verbal croquis


freelancing

Posted in advice by verbalcroquis on April 20, 2006

(For Danielle.)

I’ve done a lot of freelancing—sometimes it being the sole source of income.  I’d like to share some tips I’ve learned from my experience.  Some of them may seem obvious, some not.

First of all, in order to be a successful freelancer, you have to be willing to ride out the drought-and-flood cycle that often comes with the territory.  Even the most established freelancers find themselves in this quagmire of working 16 hours a day for one month and then twiddling their thumbs the next.  Many people view freelancers as people who have nothing else to do, even if you may have 3 other projects going on simultaneously. They will need everything ASAP and sometimes, their version of ASAP is yesterday.  Also, a lot of people who hire freelancers don’t have a realistic timeline for design because they don’t have an in-house design team, so you’ll have to educate them on that. 

You have to be excellent with your personal finances. (Drought and flood income doesn’t mean your landlord will understand.) You have to be aggressive about collecting what you’re owed.  (More on this later.)  You have to keep meticulous records for tax purposes.

You have to network.  Be always networking.  Always be professional. Do not read this as constantly kissing ass or using people.  You will never get jobs if you’re not meeting new people in the industry.  Hardly anyone posts freelance projects on the boards, unless it’s a lengthy one, so you get your jobs from your connections.  The best paying gig I ever got was when a customer of an embroiderer I used to work with was chitchatting and mentioned the project to her.  I socked away several months worth of rent just by being super nice to my embroiderer, even when her assistant screamed at me once and I had every right to be a bitch*.

You have to make sure you get paid promptly.  Have terms.  Stick to them.  Call them.  Write up a proper purchase order for everything, invoice them on time, draft a contract for bigger projects.  They will conveniently forget to pay you if you’re not careful.  I usually work x% upfront, balance upon delivery of goods.  Net 10, max.  I used to go net 15 for repeat customers I trusted.

Speaking of money, make sure you have a great plan on your cell phone.  You will need to be reached at all times, and mostly during the day.  Paying for a more extensive plan is still cheaper than overages and you never want to cut a call short because of your cell phone minutes.

Now that I’ve written at length about all the hustling you need to do, you may be asking yourself why in the world I did it.  The flexible hours.  I’d work the mornings, run errands in the afternoon, go out on occasion, nap, work until the wee hours of the morning.  (I used to have problems sleeping in long chunks of time, only sleeping 3 hours at a time, a couple of times a day.)  The ability to work a variety of projects and constantly challenge yourself.  Focus on nothing but designing or illustrating.  Get to explore different markets to see where you really want to work (if you view freelancing as short term).  The freedom to work on your own.  You just have to figure out whether these particular sets of pros and cons work for you or not.

The board is now open for questions.  ๐Ÿ™‚

*If you must know, I had called in to check on an order that was promised to me by the end of the day, routine, and the assistant just blew up, screaming “You know, I’m not some fucking miracle worker!  Your stuff is gonna be done soon.  STOP CALLING ME!  JUST STOP CALLING!  I’M WORKING ON IT!  FUCK!  I don’t remember saying your stuff would be done today.  YOU HAVE TO WAIT FOR STUFF THAT LOOKS AS GOOD AS OUR SHIT!  DAMN!”  *click*  Did I mention fashion is uber glamorous?

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9 Responses to 'freelancing'

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  1. Tasha Alexis said,

    This post came at a great time. Lately I’ve been on the fence about quitting my mundane fulltime job to freelance. I’ve decided to take the leap of fiath and go for it! Thank you for the realistic view of a-day-in-the-life of a freelancer. Tons of work but 100% worth it!


  2. Good luck to you. Freelancing can be really rewarding and open yourself up to so many opportunities you would never have known about working a stationary job. Let me know how it goes.


  3. Zoe, would you consider writing a guest post on freelancing for me? People always want to know what they should charge (for starters) to say nothing of how the freelance relationship works, expectations, idea ownership etc. Or, I could always link to that here if you put something up like that.

  4. Neil said,

    Hi Zoe(for danielle) very inspireing am a budding designer/patternmaker, how do i get into freelancing? how does it work? ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. SANDY MOORE said,

    HI,
    I AM A CHILDRENSWEAR FREELANCE DESIGNER. I HAVE BEEN FREELANCING FOR OVER 10 YEARS. I WOULD LOVE TO DISCUSS PRICING. I’M REALLY CONFUSED ABOUT IT.
    SANDY

  6. INGRID said,

    HI, I AM A WANT TO BE FUTURE FREELANCE DESIGNER. I SKETCH ALOT OF DAY DRESSES, EVENINGWEAR AND BUSINESS WEAR FOR WOMEN. I DONT HAVE A DEGREE I AM WORKING ON GETTING INTO SCHOOL FOR IT NEXT YR. I ALONG WITH ALOT OF OTHER PEOPLE THINK I HAVE A GREAT DEAL OF POTENTIAL BECAUSE MY SKETCHES ATRE SO GOOD. DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR ME.

  7. Kellen said,

    Hi Zoe,
    I’ve been offered a freelance job at a bridal shop where they’re asking me to rework existing designs. They have a professional patternmaker and sewer, so I would be sketching and making rough patterns. They have suggested paying a percentage of the sale price for each of my dresses that sell, but everyone I’ve spoken to says that an hourly rate is much more customary. Could you advise me a bit?
    Thanks for your help!

  8. Sarah said,

    Hi Zoe,
    Very, very interesting. I’m an avid sewer who has been fascinated with learning patternmaking (but not necessarily fashion design) for my own fitting purposes with an eye out for possibly doing part-time work. I live outside Washington DC, decidedly not the fashion capital. Do you have any feel for the job market for someone to work part-time doing something like that? Is it something that’s best done from home and could it be done in a ‘fashion-remote’ area? (I’m starting to study the patternmaking textbook they use at FIT and am considering taking patternmaking classes at a local school with a Fashion Design program.) Any comments you have would be greatly appreciated! And I realize I should probably buy Kathleen’s book…..
    Thanks!!

  9. ashleyjean said,

    Hi Zoe,

    This is very helpful since the Freelance jobs seem to be so hush hush. I have a lot of people approach me about designing for them and patternmaking, but I just don’t know how to go about that. I’ve been looking and looking for answers because I feel like it would be a great opportunity to do what I love since major companies wont even look at my portfolio because I didn’t graduate or have the required years of experience.I met this manufacturer and he wants me to design a couple of designs and pattern make them into 3 sizes (S,M,L). I’m an aggressive and avid learner and i’m mostly self taught. Anyways, I don’t know what to charge him. I was working for a designer before and was getting pennies for my designing and pattern making. I am confident in my skill but I don’t have any legitimate background experience for credibility purposes. The way that it will work is, I would design and pattern make the style and he will manufacture it at his warehouse and sell it wholesale in downtown la. What do you suggest. I would appreciate any advice!!!


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