If you've been following along with the blog, you might have seen a post I wrote last week on my journey as a fashion business owner + the ups + downs I faced (if you missed it, you can read it here). I got a great responce from this (thank you!) + a lot of you told me that you were surprised about how much went into running a clothing brand. There seems to be a misconception that it's easy, you just come up with some deign ideas, the factory makes them + *boom* you're ready to sell! If only! There's so many skills that you need to have as an entrepreneur + many of them aren't what you'd expect. A lot of people assume the main skill you need is creativity, but actually you need a lot more than that. Thankfully, a lot of the skills are probably ones that you have already. In this post I'll run through some of the things you need to have, so you can brush up on any skills you're not so hot on, before you embark on starting a fashion brand.
The main skill sets you need are;
- Maths + calculation
- Good understanding of programmes, such as Excel, image editing, email service provider, web platform
- Business accumen
Of course, you may wish to hire people to help you with these things + that's absolutely fine, but if you're on a small budget + want to minimise how many people you work with, it's a good idea to brush up on these skills. The good news is that there's great content available around the internet, which you can use as a starting point for free learning. I've been pinning any good links I come across onto my Pinterest page, which you can see here.
Maths + calculations
When you dreamt of becoming a fashion designer, sitting doing maths (or math, to our friends across the pond) + working in Excel for a large portion of the day probably wasn't what you had in mind. As a small business owner of any kind, there's a lot of calculations to do; accounts, invoicing, sales figures, website data, ordering stock, budgets, plans, forecasting.....most of which is done in Excel (or should be, to make your life easier!). But for a fashion brand, there's even more maths; you have garment measurements, tolerance, grade rules + size breaks to consider. If you're selling in more than one place, for instance, your own website, Etsy + wholesale, you'll also need to do stock allocations, so that each sales platform has enough stock. Being able to construct formulas + calculations will make your life a lot easier, so spend some time in Excel when you can. If, like me, you have a Mac, your computer will come with 'Numbers' instead of Excel. I'm an Apple girl through + through, with the exception of Numbers. Compared to Excel I find it a little clunky + formulas don't seem to be as easy to construct (it may just be me!), so I'd consider getting Excel for Mac - it's pretty inexpensive and available for only a few £/$ per month.
It's amazing how much writing you do as a business owner, each + everyday. Aside from the emails that constantly need answering, great writing skills can make you money. How? For instance, if you write thoughtful, engaging product descriptions in a way that appeals to your client, you can add an extra level of interest - you're still giving an accurate description of the product, but by using language that resonates with your customer, you can build trust + encourage the sale. Another example would be writing sales emails to boutiques, to try + get wholesale business. Or by pitching your brand to a magazine editor. Sure, the products you have are really important, but if you don't have a great email, will the recipient even get to the photos? They'll need to have something to catch their attention, in order to make them open your attachment, or visit your website.
Chances are that you'll hire a professional model + photographer for product shots + perhaps a look book. But what about all the other content you need to create? The exact amount varies depending on who you ask, but marketing professionals usually recommend one post per day on Instagram + Facebook as a minimum, some recommend posting many more times. You're audience will get bored pretty fast if you're constantly self promoting + posting pictures of your range. You'll probably have noticed that a lot of brands mix up their photography, perhaps using some model shots, some flatly + often something unrelated to fashion. You need to think about where all that content is going to come from. Photographers are expensive + it'll quickly add up if you're getting them to do social media photography as well as the product shots. Many people are tempted to take other photos from the internet + use them - I strongly advise that you don't do this. Did you know that if you post someone else's picture, even if you credit them + link back to them, the fines for this start at over $8000 for copyright infringement. That doesn't include legal costs + damages. $8000!! I certainly don't have that kind of cash, which is why I spend a lot of time taking my own photos, or obtaining licensed photos that I have the legal right to use.
This is a tricky one to learn + although you can read about this + watch videos online, it's certainly something that get's easier with time. For a fashion business, you'll need to know how to negotiate both ways - as someone who is buying product (raw materials, labor for sewing, etc) + someone selling a product. Negotiation doesn't really play a big part in direct to consumer sales, but if you're wanting to work wholesale, chances are you'll need to negotiate with the buyer.
In this day + age, everyone has computer skills, I get it! But I'm talking about specific programmes that can help you build systems to save time and/or money in your business. These include things like;
- Excel, like we talked about earlier
- Image editing software. This doesn't have to be Photoshop. In my opinion, this is by far the best, but it comes with a massive learning curve (I've been using it for 16 years + still surprise myself sometimes!), so I generally wouldn't recommend it if you're not going to be using it often. There's a lot of other options, even free apps on your phone that can help you to edit photos + create text + graphics for your business, so don't feel like you have to be a Photoshop pro to have nice images.
- Email provider - your email list is a very powerful, so make sure you use a provider who can support you with email marketing. There are some complex tools here which can help you gain loyal followers, so make sure you can produce automations, tags + segments in order to make the most of this. Having some training on the functionality + sequence building will be really helpful.
- Website - you may choose to have someone make your website for you, but you don't really want to be having to spend money on a web professional every time you want to make some changes to your site, or add some new products, so try + learn some of the basics yourself and/or use a website platform with drag + drop functionality to make life easier.
Yes, this is the one you were no-doubt expecting. Creativity is important not just for the look of the brand + the products, but in everything you do. This includes things like, the layout of your website + emails, the look of your social media posts, your packaging + in-store appearance + basically anything visual that your customer will come into contact with. Creativity can also be useful for things like ideas for promotions, blog posts that get your target audience visiting your website, or creative marketing concepts.
This one can be hard to learn if you've not worked in industry before, or had a business in the past. There's of course a lot you can read about + learn, but the fashion industry tends to be secretive + not many people want to share their ways; this is one of the main reasons I started this blog as I wish something like this had been around when I started my company! Getting a strong business acumen does take time + involves a lot of trial + error + mistakes.
If you're wanting to start a new business + want to minimise the amount of trial, error + mistakes, I'm excited to tell you that I've developed an online training course, to help you implement a well-considered business strategy from the start. If you want to start off confidently + learn from my mistakes, this course might be ideal for you - I'll give you all of the training to take you from idea through to production. You can learn more about what's included by clicking here.
I really hope you enjoyed this post! Did any of these skills surprise you? I'd love to know, so please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!