With the holidays and the end of the year approaching, we might start freaking out about our goals as surface designers. More specifically about all those goals we set but didn’t reach. Where the heck did the year go?
We were sure this would be our year, the year in which our creative business would rocket-ship and we realized that we didn’t enter as many Spoonflower design challenges as we had set out to do to increase sales. Maybe we wanted to pitch (and follow up!) each week and the habit didn’t last because we got tired of getting no response. Or maybe we had hoped to get a couple of licensing deals, but they never materialized.
Ouch, this is starting to sound quite darker than I expected to… but I promise I have a point, stick with me. I just want to paint a picture for you.
In a perfect world, every email we send out would get us a positive response, we would close deals every month with our dream clients, AND we would wake up and see all the sales we made on Spoonflower while we were sleeping… oh how amazing that would be!
But back to reality because it’s not always that easy! At least in the first years of our career as surface pattern designers.
From day one, we feel this rush to have everything figured out — and perfectly executed, please — so we find ourselves constantly in a race against the clock. We might even start comparing ourselves with other designers and artists, with all they’ve accomplished this year and the money they’ve earned.
So when December rolls around we feel disappointed, stressed, rushed, and overwhelmed. And that’s fertile territory for negative self-talk.
How to stop feeling guilty about what we didn’t accomplish
I won’t tell you that you should ignore those feelings and live in an imposed, toxic-positivity status filled with sparkles and rainbows as that will make everything worse in the long run.
It’s OK to feel this way sometimes. It’s our fear of failing or letting ourselves (or others) down talking to us, or it’s feeling dumb for believing that we can easily and quickly make a living as a surface pattern designer and discovering that it’s not as easy as quick as we thought. It’s OK to feel this but it sure isn’t fun.
What we can do to stop the negative self-talk is acknowledge the fear, and thank it and our anxiety for trying to protect us from feeling hurt or rejected. Then it’s important to take a deep breath and remember how much we’ve learned so far. It won’t happen overnight either.
I read somewhere the following about self-talk a few weeks ago: Would you say these things to a dear friend of yours?
- “You’re a loser”
- “You’ll never be successful!”
- “Stop wasting time and get a real job!”
- “Your art isn’t good enough”
I’ll have faith in you and in humanity and say NO, you wouldn’t say that to your best friend. Then, why do we say that to ourselves?
This is where having a community of surface designers around you works wonders. Having them around you (even if they live on the other side of the world) will help you keep moving and receive the encouragement you need during hard times. Those will be the same people that will open a bottle of imaginary (or real?) champagne when you land your oh-so-long-awaited licensing contract.
Things to consider when you review the year & how to help you plan more realistically for next year
How was your goal setting this year? Did you plan out everything meticulously or did you “just go with the flow?” Is it possible that your goals weren’t that specific or too vague? Shannon has an excellent workbook about goal setting that will truly help you with this.
And when planning the new year, it’s important to consider not only the goals but the habits you have to help make your goal-setting work:
- If you want to come up with new collections, maybe work on a daily sketching habit.
- If you want to snag some licensing deals, create a pitching schedule to regularly find and email new companies with your art — btw, Shannon’s Pitch Your Portfolio course will help you develop your own pitching schedule.
- If you want to be more productive, think about your work systems and the changes you need to make to improve your way of working. I have another blog post about making your design time more productive.
So here’s my advice in a nutshell
1. Recognize the negative self-talk
Give yourself credit for what you’ve achieved so far. Even the smallest win. Getting that pattern to repeat seamlessly, hitting send when sending out a pitch email, believing that you can and will see success. Having a positive mindset can work wonders on your productivity!
2. Learn from this year’s goal setting
Maybe the goal you set this year was too vague or you set an incredibly high bar for yourself? Think about how you can be more specific or realistic with the goals you set. And obviously, planning a whole year can be difficult since we’re not fortune tellers and can’t see the future. So maybe it’s easier for you to work in 3-month periods instead?
3. Be consistent
Do you know the saying “The last thing we see from the plant is the fruit?” It’s 100% true! So don’t give up if you’re just at the seedling stage of your career, because achieving your goals in surface design takes time (sometimes years). And the only way you’ll reach your goals is if you’re persistent and patient.
4. Find your tribe
Shared pain feels less of a burden when you can talk about it with someone that can understand what you’re going through. That can be through an accountability partner, a community of surface designers on Instagram, or even finding allies outside of art through a network marketing association.
5. Everyone struggles
Even those who seem to have everything under control and figured out — yep, even those with the big names and deals under their arm. But they got there because they trusted the process and kept going. And so can you!
See it this way: you’re not a year older, you’re a year wiser! Because even if things didn’t go as planned, you’ve grown in the process. If you’ve made some mistakes, at least you learned a lot from them.
Written by Lucia Sanguinetti-Jonescheit
Lucia works as a surface pattern designer under the name DEINKI. She’s originally from Argentina but lives in Germany with her husband and two kids. She started creating colorful and sophisticated patterns in 2019, sometime after her second child was born, and hasn’t stopped ever since.