Starting a clothing brand vs freelancing in fashion - what's more profitable?

What’s more profitable: starting a clothing line or freelancing in fashion?

Wanna work for yourself in fashion AND make money? There’s only one way to do it…

Having your own clothing line can feel like a dream. Come up with some ideas, get them manufactured, and start selling. How hard can it be?

But if you want to actually make money, starting a clothing line is one of the LEAST profitable things in fashion.

In fact, you’ll likely end us losing money. Lots.

Losing money was pretty much the #1 topic fashion brand guests on my podcast were bummed to admit, but it’s a reality that most fashion industry experts won’t tell you.

What most people don’t know is that there’s a much better option to work for yourself in fashion AND make money.


I’m not talking about permalancing where you work for one brand full-time as an exploited temp employee without benefits. #theworst

I’m talking about real freelancing, where you’re in control of your own business, set your own schedule and rates, and work wherever you want.

THAT is how you work for yourself in fashion AND make money.

Like upwards of $100k+ (while doing work you love).

I know because I did both (had my own brand and freelanced), and many of my students have had the same experience.

It’s exactly what happened to FAST graduate Sofia. She shares her whole story on the SFF podcast, but it essentially went like this…

Sofia spent 5 years building her lingerie brand. Finally in year 4, she was barely able to pay herself minimum wage.

So she decided to start freelancing. Within 10 days, she had her first client. A few months later, she was earning a comfortable full-time salary.

Think about that.

FIVE years to barely pay herself minimum wage with her own fashion brand.

MONTHS to start earning a comfortable full-time salary as a freelancer.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of both.

Pros to Starting a Clothing Line:

  1. You have no boss and work for yourself: Starting a clothing line gives you ultimate freedom in some ways. You literally answer to no one!
  2. You have 100% creative control: With your own clothing line, you are the creative mastermind behind every aspect, from design concepts to production and branding. Your vision remains intact, allowing you to fully express your artistic talents.

Cons to Starting a Clothing Line:

  1. It takes a lot of time: Launching a clothing line is a time-consuming process that demands patience and perseverance. From concept development to manufacturing and distribution, it can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months or even longer to bring just one design to market.
  2. It takes a lot of money: Funding a clothing line can expensive AF. You will need to invest substantial capital into sourcing materials, production, marketing, and distribution. The initial investment often runs into thousands and even 10s of thousands of dollars.
  3. Chances of success are very low: The fashion industry is highly competitive and very saturated. It can be difficult to stand out and gain recognition, resulting in a low success rate for new clothing lines.
  4. Profitability is low: If you’re lucky to gain some momentum with sales, you’ll still have to reinvest a significant portion (if not all) of your earnings back into the business to sustain growth. It can take years to become profitable, if ever.
  5. Business responsibilities: As an entrepreneur, you will not only be responsible for the creative aspects but also for various business tasks such as customer service, marketing, sales, and product development. This can be overwhelming and take away from the pure joy of design.

Pros of Freelancing in Fashion:

  1. Quick to get started: Freelancing in fashion allows you to hit the ground running. With the right skills and a portfolio, you can secure your first client within a matter of weeks, providing immediate income opportunities.
  2. Minimal startup costs: Unlike starting a clothing line, freelancing requires minimal financial investment. With tools like Adobe Illustrator and Excel or Google Sheets, you can begin offering your services without incurring hardly any expenses.
  3. Higher chances of success: Freelancers have a higher likelihood of success compared to launching a clothing line. By leveraging your skills and expertise, you can attract clients and build a reputation in the industry quickly.
  4. High profitability: As a freelancer, the majority of the earnings go directly into your pocket. You have the potential to charge competitive rates and retain a significant portion of the income you generate. As you get more clients and raise your rates, your expenses usually don’t grow. Same software, same overhead.
  5. Selective work opportunities: Freelancing empowers you to choose the projects you’re most passionate about. By aligning with brands that resonate with your creative vision, you can immerse yourself in work that excites and inspires you.

Cons of Freelancing in Fashion:

  1. Client expectations: When freelancing, clients become your “bosses” to some extent. You will need to adapt and creatively work within their brand’s vision while delivering the desired outcomes.
  2. Limited creative control: While you can choose the brands you work with, you might have to compromise some creative control to align with their requirements and preferences.
Starting a clothing brand vs freelancing in fashion - which is more profitable and makes more money?

Listen, if your goal is to work for yourself in the fashion industry AND maximize profitability, freelancing is ideal. While starting a clothing line offers the allure of complete creative control and autonomy, it also comes with significant time and financial investments, as well as a lower chance of success and profitability.

By freelancing in fashion, you can achieve the freedom, flexibility, and financial rewards you want while doing work you love with brands you’re passionate about.


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