How to Become an Interior Stylist

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The interior stylist is responsible for readying a room for the photographer.
The interior stylist is responsible for readying a room for the photographer. (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Many people can’t differentiate an interior designer from an interior stylist, but if you live for house and garden TV programming, you definitely get it. Designers take responsibility for turning bare-bones homes and offices from shell to gorgeous before a family or firm take up permanent residency. Stylists, on the other hand, work in the temporary lane. They undertake one-day room makeovers and room setups for photo shoots, and they help homeowners refresh their places so they appeal to buyers and sell faster.

Attend a good interior design school. Learn how to mix colors so rooms look larger or smaller, the art of furniture arrangement and the importance of lighting. Master techniques for accessorizing rooms and using resources already on hand to create attractive, functional living and working spaces. Sure, it helps to have a great eye for pulling together room elements, but if you really want to climb into people’s psyches to learn what makes a room sing, nothing beats studying both interior design and styling.

Prepare a portfolio of styled rooms so you can show potential clients the way you work. A benefit of studying design and styling is the resources you’ll develop while you’re learning. You’ll put together room drawings, color boards and fabric comparisons and take photos of your work, likely already arranged in a nice portfolio. Include photographs of rooms you’ve styled for friends and relatives to show your flair.

Use the best portfolio images of rooms you've styled to create a sales brochure. This vehicle is going to be a silent salesman in your absence so it must be beautiful and professionally printed if you want to be taken seriously. If you’re clever with words, write your own copy. If you’re not, leave the job to a professional able to articulate your business message framed in sales lingo designed to entice readers to hire you as their stylist. Don’t forget to add contact information on the brochure so folks know how to reach you.

Launch a website. Residential stylist Susan Hargraves hosts a website that's well-designed, easy to navigate and has her skills front and center. Use her site or that of another professional stylist as your inspiration, showing consumers, photographers and publications your ability to turn ho-hum rooms into works of art. Include "before" and "after" shots as these images are very compelling. Make sure your website developer engineers your site so it captures leads.

Implement a dynamic marketing plan. Mix cold calls to area photographers with brochure mailings and guest appearances at libraries, garden clubs and other organizations willing to help you promote your interior styling business. Volunteer to style a charity site so it looks more attractive and then send out press releases detailing your philanthropic effort. Position yourself as a community resource and authority on interior styling and you’ll drum up clients.

Build a dynamic friend-get-a-friend program. Every time someone recommends your styling services, reward them with a free consultation or a small gift. Your success may well depend upon keeping your competitors at bay using many different strategies to appeal to various audiences. Pay attention to the small details. They build reputations and you’ll wind up getting well paid for something you love to do.

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