There comes a point in a budding freelance designer’s career when a decision is made to approach potential studios to work with. With this post I’m going to share what I’ve learnt from working with a number of studios who contract freelancers from around the world to design prints for women’s fashion. Studios work differently and offer different rates of artist commission which vary between 30-60% for each piece of sold artwork. The studios I’ve worked with have been based in London, New York and LA although I’ve noticed there are quite a few also operating from Australia and Brazil.
The process of finding the right studio involves a fair amount of web research to find companies whose aesthetic closely match your design handwriting. This is a very important step to get right to avoid wasting your time along the line. It’s easy to just contact anyone who remotely shows work that you like or aspire to do but doesn’t resemble your current work output...or to contact studios who actively encourage applications from designers on their contact page just to see how it goes. I wouldn’t recommend applying for the sake of it as my experience of this is that if it’s not a good match from the beginning you’ll soon end up frustrated with the work they expect you to produce.
When researching a studio it’s important to know the following:
It’s also good to check their social media feeds to see how engaged they are and how actively they are promoting new work. Instagram is the main means by which I’ve found studios to work with as they tend to post there every time they are recruiting freelancers. I have also used LinkedIN to research studios and contact some of the artists they work with to ask them questions about working with the studio. Both Instagram and LinkedIN are definitely good channels to be on as some studios directly look for designers to recruit via these channels. Do bear in mind that it’s a big no-no to show in social media any original motifs you are creating as part of the work you’ll submit to a studio. This is mostly the case for apparel where the studio sells the artwork’s copyright outright and not on a license agreement.
Once you’re signed by one or more studios, you’ll receive design briefs on a weekly or monthly basis. The scope of direction given by the studio varies immensely from company to company. You may be asked to submit anything from 3 to an unspecified number of designs (you decide) or there might not even be a submission deadline at all which makes it very flexible for you. For women’s fashion, you’ll generally submit a group of designs fitting a chosen theme with 6 individual and unique motifs. For other markets such as stationary or quilting you may be asked to produce a collection group instead which consists of say 2 “hero” prints, 2 complimentary prints (less detailed work) and 2 filler prints (e.g. dots/stripes/one small repeated motif from one of the main prints).
Some studios like to have more control than others sending you moodboards or individual picture files to reference for the theme of the brief they’ll want you to complete. Some include a colour swatch to work from as well. Some also require you to send initial work completed for approval first (say the first 2-3 designs) so they can give you feedback along the way and know that what you’re working on is in line with the overall brief aesthetic.
Once the work is completed you’ll be asked to submit a layered (Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator) file with copies of the file in other formats and resolution as well such as JPEG or TIFF. This is for the purpose of their online catalogue and sample printing requirements. You may also be asked to place the final artwork onto a template which may also show a unique artwork file reference number. Files are usually sent via We Transfer or Dropbox.
Interested buyers will be able to see your work online after requesting a password to access the studio’s online catalogue (valid for a limited time) or at a trade fair where your work may be displayed on paper or on printed fabric. Buyers also get visited by the studio’s sales reps whose job is to travel around the world on an ongoing basis making appointments to showcase the studio’s latest collections. Depending on the market your work fits in and how detailed it is, it may sell for anything from $300-$800.
As a freelancer you’ll be asked to raise an invoice for every sold piece and may receive notification of a sale as soon as a client buys your print or you may just receive a monthly notification of sales. Clients are requested to submit payment between 10-30 days of purchase and it’s important to know this so you know how long you may need to wait to receive payment yourself.
Final points - working for a studio on a freelance basis is a great way to develop your skills as a designer completing lots of briefs which may challenge you to design themes you may not have thought of working on before. The pros of working for yourself and being location independent are great but like with any freelance work contract, there is no guaranteed salary at the end of day hence why it’s so important to find the right studio that is most likely to sell the type of work you enjoy producing. It’s important to remember that freelancing with a studio is a mutually beneficial relationship and shouldn’t be one-sided in favour of the studio. You need to be as happy and comfortable to work in collaboration with a studio and vice-versa.