It's quite daunting when you think about starting a new career, especially in a field where you don't have formal education qualifications in - how do you gain knowledge, how do you set up your business, what training do you need, what about work experience...? But more and more women are setting up their own businesses in a field they are passionate in because they need flexibility around families, or want to be recognised for the effort they put in, or don't want to be constrained by a fixed salary when they know they can do better.
I was first introduced to personal stylist Melissa Murrell last year when we met for lunch to talk about her upcoming styling academy - you can read all about Melissa and our interview here. Well, a year down the line and the Melissa Murrell Personal Styling Academy has had several courses and I attended one of the first courses Melissa hosted.
The personal styling course is stretched over 3 days and the location changes due to course demand - I spent time learning about style near Marlborough, Wiltshire. The course will offer hands on training during which you will learn everything you need to know about styling real women. This is an important point, because this course isn't about learning how to work in fashion, but rather styling real women with different body shapes, sizes and budgets. It teaches you how to build your clients confidence, disguise any insecurities and provide a personalised styling experience which suits their lifestyle.
As well as learning about the different body shapes and how to best style them, I found the second half of the course which was based around admin and marketing the most useful. I am familiar with style, I know fashion - but what I didn't know is how to set up my styling business and start working. Knowing what to charge, which receipts to keep, and working out petrol charges was mundane but so useful! It's the little things like that which for me made the course stand out - and the fact that course numbers are limited so you get to spend time with Melissa one on one is great because you can ask questions and let her help you with suggestions tailored to you, not a room full of 30 people.
I then also experienced what styling was really like by coming to a styling session with Melissa and her real life clients. It was scary to style the first time, but clients were lovely (and honest about things they liked and didn't like!) and my confidence quickly built. Seeing clients and how a stylist works with them is experience which you need to have in order to feel confident about how you behave with clients.
Melissa built her business around family life, so she knows that getting the balance between work and life is hard but necessary. And running a styling business gives you exactly that - provided you have an eye for style, and an approachable personality!
The next styling academy course is being held at the McArthur Glen Designer Outlet in Swindon from 22nd-23rd May - so if you're thinking of dipping your feet into the business of personal styling, this is the perfect opportunity to invest in personalised training. I completed the Styling Academy last summer, and it was a short time after that course I made the move to set up my personal styling business Dalry Rose Styling and soon after was able to leave my 9-5 office job to focus on my own business.
Here are my top tips at how to start your own styling business:
1. Invest in training. Even if you know about fashion and have an eye for style, I gained confidence by learning about body shapes, psychology of a client, admin, finance and most importantly work experience with a professional. I started my business with confidence because I knew I had learnt what I needed.
2. Create your brand - make sure your brand speaks to you clients and represents you. You can find professionals in your area who help with brand design. You need to think about website, social, printed materials, invoices, admin sheets...
3. Set up a website. We live in a digital age and presence on digital platforms are so important - how else are people going to find you? You need to build a website anew get onto social media - try Facebook for local reach, Instagram for exposure and outfit inspiration, and Pinterest to drive traffic to your site.
4. Print flyers, and put those flyers in windows of shops, ask local hairdressers and beauty salons to display them and remember to hand them out to anyone who shows an interest in a personal styling session!
5. Join local business networking groups - these are brilliant for promoting your services locally and making friends along the way.
6. Hire an accountant. If you're anything like me, get a professional to run your books and help you with all the legalities of running your own business.
7. Practice on friends and family - before you start booking clients, get your confidence up by practicing on friends and family, doing wardrobe restyles, personal shopping and whatever else you would like to offer.
8. Set up an email list - this will keep your customers alert of any promotions you are doing, and keep them coming back for more!