How do you get a job as a professional shopper?

By: Alison Cooper  | 

Can you really get paid to shop till you drop? Yup — and you may not even have to quit your day job.
Can you really get paid to shop till you drop? Yup — and you may not even have to quit your day job.
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Addicted to shopping? Give your bank account a break — or even a boost — by transforming your expensive hobby into a career. It might sound too good to be true, but shopping fans can actually choose from a number of different jobs that actually pay them to pursue their favorite hobby.

One obvious way to make a living perusing the aisles of your favorite store? Personal shopping. Personal shoppers help customers at top clothing and department stores put together professional outfits for the workplace, or find just the right shoes for a black-tie gala. They generally work for the stores themselves and are paid a standard salary along with a healthy commission for every sale. If this sounds like the job for you, don't just assume that your passion for fashion will help you land the gig — sure, it's important to build your knowledge of the store and the brands it offers, but most personal shopper jobs emphasize sales and people skills over the ability to throw together a great outfit. Bloomingdale's expects new personal shoppers to bring an established client book with them when they join the company, along with tremendous customer service and people skills.

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If you prefer to strike out on your own, reach out to freelance personal shoppers in your area and offer to serve as an unpaid intern. You'll get a chance to learn the trade and make valuable connections with stores and potential clients. Once you've honed your craft, you can charge clients by the hour or the day, depending on their needs. Consider pursuing certification through the Association of Image Consultants International, which allows you to list your name in its directory and gives your brand a boost of legitimacy.

Shopaholics can also make a living working as buyers for major stores and chains. Buyers determine what merchandise will land on store shelves each season. While an eye for fashion helps, most buyers have a background in finance or business, as well as experience working on the sales floor. Look for buying programs at major retailers, which help you move through the ranks, from junior buyer to assistant buyer to lead buyer. TJX, which owns Marshalls and T.J.Maxx, for example, estimates that new employees spend three to four years training before becoming full-fledged buyers.

Finally, consider a part-time gig as a mystery shopper, which allows you to get paid to shop while keeping your day job. Avoid scams by signing up for companies vetted by trusted industry organizations like the Mystery Shopping Providers Association or the National Association for Retail Marketing Services. One mystery shopper interviewed by Forbes in 2013 made $14,000 working part-time [source: Forbes], while many others in this field can make $100 a week or more [source: Johnson].

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Originally Published: Feb 9, 2015

Professional Shopper FAQ

What does a professional shopper do?
A personal shopper helps their clients find the perfect outfit for any occasion at top clothing and department stores. Sometimes they work directly for the store, such as Bloomingdales, while others are freelancers.
How much do professional shoppers make?
Personal shoppers who work directly for the stores are paid a standard salary as well as a commission for every sale. Freelance personal shoppers tend to charge an hourly or daily rate. Most professional shoppers earn a base salary of between $30,000 and $48,000 USD with top earners making around $85,000 annually.
What qualifications do you need to be a personal shopper?
A personal shopper does not require any formal qualifications to land a job. However, employers expect new personal shoppers to bring along an established client look-book and have exceptional customer service and people skills.
How do you become a personal shopper?
First, it goes without saying that you really need to have a good eye for fashion.To become a professional personal shopper, start by getting an unpaid internship with a freelance personal shopper in your area. This will give you a chance to learn about the fashion industry and make valuable connections with stores and potential clients. You can also get a certificate through the Association of Image Consultants International, which will provide legitimacy and boost the confidence of future clients.
Do I need a license to be a personal shopper?
You do not need a business license to work as a personal shopper for an employer. However, the law requires you to get an independent or freelance contractor license to work as a personal shopper in your state.

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Related Articles

  • Association of Image Consultants International. (Dec. 11, 2014) http://www.aici.org/?page=Certification
  • Bloomingdale's. "Personal Shopper FT: Bloomingdale's Century City, CA." (Dec. 11, 2014) http://www.bloomingdalesjobs.com/Search/JobDetail/BLM20980
  • Co, Emily. "In Her Shoes: Eunice Park, Professional Bloomingdale's Shopper." PopSugar, Dec. 30, 2010. (Dec. 11, 2014) http://www.popsugar.com/smart-living/How-Become-Buyer-12927338
  • Forbes. "How I Made $14,000 a Year Mystery Shopping." March 1, 2013. (Dec. 11, 2014). http://www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2013/03/01/how-i-made-14000-a-year-mystery-shopping/
  • Johnson, Tory. "Make Extra Money: Become a Mystery Shopper." ABC News. July 2, 2008. (Dec. 11, 2014) http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Consumer/story?id=5288516&page=1&singlePage=true
  • McCrae, Alex. "I Want Your Job: Personal Shopper." The Independent. Jan. 26, 2006. (Dec. 11, 2014) http://www.independent.co.uk/student/career-planning/getting-job/i-want-your-job-personal-shopper-524502.html
  • TJX. Frequently Asked Questions. (Dec. 11, 2014) http://www.tjx.com/careers_merchandising_faq.asp
  • Vogue. "Want to be a Fashion Buyer or Businesswoman? Here's All You Need to Know." Jan. 22, 2014. (Dec. 11, 2014) http://www.vogue.com.au/miss+vogue/news/galleries/want+to+be+a+fashion+buyer+or+businesswomanr+heres+all+you+need+to+know,28423?pos=7

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