Image Consultants are in Style
Magazines and television programs seem to be full of people telling
other people how they can look better and project a better image. There are
lots of opportunities for image consultants.
"The abundance of TV makeover shows featuring stylists transforming ordinary
people has had a huge influence on men and women entering this field," says
consultant Joanne Blake.
In our image-conscious society, more professionals and corporations are
seeking advice from image consultants. Because of this, many people in the
field see a bright future for the field. Just don't expect it to be easy.
"I think it is a realistic way to make a living," says image consultant
Brian Lipstein. "Just look at how many individuals are doing it.
"From a student's standpoint, though, it isn't going to be the easiest
way. There is a certain mindset that must be maintained to operate as an entrepreneur.
It takes discipline, knowledge of the industry, knowing how to plan and some
business knowledge. They will also have to learn within the industry."
Blake agrees that starting out as an image consultant takes a lot of dedication.
But she believes things are a little easier now. "In the early years of my
career, it was a challenging way to earn a living," she recalls. "People didn't
know what an image consultant was. It has become a lot easier thanks to greater
exposure to our industry via the media."
In addition to media exposure, the Association of Image Consultants International
(AICI) has given a voice to the industry. The association established a code
of ethics and offers many opportunities for learning and accreditation. And
there's a lot to learn.
"Image consultants are specialists in visual appearance, verbal and nonverbal
communications," Blake explains. "We may work with individual clients to assist
them in attaining authenticity, self-confidence and credibility. Or we can
work with corporate clients and teach them to express their company's goals
by aligning appearance, behavior and communications."
Clearly, there's a lot more to this career than telling someone they look
best in navy blue.
"Image consulting encompasses a wide variety of services," Lipstein explains.
"Most image consultants specialize their practice in some way or another."
Some specialized areas include:
- Consulting with individuals and corporate professionals
- Delivering "Dress for Success" seminars to groups
- Offering etiquette seminars (business, dining, international etiquette,
- One-on-one personal shopping and wardrobe consultation
"Image consultants serve their clients in a variety of ways, depending
on the perceived need," Blake says. "Services could include wardrobe selection,
color analysis and personal shopping. Or they may help with body typing and
hair and makeup analysis. Then there's voice coaching, body language training,
and etiquette and dining training."
Blake entered the fashion business more than 20 years ago. She took formal
training at a private image consulting school before offering her services
to individuals. Today, she speaks and trains for corporations and at conferences
Lipstein started image consulting as an added service to a tailoring business
based in Philadelpia. With a business partner who carried on a tailoring tradition
that went back four generations, Lipstein was able to branch out.
"As I studied for my certification test, I began to realize the importance
of image in business and the breadth of what the industry covered. With the
realization of the importance, I began to figure out exactly what area of
the industry I wanted to specialize in and have worked toward that."
Now he is an expert in the menswear field. Specializing in men's fashion
proved to be a great tactic for a male image consultant. While men are a definite
minority in this field, that has not been a bad thing for Lipstein.
"Being a male in a heavily female dominated industry isn't that great of
a challenge," he says. "I actually think it has helped me to establish myself
since I have less competition within the same sex. You definitely stick out
as a male, and can make yourself known."
Making yourself known is just one of the challenges new image consultants
face. Both Lipstein and Blake point out that succeeding in this career takes
dedication, stamina and a wealth of skills.
"One needs to be a self-starter and be highly motivated," Blake says. "They
also have to have good networking abilities and strong entrepreneurial skills.
They need to know sales and marketing, be outgoing and pleasant, and have
a passion for helping people."
For those meeting the requirements, image consulting can offer a lot of
variety. Professionals in the field could find themselves working at high-end
retailers. Some stores have formal positions for image or fashion consultants.
In this role, the consultant would help the store's customer base in wardrobe
But most image consultants are entrepreneurs who decide who they want to
work for and what services they want to offer. Full-time hours could mean
working evenings or weekends, especially if the clients are professionals
who work their own jobs during the day. There are also consultants who work
part time due to family commitments or other considerations.
In practical terms, Blake feels that roughly 10 percent of image consultants
earn more than $75,000 per year, and the remainder earns less than that. That's
not counting those who have celebrity or very affluent clientele.
"There are many variables, such as what the market will bear in one's geographic
area or whether one is a fashion stylist working with celebrity clients,"
she says. "Corporate trainers and professional speakers generally do well.
I know of personal shoppers and others working with individual clients who
make a very good living."
"There is plenty of work out there for everybody in the industry," Lipstein
believes. "You just have to know how to sell it correctly and maintain the
relationship so that it becomes repeat business. With the achievement of
certifications and credibility, image consultants could have the ability to
earn $5,000 a day or more with the right niche focus. There is certainly lots
To reach that potential, image consultants need to have a business and
marketing plan. They should identify a target audience, set goals and be prepared
to reevaluate them, and have a strong support system.
Blake also recommends that students obtain some experience in a retail
environment or apprentice with an established image consulting firm. This
helps them gain valuable business and fashion expertise and maturity. They
can also visit the AICI website for recognized image consulting schools.
"Students would probably want to look for a course about business planning,
market research and possibly time management," Lipstein adds. "For image courses,
go with something you find that you can afford to start. There are plenty
of books and courses available, and it will most likely be a combination of
both when getting started."
Once established, image consultants can expect a very satisfying career.
"It is satisfying to make a positive difference in somebody else's life,"
says Lipstein. "When they put your advice to practice and begin to see results,
they will come back to you and provide feedback immediately."
Blake agrees. "This is a profession where you can change people's lives
and increase their self-esteem. It's very gratifying work."
Association of Image Consultants International
A great place to start your research, this site offers training
resources, information about accreditation and more
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