There is serious planning needed for building the future you want – and many questions to ask yourself (and answer honestly) before embarking on your journey as a stylist. Proper planning will help you pivot and point that life sized cannon you put yourself in and land exactly where you’re aiming for, DO past GO, DO collect $200 (an hour). Questions like: What is your end goal? Have you thought about the natural progression of your career? What is your exit strategy? Will you do this until you retire? Where do you see yourself in the next year, the next five years, the next ten years? What type of styling do you enjoy doing most and what will your main focus be (editorial, red carpet/celebrity/event, commercial and advertising, motion and film, personal)? Do you want to be represented by an agency or be active in multiple cities? How will you get your name in the ears of the right people? How you will gain exposure? How will you leverage your social media following? What does your schedule look like when you’re not booked (heads up, you NEED to have a work schedule whether you’re booked with a client or not).
There is working ON the business and then there is working IN the business and to be a successful fashion stylist, you need to be doing both.
“GET BOOKED FOR YOUR TIME UNTIL YOU’RE COMMISSIONED FOR YOUR IDEAS.”
SO, what IS the difference between working ON the business versus working IN the business?
The first distinguishing factor of working ON the business is that it is often a solo unpaid adventure, at least at first. It will likely happen in your own workspace during whatever time you can find between bookings (or to prepare for getting bookings), while working IN the business tends to be a team effort, usually on set with a creative team, putting in your billable hours with a client or in studio with your own team prepping and wrapping jobs, doing fittings, expense reports etc etc etc and all that styling jazz.
Working ON the business can definitely turn into a team venture in time, however, in the beginning it most definitely starts as a solo made plan as to how the business will evolve with steps you develop to take it further. This process takes time and doesn’t consist of billable hours (AKA you won’t be getting paid for it) but it is paramount to your success in the business.
Although you won’t be billing the hours now, you will be billing what you’re worth later because of the time you spend on this process. In the beginning, working ON your business may look like hours of sitting at a desk (or hunched over on the couch) and planning your trajectory. Think of it like planning a trip, it’s a lot of figuring out how you want the journey to feel on the way to your destination. You will need to figure out where you want go, the modes of transportation that will take you there, what you want to see and experience and what souvenirs you may want to bring back (think knowledge instead of trinkets). If you book the wrong flight, you’ll get off in the wrong country, hey, maybe even the wrong continent. So plan your travel as accurately as possible, one step at a time.
I’ve been on trips where I boarded a plane (getting to the airport is a whole other thing), upon disembarking got into a rental vehicle to drive to a ferry that sailed across the ocean so that I could board a train and then take a taxi to my hotel (literal PARTIAL re-enactment of my trip to Ireland). Becoming a stylist is a trip. There are multiple methods and modes of transportation that will have the ability to take you where you’re going and one will take you to the next until you are at your destination. So first decide where you’re going and then what mode of transportation will get you there. Finding someone who has already taken the trip and knows the sights will help define your
travel plan and limit any detours. Make a well thought out plan of your mode of transportation, ie/ the
career goals you’ve set, and switch up the vehicle if something doesn’t work.
Setting the goals and the transportation methods, is what working ON your business is. Taking the
trip, (hopefully on a really nice location shoot) is what working IN your business would be.
Let’s talk examples of working ON the business.
CREATE A SCHEDULE THAT YOU STICK TO REGARDLESS OF WHETHER YOU’RE BOOKED WITH A CLIENT OR NOT
First step is to acknowledge that you need a schedule structure (that you stick to) whether booked with client or not. Making this schedule is working ON the business, as it is your personal work schedule and does not relate to a client or consist of billable hours. Nothing should stop you from following through with this schedule once it is made other than working IN the business AKA you’re booked, prepping or wrapping and/or on set or with a client or have a work related meeting.
It is absolutely ok to take time off, I’m not endorsing a 24/7/365 work schedule, but if you’re booked with a client three days in week (working IN the business) make sure that you are also working ON the business the other two days, with a plan to accomplish specific tasks you’ve already designated. So instead of waking up without a plan and spiraling out on Netflix waiting around for the next gig, get up and act like it’s another day in the office, punch your proverbial time card and build your brand
to ensure that the next booking does come (sooner than later).
Give yourself some leniency, if you just wrapped a commercial or major campaign, a day off (and a major celebration) is in order (depending on the completed job, maybe a few). But make a decision that the days you take off are days that you take off with intent, specifically scheduled days off. Write off a day (or several) but do it intentionally. Intentionally is not waiting until you wake up to decide whether you “feel like working”. That’s a dangerous game, and you’ve got a website to update, a kit to stock, clients to catch up with and creative briefs to work on (your portfolio won’t build itself). Although you may not be directly getting paid for these things, you will eventually get paid because
“… you’ve got a website to update, a kit to stock, clients to catch up with and creative briefs to work on (your portfolio won’t build itself). Although you may not be directly getting paid for these things, you will eventually get paid because of them.”
Avoid overwhelm by being realistic with the time you have available to complete a task, over scheduling can be detrimental to your progress by setting you up for failure, after all, you still need open space for creativity BUT planning some structure will still allow for creative flow and creating this structure AHEAD of time is key, either the night before or the morning of; knowing exactly what you expect to accomplish that day and breaking it up into manageable tasks will be much easier (and more productive) than drifting from one task to the next.
Here’s a little example of a work ON it schedule.
- Post on Social Media any New Work (INSTAGRAM, PINTEREST, BEHANCE, FACEBOOK, ETC)
- Add any new contacts to the CONTACT SPREADSHEET (designers, creatives, retailers, showrooms, etc)
- Blog Post (write one if ya got one)
- Emails (Personally, I don’t reply to weekend emails until Monday unless specific to a job I am currently on)
- Organize receipts from the previous week – update tax spreadsheet and software (you will be happy you did)
- Brainstorm better practices, better flow on jobs, trajectory of career, answer whether you are on the right track and if not how to get back on track (Mondays are my major re-evaluate and admin days)
- Post on Social Media ( I know, I know, but it’s the name of the game)
- Organize KIT
- Shop for anything missing from KIT
- Work on creative briefs
- Review and re-establish goals (may have had some time to sink in from Monday’s brainstorming)
- Mindmap the future and steps to take (break it down into small, manageable pieces)
- Get inspired and get caught up (on trends, designer, shows, business news, etc)
- Work on creative briefs / articles (if that’s your thing)
- Update website(s) and ensure they are working properly
- Reach out and connect to any contacts and/or creatives you would like to work with in the future
- Post on social media (again …)
- Research any new designers and/or showrooms and add them to the CONTACT SPREADSHEET
- Review what you got done during the week; if there was anything important that you missed get it done today so that you can earn your weekend
- Line up your week – what the plans is, what you would like to get accomplished and what needs to get done on which day (Yes, I realize it’s technically a weekend)