Here's How To Start A Career As A Stylist

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We all loved watching the ultra-stylish stylist Stacy London help people look and feel better for a decade on "What Not to Wear" (via IMDb) and on the similar fashion-focused reality show, "Love, Lust or Run." Many fashion and celebrity enthusiasts are also curious regarding whether each Bachelor and Bachelorette gets their own stylist and what it's like to be a celebrity stylist for someone as famous as Kate Middleton. So, what exactly is a stylist?

In very general terms, stylists help choose outfits based on preferences, trends, and body types. Some skills you'll need to be a successful stylist include understanding trends, fashion history, different designers, and which types of clothing will flatter various body types (per All Art Schools). You should also be a creative, meticulous person and communicate well. 

Furthermore, there are different types of stylists. While you probably first think of a runway stylist, celebrity stylist, or editorial stylist, some other careers in styling include commercial stylists, product stylists, personal stylists, stylists for e-commerce, retail stylists, and wardrobe stylists (via The Fashion Frill). Being a stylist has become a desirable career for fashion lovers — here's how to get started on this career path.

Do your research

Being a stylist sounds like a super glamorous career at first. However, you shouldn't fill your mind with images of celebrities, parties, magazines, fashion shows, and starring on a TV show like Stacy London if you're seriously trying to decide whether to pursue styling as a career. First, you should consider how much money you expect to make; don't expect to pull in six figures. According to PayScale, a stylist working in New York City can make anywhere from around $28,000 to $74,000 as a base salary with a medium pay of $57,000. Plus, it's crucial to note that most fashion stylist jobs are freelance, not full-time (via Firsthand), so don't expect medical benefits or a consistent salary in the industry.

Furthermore, be prepared to work weird hours — most stylists don't work from nine to five, Monday to Friday, which some people will see as a pro while others will see as a con of the job. Moreover, you'll likely have to work on weekends and at night — as Great Sample Resume reported — so you should ask yourself if that's something you're comfortable doing. If you still want to pursue a career in styling after understanding the pay and hours, it can't hurt to do more research. One way to learn more is to read books about it, such as "The Fashion Stylist Blueprint: What They Don't Teach You In Fashion School" by celebrity stylist Brittany Diego.

Take a class, get a certification, or a degree

Getting an education in styling or fashion will help you learn more about how to be successful in your career. For instance, if you're interested in being a stylist but aren't entirely sure, you should start with one class or workshop. If you don't want to pay for a course, the Fashion Stylist Workshop by the Academy of Art University is available for free on YouTube and provides some helpful information.

If you feel more serious about wanting to be a stylist, you should consider getting certified. Not only will the process teach you more about how to succeed on the job, but it will make you appear more prepared to potential clients and employers. For example, the Fashion Styling Fundamentals Certificate from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), a famous fashion school, can be in-person or online and will show you what it's like to be a real stylist. Another option is the Fashion Stylist Institute's Certified Fashion Stylist course. This online course teaches various aspects of styling, and you'll even get graded.

On the other hand, if you know you want to work in fashion, getting a degree will help set you apart from the competition. Not many schools offer styling as a major but instead offer fashion design, fashion merchandising, or fashion management (via Fashion Schools). Although these degrees aren't specifically focused on styling, they'll help you learn about the career and open doors for you in fashion.

Get an internship

Getting as much internship experience as you can is infamously necessary for future success in any area of the fashion industry (via G&M Fashion Career). This experience will help you learn how to succeed in the industry, give you a taste of a day in the life of the job, and show future employers that you're passionate about fashion. If you want to find a fashion styling internship, you can start your search by simply looking up "fashion styling internships" on Google, Indeed, and LinkedIn. You should always consider location when searching for an internship; even if the position sounds like a dream come true, you have to make sure you'll have a realistic transportation plan, especially if the internship is unpaid.

While traditional job-searching methods and websites like Indeed and LinkedIn can be great, you'll benefit from using more specific resources — such as Intern Queen, FreeFashionInternships, and StyleCareers. Even if you can't find an internship in styling, internships in similar aspects of fashion, such as visual merchandising, will still be helpful. If there's a brand or company that you're obsessed with and would love to intern for, it can't hurt to reach out. Of course, do your research regarding who to contact, carefully plan what you want to write, and don't expect a reply, but shooting your shot could potentially lead to something life-changing.

Work your way up

As mentioned earlier, aspiring stylists must be realistic. Even after doing lots of research, getting an education, and interning, don't expect to get a job as a celebrity or editorial stylist right away. The truth is, it's a competitive field, so you'll have to be patient as you work your way up. So, instead of having your heart set on being a stylist for your favorite TV shows and magazines early in your career, you can probably more realistically get job interviews for retail stylist positions. As an in-store stylist, you'll be helping shoppers find outfits that flatter their bodies and make them feel good, per Workable.

You can also apply for remote styling jobs for websites such as Stitch Fix, where you'll be helping online shoppers find outfits, working from wherever you want. Another way to get some experience as a freelance stylist is to look use websites such as Upwork and Fiverr. Moreover, if you can't find jobs as a full-on stylist, you can look for work as a stylist assistant, where you'll still be working in the scene, but you'll be helping the stylist instead of being in charge (via ZipRecruiter). That experience will look great on your resume!

Additionally, your friends, family, and followers can be potential clients. Try posting on social media or handing out flyers to show that you're a stylist looking for work. Maybe one of your friends or followers will be your first client.