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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.

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Step 1: Determine Your Niche

While people may think of fashion and accessories when they hear the term personal shopper, this service also encompasses other types of shopping. These professionals may 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 shoes, women's clothing or business suits. Your skills, interests and experience will determine the type of personal shopper that you want to become.

Step 2: Seek Training

In general, a college degree isn't required to become a personal shopper. Those becoming fashion personal shoppers may come from a fashion background and have studied design, merchandising or fashion-related subjects at the college level. Prospective fashion personal shoppers could follow trends in magazines and on blogs and visit shops and online stores to determine product availability and pricing. Those who plan to focus on clothing should learn about different body types, 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 training programs also offer continuing education programs and workshops to help established personal shoppers build their knowledge base.

Step 3: Gain Experience

The main task of a personal shopper is to shop. If you'd like to work with the elderly, those in the community or for businesses, you may gain experience by helping friends or relatives before building clientele. Fashion personal shoppers can gain experience by working in a retail environment understanding pricing and interacting 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.

Other options for building a resume include internships with established personal shoppers or fashion-related firms, such as magazines or design houses, or working with a mentor in the field. The Association of Image Consultants International (AICI) Mentors is one organization that offers coaching and is for those who want to as consultants in personal appearance and other image-focused areas (www.aici.org). Volunteer work with an organization that provides clothing or professional image development for jobseekers 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 10% and 19% is expected for these representatives over the 2010-2020 decade (www.onetonline.org). PayScale.com reported a December 2013 median salary of $36,266 annually for personal shoppers.

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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