Are You a Designer Swamped with Work?! Then You Should Consider Outsourcing…

Hello Everyone!!!  Been quite A WHILE!!!!!  BUT here I am!  :-D… as always… ready to talk about one issue or the other.  And today’s topic is about something that has been heavy on my mind for about 2 weeks now…. an issue which designers always face but refuse to do anything about – huge workloads!  
So yes business is great!  The orders are pouring in!  Your work is fab!  You are getting the referrals and the media attention – BUT suddenly you find that you are unable to cope with the workload.  
It happens to everyone!  Even I faced it.  Anything that can go wrong, usually does go wrong when making an outfit!  
Soon enough your referrals are accompanied by “she is very good o but…. hmmnnn…. she does not deliver on time”  OR  “her work is FAB but just don’t give her anything you need anytime soon”!  
And before you know it, you have a not so great reputation!
Just last week, a student of mine was ranting and raving at her tailor for not delivering on her job (actually she had not even started it).  So she decided to make another outfit for  party she had that evening herself.  
Good enough the work started out fine – as it always does… and then things just started going wrong for some strange reason.  And before she knew it, that 2-in-1 number that was meant to have been completed by 3pm for that hawt party of hers, finally got completed at 7pm – with help from someone else!  [Needless to say that she now has a new-found respect for her tailor].
So yes it does happen to everyone.  If that had been a customer, she would not have delivered.  But what I respected was the fact that she realised that she needed help and screamed for help!
Which is what I am talking about today… getting help from someone else!  Simply put in other words… outsourcing!  Yup!  Collaborating with other designers…
Now I am not talking about full-blown outsourcing like you would see in major business textbooks etc – because of course there are pros and cons to outsourcing.  But I am talking about a situation where you have a lot of work but refuse to pass the job on to another designer to help relieve your workload.  
Of course I had always known designers around here preferred to suffer in silence than work with each other.   But I really became aware of how bad this mindset was when a participant at one of my FECs asked me what to do in a month where she did not have a lot of work and her tailors worked on a commission basis.
It was a tough one but the easiest solution to me was simply to outsource her services to other designers who needed the help.  In my mind, since I was aware that many designers were constantly “under the table” with work, I thought it would be an easy solution to the problem.  After all, a designer’s top priority should be to get the job delivered to her customer by all means necessary.
So what did I do?  I simply put up a message on Blackberry asking people who were swamped with work to let me know so I could refer them to her.  
Did I get the pings?  Well yes I did!  Quite a few of them!  
Were they interested in outsourcing their work?  Errr…. that was a totally different story… What they wanted was a tailor or machinist to work with them in their production centres!  I could not understand it!  You have too much work to handle yet you are unwilling to pass on work to the next person.  
Of course I had to ask my students the next day why designers were unwilling to work with other designers around here and this was their take on it:
1.  They probably do not want to share their profits or customers.  Why give someone else my business?
Huh?!  Seriously?  How about losing that business altogether if you consistently fail to deliver to your customers.  
2.  Their charges may be higher, resulting in charging the customer higher.
Well… possibly.  But chances are you have already agreed on a price with your customer.   The only reason you need the help is to help deliver on your promise.  For me I would simply state my offer and if she is willing, fine, if not, we shake hands and move on.
But then again, if I was in this situation, knowing me, if I was the designer with the work, I would probably cut my losses to save my face; and if I was the person with a slow month, I would charge just enough to cover my costs and not expect to make the profit just to keep my tailors engaged so I don’t lose them.  Everyone here knows how hard it is to find good machinists.
But of course when we both have a good relationship, we can revisit the figures and find a mid-way that is comfortable enough for both of us.   
3.  They are probably not sure of how competent the designer is so would not want to risk it.
Ah… this I can totally understand.  That can simply be rectified by testing them first before entrusting them with your work.  After all, even under your very nose, your tailor can still mess up your work.
4.  They might abandon your work when their own customers come knocking.
Very valid point.  That is where agreements come in and where they default, there will be penalties.
5.  The designer might steal their design.
Ha!  Is this a joke?  Everyone steals everyone else’s designs.  NO that does not make it right but chances are you will never find out anyway.  It even happens to the biggest global companies who produce in Asia.  
Besides, before you jump to that conclusion, note that most designers are influenced by the same things.  Chances are she may already have that design.  If I were the other designer, I would show her that design (if I have it in my portfolio) before I accept the job.
6.  They might lose their customer to that designer if their work is better than theirs.
Oh puh-lease like seriously?!  If this is your mindset, then it is just shocking!  First, how would the person even know who the customer is?  Then 2nd, get over yourself.
There were other reasons but these were the only ones I could remember.
I personally think the Nigerian Fashion Industry would be a much better place if people chose to work together rather than step on each other.  I just read an article today which I though was pretty amazing about a new company, Tinker Tailor, who customise designer dresses.  You can read about it at the following link:  
I know our Industry is not mature enough to handle this type of collaboration, especially since many of us are just starting out and want to protect ourselves and also because of integrity issues, but the global industry has really gone far in terms of collaboration.  
During my internship, even though the company I worked with had a huge factory, they still outsourced some of their work to other smaller factories.  Similarly, when I visited China, I found out that despite the stiff competition, factories still outsourced their work to other factories just to meet up with their orders.  Which is the way it should be really?  Establishing a relationship with people who can help move your business forward.  
I personally believe that outsourcing will not only make life much easier for you but if you do your maths, you might even find out that it might reduce your costs.  But the biggest advantage to me of outsourcing done right is the ability to deliver on your jobs and have a good night’s sleep as well.
If you are a designer swamped with work, do let me know so I can hook you up with others that can help relieve your stress!
Cheers everyone!
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