This is not a strictly sustainable-based question, but as hopefully there are lots of other smaller ethical fashion companies on here, your similar position will mean you can advise!
Do you send out free samples upon request?
Our collections are made to order, so we do not have spare samples around: meaning we have to get each made up individually at the factory at a higher cost than a single item in a larger batch: ideally we would charge a fee for samples, but I don't want to alienate potential buyers if this is not usual.
I don't come from a fashion background, so would love to get some advice on what is usual practice for small companies in this case.
You shouldn't need to give away free samples. If a buyer is interested then they will be happy to make an appointment (either they visit you or visa-versa) at which they can view your whole collection and offer you the chance to discuss potential orders. If you have buyers insisting on you sending samples then make up some samples that you can send out and request them to be returned, or paid for. In addition it's fairly standard practice these days to set up a website, albeit a fairly basic one, so that buyers can check out pics and details of your goods conveniently and quickly. Good luck!