Freelance designing

Zoe has graciously agreed to write an article on freelance designing for us (see this one on her site now). I think Zoe is the only designer I know who’s blogging regularly. Please post your questions in comments and she’ll get cracking. Thanks Zoe!

Oh, if any of you would like to guest author a post, don’t hesitate to contact me. Currently, Christy is working on one about trunk shows and Jinjer is writing one about craft production.

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  1. Kathleen says:

    I’m amazed nobody’s asked any questions yet. Well, I have questions even if my readers don’t :)

    My question has more to do with the broader range of product development and freelance design. I know that some designers offer full package services. By that I mean that they’ll design stuff and hire a pattern maker (or do it themselves) and produce a sample to represent the product ideas to the customer. In these cases, what does a designer charge? Obviously they’ll get a sketch fee and expenses but what’s a package deal run? Is it easier to get clients if a designer offers full services? How common is that? I’ve often thought it’d be fun to work with a freelancer on projects but I never have.

    Also, do designers develop styles independently (including down to the sample level), keeping these concepts in their “portfolio” and present them to clients as they get them?

    I also have questions about how a freelancer would manage their relationships with clients. Do you get a retainer? Do you charge a flat rate or hourly rate? Do you have a contract with specified deliverables? How does it all work?

    I knew a DE who used freelancers quite a bit. She was only buying sketches. Is this typical? She told me that freelancers should have a range of prices based on the sketch. She was paying between 100 to 600 dollars each (10 years ago).

    Lastly, one thing I don’t understand (because I’m a pattern maker) is do people try to get a look at your portfolio but then not buy anything and then end up copying some of the ideas anyway? I mean, that’d be not-nice for sure but as a pattern maker, it’d be a cinch. Once you see it, you know how to make the pattern. Is this a problem with the “average” customer?

    Oh, and what about sourcing? Surely you get asked to do some of that. How do you charge for providing referrals?

  2. Julie Knox says:

    I don’t know how accurate it is in different markets, but the TFI “How to Start a Fashion Business” guide goes over some of that with the intention to educate those who may wish to become freelancers.

  3. Danielle says:


    Where do you get your fabrics for your fabric stories? Will the jobbers do or must it be more formal, like sourcing? For colours, do you select specific pantone swatches? Or are these things usually the client’s domain?

    I’m always dying to know, when you refer to buying a sketch, what is a sketch? Like, does a front and back view count as one sketch or two? That’s probably the silliest question.

    Do you have any special tips for handling long distance orders? Have you ever worked over the internet?

    When working for different markets, do your clients provide trend forecasting material or do they expect you to have access to it on your own?

    Do you promote yourself beyond hustling? It sounds like you represent yourself, is that common for freelancers or are there agents who usually do that work? Do you do promotions, do you target specific companies you want to do projects for?

    When pricing by the hour, and they want to know how long it will take you, how do you estimate that? It seems like I never know how many sketches I need to do until I get something that looks right. I remember you saying that you did dozens and dozens of sketches. Is there a ball-park for what should be a reasonable amount of time to design something?

  4. jinjer says:

    If you want to be a freelance designer, is it essential to have a design school degree? I mean, do the people who buy sketches (just who are these people?) usually care?

    Besides the referral services like 24/7, how else to you hook up with work?

  5. jennifer says:

    As a designer/technical designer/pattern maker who can sew garments to couture standards, I think you need to have a working knowledge of all of these skills if you hope to sell a design. Why? Because you need to know how the wearer is going to get in and out of the garment, how the fabric will flow, what block should be used to achieve the effect you seek for your designs… etc. The more practical aspects of the design as applied to real life situations. Do you need a degree? Not necessarily, but you should at least have some mentors who can guide you through and teach you. Your own experience will eventually give way to your own unique style and techniques. There is a lot more to it than just drawing pretty pictures. The most satisfying experience is seeing a picture in your head all the way through to reality….that is a personal satisfaction no paycheck can touch. Sublime=)

  6. Christina Cato says:

    I have a few question. :) I’m offering service as a sweater designer. I will be selling knitdowns, samples, and full technical spec packages when required. I know it’s different than the woven world, but any insight would be helpful.

    I’m trying to determine costs per each aspect of my service. Have you come across others that offer this type of service? What would you suggest? I noticed in the comments that Kathleen had said someone had charged between $100-600 for sketches. Should I do something similar for knitdowns depending on the difficulty of stitch?

    Thank you!

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