Cultivating Your Clientele as an Image Consultant
Introduction: The Client is your business when you embark on an Image Consulting career. The person, individual, the human being who calls and questions you about what you can do for them. The client is a product of your talent and skill. When you talk, move, and guide your client through the process to improve his image, you are making your business one of integrity or one of deceit. You are creating an honest working relationship with that person and carving your future with the skilled developments you make, or you are cutting your own throat so to speak, with an insincere effort, uneducated attempts, and a false vision that will not hold.
Each client's image will speak your message. The question is, what do you want that message to be. You can't fake it until you make it. If you are a fake in the beginning there will be no making it. Your clients will make or break you, so you have to know that when you end each consultation and the work you do, the client will not only have an improved image but will be very satisfied with it. The point here is that you are playing to two masters. Improving the image of the client and making him happy. The two can be very far apart and your ability to bring them together will determine your success or failure in the future.
A. Who will be your clients?
Your client can be any person, adult or child, someone you know, a complete stranger, a business, a group, or a person's agent. Your client might be referred by another client or someone who read your blog, saw your business card or overheard you talking to another person.
Your client will be a person who needs all or part of their image enhanced, made over, or simply created from scratch. They may have had a tragic illness, accident or disease and need help with recovery. They may be a parent who seeks someone to help their child with self-esteem or confidence.
Most of your clients will be normal people, not famous, celebrities, or rich. Most will be women, unless your niche is specifically different. So many women reach middle life and realize they want to leave motherhood behind and bring back a personality that got lost somewhere along the way. Women who need a change, are in pursuit of a life companion or who are starting another or a first career might be your client. Women who want to look good, dress well, and feel empowered and confident will request your services.
Some will be looking to step up in their career, advance within the company and are looking to emphasize their ability to lead. They may be retired and realize their old work wardrobe is all wrong for a new way of life. They may be transgender and require specific training in how to appear feminine. You might meet women who want help building a wardrobe free from animal fabric or have allergies to certain materials.
Most will be highly motivated and need your help to shake up their lifestyle, make a change, or find a way to express their personality. Many are just tired of trying to put together a "look" when they have no talent for it.
However, your client might be a man who just graduated with a degree and needs to learn how to dress for everything from an interview to getting photos taken to casual wear that does not scream college fraternity guy. You may see men who are in a change of position or change of life and need help with a different image. Maybe they have begun dating again and feel lost to such behaviors. You may meet with men who need an update or seek a change in body language to appear competitive with a younger group. Some may have a job change and need help to build their own clientele.
You may work with teens who can't seem to figure out how to "fit in." Who are dealing with skin issues or a lack of confidence or self-esteem. You might have teens who are new to the dating scene and need help to figure out how to move in their own bodies.
B. Where will you find your clients?
You must create an online presence that is for your own business where you can blog about your services and fun image ideas. You need a place to show brands you offer and to post your location, hours, and services. It can be a place you advertise special deals, initial consultations and you might post fees. That is a personal preference. It doesn't take long to do and you need the skills if you don't have them. You can employ someone to help you but you need to stay in control and make sure your website represents who you are and what you do. Beyond that you have to post on social sites. If you aren't on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest and other new sites that are coming out daily, you are behind and will lose out on business. You have to stay current with technology and where the world is today. You have to face your fears about identity theft and use common sense and security, but you have to step out into the public arena to be successful.
Share information, tips, connect with groups and give your audience a place to ask questions, make comments and just hang out. You want to build a place where people feel free to share, question, add their own voice and learn. You want to be all about looking and feeling good even when you aren't charging for your services. You want to appear professional, knowledgeable, approachable, and expert in all you do. Make sure you optimize your websites to make the most of search engine traffic. This is referred to in the techy world as "seo" or search engine optimization. Get someone to help you if you can't figure it out, but you need to figure it out so you know what to do and how to do it.
Start an online magazine, often called an e-zine or webzine where readers can relax and enjoy articles and news about fashion, skin care, beauty ideas and around the world trends. You can get some of your readers to contribute articles. Make sure that all of your online connects show how to find you. Don't make it difficult to get in touch with you by phone, e-mail or through your posts. Develop videos, share testimonies, and offer connections with other sites where good products can be found. You can even create an app for free that can be downloaded and used to connect to you, information, and ideas. Get people to allow you to share their own personal achievements in their lives. A marriage, a new home, a graduation, a new business. Your sites will expand tremendously with visitors when you do this.
Trade some free services for people who are willing to be a focus on your online sites, like before and after pictures or merely using their comments. Advertise package deals for people, package deals for groups, and to solve a current problem. Don't forget special holidays, like Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine makeovers and weddings. People love to give packages as gifts. You can offer free products with a service like a facial with a makeover. Volunteer to help low income adults going back to work, people who are getting out of prison, homeless, or just need a helping hand.
If you develop a specific talk about how image can change lives you are ready to offer yourself as a speaker freely or for a fee. Offer an initial "I need help" session. For 15 min. you can listen and let someone know what you offer. This would not be your initial session to prepare for the work you will do. That involves photos, data collection and deeper interview questions. People often just want to know if you are the answer to their problems. If you decide to branch out to life coaching, your own personal skin brand or developing business confidence you need to post it on your media sites. Make sure you carve out time weekly to update all sites, answer questions, and respond in some way. If needed you can hire a person to help with this.
Share your story about building your business, your own image experience and let newspapers know, local radio stations, beauty salons and resource partners in retail clothing, wigs and modeling agencies. Prepare a short 30 second clip about your business, problems you can solve and your own certification and expertise. You have to give people a way to remember who you are, where you are, and what you can do for them personally. Make sure you have a logo and a business "line" or "quip" that sums this up. Make your presence memorable.
C. What will your clients want or need?
You clients will have a great variety of need but they will all boil down to an improvement in their image. That might be in how they walk, talk, dress, apply makeup, do their hair, use proper etiquette, grooming, manners, or exude a confident and respectful personality. Under each of these areas you will find a myriad of problems. Your skill must not only include image improvement but the ability to gracefully ask questions until you pinpoint the exact problem. What the client thinks is his problem may not be the root of the problem.
Your client may need some life coaching which would include how to balance his life, organize, use body language appropriately, and express himself well. He may have grooming or hygiene issues. He may be wearing the wrong cut of clothes for his body style. Your client may be dressing in clothes that don't fit her age or size or business. Sometimes a client needs education along with help in changing their image. Your client may have no clue but knows that they are unable to find a job or keep a job. Maybe they have no friends, a small budget or no social life.
It will be the job of the Image Consultant to determine what the client says he wants or needs and what will solve his problem. What will solve his problem, in all likelihood, will be an underlying need of which he is not even aware. During your initial interview it will be very important to take some digital photos and video so you can discuss these issue with your client and focus your goals together. This will also help the client to see how far he has come at the end of your work together.
D. How do you give the client an improved image and make them happy at the same time?
It is a tricky business to help a client who thinks all he needs is a new wardrobe when he actually needs help in grooming, hygiene, or body language. These are delicate issues that require an Image Consultant to choose her words carefully. Showing respect for each person while helping them to improve their image can be difficult. Honesty cannot be done crudely or with an uncaring attitude. One way to go about this is to make up a general check list that includes lists of proper grooming and hygiene habits and as you go over this, get the person to say they bathe only once a week, or don't use deodorant or rarely clean their nails. This is a nonobtrusive what to broach the subject. Another way is to have list of things that underlie different problems. If a person has few friends or no social life or interaction with others, your list for that problem can have, body odor, oral health, body language, dress, crude expressions, vocabulary, drinking too much, rude dining habits, lateness, or lack of conversational skills. If a person comes in and says their problem is a lack of friends, you pull out your list for that problem and go over it with them. This will help you direct the problem to the issues causing the problems and they will be the one to guide you there with their responses.
That brings up the issue of self-awareness and honest self-assessment. Before you begin any session it would be good for you to have a talk with each client about this very thing. Before you waste your time and theirs, you must help them understand that no problem can be solved by dancing around the causes of that problem. By walking through your door or calling your number this person has taken the first step. The next one may be more difficult but you know they are ready or they would not be looking for an Image Consultant.
E. What happens when you have a client who is not happy with what you've done?
Sometimes you will have a client who wants to improve his image, you work with him on new habits and skills, but he falls back into his old ways. He may go out and blame you. To prevent this, you must require each client to have follow-up visits. At these you can see how he is doing, if he is still happy or if you need to go back and work on an issue again. What you also do is a write up for his file describing what the client has asked of you, what exactly your worked on, how you did it and what the client has to do to make the image become habit. If you do this documentation, you are not only protecting yourself from legal issues, but you can remind the client what happened at their last appointment and discuss the client's role in the work.
Summary: The Image Consulting business is one that is based on clients. Each client will have issues, real or imagined that they want "fixed." They are counting on you to have the skills and expertise to create miracles. It is important that you take notes, gather data and listen to understand what the client really wants to happen. A client is not always able to express it well, be honest with himself, or comfortable with personal issues. The Image Consultant on the other hand has to know how to dig below the surface and find the root of the client's problems, and work honestly and respectfully with that client to resolve the issues. You cannot make promises that you cannot keep. You must be sincere and kind but not create false visions for the client.
Go back over each section in this article. You will notice that each one begins with a question. Write each question down and then write the answer in your own words. What is it you feel that you need to develop to do well as an image consultant? Make notes in your notebook or your journal.
What you do is help each individual find a place where they feel good about themselves, comfortable in their own skin, happy with how they look, what it costs, and the process of getting there. Your success is to help the client find success in his life.
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