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Pricing Your Surface Pattern or Print Designs

Here are some tips on how to set the right price points for your surface pattern or print designs & attract dream clients. A commonly asked question among creatives in the surface pattern or print design industry is how to strategically price their work. We want a price point that attracts our dream clients, pays […]

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A boutique print studio owner living in Southern California. I help freelance print designers find their niche & market focus in the apparel industry, clean up & curate their portfolio and implement strategies for growth in their business!

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Here are some tips on how to set the right price points for your surface pattern or print designs & attract dream clients.

A commonly asked question among creatives in the surface pattern or print design industry is how to strategically price their work. We want a price point that attracts our dream clients, pays the bills, and grows our business.  

If you’re planning to license out your work or do non-exclusive designs, you’ll want to decide what market you’re selling in and research in that area. Some things that might impact how you price your surface pattern or print designs are your market’s expectations, how many rounds of notes, how quickly the turnaround and if they need it in repeat or in multiple color ways.

It can be beneficial to have a rate sheet in place before you begin negotiating with clients for custom work. This makes sure you’re covered when those little things that are beyond the scope of the original project might pop up, such as sudden change requests or if they ask to have something in repeat. You can let them view your hourly rates and ask how they wish to proceed. You’ll want to be very clear at the beginning on what’s included with custom work. 

If you’re an independent contractor, it works best to have a bit of wiggle room for things like taxes, personal insurance, and personal insurance expenses. You can ask to review your rate sheet with a fellow designer in your industry or in a community you’re in to make sure that you’re pricing yourself out according to industry standards.  

Having a baseline by knowing your market helps you become more confident in presenting your rates to your clients. This confidence in the quotes that we give our clients is essential because it fosters a give-and-take client relationship that brings us joy rather than stress and anxiety because we did not quote enough. This allows us to be happy about the amount of money we’re being paid for the work we’re doing. 

For apparel print design, exclusive licenses are the most common. And these can range from about 550 USD to about 750 USD for a custom piece or commissioned job. Then there’s also the matter of whether or not it’s in repeat, how many colorways, which as a studio, we used to charge extra for those things when we were selling it the 550 price point. But I like to say that at the 650 price point, the repeat should be included and potentially one alternate colorway. When it comes to repeats, consider the intricacy of the print and the type of print, and the layout to determine whether or not that repeat is going to take you a long time or not.  

Experience is also a pricing factor. Seasoned surface patterns or print designers may put themselves in that range because maybe their eye is already very trained in color. If you’re newer to the apparel print design industry, but you see value in the opportunity, you may lean toward the lower end of that range in exchange for the value of the experience, and if it helps get your foot in the door. We must consider the lifetime value of the apparel print design client. If they’re likely to be repeat customers or they buy in bulk, then you can negotiate a lower rate for that client because they have a larger overall value to you.  

Ask for a rate that is fair to you. You don’t get what you don’t ask for. How your clients will view premium rates is that when something seems to be unique or specialized or a little bit perceived higher value, such as being a specialist, you’re able to charge over the going rate. You’re able to charge a premium but on the flip side of there being that standard where you can go above the line and below the line.  

Be aware of your place in the apparel print design industry and be confident about what you have to offer. Remove the fear of losing the client, losing the job, losing the print, or losing our prospects to our competitors. This way, we can start putting our own work and price points out there and our price points out there with confidence, knowing that we’re providing value. 

For more from the Podcast, listen here!

Additional Resources: Join the Print Life Membership Waitlist to learn more about building a sustainable creative career in fashion print design.

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