Hiring a Development Partner vs. Using Freelance Talent

Congratulations! 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 all-important step: marketing and selling your creations. It’s an exciting time in the career of a clothing designer and the life cycle of your brand.

That said, unless you plan to make your patterns, source your fabrics and trims, and sew your samples all by yourself, an important decision must be made. Do I hire a development partner (as in a one-stop-shopping development and production house) or do I piece together my team using freelance talent?

In this article we will examine the attributes of each so you can make the right decision for your brand. But first, let’s get to  know your team members and what each job entails.

Your Team Roster

To create a professional and marketable collection, you will need to rely on a team of well-rounded professionals. At the bare minimum, your development and production team should include:

    1. 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.
    2. Sourcing Manager. Obviously, nothing can be created without fabric and trims. A Sourcing Manager is responsible for sourcing and trims that meet your specifications and are appropriate for each garment.
    3. Pattern Maker. The quality of your patterns matters above all. Pattern makers rely on their years of experience and design knowledge, plus mathematical acumen, to create patterns. Everything hinges on their work. The patterns created will act as a guide for sample makers, seamstresses, cutters, graders and eventually, your bulk manufacturer.
    4. Sample maker (aka, Seamstress). Good sample makers are in extremely high demand. Not just any sewer can read a complicated pattern and finely execute a complex garment. This is a well-paid and skilled position.
    5. Grader/Marker. In a nutshell, the grader/marker takes your production-ready pattern and creates the different sizes based on your specifications. They will then take those  sized patterns and place them onto a piece of plotter paper, known as a marker.
    6. Manufacturer. When you’re ready to move into bulk production, you’ll need a manufacturing factory to sew your garments in quantities. The quality and experience of these factories vary widely, as do their minimum order quantities (MOQ).
    7. Production Manager. This person handles all the logistics involved with the bulk production project. They should act as a liaison between you and the factory floor, and provide you with Top Of Production (TOP) samples for your approval.

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

As we mentioned earlier, there are two viable ways to assemble your team. The first option is to take advantage of an experienced development and production company.

Points to Consider When Working With a Development & Manufacturing Partner

Working with a professional development and production firm will provide superior cohesion while designing, developing and manufacturing a clothing line. At Teg, for example, every single member of your team works in-house. Our insistence on this provides you, as a designer, with some very valuable benefits.

In-house Pattern Makers work hand-in-hand with the in-house Sample Sewers, so communication between these two vitally important team members is an all-day-every-day occurrence. They’re also working under the same roof as the Project Manager, Sourcing Manager, Production Manager and others; thereby streamlining the communication process amongst your entire team.

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 and production will be explained up front, and will be put in writing. So you won’t be surprised later by unforeseen 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.
  • Staff is fully trained and up-to-date on the latest advancements in fashion technology, such as digital pattern making programs like Gerber, and 3D-imagery software, such as Clo.
  • You will work 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 and final samples are included in the overall pricing of developing your collection.

Points to Consider When Working with 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 network of freelance talent to choose from; in every category from sample sewers, pattern makers, marking and grading, and tech design.

So, what are the particulars to working with freelancers? Well, besides having the assemble and vet the entire team yourself, there are other considerations:

  • You have a wide range of experience levels to choose from, but they typically do not specialize in any specific category.
  • There is no contract, so if they are offered another gig, they are under no obligation to continue the project.
  • Freelancers usually work at an hourly rate or on a per-project basis. The more years of experience and education they have, the higher their hourly rate. It can be difficult to keep a handle on your budget and schedule, as it is often hard to determine in advance the number of hours a project will take.
  • Not all freelancers are up-to-date or experienced in recent industry advancements. Ironically, some of the best freelancers are so busy they simply can’t set aside the considerable time it takes to learn new skills.
  • Freelancers, due to the very nature of their profession, tend to jump from job to job. Therefore, when you need a question answered or a revision made it could be hard to reach them.
  • 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 will be responsible for all the communication between freelance team members. In other words, you will act as the Project Manager.
  • Unless you live in a major metropolitan area, experienced freelancers may be hard to find.

Whether you decide to hire a vertically-integrated development and production firm – such as Teg – as your professional partner, or decide to go the freelance route, there’s no such thing as being too clear with your communications. No question or concern should go unasked or discussed. Having a frank conversation about pricing, timeline, and expectations at the outset will help prevent  unforeseen hiccups throughout the development and production process.

We hope this article helped you come to some decisions about which route to take in the development and production of your upcoming collection. While we tried to cover all the possibilities here, if you still have questions, we’re here to answer them. Feel free to reach out to us at https://tegmade.com/get-in-touch/ or call us at 800-916-0910. We’ll talk.

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