Protect Yourself: Freelance Fashion Designer Contract (Free Template!)

When it comes to being a freelance fashion designer, you want to make sure you protect yourself and get paid. Luckily, there are some really easy things you can do (without hiring a lawyer) in your invoices and contracts to cover your butt.

And yes, I’m going to give you a free contract template just for freelance fashion designers.

We’ll also cover whether or not you should get a deposit (and if so, how much).

But first, the obligatory disclaimer: I am not a lawyer or legal expert. Everything in this post is my opinion, not legal advice. While a lot of tips here are from a lawyer I interviewed on the SFF podcast, I cannot be held legally responsible. Use your best judgment (and listen to that episode for more tips on contracts and protecting yourself as a freelance fashion designer)!

Disclaimers out of the way, let’s talk contracts and proposals.

Good news? You don’t need anything complicated. Most freelancers overthink this stuff.

If you google “freelance fashion designer contract template,” there are a lot of legal jargon-y options out there. I’ll be honest, when you’re first getting started and your projects are likely on the smaller side, these contracts can actually scare clients away!

Yes, more formal contracts for freelance fashion designers can and do become important, especially as the price of the project grows. But to start, there’s a really simple tool you can use to protect yourself when you’re first starting out:


Freelance fashion designer contract

Yep, your freelance fashion designer “contract” can be as simple as an email that outlines exact deliverables, timelines and rates.

Make sure you get a written agreement via email, so include a clear CTA (call to action) asking them for confirmation. It can be as simple as “does that sound ok?” and getting a reply of “yes.”

Here’s a basic freelance fashion designer contract template (that you can use for free!):

Simple Email Contract Template for Freelance Fashion Designers by Sew Heidi

When using an email contract like this, make sure to be very clear about:

  • What the services are and what exactly they can expect to receive (5 sketches, front/back, B&W)
  • How many revisions they get (one). How many you offer is up to you, just be clear.
  • How they will receive the files (dropbox in AI CC)
  • When they will receive the files (Friday)
  • What the rate is ($40) and your estimate time to complete (4-5 hrs)
  • That if there is any additional work, it will be billed at the hourly rate

You are also specifically asking for their confirmation and agreement at the end of the email and you get their response in writing. 

All you need is a “yes” in writing.

According to Andrea Sager, the lawyer I interviewed on the SFF podcast about protecting yourself as a fashion freelancer, an email contract like this can hold up in court in the unlikely case you don’t get paid.

Now, I know you may feel REALLY worried about not getting paid. And maybe you’ve heard horror stories.

But here’s the thing…

In my 10+ years as a freelance fashion designer earning $100k+ a year, I never once got stiffed on a project. There were times I had to fight for payment, but I always collected every dime I earned.

And of the ~500 students inside Freelance Accelerator: from Surviving to Thriving (FAST), I only know of one student who didn’t get paid on a project after using FAST strategies.

The fashion industry has a bad rap for being cutthroat and toxic. While yes, that does exist, most people are not out to scam you.

If you’re really worried about collecting payment? Add this line to your email / proposal:

“Ownership of work transfers to [brand name] once invoice has been paid in full.”

Meaning you own the work until they pay you. Andrea Sager says this can hold up in court, and I’ve personally heard a story about a woman who was able to collect her payment because the brand realized they needed ownership.

No one wants to go to court, and there are slim chances you’ll get scammed on a payment, but this one line could save your butt just in case!

What about formal contracts as a freelance fashion designer?

Email contracts are great, but as projects get larger (anything over $1k+ is a good benchmark) is when you may want to think about a formal contract…

You can consult a professional (I like UpCounsel) or pay for a template from a legit source like LegalZoom

There are other tools out there that can help you with contracts, invoices and proposals all in one spot like Honeybook. I’ve hired freelancers who use Honeybook, and my experience as the client was good.

(Psst! Yes, of course, we have all the freelance business templates you need like contracts, proposals, invoices, etc. inside FAST.)

Should I Get a Deposit as a Fashion Freelancer? (And if so, how much?)

At a certain price point, you do want to get a deposit. 50% is due at the start of the project, 50% due at completion is pretty standard and enough to protect you if anything goes wrong.

If the project is bigger, you can break it into 3 even payments, or for a 5 month project, you can do 5 monthly payments.

Figure out something that feels fair to both you and the client.

Just make sure you don’t start any work until the money comes through!

The bottom line on protecting yourself as a freelancer?

Don’t overthink it or get hung up on contracts. You don’t need anything super fancy to protect yourself as a freelance fashion designer.

Be clear, specific, and put it in writing (email works great). That will cover you for most situations.


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