Five pros and cons working as a freelancer

I often get asked which is better to work as a freelancer or In House. Personally working as a freelancer is most suited to me, I love it's freedom it gives though it's not without it's perils. If you're lucky to be in position to be choosing one route or the other I've highlighted what I think are the high and lows of each path.

1. MONEY

There's no denying when I worked for a company I earned far far more than I do as a freelancer, at the peak of my earnings I was clearing 45K and that was with being a freelancer within that time as well. The main trouble I found hard when returning to work for a company was that my CV was viewed as that I didn't have much manger skills having worked by myself freelancing. Even though I know I can run teams of people have have done so in the past, I was up against people who had never left the industry to freelance so had consistent managerial experience. My first freelance job was in Thailand (which I never planned to get I had originally gone travelling) and I loved designing swimwear in the sunshine and the life I was living there, and on the plus side I didn't need much money. 

2. FREEDOM

The major plus side being a freelancer I think has to be the freedom, pre-children being a freelancer enabled me to travel whenever I wished, within reason. When a project finished I could book cheap flights and spend as long or as little time in whatever country I flew to. But again having the ability to have that freedom, is weighed by having the actual funds whilst freelancing. Nowadays it's all about having the freedom to look after young children whilst working at different times than the normal workforce (ie at night with lots of coffee).

five pros and cons for being a freelance lingerie designer

3. TIME

With freelancing I think you have be great and time management, it can be easy to get caught up with social media. You have to find a schedule that works for you, I'm still working on this - sometimes I get up early to work and get loads don, other times (usually) it's at night. Also there's all the extras that you need to plan for, like accounts, filling in tax returns, looking for the next piece of work. Keeping up-to-date with everything current. Being a freelancer it's easy to feel like you are looking in on an industry rather than being involved and in the thick of it. If you like structure of a 9-5 (or there abouts) Then in house may be more suited to you, or you could get the best of both worlds and be a freelancer on contract - so you are based within a company but only for a set amount of time.

4. THE SOUL

Depending what type of company you work for - will depend on what you are given to design, I was very fortunate in my first job (designing for high street stores in a UK manufacturer) in that as well have been given design briefs from the buyer, I also presented new designs from the fabrics that I sourced. In another company it was all buyer led, I would be given samples bought from other brands and asked to replicate them, it was very soul destroying, and something I didn't agree with. Working as a freelancer people are coming for you, for either new ideas or the technical side of the design so your never ripping off (well you shouldn't be) other peoples designs.  That's what I love the most about freelancing is that if you have the opportunity to work with someone who is just starting out, they are very willing to push boundaries and design ideas.

5. CONSISTENCY  

This is a major one that often occurs, you can be mental busy for ages, then suddenly you find yourself with a free calendar wondering where the next job is coming from. At the start of my freelancing, I continued to do part time work, as I knew that eventually this is what I wanted to do full time, but didn't want the added pressure of the freelancing supporting me at the beginning, I wanted to build up a client base with good strong work. I've done bar work, shop-work and even worked as a TA in a primary school, then worked freelancing in my spare time and also wrote the books. With freelancing I've never worked regular hours, even when I had a full time job designing I was always building up 'Vanjonsson Design' and worked evenings and weekends. Now having children my working hours are even more erratic, and I often work late into the night. 

A friend texted to see how my day was going, this was my face after being greeted with 102 emails that morning at work.

A friend texted to see how my day was going, this was my face after being greeted with 102 emails that morning at work.

Working in a company, especially at the start, I gained so much knowledge from everyone, and I loved the fast pace of the fashion side of things, producing collections, seeing them through to manufacturing whilst balancing the next season ahead, but with like most jobs, the further you go up the chain of your profession, the more away you move away from it, and are managing other people to do the job you loved and set out to do. I have before come into a previous work to be met with 70+ emails on a daily basis, enquiries from manufacturers, changes in tech packs that needed to be confirmed and altered, costings that needed be changed and suggestions back and forth how to do so. Along with future work that needed to be secured, errors on deliveries or stock. So transitioning to freelance full time was a very natural step for me especially now, as the nearest lingerie company is a daily 2 hour commute each way which is not feasible with two young children.

If you get the chance to work for companies then I would recommend it, you learn so much and the support and structure is there for you. If you find yourself out of university or in-between jobs and can't find yourself work, then make your own, go freelance, approach companies, do it in your spare time, or intern, and keep updating your portfolio because if you're static you're not trying anything new and your designs and knowledge won't progress.

 

When to give up on a design

Let's talk about quitting on a design, or shelving it for a later time. That design you've invested so much time to, the one which is about finished and if you just maybe work on it for a bit longer give it that final push you can move on to another design right?

Yes? No? Maybe?

This is always a hard one for me, there's the logical aspect of designing and timing then there's the designing which feels right, where you can lose time, get in the flow. I usually follow the second aspect though my head screams at me sometimes, just commit to this idea, it's nearly finished.

I'm there right now, the Harper soft bra, is a pattern I produced last year. I've spent hours on it, making it, fitting it, re-making it, re-fitting it. Changing the pattern so the seam which when into the apex now goes into the underarm for easy sewing. I've graded it, mapped out the pattern pack, and now just need to draw it up and lay it out. So the hours left to invest in this bra is less than the hours I've already committed to it. 

when to give up on a lingerie design

Yet something isn't right. And I don't know what it is. I've even changed the named the name of this bra pattern, it started out as Hemmie, and now it's Harper - to see if it was that (I know right??)

So I'm pulling it. It's standing in my way of new things. Every time I start a new pattern, I keep thinking of the soft bra pattern that I haven't finished. Just get it out the way then I can move on my brain thinks. But every time I head back to it, every alteration is slow, every sewing procedure stalls.  

I've learnt through experience that when this happens, it's best to shelve it. Not get rid. Just put it away ready to head back to it if I so desire. It's by making this choice that I can embrace new patterns to make available, that my work can hopefully speed up to the level I like to work at. 

It's hard letting go of something you've invested so much time to, but once you make that decision, a whole lot of new opportunities become available.

Try it. What have you been stalling on?

Interview with ... WELL ME!

This original took place with Esty Lingerie, interviewing me from a freelance lingerie designer perspective. Here is a copy of it.

EL:You studied Contour at DeMontfort University so I imagine you knew from the start that you wanted to design intimates. What drew you to lingerie over other areas of fashion design?

LVJ:When I was leaving school I had secured a place at Loughborough Art college, as I didn't really know what direction I wanted to head in, I loved altering clothes (my poor wardrobe didn't survive my love of using scissors and re-sewing/re-hashing garments back to together)  and playing around with fabrics and I toyed with getting into fashion but at 18 yrs old, the industry intimidated me a little and I didn't view myself as fashionable and the clothes I tried to make, I never had enough floor space to cut them out or ended up spending so much on fabric for the garment not to turn out right. 

lingerie interviews laurie van jonsson

The Spring before I left school I saw a programme about lingerie design and knew that was what I wanted to do, I loved the way that you change the whole way you could feel just by garments that no-one else saw. I also liked the idea that it wasn't just about designing pretty lingerie it was about how it fitted as well. I loved the technical aspect side of things. I ended up writing a letter to Demontfort and found out you could do a late entry application and it would be on a points based system to get in not on a portfolio viewing or interview which was a good thing as when I told my art/sewing teacher I was changing my mind and going to Demontfort University she told me it was a bad idea as my sewing was awful and I didn't know anything about the industry - she was right but that didn't stop me.

 

EL: Would you recommend the same course for other hopeful lingerie designers?

LVJ: Yes. Although I don't think it's necessary to do a degree, a degree gives you the space to try out new ideas, have the resources to use and the time to gain knowledge from people who have worked previous in the industry. It also gives youth chance to build up your portfolio.

What I also think it does which is important is give you a time structure for when to complete things. If you don't have the money to do a degree then you should plan out your time to get things done, how many of us have dreamed about a new career and realised that a couple of years have passed from having the original idea of a career change. Although I don't think you always need a degree, I do think that some sort of course is helpful, like making patterns as it will save you time in the long run and working out everything yourself can be very time consuming and disheartening if you're not getting it right.

 

EL:I'm sure some people think lingerie designers just sit around drawing pretty pictures of bras all day, but more goes into it than that! For those wondering if lingerie design is the right career path for them, what can they expect to be doing exactly once they land a job?

LVJ: Drawing/planning out next seasons range including trend boards is such a small part of being a lingerie designer, your day is spent juggling future seasons, getting them sampled up, getting them fitted, altering the patterns, going for second fits etc... Costing the garment, going back and forth with the buyer and factory to settle on a cost, altering a design so it fits the cost. Then you're juggling with the orders that are to be delivered, making sure they are on time, and sorting out everything when it goes wrong, deliveries late, wrong fabrics, different fits from the first sample, wrong shade of components to the one that was chose. A buyer changing their mind over a colour. With everything moving so fast and in some cases with a three month turn around you do spend a long time on your time-line spread sheet making sure everything is where it needs to be, you need to be able to build good relationships with the buyer you're working with and the factories. Some mornings I would get to work and there would be 50+ emails waiting for me to be answered, you need to be able to make decisions quickly and have a good organisation system.

 

EL:Is there anything that's surprised you, that you didn't know would be part of the role of a lingerie designer?

LVJ: When I started out it was quite easy to move between positions, i.e. designer to grader to account manager, but nowadays it seems rarer to be able to do that, also I found it near impossible as an employee to switch between different styles of being a designer. For example my roles have been mainly supplier based - which means the company you work is an independent company and provides lingerie to different shops/brands etc. So you're not working for just one company, so if I've ever applied for a job opening of working for just one brand the feedback I've had received is that I've not the experience of being dedicated to working for one brand, also having been mainly designing high street has meant that applying for designer lingerie brands hasn't been successful. Working though as a freelancer has worked opposite, my CV shows that I can design in a multitude of styles so this has opened doors for different companies. So if you are planning to be a designer for a certain area of lingerie it's best to try and secure that area near the start of your career as it's hard to near impossible to change it later unless you freelance.

 

EL:Having worked both in house and freelance, how do the two differ in terms of a typical working day, regularity of work/income, responsibilities  etc.

LVJ: In house you have the security of a wage, but the higher you progress the more you delegate the work so you're responsible for a lot more as you're seeing everything from start to finish season after season, where as freelance you may be bought in for just one section or one season.  In House you're working hours are regular, you have your nights free and you;re weekend, where as freelance it's more of a balancing act. I like freelance as you seem to work on lots of different work, my main clients employ me usually for the technical side, they have the design already done and I work out their spec sheets, write up their tech packs, draw up their designs, attend fit sessions etc. 

I have two small children at the minute so freelance works perfectly, although in house I earned far more (peaking at 45K+) freelance allows me to have flexibility to look after both of them and still work. I also have more creativity satisfaction working freelance.

 

EL: You also had your own lingerie brand, Vanjo, from 2005 to 2009. Have you preferred running your own brand or designing for other companies, and why?

LVJ: Having my own brand was amazing, I don't think I realised how well I was doing at the time, I was the first independent brand to be stocked by Topshop  that provided bras above a DD cup. But having worked in the industry prior, at the the time I always thought I should be doing more, I was so use to the fast paced fashion side of things, it was a bit of a shock to be the one doing everything and the time it took to do it all. Having your own brand though you are responsible for everything, one thing I did miss was other people, but when people wrote to me saying how much they loved my brand and how it fitted it did make it all worth while. I did learn a lot doing it all myself, and would definitely do it again. 

 

EL: Obviously, to become a lingerie designer you need a certain amount of knowledge about how bras are constructed. Aside from technical expertise though, what do you think it takes to be a successful lingerie designer?

LVJ: Flexibility. Sometimes you have a great design and you have to be prepared to let it go and be altered or criticised. When you design something there are so many people who have their opinion, the buyer, the fitter, the sample machinist, the factory even your boss who may not have any knowledge about designing!! You need to pick the best advice and be prepared to alter your design, or be prepared to state your case why what you designed doesn't need altering. You also need to be always keeping an eye on the market and constantly be knowledgeable about what's going on around you.