When you’re an artist, it can be hard to know how to start preparing for the holidays and what related steps you need to take. Thankfully, surface pattern designers, Creative Studio Collective co-founders and Spoonflower artists Fleur Crawford and Ryann Scrafford are here to guide you through the process with 7 actionable steps to take along with a downloadable workflow checklist to help you get ready.
Fleur and Ryann: We created the Creative Studio Collective in 2022 to be a space where we share collective knowledge to support other artists along their journey and raise the design industry together. Individually, we each have over 17 years of surface pattern design industry experience. Ryann, of Charlie Rowan Designs, is a surface pattern designer and illustrator based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and has over 17 years of experience working in the fashion and retail industry. Fleur, of Hufton Studio, is a surface pattern textile designer and creative mentor based in Auckland, New Zealand, with 19 years of fashion and textile industry experience. While we’ve been successful in our own careers, together we have released 35+ collections to print-on-demand companies and successfully licensed our art to clients worldwide.
In this post, we’re going to make sure to set you up for success this holiday season! Why? Because the holidays, love them or hate them, are a vital part of growing and building a thriving creative business. With a significant portion of annual retail sales occurring in the fourth quarter of the year, if you’ve been ignoring the holiday season or letting it creep up each year without a plan, it’s time to change that! (Pro tip: You can use these tips, with a similar yet adjusted timeline, for planning success at any time of the year!)
7 Tips for Your Best Print-on-Demand Holiday Season Yet
1. Determine what your audience is looking for.
It’s important to create designs specifically tailored to what your customer is looking for during the holiday season. If you’re just beginning as a surface pattern designer, you may not have figured this out just yet, and that’s okay! A great starting point is to try to think about where you would love to see your designs, then consider what those brands did for the holiday season the year before.
Is your customer looking for patterns with traditional motifs that evoke the spirit of the holiday? Or are they looking for captivating winter scenes? Maybe they’re looking for trans-seasonal designs? By paying attention to what your customer is searching for and infusing that into your holiday artwork, you set yourself up for success by ensuring that your creations connect and resonate with your audience.
2. Start thinking about timelines.
We suggest having your holiday designs loaded and sampled from June through to September. Holiday searches such as “Christmas” start to pick up in July and slowly grow until peaking in mid-November through early December.
Even if you can’t have designs listed for sale in this timeframe don’t give up! There is a ton of shopping to be done before December so if you can be ready to go for October, this is still good timing for customers to find your designs. That being said, we tend to see that different types of businesses and makers are looking for designs during different months of the year:
June-September: Small brands typically start looking for new holiday season designs six-seven months out. This process begins in June and runs through September depending on the size of the brand, products they offer and how much time they need for production.
October-November: Hobbyists generally have a shorter runway to buy designs, about two-three months out. As hobbyists are typically producing smaller quantities and mostly looking for holiday designs closer to these months, they tend to have shorter timelines than brands.
November-early December: Four-eight weeks ahead of the holidays, there’s another uptick in design purchases for makers. People will be buying designs as late as November and early December for last-minute craft and holiday projects/decorations.
3. Create a plan ahead of time.
It seems so simple but it’s so incredibly important to create a plan. It’s hard to know how to get somewhere if we have no idea where we are going. With the above timeline in mind for the holidays (or using a similar lead time at any point in the year), carve out some time to brainstorm and strategize exactly how you want your holiday-selling season to go.
Asking questions like the following can help:
• What types of holiday designs do you want to have in your Spoonflower shop, personal website or other POD sites?
• Do you want to have entire collections or one-off designs?
• Are there certain color palettes you want to use?
• What specific themes or motifs would you like to incorporate?
Getting as clear as you can on what you want your holiday assortment and offerings to look like will allow you to create a plan to both execute and market that assortment.
4. Put your planned dates on your calendar.
Now that you know exactly what you want to create, it’s time to put dates on the calendar! We all work differently so it’s important to create a calendar that works best for you. Break your workload into obtainable deliverables and put a specific date to each of those deliverables. When creating your schedule be sure to allow time for any unforeseen issues such as shipping delays or sample re-orders.
By making a schedule and giving yourself deadlines you help ensure you won’t miss prime-buying windows for brands and makers.
5. Set aside time for researching trends.
Before diving into creating the work, spend some time researching and considering how you want to handle trends this holiday season. Will you lean into new trends or stick to a more traditional approach? When researching and looking at trends, consider things such as colors, motifs and styles that are making waves. Following current trends can help naturally market your design and allow it to resonate with what customers are currently looking for. On the other hand, there’s something timeless and comforting about traditional elements that evoke the holiday spirit. Ultimately, the choice is yours. Whether you go trendy or classic, make sure your designs reflect your unique style and align with your target audience’s preferences.
6. Carve out time to do the work.
This is the fun part! The best-laid plan without putting in the work is no plan at all. Taking the time to sit down and create your designs is arguably the most important part of this process. By carving out dedicated time for creation well in advance, you provide yourself with the space to brainstorm and let your creative ideas flourish rather than creating against a clock or tight deadline. It also gives you time to refine your designs, hone in your assortment and truly capture your vision for the holiday season. Therefore, be sure to prioritize the time to immerse yourself in the creative process and create the holiday collection you envision.
7. To better reach your audience, plan your marketing strategy.
Do not neglect or forget this step!
Marketing is a huge part of ensuring the success of your holiday-selling season. It’s not just about creating beautiful artwork; it’s about effectively reaching and engaging your target audience so they know what you have to offer. If you take the time to create a strategic marketing plan, you can generate excitement around your holiday collection and capture the attention of your potential customers.
When marketing your holiday offerings be sure to utilize various channels, such as social media, email campaigns and collaborations, to build anticipation before you launch and to showcase your designs once they are available.
Another great marketing tool to leverage is storytelling. Connect with your customers emotionally through telling your story. This can be an extremely effective marketing tool as many shoppers make their buying decisions based on emotion. By investing time and effort into effective marketing strategies, you help to set yourself up for success.
Need a few marketing ideas?
Here are a few options for marketing your designs and helping them be seen:
Rethink your social media strategy:
• Consider doing an Instagram Live talking about your samples/designs—how you created them or the inspiration behind the designs, colourways and scales they come in.
• Use hashtags related to your designs as well as the hashtag of the print-on-demand site you have loaded the designs to. (Like #Spoonflower!)
• Think of other platforms you aren’t currently using (like TikTok, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest) to market your collection.
Use what print-on-demand sites have to offer:
• Help your work be discovered by using all the available tags you’re allowed to use on your print-on-demand sites.
• Make sure to use relevant tags that reflect each design and collection so your customers can find what they’re searching for.
Network with other creatives:
• Reach out to makers who align with your brand/designs for possible collaborations.
• Collaborate with other artists to promote each other and expand your reach.
Engage with customers:
• Consider doing a fun holiday giveaway.
• Create engaging email campaigns showcasing your holiday collection.
• Use your own designs/samples to create fun holiday projects—this is a great way to show people what they could make out of your designs.
• Create unique visuals with your samples to showcase them in new fun ways.
• Create mockups of your designs on items you would love makers to make out of them—and remember to add a link directly to your Spoonflower shop.
The bottom line:
The holidays are a big deal for creative businesses. If you want your business to thrive this holiday, pay attention to what your audience wants and create designs that match their holiday aesthetic. By putting in the effort to plan and execute your vision, you’ll be able to connect with customers and make the most out of this holiday season.
To help you with planning for your holiday season we have created a checklist that follows the workflow we use when we are designing and launching a collection. If you’d like to learn more about the Creative Studio Collective and how we help artists, including additional holiday resources and a special offer on our monthly Creative Briefs exclusively for Spoonflower artists, you can learn more at this link.