Whoever said, ‘money can’t buy happiness,’ never experienced the thrill of snagging a killer deal at a shoe sale. Let’s face it, in the fashion industry (or any industry!), more cash never hurts.
If your professional growth and financial stability in the fashion industry are hindered by your paycheck, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and secure that raise you deserve.
In this post, we’ll go beyond basic salary discussions and explore the key elements of a competitive compensation package. From understanding your worth to mastering negotiation skills (with word-for-word scripts) – I’ve got you!
We’ll also explore alternative solutions when it’s just not working. I’ll tell you now, there’s no such thing as a “dead-end” in your fashion career journey. There’s always Option B, C, and so on!
So, let’s get started!
Understanding how to negotiate a raise in the fashion industry can be a game-changer for your career. Negotiating salaries isn’t just about making more money, it’s about recognizing your worth and ensuring appropriate compensation.
Salary negotiation can be taboo, and employees/employers tend to avoid discussing salary upfront. In reality, it doesn’t have to feel like walking down the runway blindfolded (and you don’t need expert negotiation skills). With the right strategies, you can confidently navigate salary discussions.
Understanding your worth is key to getting paid what you deserve. Here’s a guideline on things to consider when aiming for a raise in the fashion industry:
1. Your skills and expertise: Reflect on your unique skills, knowledge, and experience that add value to the employer and contribute to their business success.
2. Your accomplishments: Highlight past successful projects, positive client/supervisor feedback, and any awards to showcase your track record of exceptional results and impactful contributions.
Think about the results you’ve had and the benefits of those results. Here are some examples.
Fashion Designer: Did some of your designs become best sellers? Did they drive more revenue?
Technical Designer: Did your tech packs help reduce the number of samples? Or improve fit and reduce returns?
Sourcing Agent: Did you source lower MOQs or faster lead times? Which led to excess inventory reduction and quicker time to market?
Any time you can show your results and the benefits of those results, you can leverage it for negotiating your raise in fashion.
3. Market research: Conduct thorough research on the industry’s standard salary range for professionals in the same role and level of experience. Knowing the market rate will help you establish a realistic baseline for your salary offer expectations and ensure that your negotiation is grounded in reality.
When you’re digging for info, consider things like experience, responsibility level, location, company size, and specific skills needed for each role.
Now, knowing your worth is only half the battle. You also gotta snoop around to find what others are raking in. Scope out job postings for similar gigs, chat up your colleagues (if they’re cool with it!), and hit up sites like Glassdoor or Payscale that provide salary data.
4. Your education and credentials: Evaluate your educational background and any relevant certifications you’ve earned. A degree in Fashion Design or related fields and additional professional certifications can enhance your value as a candidate.
Pro Tip: Certificates can be from any form of education, whether accredited universities or online courses. It’s exactly how Nicola broke back into fashion after years out of the industry to be a mom. She showed off her online training and self-directed learning to get a job and the rate she deserved.
5. Demand for your skills: Consider the demand for professionals with your skills and expertise in the current job market. If there is a shortage of talent in your field or a high demand for specific skills, you may have more leverage in negotiations.
Effective delivery is crucial in any business conversation.
Highlight your value to the brand by showcasing specific projects where you excelled or took initiative, like designing a best-selling collection or implementing cost-saving measures. You can also emphasize your work ethic – how you always go above and beyond to get things done or take on extra projects when someone’s sick.
Besides a competitive salary increase, consider other negotiable benefits like bonuses, stock options, professional development, flexibility, or additional time off. Be prepared to discuss these alternative benefits if salary negotiations may not be feasible.
You might also find it helpful to practice delivering your pitch with a trusted friend or mentor who can provide constructive feedback. Not gonna lie, I have done past salary negotiation practice rounds in front of the mirror!
Remember, confidence is key.
When it comes to negotiating a raise in the fashion industry, choose the right time and approach. Aim to discuss during a performance review or when you’ve recently achieved something significant.
Did your design just sell out on the brand’s website? Now is a GREAT time to ask for that raise!
Request a meeting with your supervisor or HR representative to initiate the raise conversation. You can do this through a well-crafted email or by having a face-to-face conversation. Be clear about the purpose of the meeting without diving into specifics just yet. Simply state that you would like to discuss compensation matters related to your role.
You can use a simple template like this:
I would love to discuss my recent achievements and current compensation during our upcoming quarterly review. Nothing you need to do, but I wanted to inform you that that’s on my agenda.
Thanks and talk soon,
It’s also important to consider the company’s financial health when negotiating. Thriving companies may have more resources for a competitive salary, while financially challenged companies require flexibility in negotiation.
Negotiating a higher salary in the fashion industry can be intimidating, but with effective negotiation skills, you can confidently communicate your worth and secure a fair wage. Here are four tactics to use on your next raise negotiation meeting:
Emphasize the value you bring to the organization. Remind them of specific projects or initiatives where you have excelled, showcasing your positive impact and how it benefits the brand. Reinforce that investing in your growth and well-deserved compensation will benefit both you and the company.
Word-for-word script: “The last 2 seasons have gone great! It’s really exciting to see that a couple of the designs I’ve been responsible for have become best sellers and positively impacted revenue. I love working here and would like to make sure the relationship continues to be mutually beneficial. Because of the positive impact I’ve had, I’m requesting a 10% salary increase. What can we do to get that change into effect?”
Maintain confidence throughout the negotiation process. Express yourself clearly and assertively, while remaining professional and respectful. This helps show you are serious about your request and confident in your abilities.
Negotiating salaries is just one aspect of a compensation package.
If a higher salary is not feasible, explore alternative solutions that could provide value to both ends. This may include additional responsibilities, professional development opportunities, performance-based bonuses, or future salary review dates. Be open to finding win-win compromises that address your financial goals and the company’s constraints.
Word-for-word script: “I understand that due to financial constraints, monetary compensation isn’t possible. To help adjust for that, I’d like to request a couple of things instead: A hybrid work schedule where I can work from home 2 days a week, an extra week of vacation, and the opportunity to be in the senior design team meetings to learn how that process works. What can we do to implement that?”
Listen and allow silence instead of rushing into further explanation. It gives both parties time to reflect without feeling pressured. You’re talking about your future here, don’t rush! (And you’d be surprised at what may come out of your manager’s mouth if you let things get quiet long enough…)
Woot woot! Congratulations! Now that you’ve successfully negotiated your raise, it’s time to dot the i’s and cross the t’s in the negotiation process. Especially for fashion freelancers who might be working under unconventional arrangements, a contract is crucial to avoid any future “he said, she said” situations.
Get the negotiation on paper. Ensure all the specifics of your compensation package and benefits are specified in either a new agreement or a contract revision.
Don’t forget the nitty-gritty like when the changes kick in and how they’ll be implemented. In my first “dream” fashion job (that turned into a nightmare), I negotiated a raise but didn’t clarify when it would be implemented. So for months, I played peek-a-boo with my paycheck to see whether or not the increase from my starting salary was there. Turns out, the company hit financial troubles and I never received my promised raise!
Aaand don’t just stop there. Make sure all the important people sign off on these changes. That means not just you and your boss, but also the bigwigs like department heads or HR reps.
Keep your head held high, the initial rejection is not the final straw. Ask for feedback on why they made their decision – it’s a chance to learn and improve.
If a higher salary isn’t possible right now, think outside the box. Propose alternatives like extra vacation days, flexible hours, or professional development opportunities. Get creative and think about the entire compensation package outside of just a higher salary offer.
Another option is to suggest a timeline for a future raise assessment. Maybe when the company’s finances improve or after you’ve proven your worth on certain projects. Show them you’re here to stay and you’re worth investing in!
Valid reasons for not getting a raise vs never getting a raise when you TOTALLY deserve it are two different stories. It’s essential to recognize when you are being undervalued and it’s time to look for a job offer elsewhere.
If you’ve presented a strong case for a raise but your employer remains unwilling to meet your demands, it may be time to consider other options and pursue another job offer. At the end of the day, your loyalty won’t pay your bills.
Most importantly, make sure to sleep on it! Walking away from your current job is not an overnight decision.
Don’t let your feelings sway you. Set aside time to really think through your decisions constructively. If you have friends in (and even out of!) the industry, a quick pep talk could also be helpful to ricochet you back to reality.
While knowing how to negotiate a raise in the fashion industry is a valuable skill, it’s worth considering an alternative path that offers even more freedom and potential for financial growth: freelance fashion designer. As a freelancer, you can take control of your own destiny and build a thriving business on your own terms.
Many talented designers have chosen freelance work, enjoying the flexibility, creative autonomy, and often higher income that comes with it.
Whether you’re an aspiring designer looking to break into the industry or an experienced professional seeking a new challenge, freelancing can be a game-changer.
Here’s why you should consider taking the leap to freelancing in fashion:
1. Freedom to express your creativity: Choose projects that resonate with you and work with clients who align with your values. You’re not bound by the constraints of a single employer or brand, allowing you to explore your artistic voice and push the boundaries of fashion.
“As a freelancer, I work with fashion brands I enjoy on projects that I love doing!”
2. Flexibility in work and lifestyle: Set your own schedule and work from anywhere in the world. Create a work-life balance that suits your needs, whether it’s designing from the comfort of your home studio or jetting off to collaborate with international clients.
“At one point I felt stuck in NYC to keep working in fashion. Now as a freelancer, I know I can go anywhere from here.” Mari M
3. Increased earning potential: The sky’s the limit when it comes to your earning potential as a freelance fashion designer. By establishing your reputation, expanding your network, and delivering exceptional results, you can command higher rates and secure more lucrative projects.
“I already make more money in one day as a freelancer than I did in an entire week at my full-time fashion job!” Alexandra A
4. Diverse range of projects: From collaborating with fashion startups to working with high-profile fashion brands, each project brings new challenges and opportunities for growth.
“I love being a freelancer in fashion. When I get up in the morning I can’t believe that I’m actually living the life I was once dreaming about, and it instantly makes me so happy!” Eleni A, Greece
5. Entrepreneurial empowerment: You are your own boss, building your brand and shaping your own success. You’ll develop invaluable business skills, such as marketing, client management, and financial management, which can be applied to your freelance work and future entrepreneurial endeavors.
“Freelancing in fashion and being your own boss is one of the most rewarding things.” Ellie W
The beauty of freelancing is its flexibility. And if a client isn’t willing to pay what you think is fair? Well, there’s always another one out there who will value your work.
A successful transition from traditional employment to freelancing in the fashion industry can bring many rewards but requires hard work and dedication. I have been there!
Learning how to negotiate a raise in the fashion industry is a big step towards getting fair compensation for your valuable skills and expertise. But it’s also important to know that you have options beyond traditional employment.
The journey to a successful and fulfilling fashion career doesn’t end in securing fair compensation —it might be more about getting your career out of the hands of toxic corporate bosses so you can start working with brands you love on projects you’re passionate about.
Whether you decide to pursue freelancing (where you can make consistent income) or go for that salary increase (you got this!!!), remember: you have valuable skills and deserve fair compensation. Push for that, or look elsewhere.