Going it alone as a freelance pattern cutter is not an easy option. If you have been forced into freelancing due to redundancy, then you just have to make the best of it. But if you are considering giving up a full time job in order to work freelance, then you would need to understand just how difficult it can be.
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If you understand the difficulties and you still want to go ahead, then you will have to prepare by building up a client base and working out your pricing. Ideally you would be able to arrange to carry on working for your present employers in a freelance capacity. This would allow you to build up your other work.
Pricing as a Freelance Pattern Cutter
Only time will tell what you are worth as a freelance pattern cutter. you may decide that you should be worth whatever your hourly rate as a full time pattern cutter, but if you dont get sufficient work to keep you busy you may find yourself charging less and less. You may not get sufficient work at ANY price, either due to no one wanting what you offer, or because you just cannot find the work. At the end of the day your worth is subject to the laws of supply and demand.
As a starting point you need to figure out what your hourly rate would be if you are in full time conventional employment. You need to take into consideration holidays, pensions and travel time etc. Then you need to consider that whatever you decide as your rate, this would likely be your maximum rate, as sometimes you wont get paid and other times you will have to alter work you have already done. Sometimes you may feel that you have taken longer to do something than you can really justify. You also may have to travel to see clients and spend time with them.
Once you have decided what your hourly rate should be, you then need to decide whether to charge by the job or by the hour. While most freelance pattern cutters seem to charge an hourly rate, I normally charge by the job, unless I am working in-house, in which case I would charge by the hour. By charging by the job both parties should be clear exactly how much the work will cost. make sure that the client knows exactly what they will be getting and never add on costs afterwards, even if you just forgot to include it originally. You will need to consider whether to include or add postage and materials.
I will often decide to add postage costs over a certain amount because the client may want you to post heavy card patterns, or samples that they have sent you. If you are having to post a heavy coat back to a client, you may have to travel to the post office and send the coat by Special Delivery. Normally I will make an initial pattern in paper, which can be posted normally without going to the Post Office. If the client insist on card , then you will be paying higher postage costs as well as travelling to the Post Office.
If you find that you are inundated with work, you would need to consider whether to raise your prices to allow for this. If on the other hand you are not getting enough work, then you need to decide whether you need to lower your prices, or improve your marketing and the services you are offering.
Difference between freelance and full time.
Working as a Freelance Pattern Cutter is far different to working as a full time In-House Pattern Cutter. And working as an In-House Freelancer is completely different to working as a Freelancer from your own premises. I really cant emphasise enough how different these are.
These days I very rarely work In-House, but on the occasions that I do I find it a little difficult because the processes are entirely different to those used as a freelancer. Often, much of the work is already done for you as the bigger clothing companies tend to have standardised shapes that are simply used to make new styles. They will have an extensive library of patterns to work from and a big budget that allows for three or four samples if necessary. A Freelancer generally does not have the same luxury – He needs to get it right first time. Or at worst, second time.
It is very difficult to be successful as a Freelance Pattern Cutter. It is not good enough to be a good Pattern Cutter, or even a top class one ( although this certainly helps ). You need to know what to charge for your services, how to charge, how to work economically and how to maximise your chances of just getting paid at all.
For some reason startup clothing businesses tend to attract a lot of people with borderline mental illness. I didnt pass this with the censors, but as Confucius said – ” The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name”. In recent years I have been able to avoid this type of customer, but I could write several books on the bizarre antics of some of my previous “clients”. I am all for individuality, but when it means not getting paid, I can well do without it.
The novice Freelance Pattern Cutter will be just that – A Freelance Pattern Cutter. And a novice. But a good Freelancer will be far more than this.You need to be aware that many of your clients will be completely new to the fashion industry and may have limited finances. You need to be able to maximise your own earnings while at the same time ensure that the client gets good value for money. If you can earn an extra £10 while saving your customer £100 you have earned your money and can feel satisfied that you have both profited from the exchange. I am a great believer in the virtues of true capitalism – The idea that in looking after your own interests, the interests of your customers are also best served. “Greed is good” sounds a bit blunt,but is basically correct.
A good Freelancer often goes unnoticed while doing a very important job guiding their clients through what can otherwise be an expensive and difficult process. Like a good burglar alarm or bike lock – You only know it works when it doesnt. I have saved some clients many thousands of pounds without it being noticed, let alone appreciated.
While I do most of the pattern cutting myself, I do work with some fellow freelancers who are particularly skilled in specialist areas of pattern cutting. But i often find that, while they may be very good pattern cutters, I do have to direct them as to how to work efficiently as a freelancer. Often they have no idea how much to charge, or have severe problems with non payers. you only need a couple of non payers in one year to severely eat into your earnings. I rarely have this problem as I have learnt how to avoid not getting paid. Sometimes i will approach a freelance pattern cutter to see if they would consider working with me. Although I could considerably increase their earning potential, often they will not consider working with me for what I can only assume are reasons of pride.
Unfortunately, basic Ladieswear Pattern Cutters are frankly two a penny. I am not saying there is any less skill involved, but you would need to be either an extremely good all-rounder, or a specialist in order to make a living as a freelance Pattern Cutter.
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