The 7 steps to becoming a freelance textile designer

The 7 steps to becoming a freelance textile designer

What is freelancing?

Freelancing has become this popular buzzword during the last few years and although the sound of it paints a slight romantic appearance there is a lot more to it than you would initially expect. Wikipedia describes the definition of a freelancer as follows: “a freelancer or freelance worker is a term commonly used for a person who is self-employed and is not necessarily committed to a particular long-term employer”, meaning that a subscription at the the Chamber of Commerce is enough to offer you an official hipster status of a freelancer.

Planning colour palettes Mood board development Sketching print elements

The formality of this first step, however, doesn’t bring home the bacon. Therefore, we decided that we would offer you a hand and guide you through the process into becoming a credible freelance textile designer.

1. Quality over Quantity. Create a clear portfolio.

In order to land assignments - as a freelance textile designer - you need to showcase your work and differentiate yourself with respect to your competition. In short, your portfolio is a key value for clients as it expresses the value they can expect. Therefore, start off with creating a clear portfolio, with only your best and most related work. Don’t try to fill your portfolio with unrelated designs. It’s quality over quantity!

2. Get the word out. Build a website.

Having a clear portfolio is essential, although you need to find a hosting service that allows you to showcase your portfolio on the Internet. These days, building a website has become a lot easier than you might think. You don’t need to be a whizz-kid developer to create your own website anymore. Creating a website can be easily done by using one of the many website building tools available on the Internet. Mostly, it comes down to the degree of coding knowledge you have and which of the website building tools suits your needs. Everything else is just a matter of drag and drop. It’s that simple. Wordpress, Squarespace, Weebly and Wix are a few of the large amount of website building tools available.

3. Register on freelance websites.

With a clear portfolio and website, you have build the first and most structural foundations of your freelancing business. However, to gain traffic to your website or to score assignments, you need to meet your potential clients. Fortunately, the Internet offers many possibilities for that. Multiple freelance websites provide you with the opportunity to respond to freelancing job postings, both project based and long term based. Within these environments, you can build a network of clients and connect to other freelancers that support a structural generating cash flow. A few examples of these websites are: UpWork, Freelancer, Fiverr and Guru.

4. Advertise yourself

Regardless of which field you operate as a freelancer, chances are likely that your are wearing different hats at the same time, especially during the start of your freelancing career. Thus, with this in mind, you have to conclude that you - in the first place - are responsible for your advertising, meaning that you have to get the word out in your personal, social and professional network. Utilizing these networks is an essential step in building credible advertising around yourself. Instagram, Twitter, Dribble and  YouTube are platforms that are great for textile designers to get their name out. Important, however, is to understand how to utilize these platforms. As a freelance textile designer, everything is - logically - about textile design. Therefore, find your niche focus and weave that central element through all of these channels. For example, write about creativity on your blog, tweet about it, provide tutorials on YouTube and post your design work on Instagram and Dribble.

5. Determine an hourly rate or a fixed price.

As a freelancer, charging your clients can be done in two ways:

●      Through an hourly rate, or..
●      A fixed price agreed upon in advance.

Either way, both methods are used very often when doing business with freelancers, although they - as everything - have their pro’s and cons.
Hourly rates a great for jobs that might require additional hours such as implementing adjustments and communication (f.e. social media management).
With fixed prices, you need to be careful that you don’t undervalue the work or hours that you need to invest in a certain project. Either way, you don’t want to ask five dollars for something that can be done in five minutes. The output in itself has way more value than five dollars, although the rate is equal to the time invested. The biggest advice in this one is “try to sell the value that you offer not the time you’ve invested.”

Before you are able to price your work, you should benchmark the hourly rate that is reasonable in the market. Mostly, you’ll find that freelancers that charge either hundreds of dollars per hour or freelancers that do anything for five dollars per hour. The latter one breaks my heart as it undervalues your abilities and work that you put out there. 

Important note: Take into account what your client is able to pay, how much knowledge you have about the topic, additional cost and time and the deadline of the project.

7. Balance workload and time

There are tons of reasons for people to start a self-employed career. From setting your own schedule to no co-worker drama, you might think of a variety of reasons to start for yourself. As we said before, however, balancing your workload and time as a freelancer is one of the biggest challenges of all. To help you anticipate, here a three reasons that help you find balance between your workload, time and income.

Connect with other freelancers.

Other freelancers in the business can be seen as valuable and like-minded assets that are there to support you in big assignments or when your creative well runs dry.

Ditch the nightmare clients

Clients are there in every single way. They feel important and expect the best experience possible. Of course, this is your job and you want to give them exactly what they need in order for them coming back, utilize your service/product or refer you to other potential clients. Most of them are relatively easy to work with, but there are the single few that costs eighty percent of your energy and turn out to be the nightmare clients. Learn to recognize them and to ‘eliminate’ them as soon as possible.

Guard your personal time

Not working nine to five and being self-employed might blur the lines between your personal time and business hours. Logically, with you setting your own schedule, you need to discipline yourself. Not letting anything interrupt your personal time is key to guard your personal environment. Think of setting up a home office, work strict hours and reply e-mail at a fixed time daily.


Overall, when you are able to follow through on these seven rules, you are able to provide yourself a credible image as a freelance textile designer. Remember that being self-employed means to embrace characteristics that help you thrive as a textile designer. In the end, it comes down to you, your passion, courage and willingness to follow your dreams.

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