Hiring a Development Partner vs. Freelance Talent

Published On: February 13, 2023

So you’re ready to make that big jump! You’ve got a solid idea for your first (or next) collection, and you want to get patterns and samples made so you can move to the next step: marketing and selling your clothing. Congratulations, this is a great time in the career of a clothing designer and the life cycle of your brand.

But hold up a sec!

Unless you are planning to make your patterns, source your fabrics and trims, and sew your samples all by yourself, you’re faced with the big question that just about every designer faces at one point or another. Do I hire a development partner (as in a vertically-integrated one-stop-shopping development and production house) or do I piece together my team using freelance talent?

Assembling Your Team.

To create a professional and marketable collection, you need a team of professionals. At the bare minimum, this team would include:

    • Project Manager. This person will act as a communication liaison between all the parties involved in development of your collection and will keep your project on schedule
    • Sourcing Manager. Obviously, nothing can be created without fabric and trims. This person will be responsible for sourcing and trims that meet your specifications and are appropriate for each garment
    • Pattern Maker. The quality of your patterns matters. Pattern makers use a system of design knowledge and mathematics to create patterns that will act as a guide for sample makers, seamstresses, and your eventual bulk manufacturer
  • Sample maker (aka, Seamstress). Good sample makers are in high demand. The ability to read a complicated pattern and finely execute a complex garment is key.
  • Grader/Marker. In a nutshell, the grader/marker takes your production-ready pattern and creates the different sizes based on the designer’s specifications. Then the sized patterns are placed onto a piece of plotter paper, known as a marker.
    • Production Manager. When you are ready to put your collection into production, this person handles all the logistics involved with the bulk production. Including acting as a liaison between you and the manufacturer and providing you with Top Of Production (TOP) samples for your approval.
  • Manufacturer. When you’re ready to move into bulk production, you’ll need a manufacturing factory to sew your garments in quantities. These quality of these factories vary, as do their minimum order quantities (MOQ)

Other team members that you might need (or want) include a creative designer, technical designer and merchandise planner.

As an emerging designer, working with a world-class development team can make or break your brand. We can’t tell you if hiring freelance talent, or working with a Development Partner is the best solution for you and your brand. But we can offer some real considerations here, so you can start to figure out which option works for you.

Welcome to the Wide, Wide world of Freelancers

Talented fashion professionals have been selling their services on a freelance basis long before the phrase “gig economy” even existed. There is a large and thriving network of freelance talent to choose from; in every category from sample sewers, pattern makers, marking and grading, even tech design is available on a freelance basis.

So, what are the considerations when hiring freelance talent to work on your brand? Let’s take a look at just a few:

  • You have a wide range of experience levels to choose from
  • Typically, there is no contract, so you are under no obligation to continue working with them
  • Freelance pattern makers usually work at an hourly rate or on a per-project basis. This might seem more affordable upfront, but be aware of their capabilities to be sure you’re getting what you pay for. You also want to keep in mind that the more years of experience and education they have, the higher their hourly rate.
  • Not all freelancers are up-to-date or experienced on recent industry advancements such as digital pattern making programs like Gerber, and 3D-imagery software, such as Clo. Ironically, some of the best freelancers are so busy they simply can’t set aside time to learn new skills
  • Some freelance pattern makers will only produce “first patterns” and you’ll have to find a different source to create your “production-ready” digital patterns
  • You have to assemble and vet your entire development and manufacturing team yourself.
  • You will be responsible for all the communication between freelance team members.
  • Might be difficult to keep a handle on your budget and schedule, as it is hard to determine in advance the number of hours a project will take
  • Unless you live in a major metropolitan area, experienced freelancers may be hard to find

Working with a Development & Manufacturing Partner

On the other hand, working with a product development partner can provide more cohesion while designing and developing a clothing line. Typically, ALL members of your team work in-house.

In-house pattern makers work hand-in-hand with the in-house sample sewers, so communication between these two important team members is an all-day-every-day occurrence. They’re also working under the same roof as the sourcing manager, production manager and others; thereby streamlining that communication process as well.

There are other things to know if you are considering this route:

  • You will be “matched” with a pattern maker that has experience in your specific product category
  • All costs for development will be explained up front, and should be put in writing. So you won’t be surprised later by “hidden” costs
  • Schedules are agreed upon in advance.
  • You will have a single point of contract, typically an in-house Project Manager. That person will keep you in the loop on any potential issues that may affect your project completion date
  • Typically these companies are up-to-date and have trained their staff on the latest advancements in fashion technology
  • You’re working with the same team from start to finish; each team member will be familiar with the specifics of your project as it moves through each phase
  • You will have the opportunity to iron out any potential production issues with your team BEFORE your project goes into the bulk production stage
  • Production-ready patterns are included in the overall pricing of developing your collection

Whether you decide to hire a development and production company as your partner, or go the freelance route, once you’ve started your project, it’s important you stay involved throughout the process. At the root of any positive professional relationship, open communication is a must. You should always feel comfortable asking questions and discussing details to ensure a quality outcome.

There’s no such thing as being too clear. No question should go unasked for both you as the fashion designer and your potential partners. Discuss pricing, timeline, and expectations at the outset. This will help prevent any issues throughout the product development process.

Be Clear About Budget. 

Know your budget before you even begin to work with your development team. Whether you’re working with a fashion design team or a freelance pattern maker, you need to know the costs of getting patterns and samples that fit your standards.

Know Your Timeline. 

Always convey your timeline to all involved, and whether there is any room for flexibility. If your development team knows your deadline, they’ll know how to gauge your expectations for the quantity and quality of what they can deliver. Communicate your timeline from the very start (and again throughout the process), so everyone is on the same page.

While we tried to cover all the possibilities here, maybe this article left you with even more questions. We’d love to answer them for you. Feel free to reach out to us at https://tegintl.com/get-in-touch/ or call us at 800-916-0910.

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