How to Manage Your Time as an Aspiring Fashion Designer

An emerging designers' biggest challenge is time management. They're not just designers, pattern makers, and illustrators: They’re also in charge of managing their offices, marketing, sales, distribution, press, production … and finances.

Speaking from the heart and from experience, you can’t do it all on your own. But here are some great ways to make it a little easier.

1. There’s a reason Nike says “Just Do It”.

Perfectionism is an ambitious entrepreneur's biggest opponent. Take a deep breath and declare, “It just has to get done, even if it isn’t 100 percent perfect”.

You can always go back and correct something once it's done, but if it lives in your head out of fear of not being perfect enough, then it will just make you anxious and strain your time further.

Begin with a big sheet of paper and write everything down (or keep a running Word document). Just go with the flow… no organization, no planning, just get it out of your brain and onto paper so you can move on.

2. Go SWOT yourself.

SWOT analyses are often done in business settings. First, write out your strengths and weaknesses. Next , decide how to delegate responsibilities so you aren’t focused on your weaknesses and can spend your time wisely instead.

Now, write out your opportunities and your threats. Threats can be personal and external -- if you procrastinate by spending too much time with Facebook for example, figure out how to avoid that. Find ways to maximize your opportunities, which could include using others to help you.

3. Keep a comprehensive calendar.

This calendar will be your time management life source. Make sure the dates are aligned with the fashion calendar specific to your category of merchandise and your channel of distribution.

Your design, marketing, production, and of course the oh-so-important accounting must be taken care of at very specific times throughout the year to keep you, your business, and your time management on task.

Google's calendar function is a good resource because it can be accessed anywhere.

Planning for a whole year can seem daunting, but starting big gives yourself the chance to break the months down by weeks, and then the days down by hours. The fashion calendar is so specific that once you decide your channel of distribution, the year is practically planned out for you, so it's a great place to start.

4. Get into the groove.

Now that you know what needs to get done, you can begin to chart patterns and be able to break tasks into categories. There are typically six main categories for a fashion entrepreneur, and they’re not all business related. You need to find time for yourself, your family, and your friends.

1. Design – pattern making, sketching, research and development.
2. Business Development – networking, planning, sales, marketing, social media.
3. Order Fulfillment – production, shipping, tagging, inventory management.
4. General Office work – accounting, emails, office organization.
5. Personal Development – exercise, reading, hobbies, rest and relaxation.
6. Relationships – friends and family.

Each task is important and will be a priority at different times in the week. Once you see these patterns you’ll be able to block time out each week for each category.

5. Make a grid.

Now that you see your patterns, you can break each week down into daily tasks. Lay out a Monday-through-Sunday grid with a reasonable amount of time, say, beginning at 8 a.m. and ending at 11 p.m. You will need to practice self control and focus on only the tasks at hand when you schedule them, which is the hardest part.

6. Social butterfly or social leech?

Social media is an essential way for you to connect with friends and customers while building your brand. Social platforms are taking over old forms of Internet communication and you can’t afford to not be connected.

Yet how many times have you jumped onto Facebook to post a quick article or share an event, only to be distracted by other updates, articles, and posts? The simple solution is to share from your browser when you’re able and connect your social media using platforms like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite to communicate effectively and efficiently.

7. Thanks, but no thanks.

It’s okay to say no. This is incredibly hard for a new entrepreneur to learn, but the sooner you realize your time is precious, you’ll begin to see where the return on investment comes from. Is that fashion show at the nightclub on Wednesday night really catering to your target market and will it lead to more sales? No? Then, thanks but no thanks…

You're welcome.

Hand-loomed and sewn in Chicago, fashion designer Lara Miller’s work is strongly influenced by the city’s architectural and cultural landscape. Aside from her fashion-design business, Lara serves as the Executive Director of the Chicago Fashion Incubator (CFI) at Macy’s on State Street.

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