Introduction: Starting an Image Consultation Business has a lot of similarities with starting most businesses. There are professional and legal process to go through. There are decisions about how you will reach clients, choosing a name and logo, opening business accounts, developing resources that will support your business and finding the finances to pay for all of this. You have to consider insurance, technology set up and software, an accounting system, a website, and permits required for your area. You need to identify your opportunities, develop a plan and structure for your business, and know your competition. Marketing and promotion is just one more necessity to face.
In spite of all the technical decisions that have to be made, a consultant can face this sprawl of paperwork because of the excitement of being on the edge a spawning a new career. Preparation and planning is the key to staying on top of each part of this stage of your business. Taking time, giving each piece thought and consideration, working through the steps in an organized fashion and using all the resources available to educate yourself will create a business that is sound. The main word is time. Take time. Don't rush. Learn everything you can, talk to lots of people in different places in life and different stations in life. Write everything down. You will want to review what you see, hear, and read, many times.
A. The Plan: When you begin to research a career as an Image Consultant, you must gather all the information, organize it and use a check list for easy reference to what you've done and what you have left to do. Trusting yourself to keep in all in your head would be your first and biggest mistake. Here is an example of a check list.
1. Research everything you can about Image Consulting, including talking to those who do it.
2. Determine how great the need is in your area and if you can make a profit.
3. Develop your business plan (see below)
4. Choose a business name/verify the right to use that name/check domain availability
5. Register the business name/ get a business certificate/register the domain name
6. Choose your location
7. Check zoning laws
8. File partnership or corporate papers if you decide to go that route/reserve your corporate name
9. Attain required business licenses and permits10. Register or reserve state or federal trademark/register copyrights
11. Apply for a patent if you make any products
12. Comply with community laws about advertisement of your intent to do business there
13. Set up phone, computer, fax, scanner, printer, purchase software or download free software
14. Check into business insurance needs
15. Make sure you are covered with health insurance
The following represents what is required in a strong business plan for a start-up. If your intention is to work for a company, you do not need a business plan but you should put together a life plan with goals to guide your career.
1. Profit and loss statement – This is prepared for you to begin using the day your business opens. It is a statement that tracks your revenue streams, expenses (do this for each quarter) and puts the amount of net profit or loss at the bottom. (also called a financial statement, P&L, or pro forma income statement)
2. Cash flow statement – explains how much cash you bring in, pay out, and a balance. (This is done monthly and is important to keep track of so you have enough to pay bills)
3. Balance sheet – This is a picture of your business's financial position at a moment in time. It will lists assets (what you have) and liabilities (what you owe) and equity (what part of the business you own and what it is worth). You should be able to look at this sheet and know where you stand financially.
4. Sale's forecast – How much you will charge a client and how often you predict to make such a charge. You can break this down for different parts of your business.
5. Personnel plan – Even if you don't hire at the beginning, you need to plan what personnel you might add in the next year, write job descriptions, hours and possible cost.
Keep your business plan handy and review it on a regular basis. It can be modified anytime in any way and organize the different parts so you can add the new sheets on a regular basis or keep it in some form of an account book
B. The Training: There are international organizations that sponsor training, institutes that offer training, it is available on line and in books. Sometimes the training is featured for image consulting and other times for style coaching, life coaching, and fashion consulting. It is important to examine the training choices with a detailed eye before deciding which direction to go. You don't want to make the mistake of paying for training, taking time to invest in it and then realize it was not worth it. You should go and visit any brick and mortar school, call people who have had the courses and talk to image consultants who currently are finding success. Don't dismiss this as too much trouble because in the long run it will save you so much, get you started on the right foot and give you the training you will need. Just getting a certificate to put on the wall is not the point. The point is to become professional at what you are about to undertake. The objective of training is to learn skills that will give you the basis for becoming an expert in the industry.
If you intend to pursue a niche consulting service, make sure that you are getting thoroughly trained in that area you have chosen as well as a good basic all-around general training. If you intend to branch out you need to go ahead and get deep training in all areas or be prepared to go back for more training later in your career. Whatever you decide to do, remember that staying current in the field will require continual training of some kind.
Your business success depends upon how well you are able to be a consultant, to do your job. You will be dealing with very personal issues with people, not just selling a product. You are selling yourself and your ability to accomplish what the client needs, so work to be an expert in all things you do. Demonstrate what you know in the way you work and live. Be a person that others can trust and have confidence in. Show you have the skills by demonstrating the best image you can have. Make the most of your own personal qualities.
C. The Legalities: You've already been introduced to some of the business paperwork that is necessary for your business to be effective, turn a profit and keep good records. There are a few other things for you to learn. If you start your own business you have to declare it as a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a limited liability company or LLC, or a corporation.
Sole proprietorship is often used for a business operated by a single individual. This is the easiest and simplest plan. The downside is that you cannot sell interests in your business to raise money and the owner is fully liable for all debts and legal suits of the business. Any lawsuits can access your personal assets.
A partnership is similar to a sole proprietorship but with more than a single individual involved. These people share in all profits and losses of the business. It is easy to set up and not subject to taxes required of larger corporations. The partners are liable for any debts and legal suits as the sole proprietorship. The downside is during financial struggles partners can have interpersonal difficulties.
Corporations are controlled by a group of people who own shares in the company. The shareholders dictate who runs the company and how it does business. These owners receive profits based on the shares they own. Corporations are able to raise money more easily because they are supported by more people and often start with more capital. They are slow to act due to the process of voting by shareholders. Corporations are also subject to more taxes and fees.
LLC's or Limited Liability Companies have the elements of a corporation and the sole proprietorship. Owners are not personally responsible for debts and other liabilities, they can make decisions about the business faster than corporations and they are less controlled by legalities.
Summary: As with any business, the Image Consultant who is ready to go to work has got to start with a plan. Everything must be included in the plan. If you have it in the plan and you follow your plan, then you are looking at a well-established business. If not, prepare for problems. Starting any business is a stressful time, but with a well-developed plan as a guide, you will be in good hands. It's important that the consultant spend time and thought building the plan and access professional help as needed.
Training is another part of the process that is of great importance. Hopefully as an Image Consultant, you will have some talent for fashion, dressing, beauty and color, however, having the talent and skill isn't all there is to know. There are many details, people skills, knowledge of keeping clients healthy and safe, knowing about fabrics and the various cuts of clothing and appropriate care. Being able to tell your clients that you have been trained by a school that is recognized by the top international associations will gain their confidence.
Getting the permits and legal paperwork done, choosing software to keep good records, setting up bank accounts and developing your business name, logo, location and brochures is a third very important and necessary task in the process of starting a business. The most important part is to do it right. Before you open your door for business, advertise for clients, or develop your expert referrals, you have to hammer down the legalities of the business.
Make notes in your journal or notebook about what you have learned in this article, what you need to pursue and what more information you need to gather. Make a copy of the checklist and keep it in your business plan and with your notebook. Begin now to pull all of this together.
Why I Need a Business Plan
A business plan is an organizational document that guides you from the beginning to the end of your business. Most business don't actually end but they morph and change along the journey. A business plan should be clear and simple. If you need to explain or provide details, do it in another document. This is a plan to get you started, keep you focused on your goals, and can be easily tweaked if you decide to do so.
A Business Plan:
Defines your business
Explains your program, vision, mission, and goals
Organizes your basic operations/methods/processes/strategies
Identifies your customer
Includes certifications, licensing needed, permits, tax numbers,
Determine financial needs, transaction methods
Why keep it simple?
It is easy to make changes as you go along
It provides information that is important
It will assist you when you make a pitch
It can be used for marketing
It is more specific and straight forward.
It can be used as your action plan
B. My Business Plan Step by Step
1. Overview: Explain the purpose of your business, for example; My business will develop an individual's image for the purpose of building confidence and self-esteem.
2. Product: What are your selling? I will provide one on one consulting, a skin care product line and group sessions that target corporate employees.
3. Marketing: How will you market your service? I will provide business cards, brochures, newsletters and start a website for my business that will provide information about our services, our costs, and our certifications.
4. Profit: How will I make money? I will charge a flat rate for the first session and a per hour fee for the work we do together. I will not charge for three "check-in" visits after service is ended. I will charge a flat rate fee for groups up to 10 who want to learn about a topic of choice, which will be outlined on my brochure and web site and over that an extra fee for each person up to 20. For groups over 20 I will charge "presentation" fees with no individual interaction.
5. Clients: I intend to find customers by phone, visit, referrals, and through my website. I will promote my business with newsletters to organizations and corporations, handing out my business card, and writing blogs about the success this training offers each person.
6. Goals: One year from the date of this plan I will be averaging one training sessions per week in my schedule and 3 initial individual consultations per week and one presentation to a large group each month.
7. Annual income goals: Within two years I will be profit a minimum of $60,000 per year.
8. Challenges: 1. My shyness, 2. My lack of business experience, 3. Care for my children when I am working.
9. Solutions to these challenges: 1. Practice and become determined, 2. Read books and articles on line about business and find a mentor, 3. Partner with another business trainer to swap care-giving with each other.
This is a lot to think about, but you are ready if you can answer these questions. Write down an answer for each of these questions. Put this information into organized form into your official business plan. Remember, the most important part of this plan is that it is flexible, changeable, and your guide to success. It is a work in progress but a great place to begin your journey into this new phase of life.
C. Legal Issues: Take one day and phone, e-mail, or check websites and find out about community, county, state, national, health department laws, permits, zoning laws and fees that you will be required to attend to. Take another day to search the domain names, patent, trademark, and copyrights you want to use. A third day will be to learn everything you can about the various structuring; sole proprietorship, LLC, partnership, and corporation and the cost on insurance to protect your business. You will find resources on line, the small business association and you can also discuss this with your banker, an accountant and a lawyer. By the way, it would be smart to use a lawyer who works with businesses to monitor your progress, structuring, taxes and legalities.
Don't forget to work up the following documents:
Profit and loss statement
Cash flow statement
Sale's forecast sheet
D. Planning to work for someone else: Often an image consultant decides to work for another consulting business that is already up and running. If that is the case, you are not required to develop a business plan but you do need to develop a career plan.
A career plan takes some time for self-reflection, deciding on some goals, and knowing what your passions are. Careers that start in one area often slide into a similar area, one that works with your original career field, or something totally different. And that is definitely okay. You want to grow and learn and seek out new areas that continue to keep you motivated. But in the beginning there are some specific things you can look at to gain a bit more understanding of yourself and what you want.
1. What kind of lifestyle are you living currently and what do you see as your future lifestyle? Make a list of the key characteristics of how you are living now and decide if your career path will take you to the future lifestyle of your dreams.
2. Think about what you like to do and what you enjoy in your free time. Often what you choose to do in your free time is a great guide to a specific career field. If you prefer to spend time alone or need to be with people can tell a lot about what type of job you might like. What things do you avoid at all costs? Think of these activities and your chosen career.
3. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Be honest and realistic. When do you feel most engaged and energetic doing? What is your passion? Do you enjoy continually learning new things or do you prefer something that is the same day to day? Are you happier doing technical jobs or working with your hands, or do you like developing ideas and writing?
4. How do you define success? Is it a comfortable living in a small town or a fast pace environment? Do you see success as becoming someone important, making lots of money, traveling to other countries, or is success a job that allows you time for family and other things and not so much lots of money? What will make you feel content?
5. What about your personality. Are you outgoing, shy, a people person, a loner or a leader or follower? Do you need to move a lot in a day, do you need a different experience each day, or do you prefer to know exactly what is required from you on a regular basis? Can you work independently or do you need another person to guide you?
6. Where are you in your career journey now? What skills and education do you have? What are you willing to pursue? Can you afford to move, attend classes, leave your current job?
Take some time now to go back over the above points and make notes in your notebook. Make so to do lists and prioritize them. You should not continue until have confidence in yourself to work through each topic presented here.
Once you have answered these questions, you are ready to proceed to the next steps.
1. Choose a career field and research the various pathways in that field, the education required and the jobs that fit with who you are and what you want. Look at on-line resources, visit someone who works in that field, examine the need for workers, the pay, required education and various businesses that offer the career path that interests you.
2. List the exact qualifications and search for job postings. Call these – not to apply just yet – but for information. Find out everything you can and let them know you are considering this as a career field but are researching before you take that step.
3. Decide if you have the qualifications or if you will need to increase your skills or education. If you decide to go for this, then develop a timeline or a plan of action to achieving this job. Set some specific life goals. Write them down. Review them from time to time.
Summary: No matter what you decide to do, you have to take charge of your life and make it what you want it to be. If you are waiting for someone else to do something, for something to happen first, to have enough money, time, energy, then you will be waiting forever. You can wait forever and meanwhile your life is passing you buy. If you want something, then begin now to prepare for it. Be ready when the door opens. There is a saying that you find success when your "preparedness meets opportunity." That simply means to be ready. Learn all you can. Know everything there is to know. Talk to people, read, search the net, stay invested in your dream and make it happen. There are many opportunities in life. Your job is to be ready, willing and able to take advantage of that opportunity. Keep your eyes open and invest in yourself by filling your life with knowledge, creative endeavors, and active participation.
Another part of preparedness is knowing what you value. Look at what you have, what you do, how you spend your time, and what you enjoy. Most people put what they value first in their lives. Family before job, an expensive car before a home, clothes before a savings account or possibly travel before education. What you value has a way of moving to the front of the line. If you say you value family but work late and weekends, then maybe you really value your job more. If you are honest you will examine where you spend your time to know what you value.
Stop now and examine yourself once again. Write down what you put first in your life and see if it aligns with what you value most. If not write down what you intend to do about it. Make another list of who you need to be more prepared for those opportunities that do open up.