Love Fashion AND Want to Work From Home? You Could Be an Online Stylist
It’s fun to help people dress up.
But working in fashion retail can be a drag, mostly because of the wacky hours. Retail jobs mean getting up early on the weekends, staying until 9 or 10 at night during the week and sometimes even working overnight to rearrange inventory.
But what if you could work one on one with customers from the comfort of your home? You’d have no bad mall Muzak, no line at the register and no struggle to find a parking spot in the same ZIP code as the store right before your shift.
Working with apparel styling companies, which send curated subscriptions or styled boxes to customers, might give you the perfect blend of fashion and flexibility.
For the most part, you get to work from home and choose your own hours -- all while helping customers look (and feel) their best.
But it’s not a perfect fit for everyone. Read on to see if remote styling is the side hustle for you.
Runway Styling Experience Not Required
“You don’t need professional styling experience,” Sean Lee, director of people and culture for Bombfell, assures potential applicants.
“We’re OK with different backgrounds as long as there is evidence they have a strong interest or some sort of experience in fashion.”
Bombfell specializes in men’s fashion, allowing customers to share their sizes and style preferences along with their shopping budgets.
The company conducts interviews for remote stylist positions at its New York headquarters. Since Bombfell requires a two-day, on-site initial training and regular visits for things like performance reviews, applicants must live in New York, New Jersey or Connecticut and be willing to commute into the city about once a month.
Remote stylists are guided by full-time stylists who work on site.
While the position offers a flexible schedule, Bombfell asks remote stylists to work 15-20 hours per week and to set a schedule for the week by Sunday evening. Stylists must commit to working at least one hour each business day, in order to respond to customer emails in a timely fashion.
Bombfell declined to share pay rates for stylists, but one Glassdoor user reported a range of $13-$15 per hour.
What It Takes to Make It in Remote Styling
An interest in fashion isn’t enough to get you a job in the remote styling world. You’ve got to have a certain level of tech savvy to navigate the sophisticated online systems each styling service uses to pair customers with pieces of clothing.
But the machines can only do so much -- the rest is up to the human connection between stylist and clothes wearer.
“People forget that communication is extremely important,” Lee said, referring not only to Bombfell’s would-be stylists but all remote-job applicants. While Bombfell is a styling service, it recognizes its stylists’ primary task is communicating with customers. Bombfell requires a four-year degree from its applicants.
“It’s important to find the right combination of experience, interest and written communication skills,” Lee said.
Those communication skills aren’t just helpful for working with customers -- they also help you stay in touch with the Bombfell team via email and Slack.
The Downsides of Remote Styling
Stitch Fix, which recently expanded to offer styling for men as well as women, hires remote stylists all over the country -- but you need to be within driving distance of Austin, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis or San Diego.
That’s because the company hosts in-person training events for new stylists, along with periodical “roadshows” where stylists can get up close and personal with merchandise and mingle with team members.
Stitch Fix advertises its remote styling jobs require at least 15 -- and a maximum of 30 -- hours per week.
A former Stitch Fix stylist noted that new hires work about 10 hours per week until they get up to speed on the styling system and performance. Many of the stylists she worked with, she said, were students or stay-at-home moms.
“You’re asked to fill in your ‘schedule’ two weeks ahead,” she said, “The hours you plan on working each day.”
One unexpected perk: If you fell ill and couldn’t complete one of your shifts, you could still get paid for your time.
The former stylist reported earning $15 per hour over more than a year of styling, with no raises. Stitch Fix didn’t respond to our interview request, but numerous Glassdoor reviews report pay of about $15 per hour. Stitch Fix employees get a discount on clothing, but they must still pay shipping.
But working in a vacuum might get stale after a while, even for the most dedicated of fashionistas.
“After you’ve worked a few months, the majority of your communication is via phone, email and Skype,” the former stylist said.
“It’s lonely, boring and only slightly fulfilling,” she added. “The clients were the only reason I stayed for so long.”
The former stylist also noted she always had another job while she moonlighted as a stylist. She wouldn’t go back, but admits, “This job is a great solution for people with no other job or those who really need extra cash.”
Where to Look for Remote Styling Jobs
As subscription services touting personally styled clothing and accessories grow, so do your options for snagging a remote styling job.
JustFab is advertising for initial independent stylists for PS by JustFab, its soon-to-launch personal styling box subscription. The position requires a minimum of one year of experience in retail or styling.
Rocksbox, a jewelry rental subscription, seeks part-time stylists to work 10-40 hours during each workweek. Instead of patching together entire looks for each customer, the stylists determine jewelry matches for each client.
Dia&Co, a styling service for plus-size women, pays a starting rate of $12 per hour. Stylists must initially be available to work between 20 and 40 hours a week from Dia&Co.’s headquarters, but the role notes, “Start in our headquarters in New York, NY growing into a remote visual styling opportunity.”
The role may also have “potential for full-time employment after the first 60 days.” You should have two or more years of experience in retail or customer service and own a computer.
Working in the office might not be so bad though, at least for your first few months: The team seems pretty proud of its motion-activated M&M dispenser.
Your Turn: Have you worked as a remote stylist? Did you enjoy the work?
Lisa Rowan is a writer, editor and podcaster living in Washington, D.C. She admires fashion stylists but owns 12 black T-shirts.