What comes to mind when I say the word, “stylist”? Do you think of glamour, celebrities, award shows, runways, and after-parties? If you did, you’re not alone. It’s typical for us to associate styling with these glamourous situations due to the reality shows that follow the fabulous lives of Rachel Zoe & Brad Goreski. But in reality, that is just one aspect of the styling business as it has to deal with way more than just Hollywood & paparazzis. Being a stylist actually takes training, strategy, persistence, a strong confident mind, an insane work ethic, business savviness, customer relations, budgeting & marketing skills, & a creative eye. It also doesn’t have to revolve around the the celebrity world, as Laurie Brucker, whom I call “the stylist for real people”, can attest to. She works with everyday individuals to help them look & feel good inside and out. Laurie built her business from knowing how to work with people’s personal tastes, budgets, lifestyles, and what they already have in their closets. She combined her fashion know-how and entrepreneurial mindset to build a strong business that is now bringing out the style in many people’s lives. Join me as I sat down with Laurie to discuss how she started & molded her styling career to what it is today.
Q: What made you want to pursue styling as a career?
A: After working 7 years as a fashion designer in New York City, I had hit a professional wall. Sitting behind a desk, arched over a computer, living the Devil Wears Prada life, it’s exhausting. Back in 2007 I had my final straw. I had lost my zest for life, I was run down, uninspired and just ready for something different. I wanted to find myself again! So I decided to go back to school and pursue something that made me feel not only great but also felt like I could actually impact in the world with my passions and talents. I’ve always said helping people was at the heart of everything I do and after day one of my Image Consulting Program at FIT in NYC, and I was hooked. Image Consulting mixed my three favorite topics, fashion and style, translating trends, and helping people. I graduated in one years time, quit my job and New York City life and moved myself and my cat to Los Angeles to start anew. 4 years later… here I am!
Q: How did you prepare yourself to enter the industry as a stylist?
A: I was fortunate having had a prior career and a lot of savings to keep my world and life afloat until my business took off, but having a consistent income is really the first thing you need to prepare yourself if you are choosing to go into the styling or personal styling world. The absolutely most challenging part is that business is not consistent. Some months are successful with clients, jobs or gigs, and some months are dry. You also have to be prepared with making a commitment if you truly want to do this as a career. Styling may seem glamourous, thanks to Rachel Zoe and Brad Goreski, but what nobody tells you…(actually what everyone tells you but we choose not to listen…I’m totally guilty) is that this industry is unbelievably tough. Being a stylist is hard. And being committed to put in as much hard work as you need to get to where you want to be with your career is a must.
Q: As a stylist, you have the option of working with men, women, celebrities, kids. Who are your main clients & how did you select them?
A: I’ve always said I am out for the underdog. I’m not in the celebrity scene, I don’t do flashy editorials. I work with real people. After trying out all aspects of the styling world, from TV/Film, celebrity editorial, red carpets, celebrity styling and then personal styling, I found my most fulfilling moments were in when I could help men and women regain their confidence and feel like a bright confident world and life was possible again. I’ve discovered with my own style methodologies that no matter what wardrobe my client had to work with, we could create confident style by educating them on the best styling techniques for their body type, shape, color, age, profession and lifestyle. But it’s important to try all areas of the industry because you too will find what gives you the most joy. The styling industry is tough so whatever you choose to do, you better love it.
Q: Describe a day in the life of Laurie Brucker?
A: Oh I love this question! Because a day in the life is absolutely different everyday. No day is the same. Some days I am home working on social media, blogging and putting together my client style books. Some days are filled with clients’ closet clean outs or shopping in the closet and others, I’m just shopping all day, driving from store to store. Some days I leave just for out of office meetings, appointments and connection coffee dates and events. There is not one inch of my work day that isn’t me working working working, but from day to day… it really ranges and that makes it fun! But being spontaneous with that that is also key. Some days I’m committed to my computer only to have a client style emergency and I leave everything behind for the next day as I drive off to the rescue.
Q: How do stylists make a name for themselves & how do they market their businesses?
A: As a personal stylist (or an editorial stylist) with your own business, you must be your own best publicist. What you do, how you dress and how you act leaves an impression on people and with this being a very small industry it’s of the upmost importance to always be professional, work hard, dress appropriately and give 150% percent every time. Your openness and willingness to do what you need to do to get started in your business is key to growing your business, developing your skill and building relationships along the way. If you are not working you should be networking. Aside from that, having a strong website that represents you as the professional you are is important as well. Your styling intention and services should be clear and professional. Having a social media presence does help as well but unfortunately that can be a full time job in itself. So in marketing your business, use social media and blogging to talk about fashion and style concepts that are important and relative to you. That will show off your expertise and intelligence and help you build credibility.
Laurie Brucker in action
Q: What types of marketing tactics have been most successful for you & why.
A: Networking is always number one to me. I learned the hard way that spending all my time networking in the fashion industry wasn’t helping my personal styling career. It is great to know the fashion industry players, designers, publicists and such but they are not the ones who were hiring me. I was working with professionals, lawyers, doctors, marketing executives, entrepreneurs and stay at home moms even. They are not at the fashion parties. So knowing the client you are going after is important as you will want to be networking in THEIR circles. I network in business professional and entrepreneurial spaces. And that has proven to be the strongest tactic yet. Aside from that, my website www.lauriebstyle.com has really proven to be a fantastic marketing tactic as well. So many people are google searching for image consultants and I hear consistently from my clients that it was my website that sealed the deal. If it is professional, it speaks to them and it gives a true taste of who I am and what I can do for my clients.
Q: What is the best way to determine how to and how much to charge your clients?
A: This is a hard question because it is different for everyone. You have to feel comfortable with saying the actual dollar amount online. If you are just starting out and asking for $150/hr and you know you are overcharging, then you are overcharging. Just know what makes you feel comfortable as well as how your potential clients react to your prices and gauge from there. Overtime you will find your perfect fit. Then as time carries on and as you feel more confident with your abilities and overall experience, you will know when it’s the right time to raise those prices. Think about it as business evolution.
Q: Are there any tools or strategies you would recommend for new stylists to have?
A: I would assist and shadow as much as possible. Being a stylist looks glamours but you really need to get into the job and get your hands dirty. Work the long hours without complaint and never wear a pair of heels to a photoshoot. A great tip is to look up anyone that you admire in the styling industry who does exactly what you want to do. Contact them directly and say something personal about who they are & how their work inspires you. Ask them to see if you can shadow them for a week or mentor you for a day. You can also offer to take them out for coffee. The people who were meant to be in your life will reach back out to you. The ones who don’t, be glad you didn’t walk down that road toward them. I have never turned down anyone who has asked to shadow me. And to be perfectly honest, they have been my best assistants ever and I continue to mentor them even if they are not working with me. It’s all about trust and relationship building.
Q: How important is it to have a stylist certification?
A: A certification is helpful but not necessary. What a certification can do is give you experience, teach you tools and give you a sense of credibility to potential clients as you continue to pitch yourself out there. But truly, having experience in the field, knowing how to speak to people, how to speak the style language, how to articulate yourself intelligently and confidently: those are factors that will carry you. When I started, I used the “certification” mention anytime that I worked. But 4 years into my business, I actually forget to bring it up!
Q: What piece of advice would you give to aspiring stylists out there?
A: If you truly love to style and this is what you want to do as a career, then DON’T EVER GIVE UP. Don’t take no for an answer. Don’t let anything stop you. Try not to let the ebb and flow of the career stress you out and get you down. If you are choosing to be a stylist, this is not a perfect road ahead. Remember that and never give up because you can do and be anything you set your mind to.
Wonderful advice, Laurie! I couldn’t agree more! If you’d like to get in touch with Laurie, visit her site & tweet her at @Lauriebstyle