Freelance, Funding & Fashion Design

Buckle In, This is no 9-5

Success doesn't happen overnight. Also, the definition of success is subjective. To me, it's doing a job I love whilst being financially independent. This in itself is a huge ask, but when you leave your house for 12+ hours a day, you may as well make it worth while. You may also be unsurprised to know setting up and running a business not only takes every ounce of energy you have but initially every penny you have too. And so, in order to pay rent, feed my endless appetite and develop Xandra Jane, I freelance and teach alongside my journey to world domination. 

I'm stubborn. It's one thing I'm sure you'll learn about me sooner or later so I may as well put it out there. So when I ended my journey in London, I refused to come home and get a 9-5 working in an environment I didn't envision as my career. This isn't to say I'm above a job of any kind, I would happily do something if it meant becoming one step closer to my end goal. However, thankfully I was in a position with a little bit of money behind me so I could lease a studio and search for freelance work. As a graduate I would encourage people to try and maintain some freelance work on the side even if they have had to take up a 9-5 that's not their passion. (Unless you've landed your dream graduate role, in that case bravo!)

Freelance not only maintains your skill set in the industry, it also keeps you in touch with creatives and relevant connections. So I thought I would list a few pointers from my side-earning profession so hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and feel more confident in the daunting idea of being your own boss. 

Where To Start

  • P o r t f o l i o. Ensure you have high quality and strong images of your work as the creative industry is such a visually led area. If you have stronger images than someone who may arguably be more qualified for the job, chances are you'll get it! Your portfolio should always be changing and evolving with your workload and skill set, make sure you update it and try to display your range of skills. I also can't stress how important editing and refining your selection of work is. From the alternative opinion of an employer, when I look through applicants work, although I know you've spent hours on the layout of that sketchbook page, I ultimately just want to see the essentials. Proving you can edit your work and analyse the essentials is also a brilliant skill to display. 

  • F i n d    y o u r    o n l i n e    p l a t f o r m. This could be through dedicated sites such as Upwork, PeoplePerHour, Fiverr or advertising through your LinkedIn profile, a simple Gumtree post or even Facebook page. Bare in mind many of these sites operate on a ratings scheme and also take a commision on your earnings so bare this in mind when evaluating your quote. You should also ensure you have a digital portfolio to link across your profiles, being present across all social media platforms extends yourself to a wider audience and increases your chances of finding work. 

 High quality images from my graduate collection are still included in my portfolio even though my aesthetic has drastically developed since then. Look Two || Graduate Collection, Alexandra Wall. 

High quality images from my graduate collection are still included in my portfolio even though my aesthetic has drastically developed since then. Look Two || Graduate Collection, Alexandra Wall. 


You've got your first Freelance job!

  • B e l i e v e   I n   Y o u r   A b i l i t i e s. When I began freelance work I mistakenly turned down a handful of opportunities because I didn't have the faith in my expertise. Self taught skills are underrated and a great way to learn, there is no right or wrong way in fashion as long as the end product is of impeccable quality and to the client's satisfaction. Don't go attacking a project without a clue as this will waste both the clients time and your own. Do some research, work on some samples and then give it a go. Be honest with the client without underselling yourself and putting them off. You'll surprise yourself how far confidence can carry you and develop your work.
  • K n o w   Y o u r   W o r t h. At the end of the day you need to know your own worth and the overheads you need to cover. Will you be including materials in your quote? Is postage required if you have to send work? Unfortunately it's a regular encounter for someone to expect something for nothing. As a freelancer you are offering a skill that the client doesn't have. If you are willing to work for minimum wage that's fine and will probably attract more work. Personally, I did not study for three years, intern for free for months on end and spend an extortionate amount of money on a final collection to work for minimum wage, and certainly not for below minimum wage (you'd be surprised at the cheek). Is it worth your time? Will you learn from the experience? Are they a useful contact to have? Otherwise politely decline, you do not have to accept every offer or role you may have applied for.

  • S i g n   A   C o n t r a c t. No names given, however I have had some rather rocky experiences with clients who are professional at disappearing without payment. My nature is to please and go out of my way for others. As a fresh faced freelancer I ran around promising what I could on their terms. Cue wake up call. I now produce a fixed quote with breakdown of costs for my clients and request a third of the final sum as a deposit for security. Cutting new cloth, making amendments that eat into your time and even use of electricity running your sewing machine (if you pay bills) all need to be considered. And when that dotted line is signed both parties can be confident in moving forward. I'll ensure to complete the project to the highest standard and they agree to cough up at the end! 

Working for joe bloggs

  • D o n' t   B e   A f r a i d   T o   G i v e   Y o u r   O p i n i o n   ( T a c t f u l l y ). You have been hired because you possess a skill the employer doesn't have. With that skill comes experience and knowledge. Don't bend over backwards trying to make something happen you know can't possibly work and furthermore don't be afraid to tell them. Last thing you want to do is waste your time and theirs. Unless you have a horror, they will happily understand, probably thank you, and the both of you can work to a solution. However, telling them their design is awful without a hope in hell probably isn't the most articulate approach you could have. 
  • P u s h   P a s t   P r o c r a s t i n a t i o n. With freelance work come designs and aesthetics that can be polar opposite to your approach. I've had mornings where the task of pattern cutting and toiling garments which can only be described as uninspiring and generic is looking a lot less appealing than the prospect of designing the future Xandra Jane collections or answering those collaboration
    e-mails. So I developed the method of working in gratifying stages. Pattern cut the dresses then answer the e-mails. Toile the garments then spend the rest of the day devoting your hand to new ideas. The stress of mounting work is not worth it, especially with someone expecting you to meet deadlines. Freelance may be seperate to you in aesthtic, but your name and reputation as an individual is still evaluated, so maintain professionalism. 
  • I t' s   T h e i r   D r e a m   T o o. Everyone wants to be a fashion designer or a DJ these days. And that's okay! Many people have the money to draw a quick idea and have others make it a reality with no understanding of construction or at times, physics. This can understandably be annoying, they can't get their head around why you aren't making their design a final garment. This is when your tactful opinion should come into play. However, the fulfilment when a client is over the moon with the outcome you have produced is wonderful. I've seen many people fail in the industry, biting off more than they can chew, approaching the fashion world with false hopes and naive expectations, but the joy people have when something they've envisioned, and this can be a simple as a t-shirt, comes to life makes even the mundane, generic garments worth while. I like to send them regular updates and photos of the process so they can get excited along the way, communication is an obvious must alongside respecting a non disclosure agreement (NDA).

So there we have it, some basic tips I have learnt along the way. Balancing freelance with Xandra Jane is a lot of work and can at times lead to an unreliable schedule. Although I continue to have the pleasure of meeting excited, like minded creatives who keep me on my toes and bless me with no two days or projects being the same. I hope you have found a useful pointer or two within this post and don't hesitate to get in touch over on twitter @xandrajane_com and ask me any questions should you have any. Sign up for the latest in your inbox and be the first to know when the menswear ZERO styling blog goes live! 

Alexandra Jane WallComment