Feature Article: “Passion + Persistent Action = A Joyful Career”
One year when I was at an AICI conference I thought it would be fun to interview some of the people there and find out what the first signs were that they would become an image consultant. Here are some of the answers I got:
- Helena C. “I was nominated best-dressed in high school.”
- Cat P. “I kept wardrobe charts in high school. My goal was to go a month without wearing the same outfit twice.”
- Diane S. “By the age of 13 I was constantly trying to improve the appearance of my family and friends.”
- Carolyn G. “When I was 6-years-old I was watching this program called You Asked For It. Identical twins were on the show looking totally alike. Then they took them backstage and changed their looks. They came back out and one looked vampy and glamorous while the other looked conservative and frumpy. They were totally different! I realized that this is not destiny. We have some control over what our image is.”
- Susan N. “There’s a picture of me when I was three-years-old and I’m in a black rabbit bolero jacket of my mother’s. Only on me it looks like a full-length mink. I have on all her jewelry and my mom’s high heels and I’m posing. It’s in the family photo scrapbook and my mother wrote under it, “Even at that age we knew.”
- Evana M. “When I was about 12 years old, my senile grandmother moved in with my family. Everyday I would come home from school and play beauty parlor with her as my ‘client’. I could transform her from a confused, old lady to ‘vamp’ in 20 minutes. She would act so different after her daily makeover. When she looked in the mirror, in her eyes, she was young again and she’d regale me with wild stories of her 1920s escapades.”
I’m convinced that people who find this profession are some of the most passionate people I’ve ever met. I’ve been around this industry long enough to meet some of these passionate people early in their careers and then, sadly, seeing them give up and drop out. I think passion is sort of like an adrenal gland. If overtaxed, it stops functioning properly. The thing that supports our passion and keeps it alive and healthy is taking persistent actions in the directions of our dreams and having the patience to watch those dreams grow into reality.
I started out with a passion over 25 years ago, however, I didn’t have a career as an image consultant overnight. It took persistent action to gain the confidence to get out there and get the clientele that would support me to do the things I loved–changing men and women’s lives for the better by matching their clothes to their passions, lifestyles and goals.
I had some great transferable skills, a background in retail and had been creating wearable art that was shown in galleries. But when I wanted to create “art” on people by helping them have wonderful wardrobes, there was a lot to learn! I had to create my services, my marketing materials, get practice, additional training, and make connections with others in the business so I had comrades (thank you AICI!) to talk shop with. While I built my business, I stayed busy in professional activities when I didn’t have clients filling my appointment book. It was easier for me to think of myself as a professional person heading toward a successful career if I was taking persistent action in the direction of my dreams. Can you relate?
If you’re newer to the business, here’s a list of actions that could nudge your passion towards a thriving career. See if something catches your eye and take action!
- Continue your education through courses offered at community colleges that could include fashion retail, the history of fashion, business courses, merchandise analysis, and image consulting courses. You can always learn new things! You can also travel to take training from certified professionals at their studios or offices. Or, as is popular these days, sign up for teleseminars in subjects that would fill out your portfolio of education. Education rocks! Your clients love learning from you so keep finding new things to share with them.
- Research current fashion trends by getting into the stores and trying things on. Do the things you’re asking your clients to do including working with your own image consultants, getting makeup updates, etc. If you have favorite salespeople, ask them what’s selling well this season. Learn about their favorite products. Hands-on learning is great although you can also read magazines, blogs, and Thursday’s New York Times Fashion section for a weekly dose of ideas and inspiration. Your client’s will appreciate your resources.
- Say “yes” to every speaking engagement, even if it makes you nervous. This is the easiest and best way to be getting new clients to work with and building your business. It’s a good exercise to stand up in front of people and share what you believe to be true. Don’t be afraid to be the authority and expert and have opinions. Be sure to collect email addresses wherever you speak so you grow your marketing list of potential clients.
- Start a newsletter. It doesn’t have to be big, just consistent. You’ll grow your list organically by speaking, networking, and bringing it up in conversation that you have a fashion newsletter andwould they like to receive it?
- Connect with other image consultants and talk “shop.” It’s a great way to stay enthused.
- Get a stack of books about business and marketing. Start reading and implementing a couple of favorite ideas each month. At least 50% of having an image business is marketing the business. Yes, like it or not, it’s true. So make friends with the marketing part.
- Write a few marketing pieces that really bring out your point of view. What are your Must-Haves for Spring/Summer 2010? What is on your Top 10 List of Favorite Products? Your audience wants to know your opinion. These are pieces that can be used in so many places and you’ll be happy you have them on hand.
If you stay in action, your fear of succeeding in this business doesn’t stand a chance to jump out of a bag and scare you. You can calmly remind yourself that you are taking actions consistent with people who are building careers. Maybe at this year’s conference, I’ll interview the veterans of the business and ask them what their persistent actions were that sustained them in business. I’ll check back with you on that. Just remember, with the application of action to your passion, you are bound for success!