How to Become a Personal Stylist
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If you want to become a personal stylist, be prepared for loads of fun as well as tons of challenges. You get to shop for a living, choose outfits and accessories for people, and possibly work with some celebrities and very well-to-do clients. It's not surprising why many creative individuals with a passion for fashion would be drawn to this career choice. On the downside, it's a fashion career that can be difficult to break into. To be a personal stylist, you not only need a keen eye for fashion but also an ability to identify what kind of look would suit someone else's style, figure and personality. In addition, not all your clients would be sweet and congenial. Some of them could be pretty hard to please, insecure with their physical appearances or quite snippy if things don't go their way. Great people skills are something every personal stylist should innately possess or at least strive to have. If you are really determined to pursue this profession, this career guide can help you pave your way to success.
Take Fashion Styling Courses
True, some personal stylists out there never actually went to a fashion school but turned out to be quite successful anyway. Some of them might have managed to do so due to their outstanding talents. Some might have started from zero by working their bottoms off for a fashion magazine as an unpaid intern. And some might just have been lucky. But what if you have no luck, can't afford to work for free, and can't get your talent noticed? Completing a fashion styling program or at least taking some fashion-related classes will give you a great jump start, and allow you to meet other fashion professionals who might be able to help your career in the future. There are many institutions that offer excellent fashion-styling programs, some of which can even be completed online. Don't solely rely on your natural eye for style; a certification from a well-known fashion institute will hold more weight on your resume.
Do an Internship
Although there is no such thing as a "personal stylist internship", many thriving stylists started their career by doing a stylist-assistant internship at a fashion magazine, TV show or runway-show production company. The intern's duties usually include anything from answering phone calls and organizing the wardrobe to running errands and making coffee for the crew. Oftentimes, it is an unpaid position. Even high-end companies tend to pay quite poorly. So why should you do it? It offers you a brilliant opportunity to learn about the fashion industry, observe real professionals and develop your network. To excel in this business, you must always think of your networks as your blood sources. The most successful personal stylists are those who know lots and lots of people in the fashion industry. The people in your network may not hire you themselves but a recommendation to somebody else in their network can be just as valuable in getting your foot in the door.
Get Some Experience in a High-End Retail Business
Working at a retail store is not quite like being a personal stylist, but for stylist wannabes who don't know where to start, it could offer quite a few advantages. First, you'll get to see new lines of clothes coming in, learn what's hot and what's not, as well as exercise your styling skills a little bit. Sure, not all shoppers would care for your opinions, but some might actually appreciate your styling advice or even ask you to pick out the clothes for them. Second, you can improve your people skills by interacting with clients face to face, day in and day out. Lastly, a couple years of experience at a high-end boutique is surely a positive addition to your resume. Be very selective with where to apply for a sales position, though. Not all retail stores are created equal. Working at Walmart or Goodwill Store probably won't do much good for your personal stylist career.
Key Qualifications for a Personal Stylist
- A great eye for fashion
- Knowledge of diverse fashion styles, fabrics, cuts, color schemes and styling tricks
- A tremendous passion for trend spotting
- People skills
Create an Impressive Resume and Portfolio
Your resume should include your education, qualifications, work experience, references, and any fashion-related awards you have achieved. Since this career is in a creative field, it might be wise to be a little playful with your resume's background and layout as long as the design isn't over the top or distracting. As for your porfolio, include only images that you're really proud of. If you have never worked as a personal stylist before, ask your friends whether you can style their look for free, then take "before-and-after" pictures of them. Make sure the images are artistic, high-quality and as diverse in fashion styles as possible.
Find Yourself an Agent
There are many agencies that represent fashion stylists, hair stylists and makeup artists. Having an agent can relieve your burden of self-advertisement quite a bit. The agency's main job is to look for potential clients and book assignments for you, usually with a 10% - 20% commission fee. Some agents would even do other legwork, such as finding you transportation and hotel accommodation, if the client you're seeing happens to live several miles away. And once your work is complete, your agent will also make sure you get paid in full and within the appropriate timeframe according to the agreement. Sounds like a stress-free way to work, doesn't it? Be warned, however, that it won't be easy for new stylists to find a good agency right away.
See How a Real Fashion Stylist Works
Network, Network, Network!
Believe it or not, one of the most effective ways to get your personal stylist career started is to reach out to some alumni from your college who are already working in the fashion industry or some previous coworkers from the company where you used to do your internship. Ask them if they know any clients who are looking for a personal stylist. You may ask for their opinions on your resume and portfolio as well. Try to stay in touch with them without appearing obsessive or too desperate. For example, don't keep calling them many times a week. Instead, just shoot them a friendly email once a month or so. And when you finally get hired, don't forget to send them a nice thank-you note.
Get Your Name Out There
Having your own website to showcase your online portfolio is a great way to build your reputation and attract new clients. In addition, it might also be helpful to include some of your old clients' testimonials on the site. And if you can't stop chatting about fashion in your everyday life, why not do that online by blogging? You can share your knowledge and opinions on certain styles, offer a trend forecast and advice, or blog about whatever topics that will reflect your insight and great sense of fashion. If possible, volunteer to be a guest blogger on others' fashion blogs as well. Once again, never underestimate the power of networking!