Are you stylish? Do you dress well? Do you know how to put an outfit together? Have you got a background in fashion? Do you always know which shops have which clothes? Do you check the high street weekly to see what stock’s in, what’s sold out or what’s selling like hot cakes?
If this is you, did you know you can make money from it? No? Then follow our guide on how to be a personal shopper!
- Is this for real?
- Who can become a personal shopper?
- Getting started
- 5 ways to get ahead as a personal shopper
- Work for a store or go it alone?
- Seal the deal as a personal shopper
The personal shopping business has boomed in recent years. Accurate figures are hard to find because many personal shoppers work freelance, for cash and only intermittently. But, judging by the media and anecdotal evidence, it’s a profession that’s growing.
It used to be something only Hollywood stars did – they went shopping with a personal stylist who had pre-picked ‘looks’ from preferred designers.
But now, it’s within reach of everyone: time-poor executives, housewives who aren’t up with the latest trends but still want to look good, or simply women (and men) who need a bit of help to pick the right clothes.
TV has helped this trend. Trinny and Susannah, Nicky Hambleton-Jones on ‘Ten Years Younger’ and countless other makeover programmes have demystified the process.
The ‘helping hand’ in the fitting room is Positive, Pleasing and Pound-saving. Not making all those expensive mistakes can save you a surprising amount of money – although obviously there is an initial outlay to employ the shopper.
the day to day
London based stylist Gloria Nelson works as a personal shopper and charges £250 for two days. On day one she meets the client, discusses their lifestyle and goes through their wardrobe. She finds out what the client needs and highlights items that can think about selling on (maybe she already has ten good work trouser suits, but no glitzy party clothes or casual outfits).
Then, in the lull before the second day, Gloria scouts the high street (having been given a budget) and picks out several outfits and individual pieces. The second full day with the client is spent shopping! She says, “some outfits work instantly and others – well, you have to try them on. They may work or they may not. I have seen clients coming from the Middle East to spend £30,000 per season, and at the other end of the scale, some people want to spend £500 – plus they want ten items for that. Knowing how to work within your client’s budget is key.”
Gloria says: “No formal qualifications are necessary but I would say a fashion background is essential. I spent 20 years in clothing retail, plus I did some buying. Working the shop floor gives you the skills to know how to handle people. People skills, working one-to-one with clients, is almost the most important thing here.”
give your family and friends a makeover
Everyone has a network of friends and family and they are the perfect guinea pigs for your fashion experiments. Gloria advises: “Start by doing it for free, then charge a little for friends of friends and soon you’ll get your business going by word of mouth.”
Gloria warns, however, don’t undersell yourself: “starting slowly builds your confidence and allow you to develop your own style of handling clients.”
Stores don’t pay commission to personal shoppers. Gloria says, “It’s important the client knows you’re not getting kickbacks – you’re not pushing the most expensive items just because you will get more commission.”
1. Get a website
It’s a good idea to have a website, so you can direct clients there and show off the before and after images of your makeovers.
Expect to pay around £500 for a standard website and £750 for an interactive one (where potential customers can post queries/comments etc).
2. Get business cards printed
Gloria says: “Even if you’re just starting off working for friends, business cards make you look professional. Personal shopping is a creative profession so choose something colourful, visual and stylish. Try Vistaprint, which has many hundreds of reasonably-priced designs, catalogued according to the type of image you want to portray.”
3. Do a course
A course can help you decide if this is really the profession for you, but an extensive fashion background is more important.
Gloria states, “the one I did at Styleaware (£350 for two days) gives you professional photographs of your work, which can then go on your website or business literature. Some courses are angled at becoming a stylist for fashion photographic shoots too – so that could then be another string to your bow.”
While Styleaware no longer offer such qualifications, here are a few recommended short courses to get you ahead as a personal shopper:
- Fashion Retail Academy – a 3 day Introduction to Personal Styling (£340)
- British College of Professional Styling – a 12 week online diploma in Professional Photo, Film, TV & Personal Styling (£410)
- London College of Fashion – a 5 day course in Principles of Personal Fashion Styling 1 (£695)
- London College of Style – a one week diploma in Personal Styling (£1,800)
4. Get your colours done
If you haven’t heard of them, they categorise people into colour types depending on their skin tone, hair and eye colour. Understanding colour types is a great advantage in personal shopping.
Consider doing one of these courses, even if it’s only for your own background knowledge.
be a colour consultant
Incidentally – there’s also money to be made if you want to become a consultant for one of these companies. Your income is generated from fees for consultations plus sales of their cosmetics and accessories. Your earnings are directly related to the amount of work you take on.
Find out about becoming a Colour Me Beautiful consultant here. Or do the same with House of Colour here.
5. Get listed
Register on a FREE Directory of Personal Shoppers such as FreeIndex. Then, when potential customers Google ‘personal shopper London’, your ad will come up.
Many department stores (and airports) employ personal shoppers and this is an option if you are free to work full-time (although many mums of young children aren’t). The stores usually ask for at least two years experience in clothing retail. Competition is high.
- Starting salaries are £18 – 22k although this can rise to £30k with experience (more in London).
- If you prefer a steady job to the uncertainty of self employment, this could be for you. When you work for a store, you also get commission on the items you sell and this is another nice boost to your salary.
Personal shopping can be a really rewarding profession, financially and socially. You’re shopping with a new best friend and she’s paying – what’s not to like? If you have a flair for style, are experienced in fashion and a good self-starter with organisational and people skills, why not give it a go?
BUT what happens if a client wants something that you think looks dreadful?
Gloria is diplomatic and always says the same thing: “If you love it, AND it’s in the right size, you must have it.”
Have you followed this career path? If you have experience as a stylist, share your tips on how to become a personal shopper in the comments section below.