Navigating Year One as a Freelance Fashion Stylist: Survival Strategies

In many ways, online technology has created a more level playing field for aspiring fashion stylists, where they can be seen alongside people with an extensive list of contacts, brands, and places of employment to their name. However, this level playing field has also been flooded with a vast number of other freelancers, influencers, and former full-time stylists looking to make a change. 

Nevertheless, over 4 million people in the UK and more in the US are now self-employed and making their own steps toward achieving their own business goals. So, when you’ve made that ultimate choice to enter the fast-moving world of fashion, how are you going to ensure that your self-employment journey leads to a year of success, experience, and creative satisfaction? 

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Setting yourself up for success 

If you’re making the transition from full-time employment into freelancing, it’s always best to have at least 3 confirmed projects/clients lined up before making that next big move. Chances are that at least one of these will lead to more work down the line, and if you’re able to save up enough money to cover your essentials for at least a few months, you’ll be setting yourself up for a great start.

For novice freelancers who are starting at the bottom of the ladder, make notes of the best job pages and online groups, or create a dream list of brands you want to develop a rapport with on LinkedIn. There’s no such thing as a mistake at this point, and a solid game plan is essential for keeping you on track. 

Understanding the Financial Side of Freelancing 

Whether you’re a former full-time stylist or a complete novice looking to make a big splash, knowing how to handle your financial affairs in a freelance capacity is the backbone of any business role. 

Being self-employed provides you with a lot of freedom. But that freedom comes with the responsibility to manage your finances and understand how to complete self-assessments and invoice clients correctly. 

Finding the right tax information on being self employed and other aspects of freelance financing establishes you as someone who is professional, and ready to be taken seriously. By not doing the work here, you may run the risk of exposing yourself as inexperienced to your pool of clients – particularly if they ask you a question on invoicing etc. Taking out a subscription for freelance accounting software is one worthwhile investment you should consider early on as it will allow you to send professional invoices as well as ensuring you keep track of your finances.

Make your Own Style a Top Priority

Styling yourself well as a freelancing fashion expert isn’t always about the clothes you wear. Of course, that plays a pivotal role as well (who wants to take advice from a stylist with no style?!), but freelancing means you’ll need to craft a unique style in other ways too.

From the tone and look of your social media feed to the way in which you approach a potential client, you’ll need to exude the kind of success and confidence that allows others to fully entrust you with their next seasonal wardrobe or big gala event fitting. 

Consider ways you can add a little creative flourish to things like business cards, emails, in-person introductions and fashion portfolios. Why? Because your style of marketing needs to be as carefully thought out as even the finest of garments – one stray thread and the entire composition loses its appeal and glamour. 

Networking Never Fails 

With advancements in technology and the digitization of all industries, you have the opportunity to forge new relationships and gain a better insight into where the next opportunity lies. Dedicated Facebook groups and LinkedIn posts give you room to be seen, noticed, and stand out in front of influential people. 

The diversity of a fashion stylist’s role also allows you to gain more experience in a multitude of areas, like: 

  • Adverts 
  • Commercial marketing campaigns 
  • Jewelry 
  • Helping others choose new seasonal wardrobes 
  • Advisory roles
  • High-end fashion events 

Whether these are the corners of fashion you were hoping to be seen in or not doesn’t matter in this first year. What matters is that you’re present, eager, and making a good impression on others for future job opportunities. This brings us to the next survival tip…. 

Be Friendly. Be Open. Be Seen.

You never know who the people you work with may be connected to, and you can never be sure of who can help you climb that freelance fashion ladder. But if you approach every freelance role with confidence, class, and an open mind, you’ve already conquered one of the most vital aspects of any freelance role – the likability factor. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re taking part in London Fashion Week or setting up a small merchandise table at a corporate event, people will always take notice of passion, hard work, and a little bit of good old-fashioned hustle! 

Cultivating your Niche 

In competitive industries like the world of fashion, you inevitably already have some great skills, like a flair for creative thinking, quick problem-solving, and communicating well with all kinds of people. 

And within those skills, you can create a niche that utilises these abilities and highlights areas where you’ll be able to stand out from the crowd. Regardless of the latest trends, or industry changes, if you have a unique perspective, why not communicate it?! 

From emails that summarize the latest headlines in fashion to open and honest critiques of trends, you can help to create a niche of your very own while showcasing your own work at the same time. 

Don’t be Afraid to Ask

Every job, no matter how small, offers you the chance to become invaluable. And how do you do that? By asking the right questions and embracing new responsibilities. 

From sourcing clothes and accessories to choosing interiors and overseeing shoots, the fashion world has the unique ability to cultivate glamorous looks and concepts while people behind the curtains run around frantically to get things done on time. 

“What else can I do to help?” can be a powerful question, and if you exceed expectations when given a task, you may just find that it becomes part of your designated role on the job itself. And if that role means the people above you have one less problem to deal with, you’ve unlocked a critical part of effective freelancing as a fashion stylist. 

But, you probably have some big plans ahead, and that’s where the question above can help to lay the groundwork for more important questions, like asking for more freedom creatively or enquiring about having them give you a quote or recommendation for your website. 

Final Thoughts 

Without a doubt, the first year of freelancing in fashion is the most difficult. But it’s important to sit back and remember why you’ve decided to embark on this journey, what your priorities are, and how you’re going to solidify the business relationships you’ve made over the last 12 months. 

If you can do the above effectively, and have the right attitude, you can ensure that you go into your second year of freelancing with more contacts, more trust, and more momentum towards your ultimate goals as a fashion stylist.