3 Steps to Becoming a Personal Stylist
Today I want to take a hot second and address the #1 question I get asked via email from wonderful readers just like you: How do you become a personal stylist (or image consultant)?
Side note: I’m going to use the term personal stylist because it is more widely known, even though I go by ‘Image Consultant’. There are many other names for similar services including: wardrobe stylist, fashion consultant, personal shopper, etc. For our purposes here, I are going to use the word personal stylist as blanket term for someone who provides fashion and style services.
Do you remember having to shadow people in middle and high school? The whole idea was that you followed a professional around for the day to see what they did, and gain insight into whether you would enjoy that career or not.
I’m not going to lie, I don’t remember who I shadowed during those times. But I sure know it wasn’t a personal stylist.
In fact, I didn’t even know that was a career option until I was in my twenties…post college. Despite having constant walking proof around me daily, I didn’t realize that most people couldn’t (or didn’t enjoy) dressing themselves.
It sounds really stupid now, but I didn’t realize that this was a career option until people starting stopping me in public places to ask things like…
“Would you go through my closet for me and tell me what looks good and what doesn’t?”
I thought it was a joke (I was a fashion designer at the time, not a wardrobe consultant!) until I realized people were serious.
Since then, I’ve gone on to build a successful personal stylist business all over the country. And here’s the cool thing. If I can do it, so can you. And it doesn’t have to be super scary.
I made a lot of mistakes and also did a lot right during my early days of personal styling, but I was pretty much on my own. No one showed me the ropes. No one gave me advice. I was just winging it.
Here’s my thing. I don’t want you to be in the same position as me.
I don’t want you to just ‘wing it’.
If you want to be a personal stylist, then I want you to walk into this new adventure informed and empowered and ready to kick some booty.
Which brings us to the next part. How do you actually BECOME a personal stylist?
Becoming a personal stylist isn’t like becoming a heart surgeon. There is no exact path to follow in order to become a stylist. With that said, I’ve looked back on my years as a stylist and have boiled down a no-nonsense list of the main 3 steps you need to follow.
Step 1: Get Informed
Before you just go bounding into a new job/side hustle/whatever you want to call it…ask yourself these questions:
- Do I know what it entails?
- Would I actually like performing the services that are most needed in my community?
- How much time do I have? Or, Do I have enough time?
- What have I done in the past that sets me up to be a good personal stylist?
Seriously think about each of the these questions and if you don’t have the answer, find it out!
Here’s something I learned from working all over the country. Different services are more requested in different regions of the US. When I lived in the Midwest, most of my clients were middle aged mothers who still felt young but didn’t want to dress like their teenage daughters. In Flagstaff, Arizona, most of my clients were consultants that traveled a lot and knew they couldn’t wear hiking boots to meetings on the East Coast but had no idea what to wear. I know these sound really specific, but it is true that the bulk of my clients in different places had very specific needs that almost seemed regional (or town based).
Do some research. The easiest way to find out what services people need is by asking them questions like this: What’s your biggest fashion problem? If you could change one thing about your style or clothing, what would it be? What do you hate most about shopping or getting ready in the morning? These questions will lead you directly to the need and allow you to figure out what personal styling in your town would actually entail. Then, you need to decide if it’s something you’d actually enjoy doing. Maybe you don’t like the idea of going through people’s closets. If that’s the main need, you may want to reconsider being a personal stylist.
Before you just jump in, do some research. Ask around. Watch some free webinars. Read blog posts. And most importantly, talk to your future clients! I can’t stress how important the information gathering stage is!!! If you do it right (like, talking to your future clients about the services they might need), you’ll set yourself up for success.
Step 2: Make a plan and get your first clients
I can’t tell you how many people get caught up on step 1 and never make it to step 2. They hem and haw and spend thirty years reading blog posts but never actually DO anything. Now’s the time for action. If you’ve decided that you have the time and you want to start a personal stylist business, don’t doddle. The world needs your fashion help.
The first thing you need to do is come up with an action plan. Look through your research notes. What services are most requested? Who is your target market (aka: the type of people requesting the services)? Who do you want your test subjects to be?
Oh yes. This is very important. Most people think they need all their branding (website, business cards, etc.) done before they start actually working. That’s expensive and, truth be told, not completely necessary. Instead, use this nifty little formula below to start getting clients and making money right away. THEN, once you get money coming in, start investing in a website, business cards, brochures, etc.
Also, don’t forget to put tentative deadlines on your action plan! This will encourage you to keep pushing forward and not get stuck in the research phase. Here’s an example of what your action plan may look like:
I made this very simple action plan in Microsoft Excel (because I’m a giant nerd) but you can do yours on a piece of paper, word document, or anything else. Just so long as you keep yourself accountable!
Step 3: Evaluate, Strengthen, and Brand your business
The beauty of having friends and family as test subjects is that you can get honest feedback from them without wasting any money. I’m a big branding person, so I literally created a website, ordered business cards, made coupons, set up social media accounts, and did a million other (not so cheap things) before I even had my second client. This wasn’t a totally bad thing, but looking back, it wasn’t necessary. I wasted so much time changing the website and print materials when I decided to change up services. I also wasted a decent amount of money on business cards/advertising that ended up being outdated because my business had altered directions.
If I had done my research first and listened to what people wanted (instead of providing what I thought they needed) and started with several close friends and family members BEFORE branding, I would have saved so much time and money.
Learn from my mistakes. Get out and talk to people before you start all the branding stuff. This not only saves you time and money but it also does something very important: it primes your audience.
Yeah, I said primes. You know how you prime an engine before you start it? Doing your research helps prime your future clients. It helps them get ready for the awesomeness you’re going to bring with your personal styling business.
Think about it. If you just walk up to your Aunt and announce yourself as a personal stylist (here’s my business card Aunt LouLou) and ask her if you can freshen up her wardrobe she’s going to have a lot of questions, and rightfully so, some hesitation. Compare that this scenario: You are thinking about becoming a personal stylist. You contact Aunt LouLou and explain that you are considering this and would like to ask her some questions. While talking to her about her fashion problems, you learn she feels like her wardrobe is in a rut. You then propose helping her ‘freshen up her wardrobe’ and get out of the rut in exchange for recommendations if she’s happy with your work. How much more likely is she to say yes? Like, 10 fold…because she’s been primed. You already made her understand her need and even talk about it out loud. Psychologically, this makes her acknowledge her own wardrobe shortcoming and much more likely to accept your solution (aka: services).
Priming your Test Subjects (I’ll refer to them as clients) can also have these benefits:
- Clients will associate personal styling with fashion help instead of having no idea what it means.
- Clients are very likely to talk with their friends before/during/after your services and thus priming the next round of people to be recommended to you.
- Clients are more likely to do more for you (whether that be paying more, recommending more, giving you networking advice, helping with your business, etc.) when they feel a problem of theirs is being solved.
(Side note: If you’re a marketing person, doing research and talking one on one with future clients- what I am calling priming here- can also be thought of as making hot leads out of warm leads)
Once you’ve primed your test subjects and performed services on them, it’s important to take a minute to evaluate. Evaluate what they thought about the service and their insight into making it better. Also, evaluate how YOU felt during the service. Did you like it? Did you hate it? Think of it as one big test run. If you don’t enjoy being a stylist it’s easy to back out now. You have pretty much nothing, except time, invested. If you hate it, leave it. If you love it, keep working through your action plan and start branding your new business!!
And that’s it. That’s the best way to start.
I know there’s so much more that goes into starting your own personal stylist business, but this really is it in a nutshell.
We tend to make things too complicated, but these three steps are the easiest and best way to start a personal stylist business today. (Literally!)
With that said, if you’re interested in learning more about the basics of starting your personal stylist business, check out this webinar I recorded for you.
It’s one of my most popular webinars and it’s totally free to watch.
In it, we discuss what a personal stylist IS, what services you can provide, how to figure out how much time you have, and a more in-depth discussion of getting clients using the model above.