Cover of Chi-Town Chinos instruction booklet
Are all makers some sort of odd mix of Qué Será, Será and Type-A? Or is that just me?
Today, I want to talk about outsourcing–that is, paying someone else to help with pieces of your business. I want to be very transparent here because I DO NOT do it all, and I do not want any of you thinking that I do. I’m primarily a stay-at-home mom, and my design work falls pretty low on the totem pole most days (as in, if I can get a total of 30-60 minutes of work done per day, that’s considered success).
In July of 2015, I decided I would sell sewing patterns. Immediately following, I signed up for Lauren Dahl’s Pattern Workshop class. That taught me everything I needed to know about using Illustrator and InDesign to digitize my patterns, tools to help with grading within Illustrator, how to create instructional illustrations, cutting layouts, and determining yardage for each view/size, and how to lay out an instruction manual. The course is worth every penny and then some.
But you know what? The learning curve is steep and the hours I’ve invested to get to the launch of my first pattern are in the hundreds. A lot of time was spent making decisions on how I wanted things to look and creating all of my templates.
But what about outsourcing some of the pieces? In the past, I’ve done everything myself. I think that was mostly a result of me being afraid to let go of some of the control, not having much money to invest up front, and not being able to find the right people to trust. But at what point are you hurting yourself and your business by not investing some dollars to outsource to a professional?
Enter Elise Epp. I contacted several designers last fall about redesigning and setting up a shop on my existing website. I needed a complete rebrand. I had designed a logo and had some specific ideas, but the thought of rebuilding everything myself made me want to curl up in a ball. I *hate* web design stuff. As soon as I saw Elise’s portfolio, I knew we would be a great match. Her design aesthetic is everything I love; it’s clean, modern, polished, she does clean/modern fashion illustration, AND she sews…so knowing she understands MY work made her an easy choice.
I immediately hired her to:
- create a full brand pack around the logo I had already created
- rebrand my website/set up a shop
Alina Sewing + Design Co. Style Guide by Elise Epp
She took my logo and then perused my Pinterest boards to get a sense of my style and the colors I liked. By February/March, she had a complete brand pack and web site for me. Walking away with a complete brand pack (she created a few different logo and tagline options, then saved them all for print and web) and style guide (she decided on fonts, colors, and rules for when to use what), gave me a huge advantage when it came time for me to make decisions.
In April, I was driving across the country with my kids by myself to visit my mom, and I had Abby Glassenberg’s podcast playing almost the entire time. [Side note: if you don’t already subscribe to this podcast, you should. It’s informative, well-produced, and inspiring.] I don’t remember which episode it was, but one of her guests was talking about outsourcing and said something along the lines of, “The CEO of Google isn’t worried about the new logo graphic on Google’s home page every day–no, that’s someone else’s job–and the CEO’s job is to run things.” (I am paraphrasing!)
Chi-Town Chinos Instruction Booklet, via Elise Epp
Upon hearing that, I knew the right choice would be to hire Elise again. This time, I paid her to set up a template for my instruction booklet (one that I can re-use again for each new pattern), and to illustrate the step-by-step instructions for the Chi-Town Chinos. I handled the illustrations for cutting layouts, how to make a muslin, etc, but left the step-by-step pieces to her. Elise knew me, knew what I liked, knew (helped create!) my brand, and was the PERFECT person for me to outsource layout and illustrations to. I still spent a lot of time communicating with her about my vision, expectations, and taking step-by-step photos for her to work from, but having that piece outsourced freed up brain power for me to work on other things.
Hiring Elise accomplished several important things for me:
- Complete brand and style guide.
- Strong and clear branding overall…
- …Which carried over into my instruction booklet.
- Ultimately, it helped me get the product out sooner.
These were VITALLY important to me. As a new designer, I knew I had the task of proving myself ahead. Having an incredibly clean, well-designed, and well-illustrated instruction booklet was of the utmost importance in chipping away at people’s concerns about buying from a new designer.
All of that to say–outsourcing isn’t a magic cure-all. It requires a lot of communication and overseeing and making decisions (and don’t forget the dollars invested!). But, if you can find the right person for the job (90% of the battle), you can be freed up to work on other things, and may even be able to get your work out there sooner. Elise has been worth EVERY PENNY. I am still working to recoup my investment in hiring her, but I have no doubt that I’ll get there in another month or two. I’m so proud of the product we created together, and it’s set me up to pitch it to a few big companies with confidence.
From here–I have the option to do future instruction illustrations all myself, or I can hire Elise to do it (actually I already hired her to do the next one!). I may bring that piece in-house for future patterns as I become more efficient in Illustrator, but Elise was incredibly important in my getting this far this quickly.
So, what do you think? Do you outsource? Do you do everything yourself? Do you need help with a few pieces here and there? Have you successfully (or unsuccessfully) outsourced in the past?
Pssst–This is Elise! Wearing Chi-Town Chinos that she made!! You’ll have to ask her what it was like using sewing pattern instructions that she illustrated herself, but I’m betting it was kind of awesome.
She talked about designing my web site on her blog here. She blogged about designing and illustrating the instructions here. She did a Q & A with me here (lots of interesting info on how I got started as a pattern designer).