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How much should I charge as a freelance fashion designer?

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In fashion, money talks. Indeed, there is literally millions to be made if you know the right people or are somebody’s son or daughter. But for the rest of us starting out in a fashion career from the very bottom with no real guidelines to follow, how do you know how much you and your work is worth? This is a question that haunts all fledgling designers and it’s one we’ll do our best to answer below.

Freelance fashion designer rates

When you are first starting out as a fashion designer it’s unfortunately not uncommon for designers to end up selling their original creations for less than their material cost. This is sometimes seen as a “rite of passage”, but we are not living in the Middle Ages anymore and it simply shouldn’t stand. If you are designing quality stuff you should be paid adequately for it, regardless of your experience or lack-thereof.

In a market where a ready-made wedding dress can be £3000, you are doing yourself a disservice by charging less!  Designers must first value their own work before it will be valued by the markets they seek to sell to.

However, when it comes to flat fees, you’re going to either be charging for your work per hour or per job/design/garment.

As far as hourly rates are concerned experienced freelance fashion designers charge between £60 to £150. And the designers who are already famous in the industry, charge higher than this. And the new and upcoming freelancers charge between £40 to £65.

As per a survey of leading fashion designers, hourly rates range between £25 USD to £120. The variation in rates depends on the experience, specialty, etc. For a day rate, meanwhile, simply charge your hourly rate by 8.

How much should you charge as a freelance fashion designer?

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When it comes to pricing your existing designs, it can be incredibly intimidating as you are bound to be attached to your work in the early days.

Identifying a pricing strategy will simplify the process of pricing your designs. There are lots of different pricing strategies that you can use, but the top three methods are:

The Backwards Pricing Method – The backwards pricing method takes a product and looks at the recommended retail price (RRP) of it, then divides it by four. If you can make/produce your clothing item with that price, you can charge that amount. Sometimes the RRP is from your supplier or manufacturer, but you can calculate it by multiplying your wholesale price by 2 or 2.5.

The Keystone Markup Method – Keystone markup is often used in retail. This method takes the cost price from the manufacturer, then multiplies it by 2 or 2.5 to get the wholesale price. You multiply that by 2 to get the retail price. That will be your cost price.

The Absorption Pricing Method – The absorption pricing method considers all your fixed and variable costs. It's the cost price plus your overhead plus profit margin, multiplied by 2, or 2.5.

These are only three of the many options for you to choose from when pricing fashion design jobs. You will need to examine your brand and decide which pricing strategy will work best for you and how your business is structured.

Pricing for Your Target Market

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Another important aspect of pricing your fashion designs is knowing who your target market is. There are three different pricing categories:

  • Budget pricing, which includes prices that are low and appeals to consumers who want the low prices as opposed to quality items
  • Luxury pricing for high-cost items, where buyers pay for quality and the brand name.
  • Value pricing, which falls in the middle of budget and luxury pricing. Long lasting and quality items with prices that are not too high is what consumers want in this category.

Consumer shopping behaviours created these different priced categories, so if something is priced very low, consumers will expect the quality to be cheap. If something is priced very high, they will expect high quality items.

When pricing your clothing, you will need to remember who your target market is, how they shop, and where they fall in the income bracket. If you have your prices above or below your target market, you will end up reaching fewer people. How you set the prices for your designs is also how your brand will be perceived. If you want your brand image to project quality and prestige, your prices need to reflect that.

It’s best to try and get your pricing right from the outset, because if you change midway, while not impossible, it may be harder for your brand to perform in its new pricing category.

Golden rules

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We all know that freelancing, even as a top fashion designer, doesn’t always provide a steady income and if you really need to make a living working as a fashion designer then you should plan as if you might not work for half of the year, because we all know that it’s possible to happen. That means following a few golden rules (or handy tips), which we’ll explore below.

Time is money - You should always know exactly how long a project will take you, so you can estimate payments quickly and plan out your schedule. If you don’t know then you should do a few tests, and time yourself to find out.

Know your level - Be honest with yourself, and really examine your experience and skill level for the project you are given. If you get a project that isn’t a part of your strong skill set, then you should charge accordingly. You could also charge a little less for certain items, as a gesture of good faith. This will show clients that you are professional and flexible. It will also, most likely, have them coming back to you for new projects, even if you’re not the most talented designer for what they need.

Consider your location - Some parts of the country / world aren’t willing to pay as much for a designer as others are. For this you might need to ask other designers in your area what they charge for their services. For example, London buyers pay their designers well compared to other cities. However, this is mostly because the cost of living is much higher London, as we all know.

Consider the client - If you are hired by a new start-up company then you should try to be understanding of that fact and be as flexible with your prices as possible, while still getting paid correctly for your time. You never know if their brand really takes off, then you could be getting a steady client for years to come. On the other hand, if you land a good gig with an established company, then don’t be afraid to charge top dollar. They usually know how to pay their employees correctly, so don’t be shy when sending your quotes.

Be firm but fair when negotiating - There is no need to get emotional when negotiating your fashion design jobs, it’s just numbers. You are trying to get the highest number possible, and the client is trying to get the lowest number possible. It’s a glorified game of chicken. Always remain calm and professional, burning bridges in any business especially in fashion is a terrible idea.

Don’t be afraid to walk away - If they are not willing to pay you your minimum price, then you must simply let them know that the project wouldn’t be worth it for you at that price. If your client doesn't come back to you in the end, there is always another one right around the corner!

Asking around

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Of course, these are all rough guidelines, but it should give you some idea how much other freelance fashion designers are charging.

We would also recommend reaching out to the dozens of fashion designers on Creativepool for advice not only on charging but on building your portfolio and advancing your career.

They all started where you are now, and many will be glad to share their wit and wisdom with you. Of course, others might not, but it certainly can’t hurt to ask. And who knows, you might meet your mentor!

Ultimately, always know your worth though, because you have done a lot of hard work to get to this point in your life and you should be paid accordingly. Stand strong and confident and know that your creativity shouldn’t come cheap.

Header image by Eleanor Sheriff

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