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Book Notes: Thread's Not Dead: The Designer's Guide to the Apparel Industry by Jeff Finley

Updated: May 12, 2020

An Artist with a Dream (hey that's me)

Getting paid doing what I love and would do for free

3 Roles: The Artist, Designer, and Entrepreneur

  • Artist: Using intuition. The ability to figure things out that don't always have a clear path to the destination.

  • Designer: Art with a purpose. Sell a product or define a brands identity ... Solving a problem for someone else. Art is who you are, design is what you do.

  • Entrepreneur: The dreamer. The one that allows me to fantasize about making it big one day. A goal and vision and determination to get there. I have the passion and what it takes

11 Character traits of Successful Designers:

  • 1. Genuine fans of design

  • 1. Hungry for knowledge and self improvement. constant work in progress

  • 2. Humble yet confident. Always a student, never a master

  • 3. Willingness to share knowledge. Often writing about experiences and sharing tips. Helping others

  • 4. Unrelenting work ethic because they love it.Working long days and nights.Crave it

  • 5. Undeniable talent

  • 6. Marketing Chops. Self promotion. Interacting on forums. Don't avoid internet or social engagement. Advertisement

  • 7. Get lucky. Put yourself in the right places. Attend events. Network. Help with others who help them. Hustle. Good things happen to those who hustle.

  • 8. Understand branding. Unique style. Don't want to be like everyone else. Consistent with their image. Solid logo. consistent with how they treat others. They have a fresh take on what others are doing. People know what to expect.

  • 9. Solid website. Simple. Easy to see your work, and contact you.

  • 10. Great Communicators. Professional and polite. They put others first. They're honest, direct, straight forward. Make clients feel good and pumped up about themselves. Respond to emails quickly.

Keys to a Great Portfolio:

  • You need your own site and email domain.

5 Traits of a Rock Solid Portfolio

  • 1. Professional presentation. Gallery. Professional mock ups. I need to show my work on a wall.

  • 2. Have good work. Only show your best work. When in doubt, leave it out.

  • 3. No more than one click away. One click to the portfolio

  • 4. Recognizable clients.

  • 5. Targeted. Know what you want to show off and do that well.

  • Work for me or them? Both

Chapter 2. Freelancing

Don't be scared. Collab with others on your same level. You are just learning. You will learn together. Being a newb isn't a bad thing. That's how you build your portfolio.

  • Working for Bands and Indie Clothing companies :

  • Find them social media. Contact them directly. Email them.

Tips when reaching out to a new client:

  • 1. Contact them directly. Politely introduce yourself and let them know that you are a designer/artist. Let them know that I dig what they are all about. Tell them I'd like to work with them and ask how they typically work with other designers. Keep the email simple and direct.

  • 2. Link to my portfolio where they can see relevant work or sketch something for them. They love when someone takes initiative, but be careful of theft of your idea.

  • 3. List a few previous clients.

  • 4. Talk about money when the time is right.

What should I charge?

  • At first, almost nothing. Flat rates equivalent to $5/hr. When the time is right, you raise your price. Start with low rates then raise them when you are getting too busy. You will lose customers when you up the price, but it's worth it bc in the long run, that how you survive.

Flat Rate vs Hourly Billing. Which is better?

  • Flat rate billing is good while your prices are low. Hourly billing for jobs that are more involved. Always require a deposit before I begin work. Don't be mad when people

  • Skip contracts for small fish. When working with a bigger company, use a contract. Projects over 50k.

  • Avoid busters. Don't work for free.

  • Get an accountant once you start making a good amount of money.

  • Send invoices and track sales. Quick books. Learn over time.

  • Add value to your service

How to snag a big client?

  • Pros: Pay, Open door, credibility, exposure

  • Cons: More hoops to jump through. Getting paid takes longer. Stakes are big. Sometimes under pay.

  • Large companies typically play it safe and hire from firms they can trust. It's not typical that they switch from designer to designer all the time. So how do you get in? The answer is artist reps and agents. KNOW YOUR WORTH. GET EDUCATED.

  • Find repping agencies. The barrier to entry is tough so I have to stand out. Figure out who the right people are to talk to and how to reach them. Reach out on LinkedIn or other social media sites. Do the research, make friends online. Be professional. Follow their submission process. Stand out and give them a reason to include me on the roster.

  • Merchandising companies. Celebrities get their merch made by merch companies. Contack a merch company and get forwarded to the creative director. You might have to do a project or 2 for n pay to prove yourself, or maybe you'll get the job right away. Make sure your portfolio is incredible.

  • Pros of working with merch companies:

  • Consistent big name band/celeb work. You don't make huge money but its consistent.

  • Cons of working with merch companies:

  • Insane competition. Approval percentages are low and you probably won't know until you see your work in the store. Then you'll have to buy a sample.

  • You can't show off your work. Most of the work is undercover. Leaking designs is a big no no. Could end your career.

  • You get paid slowly.

Tips for attracting big clients:

  • Must have a solid portfolio. Try doing pro bono work for free to prove your worth.

  • Don't be a flake. Answer emails quickly. Over communicate if you have to. Big clients need reliability. Send out friendly emails to wish list clients. Make friends with them and don't spam.

  • When you get you first big client use it to get your next big client. Show everyone one what a great job you did for them.

Legal Stuff

  • Parody

  • Fair use

  • basically, get a lawyer and ask them

  • Work for Hire contracts. Be careful. You could be signing away your right to your work and the ability to claim that you did it. The client might intend on you being invisible. You can't put it on your resume. Seems like a scam. Look out for terms like "in perpetuity" and "work for hire". Remove them

  • Get permission from client before posting anything

  • Theft. If someone teals from me, contact them and ask them to take it down

  • Stock images. Sometimes called lazy by photography. There is a time and place.

Designer Client Relationship

  • under promise and over deliver

  • when proofing the design, provide no more than 3 options

  • keep in touch. Send them flower every now n then

Client and Project Management

  • Basecamp, Active collab, Prooflab (by Go Media)

  • better than just email

  • Good Shirt Design

  • Would I wear this? Does it sell? Is it cost effective?Is the idea solid?

  • How to come up with good ideas:

  • Find inspiration. Look outside of you niche. Found Boom. Why did I get into this in the first place? Who's artwork do I love? Just keep sketching in my sketchbook. Idioms

Design Techniques and Tutorials

10 Step Process for Commissions or Projects

1. Get familiar

2. Determine the style. Aesthetic and vibe

3. Read the brief

4. Assess the budget

5.Concept sketches and get feedback

6. Go digital?or in my case start painting

7. Post proofs and WIP

8.Get feedback, Re-asses budget if required

Fit and Fashion Blank Tees

American Apparel - expensive, exceptional quality

Alternative Apparel - exceptional quality

Bear Apparel - distressed or stained

JS Apparel

Budget Blanks

Tultex (TSC) Apparel Brands


Consistency is key. Cure apparel does it right. Cohesive. custom packages and hand written notes. Be human

5 Tips to Improve Branding

1. What makes me different or unique

2. Rarity. Everyone wants what they cant have

3. Consistency Consistency Consistency

4. Polarize my audience. They should love me or hate me. I want love

5. What else can I do to make my customers experience more enjoyable

Johnny Cupcakes is a good branding example. They take pride in the swag they send with their shirts

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