How to Get Freelance Fashion Design Jobs on UpWork: Successful Fashion Designer Podcast Interview with Kim Dippel by Sew Heidi

SFD 016: How to Get Freelance Fashion Design Jobs (using Upwork)

If you’ve ever browsed Upwork to get freelance fashion design jobs, you probably felt like it was a lot of junk and low paying gigs. But it is possible to get real projects from legit companies (who pay a fair wage). In this interview, fashion freelancer Kim shares how you can get more freelance projects on Upwork.

Kim Dippel is a fashion designer with 12 years of experience working for surf brands like Oneil and Quiksilver. After having a baby and moving away from a hub, she wanted to try freelancing. After not having any luck with her existing contacts, she turned to UpWork where she successfully landed a few ongoing clients that have kept her consistently busy. In the interview, Kim shares how to land your first few gigs, why honesty and transparency is essential to building relationships, and how to raise your rates with clients.

You will learn:

  • What you can do to land your first few jobs and build up your ratings
  • How to write a custom proposal and get the client’s attention
  • Red flags to look for when deciding whether to take a project or not
  • What to watch out for when bidding project based (flat fee) work
  • How to negotiate your rate without cutting yourself short
  • How to transition clients off UpWork
  • Strategies to track correspondence (phone, email) to make sure you get paid for your time
  • Why your website should be a cohesive representation of you as a brand
  • Why it’s ok to ask your client a lot of questions
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SFD 016: Full Podcast Transcription

Heidi: Hey everybody this is Sew Heidi and you’re listening to the Successful Fashion Designer Podcast we all knew that the fashion industry is brutally competitive and it takes loads of hard work to get ahead the problem is that everyone’s secretive and tight-lipped about their ways. After working as a designer and educator for over a decade I wanted to help break down those barriers and bring you valuable knowledge from industry experts and this show is exactly where you’ll find that whether you’re trying to break into the fashion world make yourself more marketable launch your own label or become a successful freelancer we’ll help you get ahead in this cutthroat fashion industry. This is episode 16 of these Successful Fashion Designer Podcasts, and today I’m chatting with Kim Dippel fashion designer who’s worked with surf brands like O’Neil and Quicksilver after having a baby and moving away from a fashion hub she wanted to try freelancing she didn’t have any luck with her existing contacts so she turned to UPWORK where she successfully feet landed a few ongoing clients that have kept her consistently busy in the interview Kim shares how to land your first few gigs on UPWORK why honesty and transparency is essential to building relationships and how to raise your rates with new clients.

Kim: When I would reach out to clients I would say you know this is my hourly rate you know I’m willing to negotiate a little bit and then we would talk further so I would say okay you know maybe for this project I’ll do it for five dollars less an hour you know and we would negotiate that but it was only for that specific project.

Heidi: Before we jump into the interview I want to remind you, you can help the show out and make it easier for others to discover by leaving a rating on iTunes if you enjoy this episode I’d really appreciate it if you take sixty seconds to do that visit to leave your rating and thanks for your support and help to access the show notes for today’s episode visit now onto the interview with Kim. Thank you so much Kimberly for joining me on the Successful Fashion Designer Podcast I’m so excited to chat with you and everything you’re working on why don’t we get started by giving why don’t you give yours give a quick introduction of who you are and what you do and your experience in the industry.

Kim: All right my name is Kim Dippel my married name and I have been working full time in the industry for over 12 years now. I started at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, FIDIM as most people know it in LA and I did the 2-year course there and graduated in 2004 and then just kind of jumped in both feet first most of my experience in the industry thus far it’s actually pretty mixed but most of it lies in the surf industry I’m from Orange County and that’s where I’ve lived pretty much most of my career so been working in the surf industry full-time and then in LA for smaller companies as well so kind of have a mix of working for super small you know kind of grassroots startups to more established bigger corporations and right now I am just on my own freelancing.

Heidi: That’s awesome. So, I’d love to talk a little bit more about and you know you had a great breadth of experience in the industry working for a variety of different brands and that was mostly in LA is that correct?

Kim: Kind of half-and-half I would say most of my career now has been actually in Orange County in the surf industry but it’s kind of like I’d probably say 60/40.

Heidi: Okay, so LA Orange County area and then I’m not mistaken your family moved and that’s when you kind of decided to do freelance so is that what happened?

Kim: Exactly yeah a year ago we moved up to San Luis Obispo County and we’re living in Pismo Beach and there’s not you know really much of an industry here I did work for a golf apparel company on the women’s side for about six months and then it was just kind of got hard with child care we have a two-year-old daughter and in all that stuff so I had the opportunity to stay home and I decided I wanted to keep you know at least a foot in the pond I didn’t just want to stop working altogether so I tried my hand at freelancing and it’s actually going pretty well.

Heidi: Yeah. So, I’d love to talk a little bit more about like what that process was like because you live from you know being a full-time employee or working as some type of employee status for most your career and then tell us about your journey into freelancing like what did you try what worked what didn’t work and kind of where you’re at now?

Kim: Yeah. So, I’ve made the decision probably about two months before I actually quit the job at the Golf Company I just knew it wasn’t working just wasn’t working for like my life and I needed to do something different and so I did a little bit of research and I found which is a website that kind of connects freelancers to people looking for freelancers and there I know that there are a couple other websites that do that as well I didn’t really I found out UPWORK the jobs on there to be a little bit better suited towards me so I went with up work and I just created a profile and that’s honestly where I started and I just started kind of like reaching out to you know the different job postings and you know kind of bidding for these different jobs and most of them were just super small you know didn’t pay much but I needed to get a little bit of experience under my belt so you know I did some things I did logo design actually for this one girl and I’m not even a graphic artist and she knew that and I told her I’m like look all I’ll give my best shot at it and it ended up going really well but I even did some things that were kind of you know not exactly what I wanted to do and then I ended up I got really lucky I found two clients that now I just work with you know I don’t work on up work anymore because they keep me very busy I work one-on-one with them and right now it’s great for me because kind of the exact hours that I need you know staying home with a toddler is really challenging right now I’m only doing like two at best like three hours a day of work so it kind of works for me and I could do more with them which is cool so when that you know when those kind of life situations change you know there will be more work for me hopefully.

Heidi: So, I really, really dig into the whole awkward process that you went through and kind of how you strategically worked through you know getting those clients and then maybe taking them off of up work and figuring out what your rates were because I think one of the challenges that that a lot of people seem to express with UPWORK is that you know there’s a lot of people on there willing to do work for nothing or there’s brands or small startups that expect you know this really, really, really low price so you know did you see some of those challenges and if so how are you able to sort of I know you said you did some like small low price projects and you did some stuff that was a little bit outside of you know what you exactly wanted to do but talk a little bit about you know how you got started with that and then how you were able to progress and get those clients off of UPWORK and maybe increase your rates or you know I don’t know what your exact setup look like but take us through that process a little bit.

Kim: So, at first I was willing to negotiate my rate you know like I had said I was willing to take smaller jobs make up a little bit less money but you know there’s a lot of people on UPWORK and the people there you know the clients that are looking for freelancers have a lot of weeding through to do as well and just from kind of talking to them it can be frustrating the one thing that worked for me that pretty much every client had said was I saw your website and I loved it so I think that the I think the first thing you know if you’re looking to go into freelance you know create yourself an awesome website I use Squarespace I’m not a web designer you know I don’t like code or anything Squarespace is great if you’re okay you know if you want that look you know it’s a very specific look if you want that look then it’s easy and awesome and I made mine on Squarespace and it turned out beautiful and that’s really been kind of the thing that’s snagged I would say 90% of my clients and kind of set me apart you know you have your profile on there and you know and I didn’t on UPWORK I was pretty I was reasonable but I wasn’t low-priced so I would say right now like I’m pretty good at my hourly like I could you know I could I could definitely bump it up a little bit but I feel like I’m kind of at that sweet spot where people don’t run away from it but it also you know doesn’t really attract the people that want to pay you five dollars per project but yeah I mean in terms of just my I would say this the strategy that kind of hooked most of my clients was my website that’s what they’ve been telling me.

Heidi: Oh, that’s great. So, I’ll link to your I’ll link to your site in the show notes and can you just say what the URL is for everybody listening but I’ll definitely put it in the show notes as well.

Kim: Sure. it’s it’s

Heidi: That’s great. And so you know without us having a visual writers we’re talking you know do you think there was anything specific on your site I mean it’s a beautiful site but do you think it was like how you presented your portfolio or how you presented you know sort of like your resume of experience or was there anything specific on the site that stood out to people?

Kim: I think the what I’ve heard is that the overall kind of vibe of this site it’s kind of it’s like feminine and class I think the overall vibe is very like cohesive from like the color scheme and everything I think that kind of catches the eye and then I’m lucky enough to have beautiful photography of the collections I’ve designed which really helps from you know look books and all that I had access to those images and were able to use them on my website and that you know that’s a huge thing right there I mean I’m sure if I had you know an incredible illustration as like the home page that would also be eye-catching but I think that the images really helped and then it really showcases I use pictures and images and designs that really showcase you know who I am in kind of my style and where I come from but I also wanted to show you know diversity that I’m not just you know in this one bubble I can you know designed for a variety of different clients and you know with different styles but I definitely have my own perspective so I tried to keep that from the font the color seem kind of you know everything to really show Who I am.

Heidi: Yeah. Well and I love the you’re actually the second person I’ve had on the show who’s mentioned you know the power and strength of using those marketing images like the actual photography I mean cats are great flats are great but there’s you can tell such a stronger story with those marketing images so the value of using those if you have the ability to as a designer to really showcase the finished, finished product.

Kim: Exactly.

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: Yeah, well and you’re telling a story and it’s you know it’s very people book and they want to see beautiful images you know they really just want to see oh my gosh that’s beautiful okay I want to delve more into this you know and then I have my technical work on there and all that stuff so they can say see okay this person you know came back up these images with you know this is the work and this is the process that you know went along because I didn’t take those photos…

Heidi: Sure.

Kim: …you know so.

Heidi: Okay. So, that’s great and so you put together a really cohesive sort of well branded presentation of yourself on your site to really show who you are and what you do and your design aesthetic and that obviously I mean you’ve heard feedback specifically from the people you’ve done work with that, that was sort of the impetus that pushed them over the edge to want to work with you so kind of going backwards a little bit I’d love to talk a little bit and you don’t have to share any numbers if you’re not comfortable that’s absolutely fine but just in general like okay you started if I’m not mistaken from a conversation we had earlier like you started at a lower rate just to get some projects and reviews and then you slowly increase your rate so can you talk a little bit about like how did you explain that to some clients your working with and what the whole like price raising process was likes I think that’s a scary spot for some people they’re like oh well if I start it you know X dollars an hour how am I going to explain if I need to raise it and so what did you do to kind of walk your customers through that journey with you?

Kim: Yeah. I think that can be a difficult thing the way that I did it was honestly it was pretty easy because right now if I you know raised my rates on a current client I have you know I would have probably you know go into a whole you know she’ll and want to explain why and all that but the way I did it on UPWORK is that you have your profile and you have your hourly rate on there but when I would reach out to clients I would say you know this is my hourly rate you know I’m willing to negotiate a little bit and then we would talk further so I would say okay you know maybe for this project I’ll do it for five dollars less an hour you know and we would negotiate that but it was only for that specific project but they knew what my standard rate was and either it was because you know hey like I really want I’m passionate about this project you know I really want to do this or I was just very honest I knew here you know I want to build my reputation and so I was very honest about that so it was kind of like okay for this project I’ll do it for this right you know this is my standard rate and it kind of went from there the clients that I have right now I I didn’t do actually won’t actually know that I take that back one of them I did do the first project for much lower than I actually work and I talked I did tell him that I was very honest about it I said look like for this project I’m I know I’m very passionate about it I could see you know further opportunities there was opportunity to keep going with this project and at that point I told him I would charge my standard rate and that person agreed and it was you know I just I laid it all out there in the beginning and was just very honest and I didn’t have any issues but I haven’t come across where you know okay I’m working for X amount of dollars and you know okay all of a sudden I’m going to jump up you know and kind of like charge you a little bit more I haven’t I haven’t done that yet so I can’t really speak to how I would approach that just yet…

Heidi: Sure.

Kim: …but yeah that’s kind of how I did it in the beginning was kind of per project and I was just very honest.

Heidi: And so it was almost like hey lets you know I’m I want this project I’m willing to do the initial the initial project with you at almost like a trial rate to make sure that we’re close and to show you what I can do and to make sure that that we work well together and then going forward anything from that on is going to be at the standard rate…

Kim: Exactly.

Heidi: … yeah, that’s a great strategy.

Kim: Yeah. I mean if you if you can’t do it I’m in a position where I’m able to do that in my life right now had I tried to freelance a few years ago oh my gosh it would have been a lot more stressful because you know everyone has to bring home a certain amount to make their ends meet…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …so I think it would yeah I think it would have been more difficult for me to do that a few years ago but I can kind of play around with it now which you know is a nice kind of a luxury.

Heidi: Yeah. And so talked a little bit about like what types of clients are you finding out there on UPWORK is that are you doing all sorts of startup work or is it working with some established brands and I’d love for you to talk a little bit about you know what are the difference like what are those projects kind of look like, like what are some the differences you as a freelancer see in terms of like what you have to manage working with one type of client which is another type.

Kim: Yeah. So, on UPWORK it’s pretty much what I have come across in my experience is it is mostly all startups which are can be fun but they can also be extremely challenging and I’ve gotten lucky where you know if I would kind of been talking to a client we’re talking about a certain you know job and I haven’t committed to it yet I’m kind of trying to feel out okay how organized are these people how committed are they because I’ve had a client in particular say okay we’re sending you this project you know you know here’s a PDF here’s all the notes we want you knows four text packs and then you know I would have a question I wouldn’t hear from them and then like three weeks later they did we changed our collection here you go they just we’re not communicative did not have you know we’re not organized and so I just said okay you know what like this just isn’t for me this isn’t really working out,,,

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …other things that I’m doing and I need to like schedule you know make sure I do time you know create time for everyone and I’m creating time for you and then you’re just not responding…

Heidi: Yeah, so I was gonna ask you like what are some of the red flags when in terms of like the initial sort of communication process or the bidding process like what are some the red flags with some of these clients that you’re like you know maybe this isn’t a good match for me.

Kim: …for me honestly I was kind of turned off when someone would just send me like their collection really without you know or like notes or you know really important information about what they’re doing without having me you know or wanting me to sign like an NDA or something like that it just showed that they didn’t really understand that they needed to protect themselves and like my two clients I have now you know I signed NDA’s with them they were very organized very professional you know they really had their ducks in a row even though they were startups and I found that to be kind of comforting just because I it told me that they were serious…

Heidi: Ah, interesting.

Kim: …what they were doing yeah some people just like send me all their notes right and you know maybe they don’t have access to you know a lawyer to just draw up the NDA and all that stuff I understand that stuff takes you know money and I totally get that but yes some people would just send me like all of their stuff I’m like you don’t even know me we’ve talked one time like I don’t know I just tell it was like it was real amateur level which is fine but then you know from there like are you communicative are you organized you know I would kind of watch out for those things after that…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …and you know it would either still you know would either go okay like okay these people are serious about it or it would just be a disaster and I would just you know say okay this isn’t working and that’s only happened a few times.

Heidi: Okay. And so it sounds like you said most of the work is startups and so know I think for a lot of designers out there who maybe are going into freelancing for the first time you know perhaps their experience is working with some established brands as an employee where you have a full team and everybody’s been doing this for a while or at least you know your boss start at brand and some your coworkers and managers and things are established and internally you know little things down to like trims and fit and stuff has developed that you’re kind of holding over and over and so then to contrast that against a start-up how are you as a freelancer you know finding some of these processes different than working internally for perhaps even freelance first startup brand and what are some of the things you’ve learned in terms of like how to manage that process or how to manage the client better or anything like that what’s that been like for you?

Kim: Well a lot of these startups they do I find rely on me a lot for guidance either within the process or you know what should our graded specs look like and you know fit and everything so I’ve kind of they’ve given me quite a bit of freedom to kind of guide them you know and say okay we’ll all you know all right up your graded specs kind of you know based on what I’ve used in the past that would pertain to what you’re doing and you know this is kind of how you know I think that you’re fit should be based on what you want and so it’s you when you’re working with startups you really do have to be willing because they want guidance and I can only give them what you know my expertise is and I’m very honest you know I don’t do try and guide them in things that I am NOT you know I’m not versed well in sales so I would never try and like direct sales…

Heidi: Sure.

Kim: …but for what I’m doing they really do need a lot of guidance like okay so what’s next okay so what should I do here what should I do here I just had kind of a conversation with one of my clients on a project and we were talking about specs and shrinkage and I kind of had to like okay so who’s, who’s washing the garment being garment washed at the factory is it being washed you know by the consumer kind of you know what is the whole goal here and then we were able to like figure out the solution to the spec problem but they you know those aren’t really things that they’re necessarily thinking about because maybe they don’t have the experience and that’s why they hired you so you really kind of have to think sometimes you know sometimes you assume that they know certain things but you kind of have to assume that they don’t know you know really what they’re doing and kind of guide them which can be more you know more work but that’s kind of just the nature of working with a start-up in most cases I mean some people are starting and they’ve been doing this for years and they know what they’re doing…

Heidi: Sure.

Kim: …so depends on the client.

Heidi: But a lot of times it sounds like they look at you as the expert and they look at you for the consultation and the guidance and the support to help navigate them down this path whereas working with an established brand you know might be more than just giving you this specific task okay we need you to draw these we need you to come up with you know eight concepts for this this item or something.

Kim: Exactly. So, essentially you can be doing a lot more work…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …with the startups.

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: Yeah. Working with an established brand where they already have all these guidelines and you know procedures like you said they’re you know internally they’re pretty set you kind of just like ride the wave and do what they need you to do but yeah I’ve found with startups it actually is more work mentally and in for correspondence you know you’re explaining things a lot.

Heidi: And so, how do you track your time in terms of like in terms if they call you and your hop on a 15-minute phone call are you tracking your hourly rate for that or if you spend you know even just 10 minutes answering an email but then you do that ten times a week that adds up to a couple hours and so how are you like really managing all of that just the correspondence portion of it?

Kim: Yeah it can it can be challenging what I’ve found that works for me is I use an app called Evernote and it’s all you know it syncs to my phone my computer you know it’s kind of with everywhere and so if I do something you know even an email I just kind of log in and I have different kind of notebooks they call them in that for each client and I just say like okay like email and I do a 5-minute and even if it’s five minutes I just write it down…

Heidi: Yeah,

Kim: …because when I’m invoicing and I usually do detailed invoices…

Heidi: Okay.

Kim: I kind of itemized somebody you know on this day you know I did this and they’re kind of vague but just so that the client feels comfortable…

Heidi: Right.

Kim: …like okay this is what they did you know I’ll even you all write down ok email five minutes so I can kind of say like correspondence I spent you know 15 minutes this day if I did three 5-minute emails…

Heidi: Sure.

Kim: …it’s a lot more work when invoicing but I find that it really does kind of put my clients at ease and trust me that I’m not you know just like adding an hour here and adding an hour there…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …so one of my clients I communicate with on skype a lot just kind of like a constant conversation throughout the day or you know he quickly you know thinks about something that you know he wants me to do it just kind of works he’s international he travels a lot so for him it works and for me I it’s fine so that’s been kind of a difficult thing to keep track of you know because I mean some days we don’t talk at all and some days it’s kind of like throughout the day constant messaging so I kind of just gauge how much time I spent on it…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …and I just you know I throw it in there I mean it’s like if you want me to be available on skype then you know I’m just gonna…

Heidi: Cost money.

Kim: …yeah…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …and there hasn’t been an issue with it.

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: So, I think just being kind of you know really straightforward with your clients and you know kind of how you bill and having that conversation in the beginning is important and I mean you know they’ll know if you’re doing emails you’re working so…

Heidi: Yeah, that’s time

Kim: Yeah.

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: If you only do a few emails a week and then you, you know charge three hours for emails on your invoice they’re gonna know something…

Heidi: Right.

Kim: …it’s not that big of a discrepancy it hasn’t been an issue for me yet.

Heidi: Yeah. No, I just think that’s important though because you know correspondence does take time and I’ve chatted with some people who are like you know if I talk to him on the phone for 10 minutes I don’t know if I should be charging for that time and to me…

Kim: Oh, yeah.

Heidi: Yeah, it’s still, it’s your time you only have so many hours in the day and you need to be compensated for the ones that you are giving them your support whether that be having a call to talk them through something or whether you’re actually you know sketching an illustrator or whatever it is that’s your time and that needs to be needs to be billed…

Kim: Exactly.

Heidi: …yeah…

Kim: Yeah.

Heidi: …that’s great.

Kim: Actually it makes you look more professional as well you know you say I’m worth it you know I’m worth this time…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …and worth you know the money and I’m you know I’m providing you a specific service and I should be compensated it shows that you know you’re professional and you’re confident in your own abilities and…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …you know?

Heidi: That’s great so I want to remind a little bit and like go back a little bit more through the upward process in terms of you know kind of digging through all the jobs that are posted and then sending out your bid or your pitch or your proposal and so you know I think it can get a little overwhelming or I shouldn’t even assuming that so I’ll let you explain but like going through all the jobs that are posted on there like what are you looking for is there a way you figured out to kind of like felt you see something you’re like okay well that’s just I can just kind of tell us about that’s not gonna be a good match that’s not even worth my time to bid that you know what has that whole process been like to even filter out the stuff that you think this could be a good match?

Kim: Let see. it’s been honestly it’s been quite a few months since I’ve been on up work about how I did it in the beginning was they were they’re pretty good kind of promoting the jobs that match with your profile…

Heidi: Okay.

Kim: …they’re so kind of everyday it’s 15 new jobs on upwork for you and you know I’d kind of start there…

Heidi: Okay.

Kim: …and I really went by you know they have kind of the header and then the description honestly that kind of tells me all I need to know how they’re written what their needs are you know there would be some jobs that say design collection of activewear you know $10 but didn’t say $10 hourly didn’t say $10 flat and then like there and then there’s kind of something on there that says you know willing to pay more for experienced freelancers or something like that and it just it the whole thing was I’m like this is a mess there’s no details you’re not saying the size of the collection you’re like I really don’t want to delve too much further into this…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …so I would I would not even waste my time in the beginning I’d probably in the very beginning I would have applied to it but I have noticed that the jobs that have really worked out for me and have been good clients have been like the job descriptions are pretty detailed and you know good information was given for me you know you always have questions because it’s like okay well how many pieces and what do you want I always ask what do you want these tech packs to look like what are your expectations because there I do a lot of tech pack so I’m just using tech pack size as an example but you know some people want these tech packs that are like extremely elaborate and detailed and all of these you know zoom ins and then some people to like a very simple tech pack you know for their domestic factory who doesn’t need all this crazy stuff…

Heidi: Right.

Kim: …and the products are different so there’s always like a lot of questions that I have but I think if the initial post is pretty detailed on what the work is going to what the work is like and what the project is like I’m way more apt to submit a proposal to that job then it’s like a brief description…

Heidi: Yeah. It’s like you…

Kim: …don’t understand.

Heidi: …yeah, how professionally did they present themselves is a really good indicator of what they’re probably gonna be like to work with?

Kim: Exactly, yeah.

Kim: Yeah, that’s been my experience and there’s always exceptions to the rule…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …but that’s usually I found.

Heidi: Yeah, and then did you do anything strategic and like the actual I think on a portrait they call it a bid this job like within your bid or your proposal right up was there anything who did to kind of standout especially for those first few jobs that you were trying to get before you let’s say before he had any reviews or ratings?

Kim: The thing that worked for me I think is that in the you know I would kind of start out with I think like the first line that you write and it really has to catch their attention like in anything you know they’re getting you’ll you can see how many people applied to jobs I mean sometimes it’s like 50 200 sometimes it’s like 500 I mean it’s kind of crazy so I would kind of start out with like you know I am I can’t remember exactly what I would write but you know I’m an apparel designer with over 12 years’ experience full time experience in the industry I’ve worked for notable companies such as you know that would go on to say Quicksilver Emil and you know when they see those names if you were if you’ve worked for a company that has you know any type of mass appeal or people you know it’s a household name I mean I think you need to include that in the very beginning because that’s eye catching and people say okay this person is the real deal like they’ve worked for this established company they obviously have some great experience and they’ll keep reading so I kind of tried to like get those things you know I’ve had a lot of experience I’ve worked for these companies and then obviously I would always include my website at the bottom.

Heidi: Oh, right in the proposal?

Kim: Yeah…

Heidi: Okay.

Kim: …because you can you can upload like examples of your work and I kind of found that to be I don’t know sometimes I would do it depending on the job but I would usually say you know please check out you know please check out my website for you know examples of my work or hope I worked it better than that…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …so it was kind of like okay they could click and they could see my whole website…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …so I did not really upload too many examples of my work just because I had my website and it’s it seemed to be fine…

Heidi: Clearly it was I mean you got feedback that it was…

Kim: Yeah.

Heidi: that like a reason people decide to work with you?

Kim: Yeah…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …know people are going through these things fast too so I didn’t make it too long I didn’t make it too short and then I tried to make just going to the website very easy.

Heidi: Yeah, and so then you would maybe let’s say a conversation was initiated and then you would talk through it and then and obviously you don’t land every job but you landed some and then you took those you took some of them off of up work is that correct?

Kim: I did yeah.

Heidi: Yeah. So, talk a little bit about that like how did you feel like you were ready to do that how did you approach that conversation was the client comfortable because I think that can be you know talk to some people who are like there’s a comfort to working in UPWORK because you’re guaranteed payment and you know everything’s kind of tracked and I think that some people can feel a little bit nervous about going off of UPWORK because you know you could not get paid or something but when you’re on the platform they take them to take a pretty good chunk of your money…

Kim: It hurts, yeah.

Heidi: …and it’s a great service out there so I don’t mean to like discount what they’re doing it’s a great service for everybody to kind of connect and find someone to do their project or find a project to work on but at some point you’re kind of like oh I’m paying this fee over and over it’s just quite a bit.

Kim: So yeah you can’t yeah I mean you can’t really stand to do that for too long so I I would but I’ve taken a few clients off and I would always do my first project through them through up work and get and you know get paid and make sure everything went smoothly and if we decided to continue to work together you know usually I would have already had like a phone conversation with them or like some of my clients we would you know video chat on skype so we could say I’m a real person you’re a real person do you make that connection…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …you know I would always have like information about their business like their business address and make sure they’re you know legit and then you know we would kind of talk about it and I would say okay look I am you know I’m willing to work off of up work you know if you are and then I would I sign like a contract with one of my clients who I work with a lot it was, it was, it was very loose it wasn’t binding or anything but it was kind of saying okay you are gonna be a contractor for us and you know kind of by spelling out you know the details and in rate stuff so like my rate was locked into this contracts it was not binding at all it wasn’t anything like you didn’t do work for us for three months and you know it was like this this can be you know basically terminated at any point by either party but it was just very you know it was kind of like okay you know this company’s legit this person’s legit and I feel comfortable at night I just really used my gut instinct and I has been fine I have not had a bad experience yet but I kind of knew when it was time and there were certain things that made me feel you know very comfortable doing so.

Heidi: Okay. So, yeah. So just having something in writing kind of can make each party feel a little bit more secure but like you said it doesn’t have to be anything super fancy legalist it can just be you know something that that you both are agreeing to.

Kim: Yeah, and I had never I have never written up the contract so I don’t really have any advice on that it was always sent to me by the client you know when I would obviously read through it make sure there wasn’t anything crazy in there…

Heidi: Sure.

Kim: …anything it’s really binding…

Heidi: Sure.

Kim: …but yeah I have never personally written up the contract so that’s probably something I should look into for the future but…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …sorry I can’t really speak to that.

Heidi: No. no and that’s absolutely fine and that’s something that you know perhaps there’s some basic templates or something online that you could probably use as a starting point so it seems as though you know going through UPWORK and then getting a few stable clients was a great process for you.

Kim: Yeah. I had success…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …yeah, it really was kind of a thing you know because I like all of us I have contacts in the industry and I obviously reached out to you know my contacts as well but no people like to hire freelancers right now just from what I’m finding at least in you know Southern California where most my experiences but you know they want you in house…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …sometime so yeah I mean of course freelancers are great because you know you can kind of get the benefits without you know paying them benefits…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …know all the different things that come along with full-time employees but you know they want you there which is understandable a lot of you know a lot of work especially if you’re in fittings and proving fabrics and lab tips and all this stuff you know that can be challenging remotely…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …so I just didn’t have any luck with my contacts at the time I was looking for it.

Heidi: Got you. And so you know did you have any challenges with UPWORK in terms of like you know like when you were first getting started did you feel like there was a period where you were like oh I’m just applying to so much stuff and I’m not really hearing back or you know where there’s some frustrations initially to kind of get things kick-started?

Kim: Yes, absolutely. It was a lot of applying you know writing proposals to jobs and you know really hearing nothing back sometimes for like I think a week was like my longest gosh like this isn’t working but you know you only kind of need like one gem to come through you know is you know kind of in creative relationship and if they have you know constant work and different projects then I mean you know right now I really only work like I said two main clients and then I have some smaller clients here and there which I still do things for but it’s not it’s not consistent…

Heidi: Okay.

Kim: …but yeah I mean my two main clients keep me really busy and I found both of them on UPWORK so.

Heidi: Well and I like hearing that because you know I think that it can be really discouraging to apply and not hear anything for a week but like you said you know you just have to get those couple and so at some point like you I mean I think you need to make sure that like what you’re sending out is good and so you might want to I don’t do I don’t know did you experiment with like how different ways you wrote your pitch or see what got more responses versus less responses or anything you just kept sending the same thing and then finally it stuck?

Kim: Yeah, I mean I would kind of send I would have like my template you know that I would use my like intro my closing and then the middle part depending on what the job was that…

Heidi: Sure.

Kim: …we were kind of changed each time so it’s not like I was totally just copying and pasting which about what easier sometimes it worked that way but usually I would have to kind of rewrite the proposal and highlight certain skills that I had that pertain to what they were looking for so yeah I mean it was in terms of what kind of you know I felt worked for me it was kind of the same formula just changing really what I would highlight about myself…

Heidi: I got you.

Kim: …and that’s yeah that’s kind of what I did and it seemed to have worked pretty well.

Heidi: So just in terms of like you said highlighting your some of your skills making sure that was specifically relatable to the project that they were posting…

Kim: Yes, exactly.

Heidi: I got you, and so not just sending a generic template over and over.

Kim: yeah I don’t I don’t think I would have gotten as many you know jobs or feedback if I had just sent the same thing because…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …you know some of the jobs I wouldn’t apply to you or I do a lot of active wear so you know some of them were for active wear some of them were sports where some of them were you know just all we want we have our designs were all good we just need tech pack so it was you know I would highlight more of my technical skills…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …if it was designing then I would you know have to highlight more of you know my creative skills and so yeah doing that kind of just I think you know just basically you know play into what they want you know and just make sure to highlight those strengths about yourself…

Heidi: Yeah..

Kim: …and be honest about what you can do…

Heidi: …sure, sure.

Kim: …you are or else you’re just gonna find yourself in a pickle.

Heidi: Yeah, which is not gonna be good…

Kim: Yeah.

Hedi: For anybody. So, one other thing I would like to just touch on really quickly is the NDA because I have heard mixed feedback from designers or even like factories when they get asked to sign an NDA and so you know that was something that you said actually impressed you about the project or the client and made them look you know really professional and that they were I think maybe you said something to that extent but you know as you as a designer did you ever feel nervous with that like that was like locking you into you know and this is a generic example of like let’s say they want they’re designing some activewear legging and then you know what if somewhere in hidden in that NDA is saying like you can’t design leggings for another brand for a year or something you know some type of like non-compete clause did you ever feel nervous about that or did you have a lawyer review those documents or what was that like?

Kim: You know the smart thing to do is I think to have a lawyer review them I didn’t because I didn’t there was nothing in there that made me feel like you know I’m not going to be able to you know design for another brand that does this same thing it was kind of just like you know our you know keep our designs keep our concept you know don’t share like factories and in all that stuff it was pretty basic stuff…

Heidi: Okay.

Kim: …I’m like don’t you know don’t post about you know this brand on social media…

Heidi: Sure.

Kim: …you know you like a lot of it was you know wait until like I can’t put a lot of the work on my website until it’s like kind of out there…

Heidi: Right.

Kim: …you know being sold…

Heidi: Okay.

Kim: …that type of stuff which I felt comfortable with…

Heidi: Okay.

Kim: …there was no like you know you can’t design for another active wear brand or another you know handbag line and I’m honest with my clients like hey I work with another brand you know startup that’s doing activewear you know it’s a totally different style than yours it’s a different thing I’m kind of just I try to be as transparent as possible so that you know they kind of know what I’m doing but that you know and you have to build that trust as well with your client it’s just you know it doesn’t happen overnight so you know a lot of people want you to sign this NDA but I have not run into anything that has made me feel like I am prohibited from working…

Heidi: Okay.

Kim: …with yeah if I did I would probably call it out and say you know hey we need to talk about this part because this is making me feel you know kind of uncomfortable and but yeah I’ve only signed two of them so far and both of them have been very yeah basic and basically just you know don’t talk about our ideas and you know put it out there to the world before we’re ready.

Heidi: Sure. and it sounds like they were written and like plain enough English that you read it and you could understand exactly what it meant.

Kim: Yes. yeah and they weren’t like 15 pages long…

Heidi: Okay.

Kim: …we were yeah they were pretty, pretty clear and basic and I could understand them so okay so I don’t feel like she needed a lawyer.

Heidi: Yeah, no I just you say in the end and I picture like you know like you said a 15-page like legal jargon document that it’s like what am I signing like I don’t even know what half this means okay so that explains that quite a bit better?

Kim: Yeah.

Heidi: Okay. Awesome well that’s fantastic. Anything else you want to share about your experience or process with UPWORK or any other advice you’d give to people who are trying to get started on that platform?

Kim: You know I would just say you know be patient don’t expect anything overnight but if you feel like you know you’ve been doing this for a few weeks and you’re not getting you know you’re not having any success you know kind of relook at maybe your profile or your proposals or how you are you know presenting yourself and see if there are any tweaks that you can make you know are you applying to the right jobs and sometimes you just don’t you know there are a lot of people applying to these jobs and you can see if they were like five hundred people applying to a job and it wasn’t something that I was like oh my gosh I really want to do this I honestly wouldn’t even bother that’s just me but I would say you know you know try to be choosy about what you’re applying to but you know I understand when you’re first starting you kind of just you know you just go for broke don’t apply to every you know kind of everything that would pertain to you…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …so and then just kind of don’t be afraid to ask many questions about the project before you agree to it a lot a lot of the jobs that I wrote proposals to they wanted me to quote like a fee for the project which can be challenging so you really need to know as much information as you can like I would say send me an example of kind of what you are expecting if you have one you know it was like I would ask very detailed questions…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …so that I would okay this is how many hours this is gonna take me and then I would say okay if I give you the project you know there can be like maybe a round of changes that are included in that project fee and I would kind of like pad that in a little bit knowing that they’re going to be revisions because they’re always revision…

Heidi: Sure:

Kim: …and then anything after that I’m charging my hourly rate.

Heidi: Okay. Yeah, that’s a great that’s a great tip so include one round and then let them know like you’re happy to make more but it’s gonna be an additional fee.

Kim: Yeah, you don’t even have to include around if you don’t want to if you don’t feel comfortable doing that…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …I would and then I would just kind of like bump it up a little bit…

Heidi: Yeah…

Kim: …yeah.

Heidi: …that’s great and then the other thing that you said that I just want to reiterate which i think is great advice is sort of that initial negotiation to do the first project at a lower rate but going in and being very honest and transparent and clear that okay we’ll do this at this rate but then assuming everybody’s happy working together we’ll move to the regular rate because that’s a great way for both of the parties you and the client to kind of test each other out.

Kim: Exactly, yeah because you really have to you know you both have to be a good fit…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …and yeah it kind of gives them a comfort level of you know okay like you know this person is also you know wants to make sure that you know everything is gonna go smoothly before they commit you know fully and but they’re willing to give me a little bit you know initially and it kind of just creates a little bit of a comfort level I think…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …I mean if you can do that…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …even you know even if you knock a few dollars off an hour I mean I know that that kind of adds up depending on the project…

Heidi: Sure.

Kim: …but it worked for me.

Heidi: Yeah. that’s great that’s great and maybe like you said maybe making sure that it’s a smaller project or that you could get to like the first milestone and then you know that if it didn’t work that would be a comfortable breaking off point it was something kind of big that you didn’t want to do that lower hourly rate for too long.

Kim: Exactly.

Heidi: So that’s great.

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: And just another thing I’ll note this is kind of like a I mean it’s on subject but it’s kind of a detailed thing that I initially didn’t really think about and add into my time if you like let’s say you’re doing tech packs and you know you’re gonna send that final tech pack in a PDF let’s say you have let’s say you do part of the tech pack in Illustrator let’s say you do the specs and everything in Excel make sure to think about the time it’s going to take for you to save all those and put them into a single PDF because it can be time-consuming and for my first big project that I quoted like a flat rate for I kind of forgot about that whole part of the process independent money tech taxi do it didn’t work.

Heidi: Yeah. To package everything up.

Kim: Exactly. So, just kind of think about that as well…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …that’s one mistake I made I was like oh man.

Heidi: I still have to package this all up and merge all these documents together.

Kim: Yeah exactly, this is to be slow and there are shortcuts but it still takes time.

Heidi: Yeah it doesn’t like you said especially if you’re doing a big batch so maybe like really thinking about every step of the process that it takes to go from zero to finish for the project which you know sometimes you miss something and that just took longer than you expected I’ve had that same thing happen with project based fees before so you know it happens and you learn from that and then you can adjust next time.

Kim: Exactly.

Heidi: Yeah. So, great tip. Thank you so much Kim this was really awesome share again where everybody can find you online.

Kim: Sure my website is it’s K–

Heidi: Awesome. Perfect and I’ll put links to that on show notes and I would love to finish with the question I ask everybody at the end of the show and it takes some people for a minute to kind a think about their answer so no rush or pressure but what is one thing that nobody asks you about working in a fashion that you wish people would ask about?

Kim: Oh gosh, let see. You know honestly, I could say nobody has ever really ask me you know sometimes you’ll get over this of how your day looks like but nobody really asks you about like the nitty-gritty details of truly what you’re doing all day. I have a couple of cousins of mine and their friends and they’re very interested in going into fashion in one capacity or another whether it be Design and Merchandising you know and they’ll ask me questions but they’ve never you know really asked me what like what skills do I need in order to like complete my like date today tasks…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …and a lot of it will be some of the design side and technical side and he’s actually I mean merchandising side as well I mean you need to know your like computer programs your Adobe Illustrator you’re a Photoshop you know obviously Excel comes in there…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …and then there are you know product line management programs that some companies use and you kind of just learn those at the job there but it’s very computer oriented and it’s a lot of tedious work that I found myself doing.

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: Like not, not a lot of it was you know it was kind of a luxury sometimes when I would get to design because you’re doing tech packs and you know some you know sometimes you’re handling your own product development with China sometimes you have someone that does it for you depending on the company but like really like the nitty-gritty kind of skills that you need to build on top of just your you know your raw talent I wish more people because that’s what you end up doing that’s what you end up spending the time doing…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …a lot.

Heidi: No it’s a great point a lot of your time is spent like making revisions in Excel or revisions in Illustrator or updating things in Excel and correspondence and like follow up and managing just certain tasks and yeah you don’t got to spend as much time doing just the creative awesome design stuff that I think a lot of people imagine goes on behind the scenes.

Kim: Yeah, and you need to have that because that’s you know…

Heidi: Sure.

Kim: …usually why you’re being hired but at the same time like I would say 75% of what I do is not even that and you know they want all this other stuff done and they want it done fast…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …so, really your computer skills and your speed and your efficiency…

Heidi: Yeah.

Kim: …it’s really going to help you a lot it based on the design side.

Heidi: Yeah no that’s great that’s great and I’ve heard people say similar things to me someone made a comment I think on an Instagram photo I just posted that you need to know Math is like she’s a technical designer and she’s like who would have thought but you need to have some basic math skills to do some of these things and I was like it’s so funny like all the things that you don’t think about.

Kim: Yeah I know your fractions and your centimeters and yeah totally.

Heidi: …yeah that’s a great tip well so much fun to chat with you and thank you for all the great insights and resources and really appreciate you sharing all the advice for getting started on UPWORK and sharing your story and your journey with us…

Kim: Yeah, thank you much for having me it’s been really fun.

Heidi: Awesome. Thanks Kim talk to you later.

Kim: All right okay sounds good.

Heidi: Thanks bye, bye. Thanks for listening to episode 16 of the successful fashion designer podcast if you’d like to learn more about any of the resources mentioned in this episode visit show notes at and since you made it this far you must have liked the episode if you can take 60 seconds to leave a review on iTunes it helps the show a lot it makes a podcast easier for other bpeople to discover it’s super easy to do and I’ve really appreciate it there’s an to leave your ratings thanks for your support and help.


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