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What is a Personal Styling Business?
The clothing and fashion industry in the UK is thriving and is estimated to be worth nearly £55 billion. Even with the recent decline of the British high street and the Covid-19 pandemic changing how people shop and changing retailers’ and consumers’ perceptions of clothing (there has been a bigger shift towards sustainability and being aware of the social and environmental impact of the clothing industry), the clothing industry continues to thrive in the UK.
Personal styling was once reserved for the rich and famous, e.g. for finding the perfect outfits for red-carpet events. However, personal styling is now becoming more mainstream, with personal stylists operating for more affordable prices, operating in popular department stores, such as John Lewis and Harvey Nichols, and offering their styling services online.
A personal styling business is made up of one or more professional personal stylists who advise their clients on clothing style, personal style and fashion trends. They help to inspire their clients to find their style, create their visual identity, embrace their look and feel more confident in their clothes. A personal styling business can operate in the retail, commercial or high fashion industries.
Personal stylists help their clients to create looks based on their individual needs, their personality, their body types and their personal preferences. If you start up a personal styling business, you will help your clients to choose clothes, shoes and accessories to create their desired image and curate their wardrobe. You will also teach them how to mix and match their clothes.
A personal styling business can help their clients to create the perfect outfit for a specific event or purpose, such as red-carpet events, weddings, job interviews and parties. They may look at your existing wardrobe and pick out pieces to base your look around and make your look more cohesive. To ensure the pieces they choose last and to ensure their business runs more sustainably, many personal stylists recommend higher-quality pieces to their clients.
A personal stylist can be known by several other names, including:
- Image consultant.
- Style consultant.
- Fashion adviser.
- Personal shopper.
If you are thinking of starting up a personal styling business, you must first decide how you want to run your business.
There are several different ways you can choose to run a personal styling business, including:
In-person personal styling business
In-person styling involves meeting with your clients directly, conducting in-person consultations, taking body measurements, showing your ideas and recommendations and being present while your clients try on the clothes.
There are two main ways you can run an in-person business:
- Mobile business: Many personal stylists meet at their clients’ homes or other locations. You will conduct in-person consultations and then either bring clothes and accessories to the clients or go shopping with them.
- Studio business: This type of personal stylist will operate from their own studio. All client consultations, styling and alterations will take place in your studio. This type of business is more popular with high-end or luxury clients who are looking for more expensive pieces or regularly use the services of a stylist.
Online personal styling
This type of business operates remotely. Online personal stylists help clients to create and finesse their clients’ personal style and help them select the perfect clothes, shoes and accessories for their preferences, budget and body type. All client consultations, styling and shopping will occur online; for example, you may meet with your clients via video call, create style questionnaires and send them links to potential outfits and looks. All clothing and accessories will be delivered directly to the client’s home.
Personal styling within a specific store
You can operate your personal styling business from a specific clothing shop or department store or with a specific brand or designer. Your customers will primarily be customers of that store and any clothing, footwear and accessories you recommend will be sold within the store. To operate as your own business (rather than as an employee), you will need to work on a self-employed basis.
There are many responsibilities associated with a personal styling business. Your responsibilities may vary depending on the specific clothing industry you operate in and the services you offer.
Some of the duties you may assume include:
- Maintaining up-to-date knowledge of fashion trends and different designers and brands.
- Consulting with clients, assessing their needs and desires and listening to and understanding their requirements.
- Scheduling appointments.
- Discussing client budgets and planning accordingly.
- Sourcing fashion items, clothing and accessories from different brands and designers.
- Wardrobe organisation and reviewing and editing wardrobes.
- Attending runway shows.
- Curating clothing, footwear and accessories to create looks.
- Consulting with other fashion professionals or working in conjunction with other people in the industry.
- Studying market trends and keeping an eye on current, developing and changing trends in fashion and style.
- Considering the client’s own interests and preferences in colour, style, shape and fit.
- Teaching your clients how to build outfits and looks.
- Teaching clients how to dress for their body shape.
- Sending photographs and updates to your clients, communicating with them effectively throughout the process and keeping them up to date with your progress.
- Keeping receipts and purchase records for customers and for your business’s accounting purposes.
- Developing and maintaining professional relationships with brands, shops, suppliers and customers.
- Assisting clients with wardrobe organisation.
- Overseeing deliveries.
- Arranging for fittings and tailoring to ensure clothing fits properly.
- Advertising and marketing, including managing your website and social media.
- Completing business and administrative tasks.
- Ensuring your business complies with all health and safety regulations and legal guidelines.
If you are thinking of starting up a personal styling business, there are certain skills and personal qualities that will be advantageous. This includes creativity, attention to detail and a strong understanding of style, fashion, trends and visual design. Although anyone can work as a personal stylist, it can be beneficial to obtain training or gain qualifications in the fashion industry. To help your business succeed, previous experience working in the fashion industry or as a personal stylist is recommended. You will also need strong interpersonal and communication skills, to help you communicate effectively with your clients and manage client consultations effectively.
Types of Customers
Determining the types of customers your personal styling business is likely to appeal to is an important step when planning and setting up your business. Once you have determined who your typical customer base is, you can then decide how best to target them. You will need to gather information and insights into your clients. You can do this via multiple sources, including social media.
Many people use the services of a personal stylist. The main reasons clients tend to hire a personal stylist include:
- To find the perfect outfit for a special event.
- To update and refresh their wardrobes.
- When transitioning their gender.
- If they have recently lost or gained weight and want to find new clothes for their figure.
- To create a more professional wardrobe, for example, following a promotion or a career change.
- If they have recently undergone a major or life-changing event or experience.
- To purchase new clothing for the season, e.g. going into Summer or Winter.
Although anyone can use the services of a personal stylist, there are certain factors which can influence your typical customer base. By identifying a more specific typical customer base and determining the types of customers your personal styling business is likely to appeal to, you can plan your advertising and marketing strategies more effectively, focus your business and maximise your profits.
Some of the factors that can influence your typical customer base include:
The type of clothing or styling you specialise in
This is one of the most significant factors in determining your typical customer base. You may choose to specialise in a specific type of clothing or offer a variety of clothing options. Although clothing is not gender limited, you may choose to work as a stylist in men’s or women’s clothing or focus on a particular type of clothing (e.g. formal wear) or clothing for certain events. Some personal stylists choose to focus only on the luxury clothing market. The type of personal styling or clothing you specialise in can have a significant impact on your typical customer base.
How and where you offer your styling services
The way you operate your business will likely have a significant impact on your customer base. You may offer an independent styling service, you may work in a specific shop or department store or may offer an online styling service. Consider your primary selling strategy when trying to identify your customer base and keep in mind that your typical customer base could change as your business grows and evolves.
This is another important factor in determining your customer base. Clients often have a specific budget in mind when shopping for clothes and this can determine the personal stylist that is best suited to their budget.
Customers can typically be separated into three pricing categories:
- Budget: Price is the most important factor for this type of client. They will be less concerned with the quality of the materials and the longevity of the garment. This customer tends to favour fast fashion and will look for a personal stylist who is affordable and can work within their budget.
- Mid-range: This type of customer is looking for a combination of quality and affordability. Although price won’t be the most important factor, it will be an important consideration. They will likely look for a personal stylist who is affordable but also skilled and experienced.
- Luxury: This type of customer is willing to pay the highest prices for the highest quality garments and the best service. They will likely be looking for a luxury shopping experience and will look for clothes made from high-quality materials that are likely to last for longer. They may also prefer a personal stylist who works primarily within the luxury market and with high-end brands and luxury designers.
Your marketing and advertising strategies
Your marketing and advertising strategies will have a significant impact on the types of customers you attract. For example, you will attract different clients by advertising on social media compared to if you run your own website. Your business name and logo, the aesthetic and design of your business and the design of your website or physical location can also impact your typical clients.
Equipment You Will Need
Your equipment is an essential requirement, as without it you will not be able to operate your business. A personal styling business typically has fewer equipment requirements, particularly compared to other businesses in this industry, as you will work with each client afresh and source them new clothing, footwear and accessories individually.
The type of equipment you require will depend on the type of personal styling business you set up. Although your equipment requirements can vary, below is a list of equipment typically required by a personal styling business:
General Equipment Requirements
A high-quality camera
You will need a mobile phone with a high-quality camera or a digital camera to send photographs of different pieces, looks, colours and patterns to your clients for approval while you are out shopping for them. A high-quality camera with good light exposure ensures the photographs you send are clear and true to life.
Unless you do the majority of your shopping online or work exclusively in one shop, you will need a vehicle to travel to different clothing shops, visit different designers and transport the items you choose home or to your client meetings. If you already have a vehicle that is clean, spacious and in good working order you can use this; if not, you will need to purchase a new vehicle.
These can be used for measuring each client’s height and body proportions. Choose a soft and flexible strip tape measure that is made from a malleable material so that it can be used to measure parts of the body such as the waist and hips.
If you order clothes for your clients for delivery, they may come in packages or boxes that result in them becoming creased or wrinkled. It can be difficult for your clients to see the fit of the clothes or the draping if they are creased and it can make the clothing appear less attractive. A steamer allows you to steam the clothes (with less chance of damage occurring compared to if you use an iron) in preparation for your client consultations.
Depending on how you run your business, you may require clothing racks to hang all of the pieces you have prepared for your clients. If you operate your business in a clothing shop or department store, the shop may provide racks for you or you can purchase your own.
You can choose from:
- Rolling racks.
- Double bar racks.
- Spiral racks.
- Shoe racks.
- Belt and tie racks.
If you run a business where you visit your clients’ homes, a portable clothing rack is recommended. An online personal styling business will also require clothing racks to ensure the clothes don’t become creased or wrinkled before being photographed or sent to the clients.
You can never have too many hangers, particularly as some clients may request to take their hangers home with them or some hangers may break. There are many different types of hangers you can choose made from different materials, including wood, metal, plastic and padded hangers. Choose your hangers based on the types of clothes you will be hanging up.
Mirrors are an essential piece of equipment as your customers will want to try on the clothing and accessories and look at the cohesive look. You will likely need a full-length mirror, although you may also opt for smaller mirrors for accessories.
Mannequins can allow your clients to see the looks more clearly, including the way the clothes fit and the way the material falls. If your clients are choosing between multiple looks, mannequins can help them to see the outfits more accurately.
A computer or laptop and a Wi-Fi system
If you run your business online or plan to advertise your services online, a computer and a reliable Wi-Fi system are essential. You can use your computer for client consultations, video phone calls, ordering clothing and accessories, running your business website and social media, and advertising your personal styling services.
A website is useful for advertising your business and will likely act as your primary selling strategy. It should contain photographs and descriptions of your services, including previous stylings and before and after shots (if your clients consent to this). It should also show the areas and locations you serve, any brands, designers or shops you partner with, your qualifications and experience and your customer reviews. Your website may also feature your contact information. Design your website to include your business logo and to reflect your branding.
A business phone
A business phone allows your customers to call to make appointments, discuss their styling and ensure the lines of communication remain open. It is recommended your business phone is separate from your personal phone. You can advertise your business phone number on your website.
Business cards and appointment cards
Business cards can be used for advertisement purposes and handed out to customers and potential customers. The business cards should include your business name and logo, the services you offer, your location and your contact information. Your appointment cards should be designed in a similar way to your business cards but should feature a space for you to write the date and time of the appointment.
A payment system
The type of payment system you require will depend on your primary selling strategy. For example, if you accept in-person payments, you will likely require a Point of Sale (POS) system with a cash till. If you accept online payments, you may require an online payment system and a way to track payments to your business bank account.
Online Personal Styling Businesses
If you operate an online styling business, your equipment requirements may vary. As well as some of the equipment listed above, you may also require shipping equipment, such as:
Boxes of various sizes
Depending on the size of the order and the items ordered, you may need to send some deliveries in boxes. Choose boxes of different sizes to suit different orders. You may also need specific types of boxes, such as shoe boxes.
Compostable garment bags, mailbags, mail envelopes or corrugated cardboard envelopes
There are many different ways you can choose to package clothing. Your preferred method will depend on the size and delicacy of your clothing and your budget. Ensure your packaging is environmentally friendly and attractive and displays your business name or logo.
Packaging tissue paper, packing peanuts, Styrofoam inserts or paper bubble wrap
These items keep the contents of the packages securely in place and reduce the likelihood of any damage occurring. Most consumers try to shop in a more environmentally friendly way so prefer eco-friendly packaging. Keep this in mind when planning your packaging. For example, paper bubble wrap is similar to traditional bubble wrap but is more environmentally friendly, as it is made from recyclable paper.
These labels will need to include:
- Customer name.
- Customer address.
- The business name and address.
- The shipping method.
- The packaged weight.
- A scannable bar code (if relevant).
You will need packaging tape to secure your packaging and prevent any items from falling out or being tampered with.
Twine or ribbon
Twine or ribbon can be used to tie around your boxes or packaging to keep them more secure and make them more aesthetically pleasing.
Cards and delivery notes
Small business consumers appreciate personal touches such as a card or delivery note. They could also feature your business logo and information and a discount code to encourage repeat business.
Personal Styling Studio Business
If you set up a personal styling studio, characterised by your own business premises where your customers can have consultations, look at styling options and create their looks, your equipment requirements will differ. As well as some of the equipment listed above, you may also require:
Your clients will need to try on the clothes and looks before purchasing. You will need to partition off an area of your studio or create purpose-built dressing rooms for your clients to try on clothes. Each dressing room should offer complete privacy, using doors or curtains. They should also feature a small stool or bench, hooks to hang the clothing and a mirror.
Depending on the size of your studio and the amount of stock you store onsite, you may need additional storage areas. If you expect to have a high sales volume or plan to keep example clothing items onsite, storage shelves are recommended.
Window dressing materials
Your window is the first thing your clients will see. If you hope to capitalise on foot traffic and attract passers-by, you will need to ensure your window display is attractive. As well as mannequins, you could also include posters and signs, accessories and décor items.
Décor items and accessories
Decorating your studio to fit your brand aesthetic is a key way to attract clients. You should ensure your décor items do not clutter your studio, but instead complement your brand and the type of personal styling you specialise in. Some décor items and accessories you could choose are lights, flowers and plants.
Reception and admin equipment
Some of the equipment you may require for your reception are:
- A cash register and Point of Sale (POS) system.
- A laptop or computer.
- A phone – for customers to make appointments.
- An appointment book or scheduling software – to keep track of appointments and cancellations.
- A reception desk and chair.
- Business cards and appointment cards.
- Pricing signs and opening hours signs.
- Shelving for displaying products.
A seating area
You may choose to install a seating area where you can conduct client consultations.
Some of the equipment you may require includes:
- Comfortable chairs.
- A table.
- A coffee machine or water cooler.
- Fashion magazines.
- Your portfolio.
Keeping all areas of your studio clean is imperative, particularly as different clients will be visiting your studio. You will likely need different cleaning materials for different parts of your premises. You may need to invest in cloths, sponges, antibacterial surface cleaners, bleach, sanitiser and a sweeping brush and mop.
A CCTV system
Because you will be storing expensive stock, CCTV can protect your business from potential break-ins and theft. CCTV can also protect your business in the event of an injury or accident and can provide vital footage to the police if a theft or incident occurs in your studio. You can choose the specification of the equipment and how many cameras you require.
When you are planning your personal styling business, you will need to calculate the approximate costs associated with setting up and running this type of business. Calculating your typical costs allows you to estimate your initial investment requirements, any monthly and annual costs, your pricing strategy, your profit goals and your acceptable profit margins.
There are multiple costs associated with setting up and running a personal styling business. Some of these costs will be one-off initial costs that you will need to pay when you are setting up your business. Other costs will be ongoing costs you will need to pay regularly – usually weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually.
The typical costs associated with a personal styling business can vary, depending on the type of business you run and the size of your business.
The typical costs you can expect include:
Your equipment will be an important expenditure when setting up your business. Your equipment costs can vary, depending on the type of personal styling business you set up and the services you offer your clients. To reduce your start-up costs, you could buy only essential equipment initially and then purchase more equipment as your business grows. You can expect to spend between £500 and £20,000 on equipment.
Clothing, footwear and accessories for clients
Although these costs will be absorbed by your customers and will be included in your invoice, you may have to initially front these costs yourself, particularly if you plan to purchase multiple items for your clients to choose from. Ensure you have the available finances to purchase these items or create a payment policy that involves the client covering all costs upfront.
If you require a business vehicle, a car will likely be the best option. The price of a car can vary significantly, depending on the make and model and whether it is new or second-hand. Prices can begin at £5,000 (for a second-hand vehicle). For a new car, expect to pay at least £20,000.
Vehicle running costs
Whether you buy a new vehicle or use your existing vehicle, you will need to factor your vehicle running costs into your budget. Your vehicle running costs include your vehicle insurance, petrol, MOT, services and the costs of any repairs. These costs can vary significantly, depending on the age and condition of your vehicle, the level of insurance you choose and the amount of travel you need to do. Typically, you can expect to pay between £50 and £200 per month.
Repairing, replenishing and replacing equipment
Repairs, maintenance and replacements are ongoing costs you will need to factor into your budget. Although some of your equipment will come with warranties, repairs and replacements are inevitable. For example, your laptop may wear out and stop working effectively over time. Correctly cleaning and maintaining equipment and ensuring it is used correctly can extend its life, but potential repairs and replacements should still be factored into your budget. Some of your equipment, such as packaging materials, will also need to be replenished regularly.
A business premises
If you open a physical premises for your styling business, this will likely be your biggest expenditure. You will need to rent your premises on a monthly or annual basis. Rental prices can vary significantly, depending on the location and the size of the premises. City centre locations and newly built premises usually have the highest rental costs. Rental costs are often calculated per square metre. They can range significantly, from £500 to £15,000 per square metre annually. Your rental cost may be higher if you are renting an already established, refurbished or equipped styling studio.
Refurbishment and installation costs
If you decide to set up a physical premises, you will need to consider your refurbishment costs. Unless your premises previously operated as a styling studio, you will likely need to refurbish or convert your premises to install the equipment and furniture you need for your business and make the area fit for purpose. You will also want to refurbish and decorate your premises to fit the aesthetic of your business and make it attractive to clients. Renovation costs can vary, from £500 to £20,000 depending on the level and scale of work required.
Your business website
If you operate an online personal styling business, your website is an essential tool for running your business. Your website will act as your primary selling tool and your advertising and marketing strategies, allowing potential clients to find your business. Your website should be functional, easy to use, attractive and search engine optimised, to ensure it ranks highly on search engines, such as Google. Your website will need regular monitoring, updating and upgrading. You also need to make sure your website is secure, particularly if you will be collecting any customer information or banking details. You may choose to set up and run your website yourself or hire someone to do this for you. You can expect to pay between £20 and £100 per hour for someone to set up and run your website.
When creating your brand identity, consider how you want your business to be perceived by potential clients. When creating your brand, consider the type of personal styling you offer and your typical customer base. Branding can include creating your business’s visual identity, design and aesthetic, your business name and logo and your website. You could hire a professional to help you with branding or do some or all of the work yourself. Branding can cost between £500 and £10,000, depending on the level of work required.
Advertising and marketing
To ensure your personal styling business attracts customers and creates maximum profits, you will need to spend money on advertising and marketing. It is recommended that you spend between 1%-3% of your annual turnover on marketing. For example, if your annual turnover (or your desired annual turnover) is £60,000, you should spend between £600 and £1,800 on advertising and marketing. You may need to invest more money when you initially set up your business or when you are trying to grow your business. Online businesses also typically require more marketing and advertising. To reduce your costs, capitalise on free marketing strategies, such as on social media or in your local community.
If you hire any staff to work for your business on a permanent basis (rather than as self-employed stylists), you will need to pay them at least the national minimum wage and account for other expenses such as holiday pay, sick pay, maternity/paternity pay, National Insurance and any company pension contributions.
These are the day-to-day costs associated with running your business. Some running costs are paid monthly, and others are paid quarterly or annually. Your running costs can vary significantly depending on whether you set up an in-person or online business. Your running costs could include electricity, gas and water and your delivery costs. To maximise your profits, try to keep your running costs as low as possible.
There are several types of coverage you could choose for your personal styling business. Prices can vary depending on your insurance provider and the level of coverage you choose.
Business insurance typically chosen by personal stylists includes:
- Public Liability Insurance.
- E-Commerce Insurance.
- Buildings Insurance.
- Equipment and Stock Insurance.
- Legal Expenses Insurance.
- Personal Accident Insurance.
- Business Interruptions Insurance.
Insurance costs can vary depending on your insurance provider and the level of coverage you require. Prices typically start at £10 per month.
Typical Pricing for Customers
Once you have calculated the expected costs associated with setting up and running your personal styling business, you can then determine your pricing.
The cost of hiring a personal stylist can vary significantly, depending on multiple factors, such as:
- The type of personal styling business you run (e.g. online, from your own studio or from a department store).
- Whether you focus on the luxury clothing market or high-street fashion.
- The type of personal styling you specialise in.
- The amount of styling and looks required (e.g. one event vs. a wardrobe overhaul).
- How much time you will need to dedicate to each client.
- Your typical customer base.
- Your qualifications, experience and level of expertise.
- Your reputation.
- The demand for your services.
Personal stylists in the UK typically charge between £50 and £200 per hour.
Safely Running a Personal Styling Business
Safe practices in your personal styling business can help to protect you, your customers and your employees (if relevant). Safe practices can also help to protect your business and your profits.
Some ways you can safely run your personal styling business are:
Clients should be provided with the receipts of any items you purchase on their behalf. This gives them the opportunity to return the items if they choose and provides them with proof of purchase if there is an issue with the clothing.
Although each receipt should be provided by the designer or shop you purchased the item from, you should check they contain information such as:
- The business name and address.
- The item purchased.
- The total price.
- The payment method.
Implement an inventory system
If you keep any clothing or accessories onsite or at your home, an inventory system can help you to keep track of your stock. This helps you to manage your inventory by ensuring you always know what items you have available. An inventory system can also protect you from theft, as it helps you to quickly identify if a theft has occurred and allows you to access the CCTV footage and contact the police.
Obtain a criminal record check
If you will be styling children below the age of 18 (e.g. for a prom dress or a Bar Mitzvah) or any people that could be considered vulnerable, it is recommended that you apply for a criminal record check to check your suitability to work with vulnerable people.
The type of check you require depends on the country you live in:
- England: Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
- Wales: Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
- Scotland: Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme.
- Northern Ireland: AccessNI.
Carry out risk assessments
Although risk assessments are only a legal requirement for businesses with more than five employees, they are recommended to all businesses to ensure the safety of you, your staff and your customers. Risk assessments can help you to identify any potential hazards and risks in your business and how these can be reduced or eliminated.
As part of your risk assessment, you should:
- Identify hazards.
- Determine who could be at risk.
- Evaluate any potential risks.
- Implement relevant safety measures.
- Record the results of the risk assessment.
- Review the risk assessment regularly.
Use a secure payment system
If you accept online payments, this is a key way to protect your business and your profits. You must ensure all payments are completely secure and are made through secure and legitimate channels. This ensures none of your payments are lost or untraceable and reduces the likelihood that you will fall victim to fraud or theft. Secure payment systems can also help to protect your and your customers’ identities and other personal information.
Implement security measures
If you have business premises or keep expensive stock at your home, security measures can be implemented to protect your business from theft. Some ways you can protect your equipment and stock include installing a CCTV system, using secure and reliable locks and installing an alarm system.
Although formal qualifications are not a requirement for a personal stylist business, they can help you to run your business more safely and effectively. Formal training or qualifications can also help your business be more attractive to potential clients.
You could opt for:
- A bachelor’s degree in Fashion and Styling.
- A foundation degree in Fashion and Styling.
- An Advanced Diploma in Personal Styling.
- A Level 3 Diploma in Fashion Retail.
Complying with any regulations or legal requirements is essential when setting up and running a personal styling business. The legal requirements can change depending on the type of business you set up.
Some factors that can impact the legislation you need to comply with include:
- Whether you have a business premises.
- Whether you sell your products online.
- Whether you hire employees.
- The clients you work with (e.g. if any of your clients are below the age of 18).
Some legal guidelines and regulations you should be aware of are:
Comply with invoice requirements
You may make it standard that you provide all of your clients with an invoice for your services. Even if you do not make this standard practice, many of your customers will request an invoice.
There are certain pieces of information you must include:
- The word ‘invoice’ and a unique invoice number.
- Your business name and address.
- The client’s name and address.
- A brief description of your work.
- The total you are charging the client and when the payment is due.
- The payment method.
Comply with the Consumer Rights Act (2015)
The Consumer Rights Act gives the consumer the right to enforce terms about goods and reject or return any items that are not as expected.
The Act states that all products that are sold in the UK must be:
- Fit for purpose.
- Match any description given by you.
- Of satisfactory quality and not faulty or damaged.
Even though you do not make clothes for or sell clothes or accessories directly to your customers, you are likely still involved in the transaction process so must ensure you comply with this Act.
Comply with retail legislation
There are several pieces of legislation you need to follow when selling goods to consumers. As mentioned above, even though you will likely be sourcing the clothes from a designer or shop, you are still involved in the selling process so must comply with all retail legislation. You must ensure any products are described correctly and that your clients are aware of the pricing. You must also ensure the products you provide are of good quality and are fit for the intended purpose.
Comply with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act (DPA)
If you take orders online, you must comply with both pieces of legislation when storing or sharing personal information, such as your clients’ personal information, contact details and banking information. You must also apply for a Notification to Process Personal Data Licence. You will also need to apply for a licence with the Information Commissioner’s Office and renew your registration every year.
Register your business
Your business must be registered with HMRC before you begin operating. You can choose to register as a sole trader or as a limited company. You will also need to register your business name and any other relevant information.
Register for self-assessment tax
This allows you to calculate and pay your own taxes each year. You will need to track your finances every month and submit any expenses as part of your tax assessment.
As part of your tax responsibilities, you must:
- Record all forms of income and expenses.
- Complete an annual self-assessment tax return.
- Register for VAT if you earn above the threshold (currently £85,000).
- Pay National Insurance contributions.
- Keep a record of your business accounts for the previous five years.
A Personal Styling Studio
If you operate your personal styling business from a business premises that is frequented by your clients, employees or other members of the general public (such as delivery drivers), there will be several legal guidelines you must comply with, including:
Comply with fire regulations
If you run your business from a studio attended by staff or customers, you must ensure fire safety measures are implemented onsite. There are multiple fire regulations you must ensure you comply with.
- Perform a fire risk assessment.
- Comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
- Implement any necessary fire safety measures.
- Implement emergency procedures and ensure these are clearly displayed on your premises.
Comply with the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
The Electricity at Work Regulations state that any workplaces that use electricals must construct electrical systems in a way that prevents danger, maintain electrical systems to ensure they are safe, ensure electrical equipment is checked by a competent person annually and conduct Portable Appliance Tests (PAT).
Comply with the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998
These regulations apply to you and any employees you hire. You must ensure all equipment (and furniture) is fit for purpose and is maintained and inspected regularly. You must also ensure that health and safety risks are minimised to an acceptable level, that you (and your employees) have the correct knowledge and training to use the equipment, and that protective measures are put into place. You must also ensure the equipment is used under appropriate conditions.
Comply with the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992
Manual handling regulations can help to protect you and your employees from sustaining an injury or illness as a result of manual handling tasks. The regulations apply to practices such as the lifting or moving of any objects (such as equipment and stock) and bending down and reaching high (for example, when taking customer measurements and cleaning your premises).
Comply with the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 2013
RIDDOR states that you must report all injuries, diseases and dangerous events that occur in your business. Reports must be made to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) using an appropriate recording document. These regulations apply to any incidents that involve you, your staff or your customers.
Comply with employment legislation
If you employ any staff, you must ensure you follow employment legislation, including the Employment Rights Act (1996) and the National Minimum Wage Act (1998). You must also comply with legislation relating to recruitment, working hours, sickness, discrimination, dismissals, and maternity or paternity pay.
Comply with the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act lays out the duties of all employers in the UK regarding ensuring the health, safety and welfare of everyone in your workplace. As you are the business owner, you will be responsible for protecting the health and safety of your employees and any clients or visitors to your business.
Prepare a health and safety policy
The law states that every business in the UK must have a specific policy for managing health and safety. Your policy should state exactly how you will manage health and safety in your studio, who is responsible for specific tasks and how and when these tasks are completed. Follow the recommended tips from the Health and Safety Executive when creating your health and safety policy. You should make your policy easily visible to any visitors to your business.
Appoint a competent person
A competent person should be appointed to help your business meet your health and safety legal duties. You can act in this role yourself or appoint another person to fulfil this role. The competent person should have the skills, knowledge and experience to identify any hazards in your business and put controls in place to protect people from harm.
Apply for a music licence
If you play any music in your studio, you will need to apply for a licence with Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) and/or a Performing Right Society (PRS) Licence. You can apply for both a PPL and a PRS online.
An Online Personal Styling Business
Some pieces of legislation apply specifically to businesses that operate online. Keep in mind that even if you operate an in-person business, some of this legislation may still be applicable if you also operate a business website.
The legal guidelines you should be aware of include:
Comply with e-Commerce Regulations
If you have a website advertising your products or services or selling your personal styling service, you must comply with the Electronic Commerce Regulations. These regulations state how you communicate with your website users. Under these regulations, you must clearly display your terms and conditions, display clear pricing information and delivery charges (if applicable) and identify who sends any business communications. You must also ensure email privacy and comply with laws on distance selling.
Ensure your website is disability friendly
Under the Equality Act (2010), all websites in the UK must be accessible to people with disabilities. If you set up your own website, you must make reasonable adjustments to your website to ensure it is accessible, for example having text-only versions of each page so that they can be read by text converters.
Ensure your website complies with the guidelines
If you set up a website, there are several guidelines you need to comply with, including:
- Privacy policies.
- Cookie legislation.
- Service descriptions.
Positives of Owning a Personal Styling Business
Starting up a personal styling business can be rewarding in many ways.
Some of the main pros associated with this type of business are:
Work in an industry you are passionate about
If you are passionate about clothing, fashion and personal style, running a personal styling business can be extremely rewarding. You can share your talent and creativity with the world, style people and teach them how to style themselves and spend every day immersed in a world you love. You can also spend time going to fashion shows, collection launches and looking at fashion magazines and websites. This can be extremely rewarding. Earning money while doing what you love can make your business feel less like work and more like a vocation.
Make people feel good about themselves
Styling someone and teaching them what looks good on their body can help them feel comfortable in what they wear and feel good about themselves. Your styling can empower people and make them feel more self-assured and confident. You can also teach them how to style themselves in the future to help them portray themselves in any way they choose. One of the most rewarding things about personal styling is seeing the positive impact you have on your clients and knowing that you made them feel good about themselves.
Your day-to-day work will involve a lot of creativity; you can create a style and an image, mix different textures, colours, patterns and styles and work creatively every day. If you enjoy being creative and want to create your own looks, rather than following the trends of other people, a personal styling business can be both interesting and rewarding.
You can offer a personalised customer experience
You can offer client consultations where you discuss what your clients want and offer advice and insight. Your customers will receive a personalised experience and the possibility for you to design their own wardrobes and find the perfect products for them. With a personalised experience, the customer is likely to be more satisfied with your service and recommend you to their family and friends.
Work with designers and brands
If you love fashion and clothes, working as a personal stylist will allow you to work closely with famous designers and brands. You could create strong connections and get first access to new collections and new pieces. You can also easily keep up with new fashions and trends.
Gain exposure and publicity
You can easily gain exposure, no matter the types of clients you are dressing. If you are working with everyday clients, they may post pictures of their looks on social media, such as Instagram or TikTok. If they tag your business name, this can bring exposure to your business and introduce you to new clients. If you dress celebrities or influencers, their photographs are likely to be posted online and in news articles.
Design your dream business
You can make all the key business decisions and design your dream business. You can choose whether to operate an in-person or online business, the type of styling and clothing you specialise in, the customer base you want to target and how you want to run your business. You will have complete control and creative freedom to run your business any way you choose.
A growing industry
The clothing and fashion industries are consistently growing, with 2023 set to see a growth rate of 15%. This growth is expected to continue, increasing the value of the industries. As the clothing industry grows, so does the demand for personal stylists. This makes now a great time to set up your personal styling business and increases the likelihood your business will succeed and make a good profit.
Connect with other people in the industry
You will have the opportunity to build connections with other people in your industry and other people who are artistic and creative and are as passionate about their work as you are. Building both professional and personal relationships allows you to stay up to date with new trends and techniques and create useful business connections that can help you to grow your business, for example by connecting with different shops and boutiques to find the perfect items for your clients.
Opportunities for growth
A personal styling business has high scalability, meaning it has the opportunity and capacity to expand and grow easily. Once your original business plan succeeds, it is easy to grow your business, for example, by hiring more personal stylists, widening your customer reach, opening a physical business premises and operating your business online. You will already have positive relationships with suppliers and vendors and positive customer reviews and can utilise these relationships to help you grow your business with minimal stress.
Unlimited income potential
The more experience and exposure you gain, the higher prices you will be able to charge. As your business grows and you develop a good reputation, you will likely see the number of clients you work with increase and your profits grow. You can even charge higher prices and hire more staff and expand your business to increase your profits. A personal styling business can have a high income potential and your profit margins are likely to be high. With a good business plan and strategy for growth, your business could have unlimited income potential.
Choose your workload
As the business owner, you can choose the hours you work and how many clients you want to work with each week and month. You can run your business around your personal life, for example by only operating during the week. You can temporarily refuse new clients if you are at full capacity, or you want to take time off. You can also hire additional staff to reduce your working hours.
Pick and choose your clients
You will have the option to accept or decline any potential clients. If a potential customer seems difficult, or you don’t think the type of styling they want plays to your strengths or isn’t something you are interested in doing, you can decline to work with them and recommend another personal stylist instead. You can opt to only work with clients that you think will benefit your business growth, will pay a higher rate or that you think you will enjoy working with.
You can choose to target a niche market
You can set up a general personal styling business or target a niche market, such as luxury clothing or children’s clothing. This allows you to focus on the specific customers you want to attract or design your business in a way that increases its likelihood of success.
If you love working with people, a personal styling business can be very rewarding. You will spend time with different clients every day and the consultation experience means you will spend time talking to them and getting to know them. You will also be communicating with designers and clothing shops to find the perfect pieces. For someone who enjoys face-to-face interaction, this can be very enjoyable.
Low start-up costs
Compared to other businesses in this industry, a personal styling business has relatively low start-up costs. Unless you open a business premises, you will have few equipment requirements and can run your business yourself, with no employees. Low initial investment requirements will mean you won’t require any outside investment and can begin turning a profit earlier.
Be your own boss
You can make all key decisions yourself and steer your business in whichever direction you choose. You can choose how involved you want to be, the type of personal styling business you want to set up, the services you offer and your premises, equipment and employee requirements. You can make the best decisions for you and your business.
Negatives of Owning a Personal Styling Business
Although owning a personal styling business can be rewarding, there are some potentially negative aspects to this type of business that you should be aware of.
Building your customer base can be difficult
With so many already established personal styling businesses in operation and many big shops and department stores (such as John Lewis) having their own personal stylists working for them, it can be difficult to grow your customer base. It can take years to grow your customer base to where you want it to be, which means you receive less business and lower profits when your business first begins operating.
High time commitment
Searching for the perfect clothes for each client can be time-consuming, particularly if they have very specific requirements or want you to create a whole new wardrobe. You will also have additional responsibilities associated with running your business, such as advertising and marketing and completing business and administrative tasks.
Demanding or difficult clients
Some of your clients may be demanding in their requirements and expectations, may take up a lot of your time and may expect you to be constantly available to help them or speak to them. They may have no understanding when you are dealing with other clients and may expect their clothes to be ready immediately, even if you have to order them or have them altered. To avoid complaints or negative reviews, you may feel like you have to cater to these clients, even if their demands are unreasonable. This can be stressful and time-consuming.
A lot of skill, knowledge and experience is required
To make your business succeed, you will need a high level of knowledge about the fashion industry and different styles and trends. You will also need to constantly update your knowledge and keep up to date with changing trends. Previous experience styling people is also recommended, as you will need to know what works well on different body shapes and what patterns and textures go well together. It can be time-consuming to gain the skills, knowledge and experience needed to make your business succeed.
The clothing industry can be seasonal, with many clothing businesses seeing increased sales in the lead-up to holidays and events, such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day and in the lead-up to Summer. There may be other times of the year when business is slower, and you have fewer clients. This can make it difficult to predict your availability and your profits.
Issues out of your control
This can be one of the most frustrating aspects of running a business, as things that are out of your control can delay projects and have a negative impact on your profits. For example, delivery delays can result in you missing your client’s deadline, which can result in unhappy customers and a loss of business.
Your business could fail
Starting up your own business can be risky. Many new businesses fail which could result in you losing money or getting into debt. Your business could fail for several reasons, such as high local competition, an ineffective business plan or if the UK encounters another recession or a period of financial difficulty. If you have invested a lot of money and time into your business, this can be extremely disheartening and can result in you losing a lot of money.
Although the majority of customers leave honest reviews, some customers are difficult to please and will leave a negative review because of the smallest complaint (even if it is something outside of your control, such as clothing not fitting them). Sometimes a fake customer also leaves a fake review, which can be extremely difficult to disprove and remove. Negative reviews can be extremely damaging to your business, particularly if your business is new or you’ve had relatively few reviews.
As you are self-employed, you won’t receive benefits such as pension contributions. You will also be responsible for doing your own taxes and organising your National Insurance contributions. You will also have a lack of job security.
Planning Your Personal Styling Business
If you are considering starting up a personal styling business, an effective and well-designed business plan is essential. A business plan can help you to focus on the specific steps that will help your business succeed, plan your short-term and long-term goals, determine your financial needs and help your business to grow.
Your business plan should contain information such as:
- Your company information.
- Your company description.
- The services you will provide.
- Your branding, marketing and advertising plan.
- The structure of your business.
- The operational plan for your business.
- The financial plan for your business.
When creating your business plan, consider some of the questions below:
The type of personal styling business you are going to set up
This is one of the first decisions you will need to make when planning your business. Will you offer in-person styling or online styling? Will you run your own studio or operate a mobile business? Will your business operate primarily in one store or with one designer? What will your primary selling platform be for your styling services? The type of business you set up will impact your start-up costs and running costs, your typical customer base and your premises and staffing requirements. Consider your available capital and the market demand when making this decision. You may choose to set up one type of business initially and then change as your business grows.
The type of personal styling you will specialise in
You may choose to offer general personal styling to all types of clients. However, many personal stylists choose to specialise in a particular area of the industry, e.g. women’s clothing, luxury clothing or red-carpet events. Choosing a speciality can help you to build your skills and knowledge, become an expert in fashion and styling within your chosen speciality and grow your business reputation. Consider your skills, experience and personal interests, as well as the type of personal styling that is likely to be the most popular and the most lucrative.
Your target market
Determining your target market is a key step to helping your business succeed. Different types of styles, trends and clothing, different designers, brands and shops and different selling strategies can all influence your typical customer base. Your pricing strategy and the design and aesthetic of your business are also key in determining your typical customer base. Once you have identified your target market, you can then focus on how to attract them to your business.
Your business location (if relevant)
If you open a personal styling studio, your location will have a significant impact on the types of customers you are likely to attract. It will also impact your premises’ rental costs. If your business is located in an area with high footfall or a place popular with your target market, the increased custom and higher profits will be extremely beneficial to your business. Consider your rental budget, your size requirements and your typical customer base when choosing your premises.
Your main competition will vary depending on your primary selling strategy, for example in-person vs online. Analysing your competition allows you to look at what your competition does well and what you think can be improved upon. Being aware of your competition is an important step to ensuring the success of your business. Look at the type of styling your competitors specialise in, the brands, designers and shops they partner with, their pricing and their typical customer base. Analysing your competition also identifies whether there is space in the market for your business; for example, if there is already a successful personal stylist specialising in men’s formal wear operating close to your location, you may choose to focus on another niche or think of ways to make your business stand out.
Your brand and your unique selling point (USP)
Creating your brand is a key way to ensure you stand out from your competition. Branding can help you to focus your target audience, attract clients and concentrate your marketing and advertising strategies. Some ways you can create your brand are by focusing on your styling, the clothes you specialise in, your business’s visual identity and creating a brand story. Your business name and logo are also part of your branding so ensure you consider these when creating your business plan. A USP can also be part of your brand and can help your business stand out from your competitors. Consider what can make you stand out and how this fits into what defines your business.
Your marketing and advertising strategies
Marketing and advertising are especially important when you first open your personal styling business. Your marketing strategy needs to be effective and budget friendly. Consider your target customers and the best way to reach them.
Some ways you can market and advertise your business are:
- Partnering with designers, brands and clothes shops.
- Creating targeted online advertisements.
- Building a functional and attractive website.
Your equipment requirements
Consult the list above to determine your equipment requirements. The equipment you require will depend on the type of personal styling business you set up and whether you have a business premises. Once you have determined your equipment requirements, you can then calculate the initial costs of purchasing the equipment and any monthly replenishment costs.
Your start-up costs and running costs
Consult the list above to calculate your approximate start-up costs and running costs. Determining your approximate costs allows you to calculate your initial investment and what your monthly or annual running costs will be. You can then calculate whether you can finance your business yourself. Being aware of your expected costs also allows you to create a budget, which is a key part of your business plan. Once you have calculated your approximate costs, you can then calculate your pricing policy and determine your profit forecast.
Financing your business
Consult the list of start-up costs and running costs above to determine what capital you will require. Can you finance the business yourself or will you need to source outside investment? You will also need to calculate when you are likely to begin turning a profit. If you require outside investment, you could consider a bank or other financial institution, a business loan or an investment partner.
Your pricing policy
How will you price your services? What will your pricing be based on (e.g. time commitment, amount of styling required)? You should also take into account the pricing of your competitors. Once you have determined your pricing, you can then create a sales strategy to help you maximise your business opportunities.
Your sales forecast
How many clients can you work on at one time? How many sales do you hope to make each day, week and month? Are there certain times of the year that are likely to be busier than others? What are your weekly, monthly and annual sales forecasts? As your business grows, your sales forecast is likely to change.
Your strategy for growth
Your strategy for growth is the actions you will take to realise your goals for expansion and any potential challenges your business could face and how you will avoid or overcome them. This can help to make your business more successful.
Potential challenges could include:
- No availability to take on new clients.
- Less business at certain times of the year.
- A lack of new clients.
Some potential strategies for growth include:
- Expand your advertising and marketing.
- Hire other personal stylists to work for your business.
- Focus on a more lucrative market, e.g. luxury clothing.
Your business summary
Your business plan should include a detailed overview of your business, including the type of personal styling business you are setting up, your primary selling strategy, your typical customer base, your staffing, premises and equipment requirements and your business goals.
Your business goals
Your business goals or objectives are an essential part of creating your business plan. Your business objectives highlight the targets and goals of your personal styling business and help you to create a one-year, three-year and five-year business plan.
Your business objectives should be SMART:
- S = Specific
- M = Measurable
- A = Achievable
- R = Realistic
- T = Time-bound
Check you have complied with all legal requirements
Consult the list of legal requirements above to check you have complied with all requirements and regulations and that all your paperwork is accurate. Failure to comply with legal requirements could have a detrimental effect on your business or could result in a fine, the forced closure of your business or, in serious cases, prosecution.