Go Small or Go Home

The truth is, that although I love what I do for a living, everyday is not spent doing what I love to do. There’s this huge misconception that once a stylist is getting the jobs that they want, everyday is pure bliss of endless creativity and conceptualizing with the ability to swim in a sea of never ending artistic endeavors. Not. True. Since even the jobs that I want to have can at times be far from this reality, I need to devote time to my schedule to ensure I am still conceptualizing and creating for future work and progressing on projects that are meaningful to me, that will show my narrative and perspective and be artistically fulfilling. However, saying is easier than doing and it can be difficult to progress on personal endeavors when often days start early with call times I don’t decide (hello 4am) and obligations to clients for hours on hours,days upon days (sometimes 12-16 hour days and maybe a dozen straight days) at a time.

When I’m shooting a motion ad campaign, or a “commercial”, they are typically shot consecutively anywhere from 5-10 days on average, with 12-16 hours per day devoted to prep or being on set (time spent varies and depends how many talent are in the commercial and/or how many spots are being shot) and during busy times may even work three commecials in a row. That doesn’t leave much time for personal projects since during these intense bookings, I am completely committed and focused to the job at hand, the client and my team and what we need to do to ensure that production from our end runs without a hitch. It’s incredible being asked to lead wardrobe for these jobs, a reward for the years of work that I am grateful for, however, at the same time, during these blocks of intense work, my creative endeavors and ongoing projects take a back seat and I’m not able to dedicate time to focus on the many many projects that I have ongoing myself, some of these projects involving a lot of moving parts and other people who are a part of the creative team and process. Other creatives in the industry are understanding and know that client deadlines always take precedence, but I need to ensure that projects have a continuous flow even while I am committed to client obligations. In many ways, being a fashion stylist can feel like having a full time career (your bookings, your clients, being on set, consulting, etc etc) and a part time job (editorial work and personal projects that display your talents and narrative and add to your portfolio for future opportunities and new clients which then leads to more work and more creative freedom) simultaneously. Both are incredibly important, not just to your net worth but to your creative worth and your personal well being as an artist.

 

“There’s this huge misconception that once a stylist is getting the jobs that they want, everyday is pure bliss of endless creativity and conceptualizing”

 

This current situation, having a full time and a part time gig (that just so happens to be the same job) is actually reminiscent of my past situation, when I was first starting out and working towards becoming a professional  Fashion Stylist. I had a full time job, I was expecting my second child and I was building my portfolio during whatever free time could be spared, all simultaneously. I had full time responsibilities but still needed to find the time to progress my career. Does this sound familiar to you? Right now as you’re reading this, you may be in a similar situation; working a full or part-time job that you’re not necessarily passionate about while trying to start a career that you are. Or perhaps you’re focused on growing clientele while managing a business, or assisting and trying to find the time to work on your own personal projects to build your portfolio. So how do you squeeze in starting a career as a fashion stylist or veering in a new professional direction while working to pay the bills?

One small chunk at a time.

I know you can see the “Big Picture”, where you want to be, what the fruits of your labour look like (cue daydreams of styling celebrities and sittings for major publications) because this is what motivates you. But it is the small tasks, the little things, completed each and every day that will stack up and eventually lead to completing your ultimate big goal of having your own stylist business.

It is IMPOSSIBLE to complete a large goal, like changing careers, getting more clients or building a portfolio, in one day, one week or even one month. In reality, that one goal you seek is actually a compilation of many small ones. For a LARGE goal to be completed it will need to be broken up into SMALLER, more MANAGEABLE pieces that can be accomplished in small pockets of time EVERYDAY, especially when there is such limited time available. There are very few people lucky to be financially or priority free enough to quit their day job and dedicate 100% focus to starting a new business or a career change, so it is important to take control of every chunk of time you have available and small pockets of time will be easier to come by rather than large portions or entire days off.

If you’re waiting for a day off to start, you could be waiting for a while, in the meantime losing valuable progress as your dreams feel further and further away and lost motivation when you are feeling overwhelmed and like no progress is being made, will be detrimental to achieving your goals.

 

“… although it will never be ‘easy’, it will always be worth it.

 

In the beginning, following my formal education in fashion design,  I worked as a personal stylist in an upscale boutique. I had clients who would come in for their appointments looking for a seasonal wardrobe, a specific look for an event or gala or just with a fistful of cash looking to burn it for their birthday. I once had a client who racked up a pile of clothing and a bill of tens of thousands in less than twenty minutes. It could be thrilling and the rush I got during a giant sale was addictive. My process was simple, get the clothes on the client; one look in the mirror and they would have to have it. It’s difficult to walk away from looking good. It was the big sales that I was fixated on, clients looking for an entire season, wardrobe re-hauls or extravagant evening wear. It wasn’t all about the money, it was the adrenaline of it. These were the clients that I could take my time with, that I felt I truly make a difference in their lives, their self identity, how they expressed themselves, and yes, a hefty commission may have followed. And thus, there came a time that other boutique browsers could not pique my attention the way a full blow clothes hound could. If someone was looking for something simple, I found my attention drift away, letting other stylists swoop in; not thinking twice about it. I was waiting for the ones with the lofty wardrobe goals after all. But days would pass and clients looking for life altering wardrobe changes didn’t come in everyday. Days could sometimes add up into weeks during slow times … and while other stylists were taking all of the “uninteresting” quick shoppers, the ones that already knew what they wanted, intimate sales or mini wardrobes, I was still focused on the elusive mega client just waiting to form their new identity, not noticing that all of those quick sales every other stylist was getting were adding up … fast.

And so were the commissions.

These small sales were just as meaningful to the clients, and they had the potential of being just as profitable to the stylists, because they were stacking up. Having my sights set on only the BIG picture, meant that on weeks there were no BIG clients I wasn’t meeting my sales or expanding my clientele. Both things that I thought would only grow if I focused on the BIG jobs.

Still, I would continue to justify the situation with the big sales that I told myself would eventually come in the forthcoming weeks. Truth be told, if I would’ve focused on the small quick sales, available right there in the moment, with the same fervor that I did the large ones (which were not so available), I would’ve probably made just as much progress. Plus, from a small sale, I could’ve added to my repertoire of clients that became a biger sale, something that was happening for the other stylists, many of their “small” sales becoming repeat business, slowly stacking up their reputation as well.

During the “small” client interactions I would’ve gained: a wider spread reputation for my services, a bigger paycheck in my pocket, expanded knowledge on how to dress different body types and a meaningful one on one experience without the pressure of a full on wardrobe re-haul. But I didn’t see the value of what I had available right in front of me, instead, I was waiting for something I might have in the future and over looked what I had right there in the moment.

For a long time I still made this mistake, and admittedly, sometimes I still do (although a lot less than I used to) not with sales now but with time. I used to think that an entire day needed to loosen up in my schedule in order to devote any real time or focus required in a project to push it forward and so I’d wait for these big spans of time to open up to work on projects. The problem is, the time didn’t always come … for days or even weeks, with my hectic schedule and bookings. In the meantime, my projects didn’t see any progress, but still, I would wait for this phantom free day to arrive so that I could give the projects the ‘time they deserved’. Even worse, I would unrealistically anticipate that everything would get done on this one day when it finally did come.

But, as life would have it, by the time the day arrived, ideas and to do lists had grown exponentially and there was no way everything was getting done in the one day I had waited so long for. Suddenly, I needed something more, a longer space of time. I needed two days, or three, maybe even an entire week to get through all of the work. And the ideas that I had, the ones that fueled my passion, and the completion of would complete me and my career goals, began to feel overwhelming. Even worse, while I waited for my schedule to clear up so I could ‘really focus’, the sharp corners of the creative ideas I was thrilled about, became soft and less detailed, and my anxiety would grow as I struggled to be concise about what made the project so special and memorable in the first place.

 

I was waiting for something I might have in the future instead of embracing what I had right there in the moment.

 

All because I threw my nose up at what I had available in front of me, while I waited for what I wanted, an ideal situation that may never come.

What I did have was AT LEAST 20 minutes available per day that I could focus, regardless of how many hours I was working on set. 20 minutes a day I could do, no matter what my obligations were. But, because I told myself I could never accomplish any ‘meaningful’ work in such a small amount of time, I didn’t utilize them. 20 minutes a day can easily add up to almost 2.5 hours a week, 2.5 hours that I would not have spent working otherwise.

I don’t make the same mistake anymore. 20 minutes a day does add up, especially when you are concise about what needs to get done. And, IT IS possible to accomplish meaningful work during a small amount of time (actually it pushes you to streamline and focus). Plus, it removes the anxiety that builds when no sufficient progress is made on meaningful work, the kind that heals the soul. I no longer feel guilt for each day that passes, because each and every single day that passes, I am making progress on my goals and projects in some way, even if it’s just 20 minutes a day.

And, the kicker? I can still plan to work entire days when they are finally available and open in my schedule. So, in addition full days focused, I’ve accumulated all this extra work time leading up to them. Plus, I have infused my days with small bursts of colour as I work towards large artistic goals during work that may be, ahem, a little less stimulating creatively.

Now, I’m not saying that only 20 minutes of work a day will make all of the grand ideas you have a reality, or guarantee huge life changes. It will no doubt take more than 20 minutes a day to work towards a large goal or a total career change. BUT, a lot of you reading may be working a job that you are obligated to, maybe even 8 hours a day, while trying to make a career change or are testing the waters of freelance life and the life of a stylist, while holding down a full or part time gig, being a student and/or parenting and are feeling overwhelmed, like there isn’t enough time to focus on the goals that you need to accomplish to further your ideas and future.

Take a breath and take what is available to you.

Do not snub your nose, like I once did, at a 15-20 minute pocket of time that you can use to further yourself and your goals. These pockets of time WILL add up. You can chip away at a larger goal that will take longer than a day to accomplish anyways. Whether you are planning a photoshoot or the layout of your website, whether you would like to network and connect with more industry players, or work on a concept or creative brief to show what you are capable of to the industry, it will take a certain amount of time to do IT, whatever IT is. It could take 2 – 3 consecutive hours that you never know when you’re going to get next OR it could take 20 minutes a day for the rest of the week. I know you can find 20 minutes a day for your dreams.

As creatives, we’re all sailing in the same boat. We all have projects that will further ourselves, our careers, and our needs as an artist, but we still have hours of our time obligated to what is essentially “other people’s” work. Nobody escapes the bills.

I know there are a lot of inspiring fashion stylists trying to make the transition into being full time freelance (you’re always messaging me with questions) or who dream of owning a business, with limited time to focus on these dreams, while working. It is not an easy transition, I found myself in the fetal position more than once while I was making it myself. BUT, I made it to the other side, and you can too.

Having multiple projects on the go and the feeling of having a full time job with a side hustle will never really change, even as your career progresses and you get the jobs you want. There will always be client responsibilities (or perhaps a full time placement) to handle with multiple side projects or consulting clients served on the same plate. It takes decades, a butt load of talent and a hell of a lot of experience to work on only the projects that make your heart sing, so in the meantime, you will need to further yourself and your work.

I hope those of you working towards goals while also working a job, parenting or being a student found this helpful. The majority of career changes will take place when you feel like you’re not ready, but don’t let that stop you; although it will never be ‘easy’, it will always be worth it.

 

Need a place to start? Here are 20 things you can do in 20 minutes or less that will have a big impact on future you. 

 

  1. Reach out to someone via email or a DM on social media or LinkedIn (yes, people still use LinkedIn) that you have been wanting to connect or collaborate with. It could be somebody that is already working in the industry and whose work you admire; ask them to meet for a coffee sometime and chat about the industry, or whether they are in need of interns or assistants, if you would like to gain more in person experience. It could be a photographer that you admire their work; give them a compliment and leave it at that or if they are relatively within your level of experience, mention that you would like to one day collaborate or work together, maybe even suggest a possible collaboration on a creative or spec shoot. NOTE: do not start messaging to work with photographers that are waayyyy beyond your skill set, if you cross paths in the future things could get awkward. You could also reach out to a local designer whose work you’d like to feature in the future. Either way, any small step towards broadening your network will be a huge help to future you, and all it takes is a few spare moments in the midst of your day. DO NOT get discouraged if not everyone replies. Industry professionals are extremely busy and it should not be taken personally and there is no harm in a light hearted, follow up message.
  2. Add a designer or two to your roster of designers that you would like to work with. You may not be currently working on a shoot, but likely will be in the future, and the information will be handy when you’re coordinating pulls. Life as a stylist is easier easier if you have a concise list of designers and showrooms that you can contact. I always have an ongoing list of designer and showroom contact information in an excel spread sheet that I can refer to quickly during last minute pulls (which, let’s face it, are most pulls). Start with local designers and/or designers you know have loaned garments to stylists for previous shoots and go from there.
  3. Update your website. Ok, fair enough, you are not going to get an entire website built or updated in 20 minutes, BUT you will put a dent in it, even if all you can squeeze in is a few new images, it’s more than you had before. Just remember not to publish the updates until you’re satisfied, you never know who may be stopping by. Don’t have a website yet? Use this time to research one: whether your desired domain name is available, how much it will cost and who has the most suitable hosting.
  4. Read something motivational. Literally this gets me fired up every time. On hectic days that I can’t think straight enough to do even one more task and I need a pick-me-up in the few short minutes available, I read a couple pages or even a few lines of something motivational. My go to is “The Motivation Manifesto” by Brendon Berchard; I’m not kidding when I say I read it every single day. And when I’m done, I flip right back to the front page and read it cover to cover again. There’s a built in bookmark, it’s small enough to fit in my purse and no matter how many times I read it, I still gain something new.
  5. Look at something inspiring. You never know where your next big idea or concept is going to come from. And when I say inspiring, I don’t mean scrolling your Instagram feed. Purposefully find an outlet that will inspire you in a short amount of time, not an outlet that you have to wade through a bunch of sludge to search for inspiration (like all those distracting stories. Once you find an outlet, add it to the home screen of your phone or computer so you can quickly access it, instead of mindlessly tapping Insta or FB . A couple of my favourites are NOWNESS.com and Frieze.com.
  6. Search for assistant gigs or internships in your city. There are many established fashion stylists and editors that take interns and depending on your experience level, may have paid opportunities for assistants. There is absolutely no equal education to what you will actually learn on set, the information is invaluable to your skill set as a stylist and cannot be learned in the classroom. Reach out to an established stylist, or perhaps an artist management agency that represents artists/stylists to see if there are any opportunities available. Be sure to remain completely professional when emailing and recheck your email before sending; it is a competitive industry and you need to stand out as being unique and competent.
  7. Work on a concept for a future shoot. This may mean collecting a file of fashion images online and from magazines, sketching out ideas for props and posing, finding trends and designers that represent the mood, or thinking of locations. Having a strong voice in the images that you produce is important to stand out in your career and working on your own concepts is how you build your own personal brand and aesthetic.
  8. Journal. Journaling is not just for angst-y teenagers. Journaling is for grown up you and has been scientifically linked to actualizing the goals and dreams that we set for ourselves. Journaling allows us to release our thoughts in a sort of “Mind Dump” so that we don’t have them swimming around and clouding our minds. It allows us to process ideas and track our progress while working towards lofty objectives. Ever since reading, “The Miracle Morning”, I have been journaling as a part of my everyday routine, setting aside a few moments during my morning to unleash any thoughts or concerns for projects or progress and in the evening as part of my wind down routine before bed to reflect on the day.
  9. Post new work. Post on your instagram any recent work or behind the scenes footage that you have to keep interests piqued and show that you are working on new work and projects. Don’t forget to tag everybody on the creative team and the designers that you used.
  10. Write down your future goals. What are the major goals that you are working towards? Is it to build your portfolio and produce more images? Is it a specific concept that you would like to make a reality? Perhaps you would like to assist a particular stylist, be a represented artist or have your work featured in a particular publication. Whatever it is, be sure to write down at least five main goals in a place that you can easily access and read them every single day to solidify the reason for all of your hard work. Seeing your goals everyday will help you devise a plan for making them a reality.
  11. Research those that came before you. Read interviews with artists that you admire and who are doing the work that future you would like to be doing. Deconstruct where they are currently and the steps that they took to get there so that you can reconstruct the steps into a DIY you can do to make your goals a reality.
  12. Research designers and current trends and collections. Have apps readily available so that you can browse the latest collections and become familiar with all of the details and aesthetics; VOGUE Collections and Vogue Runway are a couple of good places to start.
  13. Become familiar with the industry movers and shakers in your city. Add these people to your social media network or on LinkedIn, don’t be shy to send a short and polite introduction so that they are aware of your existence and do not be disheartened if they don’t follow you back; they will know who you are soon enough.
  14. Check your kit. As a stylist, your kit is your life, make sure it is stocked and ready to go for when clients call. You should always have a running “Kit List” so it’s easy to tick off everything you have and what you need to restock; always make note of new items to start implementing into your kit as you develop more and more set experience. As your experience grows, so will the needs of your kit to encompass all the types of jobs you’ll be booked for.
  15. Sign up for an event, networking opportunities or in person forums and conventions. There are always events happening regardless of which city you live in and attending them will open up opportunities for learning and networking. Search on Eventbrite.com or Facebook Events to see what is happening in the future and purchase the tickets right away so that you can nail down the date in your calendar and there won’t be any excuse not to attend. Don’t be shy, be confident and introduce yourself to as many people as possible who are of interest to you and who you may be interested in working with in the future and don’t forget to bring your business cards.
  16. Speaking of business cards, make sure you’ve got some. Take stock in the design of your cards, are they still relevant? Is the information (handles, phone number, relevant title) up to date? If you’re starting from scratch, this is another “More than 20” task that could be broken up into several mini work sessions. First decide where you would like to have your cards made (I custom make mine from moo.com) and then decide on the design, keeping it simple and the contact information concise.
  17. Write down (or read) your affirmations. Affirmations are short, clear and concise written expressions of who you are and what you are working towards. They are your personal mantra for all that you stand for and all that you want. It may sound new age, but regardless of whether you believe in the power of affirmations and positive thinking, it is good to remind yourself what it is you are seeking to accomplish and who it is that you are seeking to become. Each year my affirmations change and I write my short affirmation in the back page of my scheduler which I read every single day as a part of my morning routine (also something I incorporated after reading, “The Miracle Morning”).
  18. Collect images for your visualization board. Your images should include what you want your future to look like, the types of projects you want to work on, inspirational quotes and tangible examples, ideas or representation of where you are going and the ideal life you would like to live. Put your board in a place that you can mindfully contemplate it as frequently as possible. My board is right next to my desk and I pause on it each day before I begin working.
  19. While you’re at it, collect images for a moodboard to represent a concept or feeling that you would like to invoke in a series of images. Put these images in a place where they are easily accessible digitally or print them and hang in a place that you will constantly see them so they can subconsciously inspire you to create new ideas surrounding the theme you’ve chosen. A great concept does not often come fully realized, it is something that evolves over time, and if you put the source of the concept in your line of sight, it is more likely that inspiration will strike without you even seeking it.
  20. Get out your calendar and add concrete dates that you will accomplish specific goals. The goal could be “Finish creating (insert idea here) photoshoot concept” or “Be published in (insert specific) magazine” or “Complete five spec shoots for my portfolio” … you get the idea. By putting in concrete dates that you must meet as deadlines, deadlines that should be as concrete as the ones given by your boss at work, (because you are your own boss), you are ensuring that they will be met. Goals without a plan and a specific date or deadline are just daydreams.

3 thoughts on “Go Small or Go Home”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top