If you’re a recent (or not so recent) textile design graduate, you might have experienced a horrible moment where you’ve wondered where on earth all the jobs are, and how will you make money? Luckily, Textiles gives you practical and useful skills, and you can use these to sell your work, or even start your own business.
1. Design artwork for local events and organisations
As a print designer, your role is to make beautiful images. These are normally repeat patterns, but you could turn your skills to creating a poster for a local market, a new logo for a small business, a beautiful newsletter for a charity, or an online banner for a local organisation.
Think about your strengths – are you good at hand illustrations, bold colours, imaginative compositions, photography – and build on these to think of designs you could make outside of pattern design.
Most likely you won’t have the technical skills to pitch for big jobs or national companies (although it’s always worth trying), but approach small or local organisations, who might not have the budget to pay a professional design business. Show them examples of your patterns and drawings, and let them know what you think you could offer them, quoting a fair price for your work.
Websites like Freelancer and Fiverr are also options for advertising your skills, although don’t feel you have to match the incredibly low prices offered by some, quality is more important than quantity.
2. Offer art and design portfolio coaching to school students
You’re building your professional textiles portfolio, so you have a great insight into what students need to show in their portfolio to get into a Foundation or Undergraduate degree course. Ask your old school/college if they would hire you for a day, or could advertise your services to students, create a poster to pin on noticeboards in your area, and post an ad on Gumtree.
Remember to give honest but constructive feedback, and if possible show examples of what a great portfolio looks like. Give advice on designers they should look at, exhibitions to visit, and extra projects or designs to try.
3. Websites that let you print and sell your designs on products
The great things about sites like Red Bubble, Society 6, and Print All Over Me, is you can sell products made with your patterns, without having to invest any money in stock. You agree to give a percentage of the sale to the website, and in return you can sell products including tshirts, mugs, art prints, towels and dresses with your designs on. Great for starting out, but the commission and selling prices charged by the sites can be quite high, so as your business grows you will want to take over production of your products.
4. Sell your pattern designs online
While not always as easy as it sounds, it’s worth setting up an account on the popular freelancing websites like Patternbank, The Creative Finder, and Behance and adding images of the patterns you would like to sell. Ensure your designs can’t be easily copied, by never showing a full repeat and including a watermark. Once you have an online portfolio, send it to any contacts you have so they can see examples of your most recent work.
5. Run a textiles, printing, or art workshop
This can be a fun event to run with a friend, especially if you feel nervous talking in front of people. Come up with an idea based on your skills (often the simpler the better – don’t try and cram in too much), and organise a workshop.
Think about some of the best classes and workshops you attended at university, and remember your students will want to leave having made a finished product/artwork.
Ask local churches, village halls, cafes and businesses if they have an affordable space you can hire, buy all the materials you need, and advertise like crazy.
You will need some upfront investment, and the first one might have a few hiccups, but if it goes well you could start a regular class, and income stream. It’s also a great way of meeting other creatives in your area.
6. Teach a local art class
If the idea of setting up your own workshop sounds too much, create a CV and portfolio that highlights your teaching/coaching experience, and approach local art classes and summer schools. Create a lesson plan to demonstrate how you will teach a particular skill, show examples of your work, and list professional experience and/or awards won. It’s also worth mentioning if you have a strong social media following, as places like this will appreciate if you can help support and promote their classes.
7. Start a fashion label
I don’t mean a ‘proper’ fashion label (although, why not?), but you can easily make some clothes and sell them. Your design skills mean you have a unique personal style, and most likely a clear idea of what you do and don’t like.
Try the #girlboss approach and customise charity shop finds, or digitally print your best designs and create some clothes. There’s lots of simple clothing patterns on the internet, or companies like the ethically focused Kalopsia Collective can make professional quality clothes for you, with their newly launched Assemble Apparel service.
When you have your finished creations, hire a stall at a local craft market, and set up a boutique on Asos Marketplace.
8. Design artwork for bands
Bands are always looking for unique and innovative artwork for their merch: tshirts, posters, albums, websites, etc. Think about your design handwriting and ask what type of music genre you would suit. Brent Galloway has written a great post on how to create band merchandise, and you can also show your portfolio to bands and see if you have anything existing that they like and would want to use.
9. Sell your products on Etsy
Things like cushions, zip bags, pencil cases, tote bags, etc are really easy to make, and don’t need much sewing knowledge. In fact we have DIY cushion and bag Pinterest boards which can help you with how to guides.
Digitally print your favourite patterns (Print & Press prices start at £20 for a metre, enough to make 6 cushions or 16 A5 zip bags), and spend a weekend making your products, photographing, and setting up your Etsy page.
Don’t forget, if you are making anything to sell, (or selling your services) you should work out a selling price that will appeal to customers, and pay you for your time. Read our 5 Steps To Work Out Your Product’s Selling Price article to find out how.