Making the Move: Transition from the 9-5 to Running a Fashion Label

It’s almost tax return season! I’m sure you aren’t stuck for ideas on how to spend that extra cash, but here are some suggestions:

  1. Book that European holiday (or a retreat at Byron – it’ll cost about the same amount)
  2. Put down a house deposit (then again, you’ve got the rest of your life to do that)
  3. Start that creative business so you can finally quit your 9-5 job.

If the little voice in the back of your head refuses to shut up about how great it’s going to be when you have your own fashion label, when you can work to the beat of your own drum, be creative and work with like-minded people and look forward to going to work every day because you’re passionate about what you do, it’s time to get serious. It’s scary. I get it. It’s easy to procrastinate. It’s easy to focus on the cons rather than the pros. It’s hard to think about leaving that comfortable (boring?) safety net where you clock in at 9 and out at 5. And let’s get real…

90% of start-ups fail. The good news is: 10% succeed. And you can be one of them.

Following your dream to start a fashion label will be rewarding, but you’re going to have to put in the hard work and burn lots of that midnight oil. Before you hit send on your resignation email, here’s some advice on how to make the transition from the 9-5 to the exciting whirlwind of start-up life.

Step 1: Make a considered decision

Making it in the fashion world is going to take some talent and expertise and, of course, a great idea – but it’s also going to take passion and a whole lot of courage. Taking the plunge isn’t easy if you’re walking away from a secure job and comfortable life, but ask yourself if pursuing your dream is more important than job security. It’s a heavy question, but you need to ask yourself if you’ve got what it takes. The people who love you are going to have strong opinions about your decision – they could be either for it or against it. While having their support and encouragement helps, they aren’t the ones who will be awake at 3am stressing about cashflow or late orders. If they advise against you following your dreams, it might be harder to rip off the safe-life band-aid. This is where your courage and determination comes in. Work on your idea, back it up with a solid business plan, save so you have some capital, and keep dreaming until you can’t stand to spend one more second working to realise someone else’s dreams. 

Step 2: Learn to love 2-minute noodles 

Starting your own fashion label doesn’t have to break the bank – you might be making $50 T-shirts – but you’ll need stock and that requires cash. If you sell out of $50 T-shirts you’ll need to order more stock, but by this time you probably also have to pay freelancers, replenish supplies and fork out for your internet bill, and that requires cashflow. One of the most common reasons start-ups fail is because they run out of cash. It’s likely you’ve saved up a bit of a nest egg to finance your dream business, but things are going to have to change once you kiss your secure monthly, salary superannuation and annual bonus goodbye. I hope you like 2-minute noodles because smashed avo is officially off the menu…for a while, at least.

If you’re not good with budgets and book-keeping employ someone who is. Having a clear idea of profit and loss is important. A business owner should know their financials any time they are asked. Do yourself a favour and check out the online programs available at CASH  It’s for people who want to do great things with their money AND still have a life.

Step 3: Hang out in the safety net as long as you need to

Just because you’ve got talent, a great idea and people who support you all lined up doesn’t mean it’s time to cut the cord and jump. Think of your current job as a parachute – you’re still making your way towards the target, but you’re moving towards it more slowly and safely this way. Many successful start-up owners will fondly recount burning the midnight oil after arriving home from their 9-5 job. They had a dream, but knew that in order to fulfil their goals, they’d need to hang out in that safety net and have regular paycheques coming in for that little bit longer.

Step 4: Shed your corporate skin

So, you’re ready to type up that resignation letter and kiss your corporate job goodbye. Take stock of what you’ve learned during your time in the corporate world: which skills will transition and which should be left behind? If you were a person who climbed the corporate ladder and had people and resources at your disposal, it can be a little harder to adjust.

Massive budgets? Gone. Company credit card? Nope! Having people ask ‘how high?’ when you say jump? Definitely not. You’re going to be spending your own cash, and engaging with freelancers who will want to negotiate, not be micromanaged when they’re carrying out a $100 website tweak. An easy way to get ahead is to treat people the way you want to be treated: value their time, support, advice and resources, and let them know you appreciate them. It will come back to you in spades.

Step 4: Be prepared for ups and downs

If it was easy, everyone would be running their own successful business. Success doesn’t happen overnight, and there are going to be bumps in the road. Some will be small, some will seem like Mt. Everest. Here are my 4 watertight ways to prepare for the worst:

  • Seek out a mentor: having someone who can anticipate bumps and help navigate a way around them is invaluable You can talk to us about mentorship or we could recommend someone locally for you… chances are we’ve worked with them before!
  • Surround yourself with a supportive team: if you need to circle the wagons, make sure you implicitly trust who’s driving them – Look into platforms like Business Chicks or  find a group on meetup
  • Keep learning: you don’t know everything! Don’t be afraid to admit when something isn’t your area of expertise or a problem has cropped up that you’re unfamiliar with. Use your resources to learn and grow. Connect with like-minded business owners through Fashion Equipped – The SYFB programme will guide you through business strategy, branding, product development, sourcing, sales, marketing and funding. If you’re looking to take it a step further and do an accelerated degree – Bachelor of Branded Fashion Design focuses on the design, production and branding of garments. Throughout course you will learn how to create and brand a range of design solutions, and use the latest software to communicate your product design ideas.
  • Above all, don’t panic. No start-up was an overnight success, no matter how much positive press you read. – To quote Samantha Wills “It took me precisely 12 years to become an overnight success.” It takes hard work, determination, grit and a serious ability to get up, dust yourself off and try again when the going gets tough.

Step 5: Make deadlines

Keep yourself accountable. If you’re coming from a corporate background, chances are you have experiences with setting goals and timelines. This is definitely a skill you want to transfer over to your new life running a fashion label. Create a timeline and stick to it – make sure your team has access to dates and deadlines and ensure you communicate these clearly to freelancers or other contractors. It’s your dream – make sure it runs on time. We use ASANA for full visibility with collaborators and teams.

Here’s some more helpful resources that we recommend looking at before you take the plunge! The Business of Fashion If you are looking for a definitive answer to “what if I quit my job and when for it, – what would it look like?” then invest 1 day with me for a 1:1 Start Up MasterClass in these sessions we don’t beat around the bush! We take a look at everything you have ahead of you, estimate on your styles and develop a costing projection so that you can see a clear path ahead before determining if this gig is for you or not. If you need to hear extra warning – take a look at this post


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