How To Become A Freelance Pattern Cutter
Why Consider Freelancing ?
(31) London is one of the worlds greatest fashion capitals, teeming with fashion businesses and fashion professionals of all types. Pattern cutters are in extremely high demand.
There are many advantages to becoming a freelance pattern cutter in the fashion industry. If it suits your lifestyle and your personality, then going freelance can be the best thing you ever did.
However, not everyone is cut out for freelancing. While you can earn substantially more as a freelancer, if you dont have the right skills, knowledge and attitude, backed up with expert advice, you will find it really hard to succeed.
I became a freelance pattern cutter in London in 1984, when I was made redundant. This gave me the push that I needed to give freelancing a go.
It was FAR harder to succeed back then. There was no internet, so it was hard to find potential clients, and even harder to make yourself seen.
The only really visible sources of information were the phone book, Drapers Record, and the library.
It was almost impossible to find help and advice for freelancing as a pattern cutter. With todays internet, we have a wealth of information on any subject at our finger tips.
I could only dream of the type of service that The London Pattern Cutter provides for freelancers. I would have saved myself a ton of problems and made a hell of a lot more money.
Freelance Startup Workshop.
The London Pattern Cutter is a collective of fashion professionals, providing services to the fashion industry. We provide services to small startup businesses and help and advice to fashion freelancers.
We provide a very popular Freelance startup workshop for anyone interested in taking the plunge as a freelance pattern cutter. All of our tutors have been experienced freelancers.
Specialist Or All Rounder.
To be successful as a freelance pattern cutter you really need to either be a specialist, or an all rounder. Experienced specialists are always in demand, and can command a higher hourly rate as long as they can find their clients.
Unless you have good contacts, to start off with, you will probably need to be open to do pretty much any type of freelance work. That often means learning on the job.
This can be very time consuming, and reduce your hourly rate significantly to begin with. You dont have experienced colleagues to help provide the knowledge that you need.
We at The London Pattern Cutter offer one-to-one Pattern cutting tuition to help provide you with this extra knowledge where needed.
Maybe you are not sure how to make a particular type of sleeve, or how to make a childrens pattern, or a swimsuit pattern. Maybe you just need to learn how to grade to a different size. We have expert specialist pattern cutters to help you out.
Manual Or Digital ?
You will need to decide whether to concentrate on manual pattern cutting, or digital. There is plenty of room for both. If you choose digital, then you will need to have some pretty expensive equipment, that would justify a higher hourly rate.
Although digital pattern cutting is very popular within the fashion industry, as a freelance pattern cutter, most of your enquiries are likely to be for manual patterns, unless you successfully target a specific market.
Build A Pattern Library.
When you work full time for one company you not only have your basic blocks, but you have a large library of previous patterns to work from. Each brand has a particular style, a particular sizing, and a particular fit.
As a freelancer you will be working for multiple brands, each with their own style, their own sizing and their own fit.
It is really important to build up a library of different types of styles that you can use and adapt for different customers. Otherwise, each time you make a pattern you will be starting from scratch.
How Much Will I Earn ?
That depends on so many factors that only you know the answer to.
Be Confident With Your Pricing.
New freelancers tend to be very unsure about their pricing. They will often say that their hourly rate ranges from one lower figure to another higher figure. What that tell me is that they are perfectly willing to work for the lower figure – Or less.
You need to figure out what YOUR rate is, and be confident about that rate. That doesnt mean that you cant agree a lower rate, but always have in mind what your lowest rate actually is.
Unlike your regular job, working freelance requires you to wear multiple hats : Pattern Cutter, Project manager, Bookkeeper, Sales Guy, Entrepreneur, Etc.
How Much Should I Charge ?
Only you can determine how much to charge for your work. You cant just determine your own rate according to how much other people charge, although you can use competitors rates as a guide.
It stands to reason that an experienced skilled specialist in any field would demand a higher rate than a less experienced or less skilled competitor.
That same specialist pattern cutter would not be able to demand a similar rate for a pattern that was not in their specialist field. Except that, if they are in high demand, they can choose to ask a higher price than if they were not.
The first thing to do to calculate the rate you need to charge is to figure out what your rate would be if you were normally employed, with a salary. You may wish to take into account travel time, or holiday rate etc.
Hourly Rate Or Job Rate ?
I always prefer to give a rate for each job, unless the work really demands an hourly rate. Most clients are happier with a per job rate, and it leaves less room for argument when the job is done.
How Do I Find Work ?
Finding work is the most important part of being a freelancer. If you get very little or no work, you will find it hard to charge enough to make a decent living.
Keep On Learning.
One of the great disadvantages of going freelance as a pattern cutter is that you tend to work alone, so you have no one to learn from. Books can be very useful, but they do not replace the collective knowledge of your experienced colleagues. We at The London Pattern Cutter can ensure that you are constantly adding to your skills by providing one to one pattern cutting classes, and workshops.
Getting Work Through Employment Agencies.
Working though an employment agency as a temp is one way of getting work as a freelancer, although it is not as easy as it once was. Temping is one way of adding to your technical knowledge, and to your CV.
If you are considering a return to full time employment, it is also a good way of finding a new job.
Do I Need A Business Plan ?
Anyone considering becoming a freelance pattern cutter should create a business plan for their own benefit. The advantage of creating a business plan is that it makes you aware of how much you need to charge and what your expenses would be.