3 Fashion Design Side Hustles You Can Start With No Money

If you love fashion, a fashion design side hustle is a great option to get a balance between your day job and passion while making extra money. Cha-ching!

Whether you’re an established fashion designer wanting extra income or are a fashion lover trying to break into the industry, there’s a perfect side hustle for your skills and interests.

This guide will take you through the 3 best fashion based side hustles and how you can leverage your skills to make extra cash $$$ in the fashion industry. 

Table Of Contents:

Types of Fashion Design Side Hustles

Most big sites and blogs will tell you to start a t-shirt printing business, sell vintage clothing on Etsy, or become a personal shopper. Sure, you can do that, but so can a million other people. 

Here’s why I don’t love those fashion based side hustle ideas:

T-shirt printing business: High startup costs and insane competition in a market flooded with a million of t-shirts on Etsy.

Selling vintage clothing: Time-consuming treasure hunting in thrift stores, charity shops, and flea markets just to find rare and unique items.

Personal shopper: Working as a personal shopper is highly competitive and would require the need to build a reputation and attract clients.

Start a clothing brand: Clothing brands are crazy expensive to start, have very low success rates, and most of the time are not profitable.

(Oh, and any of the sites out there saying you can make passive income with a fashion design side hustle…listen, anything’s possible, but passive income hardly exists in any industry, let alone fashion. Don’t let them fool you!) 

So, we’re going to talk about 3 lesser known ways you can start your fashion design side hustle (that don’t cost anything) and set yourself apart from the crowd of other freelancers.

The 3 Best Fashion Design Side Hustles (that you can start with no money)

A freelance fashion illustrator, freelance fashion designer (or technical designer, patternmaker, etc), and a freelance fashion virtual assistant are the 3 best fashion side hustles.

Why? Because they don’t require any money to get started, and there’s no inventory or packages to ship. You can do them anywhere, and they’re a lot less competitive than everyone out there who’s trying to make money by graphic tees or vintage dresses on Etsy. 

Let’s look at the skills required for each of these fashion based side hustles, and how you can get started.

Freelance Fashion Illustrator

What does a Freelance Fashion Illustrator do?

A freelance fashion illustrator brings visual concepts to life through fashion illustrations. They create on-brand drawings that showcase clothing designs and accessories in various settings. 

These illustrations can be used for a wide range of purposes, including fashion collection showcases, magazines, social media, blogs, and so on. Some freelance fashion illustrators also do live sketching at fashion events, like one of my FAST students Sam! How cool is that? 

Skills and tools needed to get started as a Freelance Fashion Illustrator

  • Proficient fashion illustration skills (sketching, figure drawing, garment rendering) 
  • Knowledge of fashion design principles (garment construction, fabric drape, fashion proportions) 
  • Illustration software and/or traditional art supplies (e.g., Adobe Illustrator, Procreate, sketchbooks, pencils, markers)
  • Graphic tablet and stylus for digital illustration

Freelance Fashion Virtual Assistant

What does a Freelance Fashion Virtual Assistant do?

A freelance Fashion Virtual Assistant (VA) provides administrative support to individuals or companies in the fashion industry. They handle a range of tasks, including being a fashion social media manager, handling customer inquiries, organizing schedules, and sometimes even assisting with graphic design tasks for websites and social media. 

For fashion lovers with little to no experience or background in the industry, becoming a Fashion Virtual Assistant is a great way to get started freelancing in fashion as a beginner. It offers an opportunity to be involved in the fashion industry without committing full-time, and doesn’t require any specific industry skills or knowledge like garment construction or tech packs.

Skills and tools needed to get started as a Freelance Fashion Virtual Assistant:

  • Strong organizational and multitasking abilities
  • Excellent communication skills 
  • Familiarity with various online tools and software (scheduling platforms, email management systems, graphic design software)
  • In some cases, basic graphic design skills for creating visual assets and marketing materials (Canva, Illustrator)

Freelance Fashion Designer (or Technical Designer, Patternmaker, etc.)

What does a Freelance Fashion Designer do?

Freelance Fashion Designer creates original fashion designs. They may also develop patterns and oversee the production process. They work closely with clients or fashion brands to bring their creative visions to life. 

Depending on their specialization, freelance fashion designers may also handle technical design aspects, patternmaking, garment construction or sampling.

Skills and tools needed to get started as a Freelance Fashion Designer:

  • Understanding of fashion trends, color theory, and design aesthetics 
  • Ability to create technical drawings and specification sheets for production
  • Proficiency in design software, such as Adobe Illustrator or CAD tools 
  • Familiarity with garment production processes and materials

Pro tip: You don’t have to have all the skills and tools mentioned to freelance in fashion. You can get started with just one service like FAST grad Arya who began freelancing just doing flats, or like FAST grad Eleni who makes a full-time income exclusively offering tech packs. You can also specialize in patternmaking like FAST grad Alexandra, or product development. Kickstart your journey with ONE skill and learn more along the way!

How to Build Your Fashion Design Side Hustle (for free), Step-by-Step

Whether you want to build your freelance side hustle in fashion as an illustrator, designer (or technical designer, patternmaker, etc) or VA, there are five essential steps that will help you stand out.

  1. Find your niche
  2. Create a portfolio
  3. Set your prices
  4. Find clients
  5. Implement growth strategies
Fashion Side Hustle

Let’s go through each one, step-by-step!

Find your niche

This is important AF! Don’t make the rookie mistake of applying for any job out of desperation, or trying to offer allllll the services. Most clients prefer freelancers who specialize, so pick a niche and focus on it.

Create a portfolio

Show off your talent and versatility as a designer with a killer portfolio. Include examples of your previous work that highlight your unique style and creativity. Not sure where to start? Check out my free Ultimate Guide to Creating Your Fashion Portfolio (in a weekend).

Pro Tip: Instead of dumping every single project you’ve ever done in there (what I call “portfolio vomit”), customize your portfolio for your niche. Remember, clients review numerous portfolios, so you only have a few seconds to catch their attention!

Set your prices

Determining your pricing can be a challenge—I’ve been there! But you have to understand the value of your work. “Charge your worth” is inspiring, but ultimately unhelpful. 

Which is why I have resources to help! Here are smart pricing hacks to make sure you don’t undercharge and 3 strategies to figure out your freelance rates in fashion

And remember… There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to pricing. It’s always a work in progress. The key is to avoid undervaluing yourself, as clients often associate price with quality. 

Find clients

There are a variety of ways to find clients! Network at events (in person or online), promote yourself on social media, reach out directly via email or LinkedIn, and join freelance job sites (here are the best). And don’t forget to follow up – persistence pays off.

Implement growth strategies

Continuously learn and develop your skills while maintaining good relationships with your clients. Long-term success lies in producing high-quality work consistently and nurturing relationships with existing clients who’ll keep on reaching out to you and refer you to others.

Top Tips for Your Freelance Fashion Design Side Hustle

Manage your time and workload

Freelancing is all about time management; create a schedule and prioritize tasks to ensure you make the most of your time. Understand how long each task takes, from designing to client communication. 

Use project management tools to track your time and tasks. Also remember to set specific working hours and take breaks, even when working from home. You don’t have to always be available. Yeah, it’s fun to make extra money but self-care is so much more important!

And let me fill you in on a little secret – don’t underestimate the power of asking! When I first started freelancing, I used to bend over backwards to meet every tight deadline and task that clients threw my way. But you’d be surprised how often clients are open to adjusting deadlines when you communicate upfront. Trust me, it’s worth a shot! 

Say no when necessary

Learn to prioritize and say no if the gig doesn’t feel like a good fit. By declining certain clients, you can focus on more productive and fulfilling projects. Choose wisely and invest your time, allowing you to make money while doing work that brings the most value and satisfaction.

Maintain professionalism and reliability

Clear communication with clients is crucial to build and maintain relationships. Keep your clients informed, meet deadlines, and deliver high-quality work consistently. 

Establishing a professional and reliable reputation in your fashion freelancing journey will help you gain trust and potentially lead to long-term partnerships.

(I know some of this feels super basic, but it’s kinda crazy how many fashion freelancers out there are flakey, unreliable, and are just there for the extra cash. Just by showing up and doing what you promise will put you ahead of 90% of people out there.) 

Build a professional network

Building a network of fellow fashion freelancers offers valuable connections and support. You don’t have to have ALL the answers; there are people who can provide quick help to that one question you’ve been racking your brains out for hours.

One of the reasons why I created Freelance Acceleratorfrom Surviving to Thriving (FAST) was to establish a community of fashion freelancers. Joining communities provides opportunities to share experiences, seek advice, and collaborate on projects and more money-making ventures.

Invest in your skills 

The freelance fashion industry is highly competitive, so continuously learning new skills is essential for staying ahead. Stay updated on industry trends, technologies, and best practices — enabling you to continuously make money doing what you love. (You don’t want AI to be taking over your job just yet! Ha! Ok, but in all seriousness, stay up to date – which is a lot easier when you’ve picked a niche.)

Is Your Fashion Design Side Hustle Turning Into A Full-Time Hustle?

Making the leap from a full-time job to freelancing can feel intimidating. But how do you know when it’s the right time to turn your fashion design side hustle into a full-time career

Here are some signs you might be ready:

fashion design side hustle turning into full time

Drowning in work

If you find yourself consistently working late nights and weekends on freelance projects while also juggling a day job, it could be a sign that there’s enough demand for your services to sustain a full-time career. Remember, as a freelancer, you have the freedom to choose your workload and your projects. #winwin

Your income is steady (or growing)

If your freelance income has been steady or increasing over several months, it’s a good sign there’s demand for your work and that your clients trust you.

You’ve built up enough savings

As a fashion freelancer, you can have busy months and slow months. Before diving into freelancing full-time, I recommend saving up enough to cover at least six months of living expenses. This safety net provides peace of mind during slower periods or unforeseen emergencies.

You can strategically get new clients

If a few gigs have luckily landed in your lap, you may not be as fortunate next month. But once you know how to strategically get new clients and make money consistently (like asking for referrals), it’s a great sign you’re ready to ditch your 9-5 and turn your fashion design side hustle into a full-time hustle.

Finding Balance In Your Fashion Design Side Hustle

Freelancing requires more than just doing the work. It involves managing various aspects of your business, such as marketing, finances, contracts, and client relationships.

But a fashion design side hustle can open doors to exciting opportunities and creative freedom. There are tons of fashion based side hustles that offer work-life balance and let you do what you love while making money. 

You got this!

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