Before accepting your next fashion design “freelance” gig, make sure it’s not illegal.
I’m exposing the exploitative nature of these so-called “freelance” jobs in the fashion industry so you know the exact red flags to look for. Step away from that temp job in disguise and start looking for real remote freelance fashion design opportunities (or technical design, patternmaking, etc!).
When you think of freelance fashion design, you *hopefully* imagine the freedom to work on your terms, choosing the projects that excite you. However, the reality can be far from that. Brands often label temp jobs as freelancing, but they expect you to work as an employee without offering any of the benefits. This imbalance allows brands to save money while taking advantage of your talent and dedication. Shockingly, in some places, this working arrangement is actually illegal. These exploitative practices in the industry put true freelance fashion jobs in a bad light.
But don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom! In this episode, we’ll discuss the true essence of freelancing and how you can carve out a successful career as a fashion designer (or technical designer, or patternmaker, etc!) on your own terms. We’ll explore the freedom, flexibility, and control that comes with being a real freelancer. So, if you’re ready to learn the difference between permalancing and true freelancing, and how to stand up for your rights in the fashion industry, tune in now and let’s reclaim the true meaning of freelancing in fashion!
Did you know that a lot of freelance fashion design jobs or TD PD pattern maker, doesn’t matter the role, but that a lot of these freelance opportunities in the fashion industry are technically illegal. The truth is that there’s a lot of exploitative practices when it comes to freelancing and fashion and I want to make sure that you know your rights and when you may be getting taken advantage of. In this episode, I’m talking about the difference between permalancing or temp jobs and real freelance opportunities where you’re in control of your own business. If you want to work for yourself in fashion and get paid, you need to know about this stuff. Let’s get to it. If I say I’m a freelance fashion designer, what does that mean to you? Now, if you’ve been listening or watching for any amount of time, you might know what I say of being a freelance fashion designer means. But if you’re new here, you might conjure up images of working in house, working 40 hours a week for one brand. You are on their schedule.
You’re showing up and looking and acting like an employee. And then in three weeks or three months when the project is over, you’re basically unemployed again. Now you’re, like I said, looking and acting like an employee, but you’re not getting any of the benefits of being an employee. You’re not getting health insurance, you’re not getting paid vacation, you’re not getting sick leave. And it’s kind of a pretty abusive situation in the fashion industry. Now people in fashion call this freelancing. They put this in the job posting. I’ve heard a lot of fashion designers say I’m a freelancer and they’re basically working again for this brand, looking and acting like an employee, but not getting any of the benefits.
I’m going to give you a cold hard reality check. The truth is that this is not freelancing. This is a temp job. I call it permalancing and the truth is that it is quite exploitative in the fashion industry. Here’s why. The brand is getting all of the benefits. They are getting you, the freelancer, at a specific rate and they’re not having to pay all of this extra stuff for you now. They’re not paying for health insurance, they’re not paying you for vacation.
All of those extra benefits that you get in a traditional job. They’re saving a tremendous amount of money by not paying you as an employee. And alternatively, like I paid, it’s technically kind of abusive to you, right? You have none of the security of being an employee, but you’re showing up and acting like one and it’s a really unbalanced situation. Now if you like this kind of work, I’m not here to judge if this is the type of work that you are doing to pay your bills or this is the opportunity that you got at this moment in time. I’m not here to judge some people. This works for them. But I just want you to be very clear what freelancing is and what freelancing isn’t. So know that showing up as a temp worker is not freelancing and know that it’s not really great for you or our industry.
Like I said, the brand gets the upper hand and they’re taking advantage of you. Technically, in some places this kind of work arrangement where you are a freelancer, you’re not getting benefits and yet you’re showing up and you’re required to work on site and be there for X amount of hours. Technically, in some places this is actually illegal. Now, brands get away with it because of the competitive nature of the fashion industry. But I want to share some specific definitions with you. This snippet was pulled from Cornell Law very reputable company and I will highlight here. A freelancer is not an employee for any organization and is essentially an independent contractor who gets paid on a per job basis. Unlike an employee, a freelancer has the freedom to complete different jobs simultaneously, given there is no exclusive contract between the freelancer and the client.
And now here’s where the illegal part comes into play. A freelancer enjoys the benefits of working at home, having flexible hours and choosing projects that interest them. When you’re showing up for this freelance job in fashion, you do not get the benefit of working at home, having flexible hours and choosing projects that interest you. No, you’re there basically looking and acting like an employee. Here’s another definition from a site called Uslegal.com and it says a freelance employee usually performs services or completes work assignments under short term contracts with several clients who have the right to control only the final result of the individual’s work rather than the specific means used to get the work done. I’m going to read that line again because it’s really important to think about and understand what this means. The client has the right to control only the final result of the individual’s work rather than the specific means used to get the work done. What does this mean? This means that they can say you need to deliver this project, these five tech packs, or design this collection.
They can control the final result of your work, but they do not get to control the means that are used to get the work done. Meaning you have to work from 08:00 A.m. To 05:00 P.m. And you have to come into the office three days a week. Right? They do not get to control that this is where these freelance jobs in fashion are technically a little bit illegal depending on where you’re located. So let’s talk about the opposite, right? What does it mean to actually be a freelance, fashion designer or technical designer, pattern maker, product developer, et cetera? As a real freelancer in fashion, you are in control of your own business. You get to work with multiple clients when and where you want. You have freedom in your day, you’re not tied to a desk.
Now, yes, you may have to do meetings at set times, but you’re not beholden to that brand schedule or their workplace. As long as you meet deadlines and as long as you deliver the final product, you are free to work when and where you want. You set your own rates, you’re in control of raising them. You call the shots. And that is the definition of a freelance fashion designer. That is the kind of freelancing that I talk about here on the podcast, here on YouTube. That is the only type of freelancing that I support, that I condone, and that I promote. Okay? I do not think that these permalancing tech jobs that our industry is known for are very healthy for anybody out there.
It’s beneficial to the brand and very detrimental to you as the air, quote, freelancer. It is a personal mission of mine to stand up and fight for your rights as a freelance fashion designer where you get to work remotely on your own terms. Again, no judgment if you’re working these permanence gigs because they work for you or that’s what you need to pay the bills right now. But I think it’s at least important that you are educated and that you understand and know the difference between permalancing and true freelancing and be aware that in some scenarios you might technically be getting abused and brands treating you illegally. Now, again, I know it’s hard to stand up in this industry because there’s a lot of competition and you just lose that opportunity because there’s someone else lined up to do it. But the more each and every one of us stands up to say, no, I’m not going to do that. That’s not fair. The stronger we can all come and pool together to get Brands to stop doing this and start working in environments where if you want me to show up and look and act like an employee, then compensate and treat me like an employee.
And if you want me to be a freelancer, then you’re going to treat me and let me act like a true freelancer. All right, you got this. You’re doing great.