183: What’s more profitable: starting a clothing line or being a freelance fashion designer?

Listen to the new podcast episode!

Here’s what you’ll find in today’s episode:

Dreaming of working in the fashion industry and making money?
Well, hold on tight because in this episode, we’re diving deep into whether starting your own clothing line or freelancing as a fashion designer is more profitable. With personal experiences and insights from industry experts, you’ll discover the surprising truth about which path will fill your pockets faster. Get ready to unlock the secrets of the fashion world and find out if your dream lies in launching a clothing brand or taking charge as a freelance fashion designer. 

Heidi [00:00:00]:

What is more profitable, starting a fashion brand or being a freelance fashion designer? I’ve done both, and I’ve interviewed hundreds of people who have done both. And the answer in my head is super obvious, but I get asked this question a lot. So I thought I’ll talk about it here in the podcast. In this episode, I’m gonna share the differences between starting your own clothing line and freelancing in fashion. I will share which one is more profitable. And Spoiler alert, this is not a close race. One of them massively takes the cake. So if you wanna work for yourself in fashion and make money, This will help you figure out which fashion career to pursue.


Let’s get to it. If you want to work for yourself in fashion and make money, There is one way to do it. Now I know that having your own clothing line can feel like a dream. You come up with some ideas, you get the manufactured and you start selling. Like, really, how hard could it be? But the truth is that if you want to actually make money, Starting a clothing line is one of the least profitable things in fashion. In fact, you will likely end up losing money, lots of money. Here’s the thing. Losing money was pretty much the number one topic that fashion brand guests on my podcast were bummed to admit.


I have interviewed hundreds of people, and a lot of them are fashion brand found fashion brand found fashion brand found fashion brand found fashion brand founders, and they said, I’m losing so much money. It is the reality that a lot of fashion industry experts will not tell you. And the opposite of this is that what a lot of people don’t know is that there’s a much better way to work for yourself in fashion and make money. Now if you’ve been around for a while or you’ve tuned in before, you know that I’m probably talking about freelancing and fashion. And, no, I’m not talking about permalancing where you work for 1 brand full time as an exploited temp employee without benefits. That’s kind of the worst. I’m talking about real freelancing where you’re in control of your own business, you set your own schedule and rates, and you work wherever and whenever you want. That is how you work for yourself in fashion and make money.


And I am talking about upwards of $100,000 plus a year while doing work that you love. Now I know this because I have done both. I had my own fashion brand, and I freelanced. And many of my students have had the same exact experiences. One of my students, she’s a graduate of my fast program. Her name’s Sophia. She shared her whole story on the SFF podcast. We’ll link to that episode in the show notes, but it essentially went like this.


Sophia spent 5 years building her lingerie brand. Finally, in year 4, she was barely able to pay herself minimum wage. That’s a long time to work at something before you’re barely making minimum wage. So she decided to start freelancing. And within 10 days of freelancing, she Had her 1st paying client. A few months later, she was earning a comfortable full time salary. Think about that. 5 years to barely pay herself minimum wage with her own fashion brand, yet only months to start earning a comfortable full time salary as a freelancer.


Okay? Now listen, I know it’s not all about the money. Right? Money is a very tangible, easy way to measure things. So let’s look at from a high level the pros and cons to starting a fashion brand versus freelancing in fashion. So first, we’ll go through the pros of starting a fashion brand or a clothing line. First, You technically when you are your own fashion brand owner, you have no boss and you are legitimately 100% working for yourself. Right? It does give you ultimate freedom in some ways. You literally have no one to answer to. And in addition to that, you have a 100% creative control.


With your own clothing line, You are the creative mastermind behind every single aspect from design concepts to production and branding. Your vision is intact, and you can fully express your artistic talents. So those are some of the pros to starting a clothing line. Now let’s talk about some of the cons to starting a clothing line. First, It takes a tremendous amount of time. Launching a clothing line is a time consuming process, and it requires a lot of patience and a lot of perseverance. From the initial idea through manufacturing and distribution. It can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months or even longer just to bring 1 design to market.


K? So a lot of time to get started. Next, it takes a lot of money to start a clothing line. It is expensive AF. You will need to invest substantial capital into sourcing materials, production, marketing, distribution, etcetera. The total investment is looking like, 1,000, if not tens of 1,000 of dollars just to get off the ground. Now we’re looking at this. We’re like, okay. Takes a lot of time.


It takes a lot of money. And I’m gonna give you the kicker here. Your chances of success are extremely low. Now I don’t have specific data on this, but I have interviewed hundreds of people. I have been in the industry for 15 years. I’ve talked to a lot of people. The chances of starting a successful fashion brand is very, very low. Our industry is extremely competitive and is very saturated with tons of people trying to start a brand.


It can be really difficult to stand out and gained recognition. To compound all of this, profitability is really, really low. If you are lucky enough to gain some momentum with sales, you can. It happens. Right? You’re still going to have to reinvest a significant portion of that back into the business to sustain growth. It can take years to become profitable if you ever even do. And then beyond all of this, when you’re running a fashion brand, a clothing line, You have a tremendous amount of business responsibilities. You’re not only responsible for the creative aspects, which is actually gonna be, like, 10 or 20% of the workload.


You’re more responsible for customer service, marketing, sales, promotion, product development, etcetera, and you’re really looking at about 10 to 20% of your time on, like, the fun design stuff with about 80, 90% of your time on the business side of things. Okay? So that is the reality of starting a fashion brand. Again, I know this because I had my own brand, and I know this because I have talked to and interviewed hundreds of people in the fashion industry. So let’s look at the opposite side of the table, which is freelancing in fashion. The pros of freelancing in fashion. First of all, it is quick to get started. Freelancing and fashion, you can hit the ground running. I have people who’ve come to some of my training events.


I have people who’ve listened to the podcast or watched on YouTube, and literally within a week or 2 have landed their 1st, 2nd, maybe even 3rd paying client. You can get started, like, today. Alright? Beyond that is minimal start up costs. Unlike starting a clothing brand, which requires a lot of capital to get started, You might be looking at an Adobe Illustrator subscription, which runs, like, $20. Excel, you can get Excel for $7 a month, or maybe you can even use Google Sheets to do it for free. You can begin offering services for very, very little a month. We’re looking at, like, less than $30 a month. That is nothing compared to what it starts to cost what it costs to start a clothing brand.


And then all this, you can get started fast. It doesn’t cost a lot of money. And then 3rd, you have a higher chance of success. Again, now I don’t have data on this. Okay? So this is a little bit of hearsay, a little bit of me going with my gut, knowing what I know from my personal experience, from teaching hundreds of fashion freelance fashion designers how to succeed, from interviewing hundreds of people on the podcast and and on YouTube here. You have a much higher chance of success as a freelance fashion designer or TDPD, what have you, than launching a clothing line. Okay? Beyond that, The profitability is enormous. Okay? As a freelancer, the majority of the earnings go right back into your pocket.


Okay? You can charge competitive rates. You can keep a very high percentage of the rates that you’re charging. Unlike a fashion brand, you’re not continually reinvesting that money back into the business. K? As you tend to grow as a freelancer, You have the same software and the same overhead and your profit just gets higher and higher. And then last, you’re gonna be really selective about your work work opportunities. Freelancing empowers you to choose projects that you’re most passionate about. You can align with brand work with brands that align with your personal vision and ethos, and you get to be very particular about the type of work that you do. K? Now then, of course, there are some cons to freelancing in fashion.


Right? 1st is client expectations, and I won’t lie that in a way a freelance client can start to feel a little bit like a boss. Right? So you need to adapt and work creatively within the brand vision while delivering the expected outcomes so you don’t get the freedom that you might get with your own fashion brand. You still are reporting to someone. Right? You still have someone else that you’re liable to. And you also coming with that same type of idea of a little bit of a boss situation. You do get somewhat limited creative control. Right? You can choose the brands that you work with. You can choose the projects that you work with, but you obviously still have to design and build into that brand’s requirements.


K? So listen. If your goal is to work for yourself in fashion and make money. Freelancing is how you do it. Okay? I know that starting a clothing line has the allure of complete creative control and autonomy and building out this brand that you will likely be very proud of. I’m not here to tell you not to do it, but I’m here to tell you to know what you’re getting into from a financial perspective, from a time investment perspective and chances of success perspective. These are the realities. Okay? By freelancing in fashion, you Get to work for yourself in fashion. You get to make money.


You get freedom in your day. You’re not tied to a desk, and you also get the financial rewards while doing work that you love with brands that you’re passionate about. So I would love to help you to succeed. Keep listening to the podcast. Keep watching here on YouTube. You got this. You’re doing great.

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