’t believe I made something so professional looking myself. Thanks a million 😄😄😄.” Logging onto my Instagram and seeing a message like that is quite simply the best thing, and one of the main reasons I love running creative workshops.

I’ve taught various classes on and off for years, but this year I started to seriously create and develop classes, which I now host throughout Kent and London. It doesn’t generate a full time income (and I love Print & Press far too much to leave!), but as a creative it’s a great additional income stream, and one of the most rewarding things I do. If you are an expert at making something and like talking to people, I’d thoroughly recommend you try teaching your own class.


Planning Your Creative Workshop

Start by making a list of some of the skills you have, and then break these down into individual activities. Do you know how to make clothes? Your activities might be altering a bought pattern, sewing a skirt, or upcycling clothes. If you’re a printed textile designer, your activities might be putting a pattern into repeat, painting with watercolours, or creating a colour palette.

Look at your activity list and think about the logistics of teaching that activity to a group of 5-10 people. Ask yourself:

  • Do you need any particular equipment? Could you buy/hire enough equipment to run the class/ask attendees to bring their own equipment/hold the workshop at a venue with equipment provided?
  • Is this an activity that you as a customer would be interested in taking part in? Is there a tangible skill attendees will learn, or something they will make and take away with them? Your class has to be interesting if people are going to sign up for it.

Considering equipment and learning outcomes will show you if your class idea is feasible or not. If you think it is then great, now’s the time to flesh out your idea into something really exciting.

Your class needs to have a specific aim, so instead of ‘watercolour painting’, what about ‘learning to paint flowers with watercolours’? I teach a lino cutting class where attendees learn to make a lino printed tote bag, and they practice printing leaves to try out different techniques. The more specific your class, the easier you will find it to plan the format, and your customers will know exactly what they will be learning. Think if there are any fun or on trend details you could add to your class – pom pom necklace making? ‘Stranger Things’ 80s style screen printing?

Make a list of everything your students will do during the class, and practice doing this yourself, at the same time as explaining out loud what you’re doing. If you can, film yourself so you can watch it back, or ask a friend to watch you. Work out where you should pause to let everyone try for themselves, where you need to show closeups, and where you might need to give people extra help. The ‘Tell, Show, Do, Review’ is a good method to follow when teaching creative projects.

A top tip is to give all of your equipment and materials a proper name in advance. I realised halfway through my first class that I was so used to making something on my own that I didn’t know the proper name for one of my tools, and looked a bit silly trying to explain it to everyone!


How Much To Charge For Your Creative Workshop

There are lots of ways to work out your prices, but my preferred method is to create an Excel document and add up the following costs:

  1. How much will all of the materials and single use items cost (things you need to buy for each student, every class).
  2. How much will any multi use equipment cost (things like paint brushes, tubes of paint, scissors, etc). Work out how many single uses you think you will get out of this product (remember if you have a class of 8 using a tube of paint, that’s 8 single uses). Things like scissors you may buy once and not need to replace for years, but make sure a small contribution of a few pence from each ticket is included.
  3. How much will the venue cost (some venues will charge a flat rate for the room, others a set cost per person who attends).
  4. What is your hourly wage, and how many hours work will each workshop take. For every two hour class you will probably spend at least two to three hours preparing (most likely more for your first few classes).
  5. Do you have any additional costs (eg. poster printing, Eventbrite fees, a taxi to the venue (with all of your equipment), etc)

Once you have a total cost for running each workshop, divide it by the number of people you expect to attend to work out the cost per person.

Now you need to set your selling price. I normally look to see how much similar workshops cost, and match my prices to them, so I know I’m charging a fair price. Remember to charge more than your cost per person, so you are making a small amount of profit. This is also your buffer in case less people book onto the course, so that you don’t end up out of pocket.


Promoting Your Creative Workshop

I’ve found that the best way to promote workshops is through word of mouth. Unless you live in a big city, it’s unlikely people will travel a large distance to attend your class, so the best thing to do is make some flyers and head out into your local town. Ask cafe and shop owners if you can put up a poster, and talk to them about what you’re doing so they can promote it to their customers. You could make a few of the things you’ll be making at the class, and ask to display them in a local cafe/shop/heritage centre/art gallery. I’ve sold tickets to my next class sitting in a cafe with the lampshade I’d just finished making at a class an hour before – people love to see what they will be making and what’s possible to achieve in a few hours.

There are lots of online sites you can use to sell and promote your tickets, but below are some of the ones I have had the most success with:

It’s also a good idea to find any local facebook groups and twitter hashtags. Maybe you have a local textile group, art collective, or creative studios who could advertise your event to their members.


I hope this has encouraged you to try teaching your skills and running your own creative workshop. I am so pleased to have started doing this regularly, and I’ve realised that teaching people new skills is now one of my favourite parts of my week. Good luck, and do let me know how you get on with your class.

Writing A Creative Project Brief: How To Write A Successful Brief For Your Final Major Project

Emily Hammond is a recent graduate in Surface Pattern Design for Interiors at Swansea College of Art, and the winner of the 2017 Print & Press Student Print Design Competition. She resides in West Yorkshire, where she is establishing her freelance business. Find out her advice for students undertaking their final year of a textile design course, and how to write a creative project brief.


Establishing Your Degree Collection Through A Written Brief

Your written brief is the sail on your boat. Without it, your project is aimlessly floating and won’t be prepared for any rough tide. My first bit of advice would be to make it your own. Only you know your work and capability best. Tutors and peers can advise your journey, but only you can carve your path.

The content in your brief needs to be tactile enough, as you may be questioned thoroughly on it during assessment period. Below are some questions to ask to give structure to your brief.

What’s your topic?

Pick a theme that will best represent your individual style and skill set. It needs to be something that can endure weeks as your final degree module usually lasts from two to six months. If your idea only lasts for a couple of weeks, you won’t be able to create a full body of work that keeps regenerating new outcomes. No development means no project.

I chose to draft this out through brainstorming key words and floating ideas. Everyone has a different method of planning so try catering it towards your own thought process. I usually get a few ideas at once so it helps me to write them down into a brainstorm so that I can reflect later and refine ideas into outcomes.


What methods will you use?

Screen print, ceramics, stitch, digital print? Whatever the answer, you should explain your intention for these processes and why you are using them.


Which pathway discipline does your work lie in?

Interiors, fashion, stationery? It is important to consider where you fit into the market and your work needs to be a visual representation of this. I know one size doesn’t fit all, and I’ve seen many students crossing pathways such as fashion and interior designers or fashion makers.

Your degree show should be an accurate reflection of your chosen pathway and define you to the industry and potential employers.

Who is your target market?

Who will buy my products? Build a client profile board to extract these ideas and put your work into context. You can create a mini story with this.


What is your colour palette?

This can be the most underrated part, and is often neglected. One thing I regret is not doing enough colour swatching. By picking out Pantone shades and RGB colour scales, your work will have more visual structure. Colours wont clash and you’ll be able to predict your outcomes a lot better.

If you are digital printing, it is worth requesting printed fabric samples, as the colours may not always print how they look on the screen. If hand dyeing or screen printing, keep a small book to log different shades and colours complete with fabric samples. I scanned in paintings and photos of colourful objects, and picked the colours with the ‘Eyedropper’ tool in Photoshop to create palettes.


What’s your timeline?

This is only a suggestion as I didn’t end up using one – Mine was in the form of scribbled to do lists in my diary last minute and hoping for the best! However, a timeline gives a rough structure of where you want to see your work in the next few weeks. The thing that put me off originally making one is it will change – a lot. You won’t be following the same timeline one week before hand in – things change. Your supplier might be late, your ideas can change. However, by letting your tutor know your project intentions, you will appear organised, dedicated and outsiders will be able to visualise your predicted body of work a lot more fluently.

Start off with listing the weeks and jotting down what you expect to be done at the end of each week and bullet point ways you can make this happen. I’m going to leave this one as optional because if you’re anything like me you may work spontaneously and weekly deadlines may make you panic.

Designers – How To Organise Your Time (plus some free tools to help)



These are the backbone to your brief. If you’re not strong at writing and your ideas usually come to you visually, mood boards are a life saver. They can be created handmade or digitally. I prefer digital as I they look more professional, and they look effective in digital and paper portfolios.


Creating A Portfolio

Some courses may require a substantial portfolio, outlining your degree show project. This will be your main tool towards seizing your dream job. Each portfolio is individual. Layouts are your own preference. The main thing is they need to be clear and coherent.

You may want to include:
– Fabric or paper samples
– Colour palettes
– Mood boards
– Space mapping – your designs on the products intended for purpose
– Keywords

If you are unsure on layout, it is worth looking on Pinterest. Keywords such as ‘mood board’, ‘sketchbook layout’ and ‘creative portfolio’, may help you find what you are looking for.

The portfolio is ongoing, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t have as many items as you would like or you feel that it doesn’t represent your best work. Your style will keep evolving, and so will your portfolio.


For more information on my work you can visit my website, or follow me on Instagram. Good luck everyone!


Want some more advice on preparing for your final year? Read textile designer Katy Welsh’s 6 Tips For Your Final Year At University.

Already finished uni and want to know what to do next? Read 8 Things To Do After Finishing Your Textile Design Degree and How To Make Money From Your Textile Design Skills.

Designer Interview: Artist & Illustrator Georgie St Clair

posted in: Designer Interview | 0

Georgie St Clair Illustrator Designer Interview, with advice on how to improve your Instagram following and finding time to be creative

We caught up with artist and illustrator Georgie St Clair about her inspiration, finding time to be creative, and her tips for improving your Instagram following.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself…

I’m an artist and illustrator living in Brighton with my gorgeous 3 kids and hubby. I create floral and botanical inspired art and illustrations, created using real flowers and foliage.

I sell my prints online and work with a variety of clients across the world. My latest client was in South Korea. They found me all thanks to the power of the internet and Instagram – which I’m slightly obsessed with!

Georgie St Clair Illustrator Designer Interview, with advice on how to improve your Instagram following and finding time to be creative


Your Instagram account is hugely popular (48,000 at the latest count), what are your 3 top tips for building an Instagram following?

Consistency, creativity and commenting.

Choose your topic and consistently post around that theme. If you’re a textile designer sharing your process, don’t suddenly start posting about your kickboxing hobby!

Think about how you can present your theme. For example if you’re a textile designer, think creatively. Make interesting origami shapes from your textiles, take them outside and photograph them in the trees. Think beyond just showing them as piles of fabric or textiles draped on a mannequin.

Comment on other people’s photos regularly and reply to people who comment on your photos. It’s a matter of being polite. If someone takes time to comment on my post, 9 out of 10 go off and check out their account and leave a like or a comment.

Make sure you have a good profile picture too – that entices people to check you out.


Who are your favourite accounts to follow on Instagram?

Oh my word I need another blog post! @Caroline_South has been and still is one of my favourite accounts since starting on Instagram 4 years ago. Her creative styling, colour palettes and photography are brilliant.

A recent discovery is @allthatisshe. Lifestyle accounts can be very ‘same-y’ but Dominique has such fantastic ideas brilliantly composed and captured.

Georgie St Clair Illustrator Designer Interview, with advice on how to improve your Instagram following and finding time to be creative


We were very impressed reading your client list (Adobe, Stylist, Sass & Belle…), how did you secure your first big commission?


Seriously though, I think Instagram had a lot to do with finding clients in the beginning. Although that has changed as the algorithm changed and made visibility on Instagram more difficult.

However the first big commissions actually came from blogging. I was also discovered by Not On The High Street and invited to pitch my products as a result of having a blog. I’ve returned to concentrate on blogging, e-newsletters and actually reaching out to people now. Old school marketing techniques 😉


You haven’t had any ‘formal’ illustration training, what advice do you have for someone looking to start a creative career in a different specialism than they trained in?

I think you’ve just got to get stuck in and go for it. Find time to develop new skills every moment you possibly can.

When my kids were babies I would draw at nap times or once they had gone to bed. Even now I grab every moment I can to practice and develop new skills. If you’re passionate enough you’ll find the time. I rarely watch TV. And I get up before the rest of my family so I can have creative time to myself.

Georgie St Clair Illustrator Designer Interview, with advice on how to improve your Instagram following and finding time to be creative


Your beautiful illustrations contain lots of floral imagery, how much of your design work happens ‘in real life’ and how much is computer based?

At the moment it’s 50/50. I’m currently creating imagery for products so there’s a lot of photoshop work to be done. Once I’ve finished creating these, I want to go back to to simple pencil drawing and collaging with real flowers for some limited edition art prints.


Which artists or designers inspire you?

Artist, Krisjana S Williams work. She uses vintage imagery painstakingly collaged to create the most intricate illustrations that also contain a lot of flora and fauna.

I adore Carne Griffiths for his dynamic portraits created using tea, ink and alcohol.

Also Georgia O’Keefe for her flower paintings. One day, I want to return to oil painting. I find it so relaxing.

And Kelly Smith aka Birdy and Me. Her magical illustrations and beautiful pencil work is so beautiful.

Georgie St Clair Illustrator Designer Interview, with advice on how to improve your Instagram following and finding time to be creative


What are you most proud of achieving since setting up your business?

I still find it amazing that I have created imagery that people want to buy and have on their walls! Plus having just turned 40, I’m finally living the dream of having a creative business. It’s still very much a work in progress and I don’t feel I’ve ‘arrived’ yet, but I’m very happy I’ve finally started on this path.

Georgie St Clair Illustrator Designer Interview, with advice on how to improve your Instagram following and finding time to be creative


Can you tell us about something exciting you are working on at the moment?

I’m in the process of creating illustrations for products and homewares. Again, something I have wanted to do have for a very long time. And my character Sassy Du Fleur is just about to feature on makeup products in South Korea and across Asia.

There’s a lot of ideas in my brain that I want to get out and create – so everyday feel exciting right now!

Georgie St Clair Illustrator Designer Interview, with advice on how to improve your Instagram following and finding time to be creative


If you’d like to find out more about Georgie, or her stylish muse Sassy Du Fleur you can visit her website, NOTHS shop, or her Etsy shop. Georgie is also on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.


Print & Press In The Press

posted in: News | 0

We’ve been mentioned on a few more blogs this past couple of weeks, so thank you very much to everyone for their features.


Georgie St Clair – Is Personalisation More Than A Trend?

Entrepreneur support scheme BeePurple – Profile on Beki Gowing

Kate On Thin Ice – Leaving A Safe Job To Set Up A Business

Jennifer Hamley – Q&A

Jennifer Hamley – What’s In Your Handbag

University of Brighton – From Graduate Scheme To Being Your Own Boss

Women Who Create – Finding A Creative Community When You Move To A New Area

University of The Arts London – Meet UAL Alumni Beki Gowing


5 Top Tips for Selling Your Designs to Print Buyers

posted in: Start Up and Freelance Advice | 0

5 Tips For Selling Your Designs To Print Buyers

Vicki Wallis from 29andSeptember Print Studio gives her advice for freelancing and selling your pattern designs to print buyers, and a FREE checklist to help you prepare for your next meeting.

As someone who’s been on both ends of the process; as a print buyer and designer, I can tell you that print design is much more than pretty motifs. Unfortunately, in a world with so much competition, it’s not enough to just design things you like and hope it sells. Print design is big business and as print designers we have to treat it as that – a business.

That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy making designs that you like, but in order to make sales, there’s more to consider than just the design aesthetic. This post is to try and help you to make the most of your design talent by understanding what buyers are looking for and covering key information they’ll want to know.


How To Get A Meeting With A Print Buyer

If you’re new to the industry and don’t have any contacts yet, the first step is to find potential clients to arrange meetings with. I find it very beneficial to network, both in real life and online via social media. There’s lots of events throughout the year relating to textiles and print, such as sourcing fairs and trend forecasting seminars, where a lot of industry professionals will be looking for new ideas. Putting a face to a name can really help and being there in person is very different to sending an email that can be ignored.

Of course, there can be some success by sending ‘cold’ (contacting people you haven’t spoken to before) emails, but keep in mind that people are busy and emails can easily get lost. Do your research before emailing someone, don’t send an impersonal mass email. Choose brands to email that have a similar aesthetic to you and attach a few relevant examples of work to the email; keep the file size below 10mb as some businesses block emails with larger files and you don’t want to annoy people by slowing down their mail service. Keep the email brief and to the point, explain why you think your work is a good fit and essentially help the buyer to understand why meeting you would be beneficial to them.

Snail mail also has its place in making contacts. I like to use postcard printing company Moo for promotional materials. I choose them because I like the quality and they have a ‘printfinity’ option, meaning that you can print a different design onto each postcard that you order, meaning I can send a few different prints to showcase my work to potential clients. As with sending an email, enclose a brief message about who you are and what you can do for the company.


When you’ve got some appointments set up, the next step is to prepare for the meeting;


1. Be aware of costs

In order to have a successful business, cost awareness is crucial. Not only will pricing your works appropriately ensure that you have a viable business, but also understanding the cost implications of your designs will help you when speaking with clients. For instance, if you’re working with a client who is on a budget, it’s not a good idea to design a screen print with 15 colours, as this will be very expensive compared to a print with 4 colours.

Often clients aren’t very knowledgeable about the printing process and there is sometimes an expectation that the designer will advise on the process. Try to gain a working knowledge of print methods and costs so that you can help them, as this could give you an edge over your competition.

If you’re new to the industry, I’d also encourage you to make a business plan. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something really involved, but having some structure and financial goals will help you when it comes to pricing.

5 Steps To Work Out Your Selling Price


5 Tips For Selling Your Designs To Print Buyers | How To Sell Your Pattern Designs | Buyer Meeting Preparation | Commercial Textile Printing Designer


2. Be clear about what you are offering

As a print buyer, I found that different designers would offer different things, for example, some would sell a flattened file so that it wasn’t possible for us to edit in house, whereas others were happy to provide layered files. Before you meet with a buyer, consider what you’re willing to give and how you will answer questions on file types and what they can and can’t do with them.

Often brands already have their own colours chosen for the season, so they will want to use their own colours. You may be asked if you can recolour, or if they’re allowed to, so make sure you have a response and price if applicable. Nothing knocks your confidence in a pitch more than fumbling around trying to answer a question.

In terms of the print setup, I was surprised how many times people pitched a design that looked as though it was a repeat, only to find that it was a placement print. In my experience in the fashion industry, particularly the high st retailers, there’s often a demand for 4-way repeat prints as these can be very cost effective vs other print methods. Make sure you can easily tell potential clients about the print setup and any recommendations you have for the best result.

Another key thing that buyers will want to know is the terms of the license. Are they getting exclusive rights? If so, they may ask if the print has previously been seen on your website, social media accounts or by other clients. Some customers will insist that the print cannot be shown elsewhere.


3. Be organised

Pitches can be nerve-wracking, I’m a terrible public speaker but have found that good organisation can really help with the nerves. Before you go into a pitch, make sure you’re prepared for the questions on costs and your offering – if you need to write this down somewhere that’s absolutely fine, but make sure that you can access it easily. A few seconds looking for a piece of paper will feel like forever to a busy buyer sitting waiting for you!

Before going into a pitch, I’d recommend organising some sort of order for the designs you’re showing. This would depend on how you work, but for example this could be organising by collection, theme, or for customers with wide product ranges, prints suitable for a particular product or customer type. Even if the prints aren’t designed to be bought together, it’s best to consider how they’ll look on a rack or together on a table, you want to avoid colours or styles clashing as this can detract from the individual prints.


5 Tips For Selling Your Designs To Print Buyers | How To Sell Your Pattern Designs | Buyer Meeting Preparation | Commercial Textile Printing Designer


4. Be yourself

Buyers are busy and you wouldn’t have been allowed to show your work if they didn’t think you had talent. Therefore, an important lesson I’ve learnt is, stick to what you’re talented at. I know it’s tempting when you see a gorgeous print and would like to emulate the feel of it in some way (be inspired by, never copy, of course!), but if it’s a watercolour painting and you have no experience with watercolours, it might not be the best use of your time.

Don’t feel pressured into doing something because it’s on trend. It’s often a plus to be trend relevant, but there’s so many different trends each season, find the ones that appeal to you and your skills, rather than being totally driven by them. It shows when you’ve done something because you felt you had to.

Buyers want to be inspired and it’s ok to have some surprises in your offering, so don’t be afraid to follow your own style.


5. Be relevant to the client

If you’re showing work one on one to a client, this is the most important tip I have – make sure the work you show is relevant to them. A couple of brands I worked at have very specific tastes and even though trends change, season after season you can easily identify one of their prints; they have a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ about them. We would have people pitch prints that were totally wrong for us. It quickly became clear that the designer hadn’t made any effort to tailor their offering to us, which was disappointing as the work we had seen online was promising.

Buyers want to know what’s in it for them, why is the work going to make their range better. If you make their job easier, by carefully curating your offering to them, you prevent them from wasting time sifting through lots of unsuitable designs and instead they can focus their attention on a smaller range of prints that their customers will love.

If it’s a brand that you particularly want to work with and their style aligns with your skills, I’d encourage you to design some extra prints specifically with them in mind. Of course, this is extra work on your part but if you get it right it shows them that you understand their brand and are willing to work in order to build a relationship – traits that will have buyers calling you again in the future.


5 Tips For Selling Your Designs To Print Buyers | How To Sell Your Pattern Designs | Buyer Meeting Preparation | Commercial Textile Printing Designer


I hope this post has helped you with things to consider when selling your print designs – remember you’re selling something and as such you have to treat it like a business deal. I’ll be keeping an eye on the comments box, so feel free to message with any questions and I’ll try my best to answer them for you.


Preparing to launch your next collection? Download our free launch plan to help you get organised.


Vicki Wallis Bio

I’ve been working in the fashion industry for over 12 years and have been fortunate enough to work in a variety of roles, including fashion and print designer, buyer, garment technologist and production management. I’ve worked for some of the UK’s biggest retailers, but found that smaller labels suited me best as I get to work on products from start to finish, rather than focusing on a small area.

I started my company, 29andSeptember Studio, to help small and start-up fashion labels understand the fashion industry and succeed in their business, through educational blog posts and one-on-one training.


Designer Interview: Edwina from Wall Circus

posted in: Designer Interview | 0

Designer Interview - Edwina from Wall Circus

Graphic designer Edwina talks colours, start up business tips, and design inspiration, as we find out more about the beautiful children’s print company Wall Circus.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself? 
Hi, my name is Edwina, I live in south west London with my husband and our 3 little tearaways. I worked as a graphic designer commuting into London for several years. After I had my second son, I made the really hard decision to give up my lovely job and work as a freelance designer from home. It was a huge leap of faith but I haven’t looked back. The freedom this has given me is amazing – I still manage to do the job I love but with the bonus of being able to work flexibly around my children. 
Designer Interview - Edwina from Wall Circus
What inspired you to start Wall Circus?
I spent 10 years designing posters for the arts and entertainment industry. After I became a mum and stopped commuting, it felt really instinctive to design for the new world I was now inhabiting. I am also really aware of the power of art and that surrounding children with positive messages can have a really great impact on their confidence and self esteem. All Wall Circus‘s designs are intended to do just that – I love bringing impactful, inspiring and affirming messages to children’s surroundings.
We found you on Instagram, where you have a gorgeous account. Do you have any advice for designers on curating their images?
That’s very kind, thank you. It certainly takes a bit of trial and error. I am definitely still learning but I think the key is consistency – sticking to just one filter and a particular colour palette can really help this. You can vary the content and the composition but if you follow to this tip, your feed should flow well. 
Designer Interview - Edwina from Wall Circus
Who are your favourite accounts to follow on Instagram?
I love @littlebigbell – her use of colour is stunning. I am also always in awe of @jsyamsek – her styling is gorgeous. 
Do you have any advice for designers looking to set up their own business?
The best advice I probably have (which came from my husband!) is to try & find a cost effective way of testing the viability of your product in the market before investing too heavily. If you are able to take orders for products rather than investing in stock, then this can really help. Taking stalls at fairs is also a great way of getting good value feedback from customers on your products.
Designer Interview - Edwina from Wall Circus
Colour looks to be a really important part of your work, where do you find your inspiration?
I have always loved colour and it’s ability to say so much without words. Every Wall Circus design is intended to be positive and feel-good so colour and combinations of colours are hugely important in this. I love playing around with my Pantone swatch book trying out different colour combinations to achieve this.
Which artists or designers inspire you?
I’m fascinated by the evolution of poster design and draw inspiration from many different sources. I love David Hockney’s work, I think he is amazing with colour. I’m also really inspired by retro graphic styles by designers such as Tom Eckersley and Dick Bruna. I love the boldness and beauty of simplified, clean shapes and flat colour.
Designer Interview - Edwina from Wall Circus
What are you most proud of achieving since launching Wall Circus? 
I’m really thrilled by how well the business has grown. I started it as very much a local business but we are so lucky to live in an age where we have the internet and social media at hand to grow our businesses. I am now sending orders to as far a field as Australia and Singapore. 
Can you tell us about something exciting you are working on at the moment?
There are new designs appearing on the website regularly but most excitingly, I am looking into a few different applications for my designs which will bring some new and exciting products to the Wall Circus on-line store. Be sure to follow us on social media to keep up with our latest additions!
Designer Interview - Edwina from Wall Circus
If you’d like to keep up to date with Wall Circus, or buy some of their gorgeous prints, you can visit their website, or follow them on Facebook and Instagram
1 2 3 4 8