How to launch a textile design business as a newbie

When launching a freelance textile design business, the list of assumed “must-haves” and “must-knows” can be long and understandably overwhelming. Many designers assume that they must have hundreds of patterns, rockin’ trend forecasts, super-speed Adobe skills, a facebook page, a twitter account, a website, a product line, etc..etc..etc..

All of these skills, tools and achievements are important, and can help you bring in more clients, but you can also launch and grow your business in a more organic way, by starting small and slowly working your way up the design ladder.

Begin to think of your freelance textile design business as a full-time job. At your current level, what projects would you be working on in a corporate design setting?

A novice textile designer would develop repeats, mix color palettes, update purchased artwork and work on low-level trend research. They most likely wouldn’t be responsible for managing hundreds of patterns or giving high-level trend presentations.

If you are new to the industry, entry level tasks such as repeats, indexing, color palette development and artwork updates are a wonderful way to get your foot in the door with your dream customer. These jobs may not sound glamorous, or make you feel like the baddest designer on the block, but they are a great way to bring in some extra cash and grow your network naturally and with ease. Ahh… a textile design business with ease.

In other words, you don’t have to be a Sr. Designer to launch a successful business, you just have to rock the skills that you have and learn the rest as you go. Click to tweet!

Similar to my first full-time job, my first freelance textile design job was putting very simple patterns into repeat for P&B Textiles. Over time, after gaining the trust and respect of the in-house design team, I was given more complex projects. I didn’t jump into the relationship expecting to develop full pattern design collections, I started small and the relationship grew organically.

You can launch your freelance textile design business in a similar way. Entry level positions can be found through job boards such as craigslist and stylecareers and are usually paid on an hourly basis, between $35-$50/ hour depending on your experience level and location. After your client sees that you can deliver high quality work in a timely manner, they will likely begin to give you more complex projects, such as original pattern development and high-level trend research and you will have a client for life.

In the Ultimate Guide to Repeats we start where any aspiring freelance designer should start, mastering the repeat process. I can’t promise that you will become a repeat guru overnight, but you will learn the techniques to developing professional patterns and repeats that you can then practice until they are mastered. You will be able to stop guessing your way through the repeat process and will have a system to developing patterns and repeats that you can refer back to when you are feeling overwhelmed or lost.

“I can’t emphasize enough how important your classes have been in my venture into surface design. Your tutorials are packed with useful information and inspiring ideas. The tone of the class was so supportive. I also enjoyed the spirit of friendship and community in the group of students.”Chris Olson

Ready to put your repeat skills to the test? Join us here.


    1. Hi Simone,
      We do not have any UGTR Workshops planned for next year but we will be launching a new membership site in January which will contain the UGTR self-study. Stay tuned! -Chelsea

  1. Hi Michelle, I read your article and was truly inspired. Unfortunately I am stuck in a rut and could use a mentor, just regarding career advice if you have a moment for me?

  2. Hello,
    I was just reading your article and looking to find more information for beginners who don’t have real-world experience at all in this field. I only got introduced to this type of design when I took a an intro to graphic design class, and learned about symmetrical/ asymmetrical pattern designs. What would you suggest? Do I need take certain courses again or can I learn this online on my own? I feel like I’m somewhat all over the place and not sure where to start. Hope to hear from you.

    I appreciate it.

    1. Hi Marie, thanks for reaching out! It can be overwhelming when you are first getting started but you have come to the right place! If you have basic Photoshop and Illustrator knowledge I encourage you to check out our Textile Design Lab e-learning community: and in particular our Sellable Sketch course to get started: We also have a variety of other courses that come with membership and will teach you the fundamentals of designing for textiles, including repeats, how to sell your artwork, and lots more. Please let us know if you have any additional questions at!

  3. Hi Michelle,

    I have been making one-of-a-kind neckties for several years now, using disperse dyes and fabric crayons. I have sold many ties and it’s often been suggested to me that I find an agent and instead of printing on ties (or other items), I should just sell me designs as textiles. I went to SURTEX a few years back and tried to find an agent (as a visitor) but I didn’t get very far – other designers did not seem to want to share that information with me – can’t say that I blamed them, as they likely viewed me as competition. So – I am once again thinking about finding an agent but I don’t know how to go about doing that. I have looked on line but it’s a bit overwhelming and there is no way to tell who is legitimate and who is not. Do you have any advice on this? Thanks so much!!!!


  4. Hi, Thank you for the great article. I am trying to find good resources to print small yardage (only 1or 2 yards needed) digitally to be able to provide my clients with a fabric swatch of the print repeat they have bought. I have heard mixed reviews about Spoonflower especially regarding color matching. It is also important to have a quick turnaround (less than 10 days). Do you have any recommendations?
    Thanks so much for any info!

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At Pattern Observer we strive to help you grow your textile design business through our informative articles, interviews, tutorials, workshops and our private design community, The Textile Design Lab.

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