How to Get Into the Fashion Industry Without Going to School

Getting into the fashion industry without going to school may seem impossible. And while there’s a lot of traditional advice out there about finding internships, volunteering at fashion week, and reading magazines…

It’s hard to follow that advice because…

Most internships are run through school programs. So how are you supposed to do that without a degree?

Fashion week is a great way to make connections, but most are in major cities. So how are you supposed to do that if you don’t live in a hub?

And reading magazines? Like WTAF are you supposed to do with that advice? #eyeroll

Which is why I want to tell you something no one talks about…

There’s a Secret Backdoor to Getting Into the Fashion Industry Without a Degree

The backdoor to breaking into fashion without going to school is something you never hear about. 

Because most people don’t even know it exists.

Your secret to getting into fashion without a degree isn’t getting a job and joining the Exhausted Employee rat race that’s so common in this industry. 

It’s becoming a Successful Fashion Freelancer. (No matter what country you live in.)

Not full-time “freelancing” like the gigs you find on Indeed or StyleCareers. These are just “permalance” temp jobs in disguise (even though everyone in fashion calls it “freelancing”).

I’m talking about true remote freelancing where you work with a variety of clients you love and set your own schedule.

It’s how Arya Mishra, one of our Freelance Accelerator: from Surviving to Thriving (FAST) grads, started her freelance career. At the age of 20, without a fashion school degree, without any experience, and living in India, Arya broke into the industry.

Within just 5 weeks, she had 6 paying clients. She was so excited, she shared her first invoice with me!

fashion freelancing invoice example

I don’t know ANYONE who’s found a job that fast without a degree.

So why is freelancing different? Let me explain.


Why Is Freelancing the Best Way to Break Into the Fashion Industry Without Going to School? 

There are 2 big reasons it’s easier to break into the fashion industry as a freelancer (especially if you didn’t go to school).

  1. Freelancing is a lot less competitive than getting a fashion design job
  2. There are more startup brands that need freelancers (and willing to hire newbies)

Let me explain each one a little further.

Freelancing Is a Lot Less Competitive Than Getting a Fashion Design Job

Ever since the pandemic, competition for jobs has gotten worse. Brands cut staff overnight and tons of people were unemployed. 

Even though we’re years into dealing with Covid and many industries have recovered, there are a lot fewer fashion jobs available than there used to be.

Which means you, the aspiring fashion designer without a degree, are competing against all the experienced professionals out there who have degrees AND have years of experience.

It’s a tough market to break into if you don’t have any credentials on your resume.

But freelancing is different. 

First, most brands don’t even ask for your resume as a freelancer. They’ll just want to see your portfolio (and yes it’s ok to include self directed projects).

Second, true remote freelance opportunities aren’t listed. They’re FOUND. Since most people don’t know how (or where) to find them, there isn’t much competition. 

Last, brands are much more willing to take a risk on hiring a newbie for a freelance project than a full-time job. And in a post-covid world, established brands are a lot more open to remote work once they were forced to realize it was possible.

There Are More Startup Brands That Need Freelancers (and willing to hire newbies)

Since the pandemic there are a ton more startup fashion brands out there that need freelancers.

That’s because a lot of designers who lost their jobs said “screw it, I’m not working for someone else again, I’m finally going to start my own clothing line.” 

I know because tons of my 22k email subscribers told me!

There is more opportunity for freelance fashion design work since the pandemic

We also get a lot of brands asking us for freelancer recommendations, and since the pandemic, we’ve gotten a lot more inquiries. (Psst! We share all of these freelance opportunities exclusively inside FAST.)


Here’s why:

A lot of fashion startups aren’t in the position to hire full-time employees, and many of them are on a budget. 

Which means they’re looking for freelancers at a reasonable rate (ahem, that’s you who’s starting without a degree) as experienced freelancers are often too expensive for them.

What Are the Steps to Get Into Fashion (as a freelancer) Without Going to School?

Steps to get into the fashion industry without going to school

While it may seem overwhelming to get into the fashion industry as a freelancer without going to school, it comes down to just 5 steps:

  1. Learn an industry skill (fashion flats + tech packs are the best)
  2. Create a simple PDF portfolio (with self directed projects)
  3. Figure out your freelance rates (using simple tricks)
  4. Find clients (there are some secret places)
  5. BOOM, you’re in the fashion industry (congrats!)

I cover all 5 of these steps in my Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a Freelance Fashion Designer. I created it just for aspiring peeps like you who don’t have a degree (or any experience)!

Always Look for the Backdoor (it’s the best way to break in!)

Instead of being yet another one of THOUSANDS of applicants desperately applying for one role, do things differently. Create your own path and break in through the backdoor as a fashion freelancer.

It still takes work (like anything in life or fashion) but it’s much more accessible than landing a full-time job in this competitive industry.



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