When I began Deco22, I was continuously told by start-up business advisers, how vital networking was for my success.
I would force myself to go to networking events. These were usually evening affairs with people standing around glasses of wine in hands, making (loud) small talk *shudder*. I would say very little and escape as soon as possible. I really did not understand how doing this would be good for my business! After a handful of attempts I stopped attending.
Networking events are perfect for extroverts, which I am most definitely not. Thankfully, networking is no longer a ‘one size fits all’ deal.
Over the years I have meet lovely people while freelancing as a pattern cutter and teaching at numerous colleges. I regularly meet other designer makers at shows and markets and at my studio space (initially with LYST and now with Cockpit Arts).
Without realizing it, I have naturally built up a network of contacts through just being my introvert self. In sharp contrast to networking events where I felt people assessed one another, trying to gauge the other person’s usefulness, I keep in contact with these people because I have genuinely enjoyed working with, and getting to know them.
How do my network of contacts help me?
Sometimes it is simple encouragement for what I am doing, other times my contacts can offer advice on where to source equipment or share information they think I may find useful. I know that without my network of contacts I would probably have changed career by now.
I keep in touch with most of my network via social media:
No I do not tell everyone what I ate for breakfast or go in to details about everything that happens to me each day, I not that kind of Facebooker!
I mainly share fashion industry news, and ‘look at this’ links to things I like or things I would discuss with them if we were still working together. Generally if I do have a discussion with a Facebook contact I use private messages, as I am more comfortable with one to interactions, (introvert remember!)
Sharing pins of things I like and sending my contacts pins of things I think they might like.
Instagram ( 2018 update) Sharing what I am doing in my studio and also sending my contacts posts of things I think they might like.
Is a more professional format. I share business, education and fashion industry related news. (2018 update- now have a Deco22 business page)
I often receive requests to connect with people I have never meet which I still find strange. For a while I used to accept their invitations, but I have recently decided to stop. To me, it feels as if a complete stranger has knocked on my studio door and asked to come in and sit down… I say yes, and they just sit there… * shudder*
Oh yes, while we’re here, a pet peeve of mine…
If you decide to create a LinkedIn profile, do it! There is no point in adding your name, with no picture, no details of your specialism(s) or experience.
When I have been nagging – ehem - givinghelpful advice, to some of my contacts (lady with over 30 years’ experience as sample machinist yes, I hope your ears are burning!) who have half-heartedly created their LinkedIn profile I have described what they are doing as this:
“..you have set up a market stall with table rails and display props, you have put your name on the stall and then hidden behind a curtain with your stock still packed under the table. When people walk past all they see is your name and an empty display..”
As I said before, networking is not a one size fits all. I only recently realised that I had found a way that suited me, and I am so grateful for my genuine network of contacts and the no-stress method in which I have gained them! Links.
Blog originally posted on: 8/7/2015 I studied fashion full time for five years at three different colleges. In the past six years I have taught either pattern cutting, garment construction or design at seven colleges at various levels from absolute beginner to budding designers at degree level. Not all colleges are the same and choosing the right organisation to help achieve your goals is very important, (e.g. If you want pursue a very creative or ‘Avant Garde’ route, then choosing a college whose focus on the commercial side of fashion will not be a good fit and vice versa).
Always visit the potential college and ask LOTS of questions!
Talk to the students.. NOT the ones the college select as examples on an open day - they will only tell you what the organisation want you to hear. Try to speak to students as you move around the college.
Questions you should ask include:
How many students will be in each class (count how many sewing machines are in the machine room, if there are less than the amount of students in the class be aware that this will cause access issues during future sessions).
Example: If there are thirty students and one tutor, how many technicians are available? There are a lot of hands-on technical skills that you need to learn for fashion, one person cannot fully support thirty students.
How many guided learning hours will there be?
What resources are provided by the college? Be aware that not all sites have library or computer access.
If the college says it has Computer Aided Design (CAD) resources, ask how regularly you will have access to them. On the tour for my Higher National Diploma course (HND - now known as a Foundation Degree), I was shown a pattern cutting CAD system. During the course we given access to use the systems for two short modules twice in the two years of the course. As a class, we left without the relevant CAD skills needed to empower us in finding work once we graduated.
For levels 2 and 3, ask how many students progress to higher levels.
For level 4, 5 and 6 ask how many graduates have gone on to find PAID work in the fashion industry, excluding retail.
One last thing! Remember if you choose to do a fashion course it is NOT an easy option. Garment construction equipment and materials, art equipment, the requisite books and stationary... A Fashion course is not cheap. I have seen FAR too many students overwhelmed by what is involved in doing a fashion course.
You will be learning a wide range of disciplines and you will also have to write about your work. If you think this is the route you want to take, I recommend trying out a short course to see if it is what you really really want (yes, I just quoted the Spice Girls ! )
Some colleges that might interest you.
Highest ranking Universities for fashion in the UK.
Blog originally posted: 22/7/2015 I was originally going to title this blog” So you wanna be a freelancer” which made me think of the “So you wanna be a boxer “ song from Bugsy Malone….and then I watched the film for the zillionth time ….oops rambling ,back on track.
In the fashion industry lots of us choose to freelance rather than have one permanent job. The reasons are vast including:
Flexibility; being able to work the days and times you choose.
Varity; having the opportunity to work with a wide range of companies and products.
A second income; to fund a business or boost your income from a main job.
There are some disadvantages though
No financial security, you can sometimes go weeks, or in my case during the height of the recession, months without work. You need to ensure you put money aside for the quiet times.
No holiday or sick pay, again you need to set money aside.
The biggest issue you will come across as a freelancer? BAD PAYERS…( Booooo hisssss…grrrrrrrr)…..yep I have had to deal with a few of those. Sadly this is one of the most common problems freelancing within the fashion Industry. Here are some tips to try and avoid this happening
BEFORE doing any work for a new company, get them to sign a terms and agreements document stating penalties if payments are not made on time. Make sure you keep digital AND hard copies
Invoice weekly; companies are more likely to pay small invoices quicker than bigger ones.
Ensure all invoices are emailed to ensure you have documented proof that cannot be lost.
If an invoice has not been paid on time contact the client immediately to chase the payment.
Have a cut off amount; if they reach the figure and have not paid, don’t do anymore work for them until they have and STICK TO IT!
In my twelve years of freelancing I have only had to take one company to court that had no intention of paying me for my work. I won the case but they still didn’t pay up, so I set High Court Enforcement Officers on them using the Sheriffs Office. Check them out!
I have had the pleasure of working with some really talented…and sometimes a bit loopy (but hey I guess all creatives are a bit strange) people and companies. Freelance is also a good way to test drive companies you may possibly want to work for as an employee.
Freelancing is not for everyone, but if you are looking for a flexible way to earn a living and like the idea of working on new projects, products and with different teams on a regular bases then perhaps you should give it a try.