Negotiating freelance rates for fashion designers

Many times former students of mine e-mail me to find out what they should charge for a freelance assignment?

Unfortunately there is not really a straight forward answer to that question. There are many factors to consider from your side as the freelancer as well as about the company that you want to work with. For example you as the freelancer : Are you experienced? If so, are the companies that are on your resume well recognized companies that make you and your experience more valuable? The company that you work for: Are they a corporation, a start up? A start up that is well funded? These factors just mentioned are some of the easy ones to spot from each side right away, but then there are some more complicated factors that have to do with what to consider when coming up with your freelance rate.I will be brief and hope that this blog post will lead to a thread of comments of experience and advice. Here a some things to think about: * will you be paid per project or per hour? * will you be paid on a W2 (employer’s payroll will deduct taxes)  or 1099 ( you will have to pay taxes at the end of year and need to keep track of expenses)? * will you have to work onsite and pay for gas, parking and  lunch or will you be able to work from home? * are any material cost involved? who pays for them? * what type of job is this? is your creativity wanted or are you given precise instructions and need to ” just” digitize or bring someone else’ s idea to live (perhaps draft a pattern?)

Freelance contract advice:

* I have had one bad experience where I did a freelance job referred to me thorough a person at a trusted freelance job and I ended up not receiving payment. Therefore I decided to not even start a job, before i receive 30 -50% payment upfront. That also means that you need to be able to predict and agree upon how much this job is going to cost.



* Through the years, I also started noticing that some companies were trying to get many free revisions after they had already paid. That led me to start putting a limit of revision on the assignment as well as a end date and a price for additional work/ revisions.

* Some companies were paying me per project but they were highly unorganized in giving instructions and material needed which leads to a constant waste of time in unnecessary communication and waiting for delivery of items needed.

So here are 2 real emails that I have sent to client that needed Bikini Linesheets, before starting on the QUOTE for the  project:

Email 1 : “To whom it may concern, Thanks so much for contacting me. I really appreciate it. My rate is negotiable, but it typically is hourly (rather than project rate) and falls between $? and $? per hour depending on the project, the product category, whether I work from my home office or in house, and the duration of the project (ie. if project is longer than price goes down, if project is quick turn around it will be closer to $? per hour). I have a couple of questions about the Line, to see how long it would probably take me to do it: 1. Are there any Illustrator sketches available as of now? 2. Will some of designs have prints/ graphics? Are those available as Illustrator of Photoshop files? Or do I recreate/ create? 3. 12 styles meaning 1 style = top and bottom? Or is the top counted as one style and the bottom counted as another style?”

Email 2: “Hi there, Good talking to you over the phone, thank you again. Here is a list of items that will help me put this quote together. – photos/ quick sketches of Bodies with style numbers, wholesale, (suggested retail, Fabric content) – label any print or graphic (labeled with style numbers of bodies that they go on) – color swatches of all colorways (labeled with style numbers of bodies that they go on) For color accuracy, I need to print color swatches with the printer that is going to run the Linesheets in the end, on the type of paper that will be used: Please answer the following: 1) What type of paper (glossy, matte?) 2) What type of finish (simply stapled at the corner < very common! or more elaborate such as coil binding with front clear cover < not necessary if she has fancy look-book!) 3) How many copies will she need? 4) What is her budget for the Printing? Here is my address:


So you can see that you need to be highly organized and in a way strict with your clients so that they can respect you and your precious time.

Please use this post as a way to voice your experience.

What are some of the tips and tricks that you have learned along the way?

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  • Hi Ludmila Very practical advice. I have experienced all of the above with clients. Your best advise and mine also, is to put it in writing.
    Describe the job, the details of what is to be done and the time frame of it. I now only work by the hour because that way I can make changes and add on more and not feel as though I am being taken advantage of.
    It keeps the relationship clean and working well with both parties knowing what to expect.
    Just one more bit of advice to free lancers in the market place of today.
    If you have a client that is constantly giving you work and pays on time, you may want to give them a better price than someone who is working with you every now and then.
    thanks for the information. MJ

  • Jose Flitcroft

    Such a nice post! I am so glad you chose to share it.

  • Liliana Wedige

    great post, i hope you keep it up!

  • Very good advice and a great blog!….


  • Live2color

    thank you! I’m a textile colorist but this gives me a good idea.

    • Ludmilaadams

      Hello there,
      Glad to help. Just had this conversation with another textile professional. Here is a link that might help you further too. It’s an app that helps you visualize all of your expenses and then compares your pricing to local talents(not sure if our industry is in there)

  • Mandy

    I am based outside the USA, and thus am not too sure what I should be charging my client based in the USA. I am at a senior fashion designer level with 17 years experience. Fully Adobe literate – everything I do is on the computer. I mainly do storyboards and line sheets. Any suggestions as far as rates to charge?

    • Daniel Dabati

      Hi there, where are you based ?

  • Pingback: My Homepage()

  • J

    Hey, thanks for the insight. I am currently starting a project that’s for a large company to pitch as a new Brand. I put together research for them and they like the direction that I plan to head in. However, it is going to be a 15-piece collection [ that includes Outerwear, Wovens, Knits, Tees and non -denim Bottoms] with patterns & graphics and they might need me to tech pack the whole thing. I wanted to give a flat rate instead of working hourly. Wasn’t sure how much to charge. I am currently a Senior Designer at a smaller company and this project is something I am doing as freelance. Would love some feedback. I don’t want to overcharge but would like to be compensated fairly.

  • Thank you for the post. I found it very helpful!

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  • sev

    I am based in Los Angeles Ca and I will be doing some freelance work in fashion illustrations and have no idea as to what i should charge per sketch. This project is not huge or for a corporate company but I’m unsure of the charge and how to go about that. It’ll be a model illustration of their design with no color and digital touch up. So what would be a reasonable price per sketch?