An outfit can have a larger impact on your day than you might think. Feeling good in what you’re wearing can boost your confidence and showcase what makes you unique. 

But not everyone has an eye for fashion, or a sharply developed sense of their own taste. That’s where a personal stylist comes in. These talented professionals help their clients envision and achieve their fashion goals.

What a Personal Stylist Does

To create looks that thrill, personal stylists expertly pair outfits with accessories and often guide their clients towards hairstyle and makeup choices. Ensuring that their clients look and feel amazing is what a personal stylist’s job is all about. As a personal stylist, you’ll regularly work with clients one-on-one to help grow their confidence through bold, on-trend fashion choices.

How To Become a Personal Stylist

If you love fashion, offering guidance and consistently find yourself drawn to more creative careers, you can take one of several different paths to become a personal stylist. 

Education Requirements

Though personal stylists don’t always need a college degree, professionals in this field often have a fashion or merchandising degree, or other post-secondary education. Some clients may expect you to bring a fashion degree to the table, while others may only be seeking an exciting portfolio, good eye for fashion, or a recommendation of your services from someone they trust. 

Experience is Everything 

No degree, no worries! You can also join the field by taking a personal styling course, learning about fashion color theory, or by apprenticing under someone established in the field. You can even find retail stores that will train employees in personal styling on the job. 

A blonde woman wearing a white skirt with flowers, a blue and white striped long-sleeved shirt and carrying a hot pink clutch smiles in front of a blue brick wall. To the left of the image is a graphic that reads “What pattern works with stripes?”
As a personal stylist, you’ll need to know how to mix patterns and colors to create unique looks for your clients. Still from Skillshare Class Fashion 101 | Learn Design & Styling- Textures, Shaping, & More! by Veronika Lipatova.

Bringing Home the Bacon

Your salary will vary depending on where you live. For example, a stylist living in Los Angeles may be able to charge higher rates than one based in a smaller city. In Los Angeles, personal stylists are everywhere, and awareness of what they do and why it’s important is high. The pool of clients looking for a personal stylist there will likely be larger than it would be in, for example, Boise, Idaho. That’s not to say the citizens of Boise wouldn’t benefit from a personal stylist’s services. You just might have to do a little extra work to let the community know who you are and what you do. 

Other influencing factors include how many clients you take on, whether you work full or part-time and where your rates are set. Freelancers set their own rates and are responsible for finding and retaining clients. Or, you could join an established company and work with their compensation plan while benefiting from an existing client portfolio. As of November 2022, the average personal stylist salary is about $54,000 a year.

Freelance Personal Stylist Rates

Just like  salary, a personal stylist’s freelance rates will differ from stylist to stylist. In the early days of your career, you may find rates as low as $13 per hour are the best way to bring in new clients. As you gain more experience and build a book of loyal regulars, you may find yourself able to set rates at $50 per hour, or even higher. A stylist who dresses clients for the Oscars each year is likely to have an hourly rate in the hundreds at minimum; if you’re willing to put in the time, effort, and energy, that could be you one day. 

If you’re looking for some guidance on how to set your rates as a freelance personal stylist, you might try reaching out to stylists on social media. Facebook hosts a number of groups for personal stylists to connect with one another, and most stylists have an Instagram account to display their work and reach potential clients. Though there’s no guarantee that a professional stylist will be willing to chat with you, it never hurts to try. You may also be able to find information about stylist’s rates by visiting  their websites; though not all stylists are this transparent, some will list their rates upfront. Visit The Bureau of Labor Statistics Wage Database to search rates based on your region.  

A woman with brown hair flips through a collection of colorful patterned tops on hangers. She is facing away from the camera, so all we see is the back of her head, the side of her cheek, and her hands on the clothing.
Becca McHaffie on Unsplash
A personal stylist can spend hours flipping through options, looking for the right choice for a client!

Personal Stylist Jobs

Although the job description is more or less the same wherever they’re working, that doesn’t mean every personal stylist takes the same path within the field. Some prefer the freedom of being a freelance personal stylist, while others choose to work under the umbrella of a larger organization, like a department store or subscription service.

Freelance Personal Stylists

For personal stylists who want to manage their own time, set their own prices, and be their own boss, freelancing is the path to take. Like in any industry, freelancing as a personal stylist has positive and negative aspects. On the positive side, freelancing allows stylists the freedom to determine what kind of schedule and rates they want, which clients they want to take on and what retailers they frequent for clothing and accessories. On the other hand, a stylist who is just starting out and wants a more guaranteed paycheck might be happier in a different personal styling role. 

Department Store Personal Stylists

A number of department stores offer personal styling services to their customers. Nordstrom, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, and many others have personal stylists available by appointment. Some will even allow customers to book a virtual styling session online, more easily creating a stream of revenue. Department store positions can allow new personal stylists access to a pool of clients they might otherwise never have encountered. 

Personal Styling for Subscription Services

Looking for something with a bit more structure than freelance, with a bit more freedom than a department store position? Personal styling for a subscription service might be the right choice for you. Subscription services like Stitch Fix, Trunk Club and Dia & Co. allow stylists to work with customers virtually, and ship clothing right to their door. Using a combination of style surveys and video calls, the personal stylists who work for these services are able to develop a sense of what their clients like, and shop for them online. There is some risk to this: clients only keep the clothes they like, and typically a stylist’s commission is based on how much the client keeps. Risk aside, personal stylists working for these operations get the best of both worlds: the structure and security of working for an established company, but the freedom to base their operations out of their own homes. 

Other Personal Styling Positions 

One benefit of a career as a personal stylist is how much flexibility there is in terms of places to work. Department stores aren’t your only option if you’re interested in personal styling for a brick-and-mortar retailer. Many smaller clothing retailers, such as J. Crew and Anthropologie, also offer personal styling services as part of their business. 

The easiest way to find out if they’re looking to fill those positions is to check their websites; you might also consider going to the store in person. Even if they’re not hiring, it’s worth asking if one of the stylists on staff would be willing to sit down with you for an informational interview. These professionals often hold a wealth of industry knowledge and, since they’re on-staff, you won’t be their direct competition. They may be willing to share tips and tricks that will help you break into the industry. 

There’s also the opportunity to find work on-set in the film and television industries. A number of personal stylists got their start in costume design, and costume designers often begin as personal stylists. One day, you could even end up as a celebrity’s personal stylist.

Begin Your Personal Styling Journey

Only you can decide whether or not becoming a personal stylist is the right fit for you. But if you’re intrigued, why not take the next step? You might just find yourself in a fulfilling and lucrative creative career.

Written By

Dylan Morrison

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