Did you have a background in fashion prior to styling online?
"I’ve actually spent the last six years in tech companies in marketing roles, but it's always been a dream of mine to work in fashion. I’ve been styling my friends and family since I can remember, so I started my own personal styling business in San Francisco. Then, my friend Theo told me about Keaton Row, and I launched the online part of my business in July 2013."
How did you find your first clients?
"My first clients were friends and family members that I was already styling on a regular basis. Then, over time, I started getting referrals, and after I hit a certain sales number I was eligible for Keaton Row leads. After nine months I had over 150 clients."
What's a typical day like for you now?
"It changes day to day. I typically get up early and go to a class at the gym. Then, I check my email and organize my day. Part of the job involves following up with existing clients and recruiting new clients, most of which I do via e-mail. I update my Nicole Verhalen Personal Styling Facebook page, and sometimes post new fashion-related images on Instagram. I have the flexibility to meet a friend for lunch, go for a walk, or meet with a client in person. Then, I go through all my recent client requests and get to work creating personalized lookbooks for each one — I typically spend one hour per lookbook. After that, I grab dinner with my husband and try to find time to read a good book!"
How do you balance the demands of running your business with the rest of your life?
"I manage my styling business based on demand and my schedule, so at times I’m focused on it full time — or, if I’m very busy, I limit it to weekends. I'm married too, and for most of my time as a stylist, I've worked full time in the tech industry. For me, it's a labor of love and I always make time to help out my clients — even if it means setting aside a Sunday or lugging my computer with me on an international trip."
What do you love about owning your own business?
"'I would be shopping…for a LIVING!' This quote from Friends, where Rachel is interviewing for a Saks Fifth Avenue assistant buyer position, pretty much sums up my feelings."
What are the top three qualities you need to succeed?
"Freelance stylists need to be entrepreneurs. We are running our own businesses — which means, in addition to styling, we are following up with clients, tracking our sales numbers, shaping our own brand, and doing our own marketing and communications. And, stylists, of course, need to be fashionable. Staying on top of current trends and knowing how to put pieces together is important! Understanding clients is also a huge piece of the business. Each time I create a lookbook, it’s for a woman with a specific aesthetic, daily routine, budget, size, and request. I try thinking from her perspective to style looks that she will love, but wouldn’t necessarily pick out for herself."
What do you love most about being your own boss?
"I love having the flexibility to run my business anywhere, on my schedule. While I love managing my in-person styling business in San Francisco, through this, I’m able to style women all over the U.S."
Tell me a bit about your background in fashion.
"I’ve always had an eye for fashion. I originally planned on attending FIDM, but my mom had this theory that, if I was naturally talented, I would succeed in it regardless, so I’d be better off getting a degree in an industry I could fall back on. So instead, I got a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Marketing since it would be a nice complement to my creative side. Eventually, I decided to take a few workshop classes at School of Style just to learn more about the fashion industry. From there, I went to work for celebrity stylists before branching out on my own as a wardrobe stylist."
Why did you decide to start your online business?
"Some fellow stylists at School of Style told me about Keaton Row, and I signed up in October 2013. I’ve always been obsessed with online shopping. I can spend hours browsing for amazing pieces to add to my clients' wardrobes, or mine...or both. I love that I have access to thousands of items with just a click of a button, especially when I don’t feel like driving from boutique to boutique in L.A. When I found out that I can generate more income doing what I’ve already been doing (styling) completely online, it was a no-brainer."
How did you find your first clients?
"As a wardrobe stylist, I’ve collaborated with creatives on many projects, which is how I met some of my first clients. After that, my client list grew naturally from everyone who supports me, passing my name and website along to anyone seeking a wardrobe stylist."
How many clients do you have?
"I have over 25 clients now. The amount of income I earn vastly depends on the amount of projects I have going on for the month. The amount of time I spend never really ends — from emails, text messages, phone calls, actually working, and networking — it’s a 24/7 business everywhere I am."
What's a typical day like for you?
"Every day, I wake up to emails. From there, my day is usually never the same! I might meet and collaborate with a team of creatives on a magazine editorial, or go to showroom appointment pulls for a shoot or a client for the red carpet. Or, I might be spending time creating outfits and sending lookbooks to Keaton Row clients. Then, I’m on set styling models to update their agency book, or for a brand campaign, or fashion story, or meeting up with a personal client for a fitting, event styling, or shopping session. When I get images of new work, I always update my website. In between all those duties, I’m still responding to emails, text messages, and phone calls."
Sounds crazy! How do you keep it all balanced?
"I'm a freelancer through and through. Some months my schedule is crazy-packed while other months it’s quite open, so I do work other jobs. I’m with a staffing firm and occasionally work for other companies temporarily or part-time. I really rely on my calendar and reminders to sync on my iPhone, iMac, and Macbook to help balance all the demands of running my own business. Organization is key.
The best tip I can give to anyone doing the same is to prioritize all your responsibilities and get it done in that order. I would also recommend surrounding yourself with like-minded people to motivate and push you."
What are the top three qualities a person needs to succeed at this job?
"A passion for styling, entrepreneurship, and being open to reach out to potential clients."
What do you love most about being your own boss?
"I absolutely love that I am in full control of my business. I dictate how hard or how much I want to work, which is a 100% commitment to me. I take much pleasure in being completely do-it-yourself as well, from creating my own website to business cards. It’s also very rewarding knowing my clients are obsessed with their looks and I get rave reviews for my work. The fact that I get to collaborate with some kick-ass creatives who are incredibly gifted at their craft is pretty amazing, too."
What made you take the leap into online styling?
"I'm a behavior analyst, working with people with developmental disabilities. But, I've always had a great love for fashion, and in the last few years I regretted that I never pursued it as a career. As a working mom of two kids, I couldn't just pick up and go to New York. I found out about online styling and was ecstatic. I knew right away that it was perfect for me, since I've always 'styled' my friends and family members and have a lot of fun dressing myself each day. I started my business in January of this year."
How many clients do you have now?
"I have almost 75 clients right now and spend between 2 to 4 hours per day styling."
How did you grow your client list so quickly?
"My mom was (and still is) my first and best client. I already styled for her a lot, so this was a natural extension. My friend, Katie, has also been instrumental in my success. She became my client and referred multiple friends to me. I also designed beautiful postcards advertising my services, and put them in a local dance studio for people to take. A lady who I'd never met before became my client. I ran into her at an elementary school function and recognized her because she was wearing an outfit I had styled for her!"
That's amazing. Any tips on how to manage a large client list?
"I am the queen of multitasking. I wake up at 5:30 and do not stop going until 10 at night. Between my kids, my full-time job, and styling, I juggle two iPhones, an iPad, a laptop, carpool duty, making lunches... I jump from one task to the next all day. And, I make sure to hit the gym every day. That's my stress relief!"
Any tips on balancing a family with a styling business?
"My daughter is 7, my son is 9, and I have a full-time job, so for me, organization and time management are key. I keep my schedule in my head, but if that wasn't a strength of mine, I would be constantly making lists and writing down when I am going to do what. Otherwise, things fall through the cracks."
Would you recommend online styling to a friend?
"I would definitely recommend it to anyone I know who loves fashion and wants to earn some extra money. I live in a small town in Pennsylvania and I would not be able to be a fashion stylist without this. It's also the perfect service for moms or working women who want to look nice, but don't have the time or inclination to shop for themselves."
What's the one thing you'd want to tell someone else starting an online styling business?
"That building a great client roster is a huge part of the job, but they aren't just handed to you. So, it's important to think entrepreneurially and find ways to market yourself to attract new clients. Besides that, all you really need are great fashion sense, customer service skills, and self-motivation."