How to Make Money as a Surface Pattern Designer

jenna rainey

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How to Make Money as a Surface Pattern Designer

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Are you wondering how to make money as a surface pattern designer or what ways a surface pattern designer can increase their income? Well, you’ve come to the right place. After 4 years of licensing my artwork and being a surface pattern designer (10 years total of running a creative business), I’ve got some answers for you.

Let’s face it, starting a creative business and operating one that is stable and continuously growing ain’t easy. Owning your own business means saying goodbye to those steady paychecks at your day job and at times wondering, “Where am I going to get money this month?” It takes time to really figure out where to put in the time and what has the greatest output or return for the littlest amount of input. Nobody wants to be working around the clock just to make a livable wage, right? So, because I know what it’s like being in a state of trying to find new ways to increase money as a creative business owner, let’s chat about the most sustainable and profitable ways to build a surface pattern design business.


How to Make Money as a Surface Pattern Designer 

At the end of the day, I’m all about diversifying your income. Currently, as I’m typing this out, I have roughly 12 different revenue streams in my business from courses to licensing, books and affiliate income, so the order in which I list the income streams for surface pattern designers isn’t in a range nor am I saying you can only choose one. You can implement all of these revenue strategies and streams in your business (and then some)! But if you’re looking to make more money as a surface pattern designer, here are the best and most stable ways below: 

1. Licensing

Related: What I Wish I Had Known Before Licensing My Art

Licensing is a vehicle or business model for creative brand owners to develop products without having to invest in inventory and development of the sales of the product. AKA no overhead. You create the art, and you sign a licensing agreement with a manufacturer or retailer on using that agreed upon art on their product(s) in exchange for either royalties or a flat fee.

2. DIY Licensing Platforms or POD Sites

Ever heard of platforms like RedBubble, Society6 or Creative Market? Artists and designers can create artwork and upload it to these DIY platforms or print on demand sites, still taking away the manufacturing aspect of a product business, but not as formal as working directly with another brand or manufacturer. This route is a great place to start and get your toes wet in the world of licensing and surface pattern design. It’s also a nice supplemental form of income. I wouldn’t say artists should rely solely on this stream for sustaining a liveable wage. While that can happen, it’s much more difficult than licensing. 

3. Sell Direct

Another way for surface pattern designers to make money is through selling directly to their customers. This could be in the creation of their own product lines and manufacturing them on their own, or selling original paintings, prints, etc. Keep in mind that this business model requires a lot more overhead and spending upfront on material costs and production costs. 

Kelly Ventura is a great example of a surface pattern designer who licenses her work AND sells direct to customers! 


I hope that gets your wheels turning! For a deep dive into the world of licensing, check out my course Brand Plus Brand that I teach with my licensing agent, Julie Turkel.

Related: A Chat With My Licensing Agent Julie Turkel

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