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So you think you might be the next Tan France, Petra Fleming or Betty Halbreich? Think you have their same knowledge of fashion, where to shop and what’s hot? Then being a personal shopper might be for you.
Making money as a personal shopper is not as hard as you think if you follow our handy guide.
Fashion’s never out of style and, especially in the age of influencers, the personal shopping business has boomed. When other businesses are struggling, the retail industry is projected to grow by 7%, which is music to the ears of any budding Karla Welch.
Many people think personal shoppers are only for Hollywood stars but the reality is anything but. In a time where medical staff, business people, teachers and everyone is struggling with long hours, it can be tough to find the time to look good and keep up with the latest trends. This is where personal shoppers come in.
TV has helped this trend. From the days of Trinny and Susannah to the meteoric rise of Queer Eye’s Tan France, and countless other makeover programmes, the idea of personal shoppers has become more normalised.
The ‘helping hand’ in the fitting room is positive, pleasing and, surprisingly, 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.
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 they already have ten good work suits, but no glitzy party clothes or casual outfits).
Before the second day, Gloria scouts the high street (having been given a budget) and picks out several outfits and individual pieces. She then takes the client on a whirlwind day of shopping, and who doesn’t want that?
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.”
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.”
However Gloria warns not to undersell yourself. She says: “Starting slowly builds your confidence and allow you to develop your own style of handling clients.”
Make sure you let clients know 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.”
Influencers are lauded for their style. Kim Kardashian, Molly-Mae Hague and Cameron Dallas have slews of followers who take their fashion tips.
It’s essential for any personal shopper to set up an Instagram or Pinterest account to show off their picks and the work they’ve done with clients.
It’s also a good idea to have a website and, because fashion’s so visual, it’s important to get a good web designer so your site reflects your sense of style. Dalibor Kozak at Hands-On Computers comes highly recommended.
Expect to pay around £500 for a standard website and £750 for an interactive one (where potential customers can post queries/comments).
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.”
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:
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.
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.
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 parents of young children aren’t). The stores usually ask for at least two years of experience in clothing retail. Competition is high.
Personal shopping can be a really rewarding profession, financially and socially. You’re shopping with a new best friend and they’re 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.