isn’t just in the eye of the beholder. It’s
also in the hands of image consultants like
Image consultants make style and clothing
suggestions to transform a person’s outward appearance.
They are experts at bringing out the best in people,
whatever each person’s career or lifestyle. "You
need to be able to listen to people and adapt to them—to
be like a chameleon," says Lori. Knowing how to read
and understand people is essential to an image consultant’s
Both men and women benefit from Lori’s
expertise, but most of her clients are women. She begins
by meeting with clients to discuss the type of look that
they hope to achieve. Sometimes, clients aren’t sure
what they want. Lori helps them to consider their
personality, career, lifestyle, and the amount of time and
effort that they want to spend on their appearance.
Next, Lori conducts a color analysis for
each client. She uses a seasonal color analysis system
based on hair color, skin tone, and eye color. Summer
colors, such as pastels, complement the coloring of
fair-skinned blondes with green or brown eyes, for
example. After Lori determines a client’s color season,
she gives color suggestions for clothing, cosmetics,
accessories, and other complementary wear.
Lori then assesses the client’s
wardrobe, identifying which items to keep and which to
toss. "Some clients want to throw it all away and
start over," she says, "but then they realize
that they have things they can use."
To purchase new items for a client, Lori
visits stores that she knows well. Although some clients
pay Lori an extra fee to preshop for them, most go with
her. Occasionally, Lori shops for clients—but she’d
rather have them go along.
One obvious reason why Lori wants clients
to accompany her on shopping trips is so that they can
help select what to buy. But Lori also uses these trips to
educate clients about what to look for when they shop on
their own. This includes pointing out the styles and cuts
of clothing that might flatter the client’s figure.
Shopping trips typically last about 4
hours, and Lori likes to shop with each client at least
twice. "I could shop for 8 to 10 hours
straight," she says. But for some clients, says Lori,
"shopping is physically and mentally exhausting—and
overwhelming." Part of her job is to help make the
experience less stressful and to provide encouragement.
"If I weren’t there, they’d leave," she
Lori is involved in other projects related
to image consulting, such as doing makeup and stylist work
for photographers and videographers and speaking about
image and attire at conventions and corporate meetings.
She also volunteers her skills. Recent endeavors include
presentations about image to a local Girl Scout troop and
to people at a homeless shelter.
Because most image consultants are
self-employed, they must spend part of their time on
business-related tasks such as managing finances and
billing clients. They also must dedicate significant
resources to marketing.
These administrative tasks are the part of
Lori’s job that she least likes. "I’m a people
person," she says. "I don’t like sitting in
front of a computer because I’m not with people."
Being a people person means that Lori has
empathy and patience when dealing with clients. Many
people first visit an image consultant after they have
experienced a life-changing event—a marriage, perhaps,
or the loss of a job. These clients are often seeking to
become more self-assured by redefining their image.
Assisting clients in this way comes
naturally to Lori. "Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve
known this is my gift: to help others feel good about
themselves," she says, "to increase their
self-esteem and self-confidence."
Along with these inherent abilities, Lori
has acquired other skills that she needs to succeed in her
career. She gained some of her skills and knowledge from
training and certification programs offered by image
consulting associations and product vendors. And she keeps
her skills current by reading everything about appearance that she can find.
Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics (BLS) does not collect data about image
consultants, it does collect data about several other
occupations in which workers help people to improve their
image. Examples include personal appearance workers and
retail sales workers.
Industry sources suggest that earnings of
image consultants vary considerably, based, in part, on
geographic location. Their hourly rate ranges from $50 to
$500. For some services, such as color analysis or makeup
and stylist work, many image consultants charge a flat fee
of about $100 to $200 or more. For presentations, they
usually charge a base fee plus expenses.
Many image consultants start their careers
by working part time in the occupation, often while
employed in another job, until they gain a steady stream
of clients. It’s critical for image consultants to build
a clientele and a reputation that grows by word of mouth
from happy clients.
Thanks to an image consultant’s work,
the most satisfied clients usually are those who’ve
gained new confidence along with their new style. Such
results are the most rewarding, says Lori. "The best
part of my job," she says, "is seeing someone
courtesy of Lori Johnson.