Freelance Jewelry Designer:

How to Become a Jewelry Designer
for an Established Brand

© by Anne Rush; all rights reserved.

After 20 years of designing fashion jewelry in the corporate world, I have come full circle.

Last night I spent seven wonderful hours designing for MYSELF! I find myself in a unique situation of discovering my personal style again after years of interpreting my style for specific consumers.

However, as I read articles and advice on how to launch a web based jewelry business it occurs to me that there may be some very talented independent designers out there looking to do the reverse – and break into the industry by freelancing for large corporations.

I can tell you quite honestly that real, fresh talent and ideas are in high demand.

The big question would be how to get in the door and present yourself in a way that would win the job.

How to Get Started
as a Freelance Jewelry Designer

Here are the top 10 tips from a former Vice President of Jewelry Design:

Go to the department stores
and look at the brands they have.

Keep in mind that some “brands” are private label (created by the department store), and others are not.

The big players are Liz Claiborne – which also does the Monet line, Juicy Couture, and Lucky Brand. Others are J Lo, Kenneth Cole, Miriam Haskell, Anne Klein and Givenchy. These are just a few that have real estate in stores like Macy’s.

Your goal is to be able to understand what brand you may like to design for, as well as to be informed on the playing field.

Prepare a resume and portfolio.

The resume should include any training and skills you possess, as well as if you have your own line.

Your portfolio can be any combination of things that can clearly and creatively relate your ideas and skills. The ability to sketch is important, but not always imperative.

If you can’t sketch or do technical drawings, try creating some visual collages of magazine pictures to show what trend you were inspired by, and then bring a few 3-dimensional designs to show how you created the product to go with it. Put them in a photo album to look professional.

The goal is to show that you can take an idea and transform it into real product. If you can make models or sculpt, be sure to say so!

Do not dump
hundreds of pieces of tangled product
on the desk in front of you.

Find some way to edit to your best pieces – and a clean, simple way to show them.

Offer to do a trial project.

You can start out with a test-drive project, based on their direction, to give both of you an idea of what you can bring to them, and whether you like working with the company.

Some freelancers charge by the project,
most by the hour.

In my experience most new students out of school charge about $20.00 to $30.00 per hour.

I have paid seasoned, mature designers with corporate experience up to $125.00 per hour – but mostly have found that anywhere from $40.00 to $55.00 dollars is usually reasonable if the individual works with speed and creativity.

Learn to ask the right questions
when taking a job.

This will take practice. Ask for any visual information that the client can share. Ask how many designs they are looking for and within what price range.

Ask if they have time to show you how the other designers submit their work – and if you are brand new, see if they have time to show you some of their best selling looks so you can be sure to do some fresh variations of them.

Submit a good range of work.

Do not create variations of a single look.

Make sure you do hoops, drops, buttons, and chandeliers. Create pendants, torsades, draped necks, chains, beads, chokers. Make sure to do bangles, flex bracelets, stretch bracelets and charm bracelets.

Offering variety makes you worth the money.

Charge for fewer hours
at the beginning.

When I first began freelancing I was a bit slower, so sometimes I would charge for fewer hours to make me look like I did a lot more in less time. It worked!

Eventually I would get to know the client and be able to charge for only the hours I put in.

Overdeliver if possible.

Be sure to include everything that was requested – and if you can, submit any new ideas to show your creativity.

Work on-site.

If you can possibly work on-site, it’s a great way to meet other designers who you can add to your network and learn some tricks of the trade from.

Contact the right people
to get started

You can call Information for the phone numbers of the companies you are interested in and get the receptionist. Then tell him/her that you are a freelance designer and would like to speak with the Design Director.

Also, you can contact Human Resources if they do not connect you directly and submit your resume and photos of your work to them and they will be sure to pass it on to the right people.

Best of luck!


Author Anne Rush of Savvy Anne was most recently the Vice President of Jewelry Design for Liz Claiborne Inc. in New York City, with 20 years of experience as a designer and design director for brands such as Monet, Kenneth Cole, Sigrid Olsen, and Liz Claiborne. She is currently pursuing the development of her own line as well as consulting for the industry.

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