Become a Personal Shopper: Step-by-Step Career Guide

For some people, shopping is more than just a necessity - it's a passion. While shopping nonstop isn't good for most people's bottom lines, it's possible to actually make money shopping by becoming a personal shopper. A personal shopper helps clients who don't have the time, interest or ability to shop for themselves by doing it for them.

Should I Become a Personal Shopper?

The main task of a personal shopper is to shop for their clients. While people may think of fashion and accessories when they hear the term personal shopper, this service also encompasses other types of shopping. Your skills, interests and experience will determine the type of personal shopper that you want to become. In general, a college degree isn't required to become a personal shopper. However, those becoming fashion personal shoppers may come from a fashion background and have studied design, merchandising or fashion-related subjects at the college level.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Associate or bachelor's degree (not required)
Degree Field Fashion design and/or merchandising
Licensure and Certification Voluntary certification available
Salary $40,566 was the median annual salary for personal shoppers (August, 2015)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Payscale.com (August 2015)

Step 1: Determine Your Niche

Professional personal shoppers are not only in the fashion industry. Many work with the elderly or others in the community to perform errands, such as going to the grocery store. Personal shoppers could also work for law firms or Fortune 500 companies. Even if you'd like to work exclusively in fashion, you could specialize in a specific area, such as shoes, women's clothing or business suits.

Step 2: Seek Training

Prospective fashion personal shoppers could follow trends in magazines and on blogs or visit shops and online stores to determine product availability and pricing. Those who plan to focus on clothing should learn about different body types and find out how to camouflage flaws and enhance positive attributes with clothing to help clients shop for flattering outfits. There are also training programs specifically geared toward image consulting and personal shopping that provide education and training in the field. Many organizations also offer continuing education programs and workshops to help established personal shoppers build their knowledge base.

Completing internships with established personal shoppers or fashion-related firms, such as magazines or design houses, or working with a mentor in the field is a great way to gain experience. The Association of Image Consultants International (AICI) is one organization that offers coaching and is for those who want to work as consultants in personal appearance and other image-focused areas (www.aici.org).

Step 3: Gain Experience

If you'd like to work with the elderly or for businesses and community members, you may gain experience by helping friends or relatives before building clientele. Fashion personal shoppers can gain experience by working in a retail environment, where they'll develop an understanding of pricing and interact with customers. Some stores actually offer shopping advisers and services to customers, and working in that capacity is a good way to build experience for shoppers who want to start their own businesses. Volunteer work with an organization that provides clothing or professional image development for job seekers can also add to a personal shopper's skills and experience.

O*NET Online groups personal shoppers in the category for all other sales representatives of services, and it reports that average growth between 15% and 21% is expected for these representatives over the 2012-2022 decade (www.onetonline.org).

Step 4: Market Your Services

Personal shoppers should have an extensive online presence, with a website, social media account and a blog devoted to their services. Advertising personal shopping services in appropriate publications and attending networking events can also help build a client base. If trying to work as a fashion personal shopper, developing a professional personal image and style shows potential clients the caliber of work they can expect.

Step 5: Consider Certification

Fashion or imaging personal shoppers with experience qualify for certification with the AICI. Certification is optional, but achieving the designation gives a shopper more credibility and may increase earning potential. There are several levels of certification, based upon the applicant's amount of experience and education. Depending on the level of certification sought, the designation may require passing a written exam, having a minimum number of hours of professional experience or presenting a portfolio of work and industry recommendations. Maintaining certification requires completing continuing education coursework.

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