The Professional Shopper: Myth or Reality?

I’ll spare you the suspense upfront: becoming a professional shopper is a 100% legitimate business.


That’s right, there are people who do not like shopping and are actually willing to pay someone to do it for them! From groceries to elegant boutique items, there is a need from an increasingly diverse base of clients who need someone to do their shopping… and are willing to pay you handsomely to spend their money. As you’ll see in a moment, you can even work online from the comfort of your home – wearing your pajamas if you want to.

That’s the magic of personal shopping.

Back in the day, this service was provided almost exclusively by department stores, especially the luxury kind, who were eager to court the business of wealthy but busy customers. Stores continue this practice to this day.

But in recent years personal shopping has gone freelance. And that’s good news for you if you’d like to get paid to shop.

Traditionally personal shopping was primarily about clothes. And if you have a sense of style and a flair for helping friends and family pick clothes that help them look their best – that’s a great place to start.

But these days personal shopping can deal with any product – or even service – you can think of. Electronics, furniture, household goods, gourmet foods for dinner parties… personal shoppers do all sorts of things. You could even be in charge of holiday or birthday shopping.

Maybe the best part is that it’s a part-time job in which you can make you great money… for some work that, for anybody interested, doesn’t really seem like work.

If you find it soothing to enter pleasantly air-conditioned stores, browse the racks and aisles, find the best deals, and discover new merchandise… personal shopping is for you. You “spend” other people’s money – and get paid in the process.

Diversity of Shopping

Don’t think that your clients have to be wealthy. If you’re picturing  millionaire socialites without enough time to head to Saks Fifth Avenue to pick out the perfect evening dress for a swanky gala that night…. think again, although that might be part of your job.

Plenty of regular, everyday folks just don’t have time in the day to shop for clothes, electronics, household goods, furniture, and the like. They need help too. And many don’t realize they could hire a personal shopper. It’s a huge, untapped market ready for you to explore.

In need of a karma boost? Try grocery shopping or picking up medicine for elderly or homebound folks in your neighborhood. You’ll still get paid but your real reward will be the satisfaction you get from helping others. And it’s a great way to build up your personal shopping resume to pick up more lucrative clients down the road.

Know a busy mom who constantly complains about not having enough time in the day for all the chores required of her (and really, who doesn’t?) You could be the one picking out her kid’s school clothes, her summer wardrobe, and her husband’s work attire. That’s a big project that will pay well.

The beginning personal shopper usually charges around $15-$20 an hour. In dense metropolitan areas, like Manhattan, that price would naturally increase. But as I share below, that number will increase greatly with experience.

Online Shopping

With the rise of ecommerce sites like Amazon.com and auction sites like eBay, personal shopping has gone digital as well. Believe it or not but some people are willing to pay others to shop online for them. Of course, maybe you do well believe it if you’ve ever been frustrated with searching high and low on the web for what you want.

I think it boils down to all the choices. For example, I was shopping for a smartphone recently, and I was leery of getting an iPhone because I had issues with Apple products in the past. So I was browsing all the other offerings out there. Turns out there are dozens of other smart phones with a huge variety of features. I read reviews, read up on battery life and screen size… I started getting a headache.

Let me tell you I was just about ready to hire a personal online shopper to sort through all the options and present me with the top five to choose from. And that’s exactly what an online personal shopper does for any sort of product available online.

In some cases, you could specialize in combing eBay, Craigslist, and similar sites to track down collectible items for some clients. You’ll be an online treasure hunter and get paid too.

Landing Clients

So if this sounds like your dream job, you’re probably wondering how to find clients. Because let’s face it: hiring a personal shopper is a bit like hiring a housekeeper or a babysitter or any other service person. You invite them into the most intimate details of your life.

So approach this business as a professional. Dress well: not formal, exactly, but not Friday-casual. Have a clean-cut look. Have a list of personal references (if you’re hired to be the personal shopper for a friend or a friend of a friend, you can usually skip this step), and present yourself as a legitimate business. The cheapest and most effective way to do this is have some business cards made… maybe even a website or Facebook page.

Network and promote yourself. Get out and meet people. If someone compliments you on your outfit, thank them and hand them your card. Make your first consultation on the house. You want to make calling you an easy decision.

As far as online shopping clients, a website or Facebook page is key to attracting them, since they could be anywhere in the world. Frequent forums dedicated to fashion. Review gadgets. Get your name out there and front of mind.

Remember, first impressions are very important – even if you’re meeting online or by phone. Project a professional, competent demeanor and people will trust you to do their shopping. After all, the job is simple enough; trust is the most important thing and that can be gained in one positive meeting.

The Hidden Luxury of Personal Shopping

Besides the benefit of being employed to shop, the truth is being a personal shopper is a nicely lucrative business. Like I said above, beginners in the field can expect to charge $15-$20 an hour. Not too shabby at all. But as you gain experience, and your shopping duties become more complex and expensive, your compensation also rises. Try $75 an hour – at those rates your more like a “shopping consultant.” If you go out with a client for a full day of trying on clothes or scouting out HDTVs, try $350 – $500 for the day.

Experienced personal shoppers – who sometimes work exclusively with one company or department store, like Apple or Macy’s – can earn over $50,000 a year. For a job that requires you to shop to your heart’s content and swipe it away on someone else’s dime, that – to me, at least – sure sounds like a luxurious job.

I wish you the best of luck!

John Hollister

P.S. I’ve just given you the inside track needed to launch a career as a high-end personal shopper. But here are a few more resources to get you reaching the upper echelons of this satisfying profession.

Resources

Breaking into Personal Shopping

http://retailindustry.about.com/od/retailjobscareers/p/personalshopper.htm

http://careers.stateuniversity.com/pages/312/Personal-Shopper.html

http://www.ehow.com/how_4422929_become-nordstrom-personal-shopper.html

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/75238

http://voices.yahoo.com/guide-career-as-personal-shopper-97109.html?cat=46

http://occupations.careers.org/18823/personal-shopper

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-02-18/classified/chi-fashion-jobs-20120218_1_personal-shopper-retail-salesperson-brad-goreski

Personal Shoppers to Be Inspired By

http://shopwithval.com

http://www.trunkclub.com

http://www.cakestyleme.com

http://www.lisatalbot.co.uk/personal-services/personal-shopping.htm


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