Can You Really Make Money Freelancing In Fashion?

The answer is yes! It isn’t going to be easy, but we have some tips to save you from learning the hard way.

Words Georgia Canning
Illustrations Natassa Stamouli

22nd May

Working in fashion can sometimes feel like being in a one-sided relationship. We give it nothing but love and in return find dozens of angry emails about, yes, a missing pair of sample socks. Of course, those with “serious” jobs, like finance or medicine, probably have a hard time relating to this disaster. Luckily, Women in Fashion’s meetings provide a useful space to talk it out.

Founded by photographer Daisy Walker, WIF responds to a desire for community and conversation. The result eschews countless stereotypes: welcomed with a hug, a glass of wine and pizza ‒ they may wear vintage Prada but the devil is nowhere to be found. Conversation with a conscience, this month the theme was all things money. Here are some snippets of wisdom we collected.

*Quotes kept anonymous for privacy purposes (but trust us these people know their stuff)

“If it doesn’t embarrass you to ask for it, then your fee is too low.”

We all know art is valuable, how else would companies communicate with their consumers? Photography, writing, design, or consultancy… putting a number on something so ambiguous can be bloody difficult. Don’t underestimate the power of transparency and discussion with peers in helping you become familiar with the industry standards. If in doubt, remember: “It is better to be too expensive than too cheap,” as it keeps your career financially viable (for yourself and future generations!)

“Even the biggest clients in the industry don’t understand what the work is that goes into these services.”

It’s OK to explain your process to a client that doesn’t know the difference between Photoshop and InDesign. Lay out your steps in a non-condescending manner so they respect just how much work goes into what you do. Such as, “In order to do this job properly, I do two days of research to ensure the concept is relevant and worthwhile, then we proceed to…” I’m sure you get the idea.

“You have more bargaining powers before the job than after.”

If a client asks your day rate, ALWAYS ask for their budget first. If they cannot give you a figure, aim high and be prepared to lower it. When working in production or with a client that is particularly bad at paying, ask for 50-70% upfront to cover your material costs. Large companies often work with purchase orders, ask for one to be raised as early as possible.

“Know your worth, then add tax.”

Let’s keep this straightforward and leave the complicated part to the professionals. Every year you will have to pay tax. Keep this in mind when deciding your day rate.

Homework =

“Legally it falls on you as the individual to get paid and not on the organisation to pay you.”

After you have completed the job your powers are limited, but there are steps you can take if you haven’t been paid. After two or three months, begin charging 8% statutory interest per late day (ensure this is in your initial terms.) If this fails, you can threaten and take them to small claims court. Keep in mind that this will cost you money.

So basically, it sucks.
A lot.

“Every single client pays me a minimum of 30 days late.”
Maybe don’t quit that day job… just yet. Tell yourself you love pouring pints on the side. At least until you have a minimum of four months rent/food/cinema tickets buffer saved up.
And when the time comes to make the jump? Remember to have faith in yourself and that the same fears exist even on payroll.