How to Become a Stylist: 5 Steps to Building Your Career in the Interiors Industry

If you’re wondering how to become a stylist, then you’ve come to the right place.

After more than 20 years in the interiors industry, working as an interior stylist, consultant, and creative director, and working alongside other incredible interior stylists too, I know what it takes to become a stylist – particularly when so many have the exact same goal.

My Online Courses for Creatives were designed to help aspiring stylists to navigate their careers from that initial spark of inspiration, right through to pitching, securing commissions and building relationships that result in ongoing work. If you’d like to hear more about how my courses can help you on your way to becoming a stylist, feel free to reach out with any questions.

In the meantime, here are the 5 steps to follow if you want to become a stylist.

How to become a stylist: dining table and chairs with a cactus

How to become a stylist in 5 steps 

1. Build a portfolio

If you want to become a stylist, the best place to start is by building a portfolio. Sounds complex, but it really needn’t be.

The goal is to be able to communicate your skills to potential clients, and visual references are crucial when pitching for work that involves interior styling.

If you have the luxury of knowing a newbie photographer who is also looking to build a portfolio of work (or you’re willing to put the time into scouting one on socials), then your best bet is likely to team up on a number of shoots to create content that you can each add to your portfolios.

Don’t have any photographer contacts? That’s ok – photograph your own sets using your phone. As long as the photos are clear and demonstrative of your style, that’s what is most important at this point. Remember: the client isn’t looking for photography skills, that’s what they hire photographers for. They’re assessing your skill at building a scene and compiling a visual story.

Note that a portfolio is never complete and should be updated regularly as you gain experience and confidence, and as your style evolves (which it most likely will over time).

And, get creative with how you distribute your portfolio. Which brings us on to…

How to become a stylist: person looking at lots of printed photos

 

2. Be active on socials

You most likely know already (and perhaps have even experienced) the power that social media has when it comes to spreading awareness of, and therefore growing, a business.

It allows you to broadcast your work and expertise whilst simultaneously connecting with your ideal client. Honestly, it’s a free marketing opportunity you probably shouldn’t shy away from.

Let’s take Instagram, for example. Your Instagram grid is like your shop window. You can share images of sets that you have styled (otherwise known as your portfolio) and tidbits of info you’ve picked up throughout your time learning to be a stylist, such as trends or tricks for others to try in their homes.

It definitely takes strategy to grow a social account and attract ideal clients to your corner of the web, but the basic principles are:

• Share valuable content. By valuable, I mean content that’s educational, entertaining, inspiring or emotive for followers. And a mix of all four, if you can manage it.

• Be consistent. Social platforms tend to keep their algorithms hushed, but we do know that they tend to reward those who share consistently with higher reach. Plus, it’s nice for your followers to know when they can expect to hear from you. It creates a feeling of trust and reliability.

• Be authentic, and talk to your ideal client. Yes, authentic has become a bit of an overused buzzword, however, the premise – be yourself, act in line with your values – remains. You can be personable and open without oversharing. Show your face, and talk about the things that fire you up (so, in this scenario: styling, interiors, home design, style in general, and so on).

• Engage. Social media can’t be one way. If you want to receive engagement, you have to hand it out too. So, reply to all comments and DMs, and go out of your way to leave comments, likes, and messages for others whose content you find valuable, too.

person taking photo of coffee using phone

3. Network

On the subject of engaging, it’s not only beneficial for building a social following. Networking with others within your field can lead to paid work and can help you build a support system, which is invaluable when you’re working as a freelance or self-employed interior stylist.

Building relationships with not only the budget holders at brands and publications but also other team members (junior staff who will one day be promoted or headhunted elsewhere) and other freelance stylists, writers and photographers, is key when building your career. When prospective clients know and trust you and are familiar with your work, they are more likely to consider commissioning you.

Likewise, if you have a solid network of creative freelancer friends, you can help to leverage one another. Think: recommending a talented photographer friend to a client, or passing commissions that aren’t best suited or timed for you on to another interior stylist.

So, how do you network with those in your industry? Well, social media is a good place to start. Politely reaching out via DM to introduce yourself and praise someone’s work is generally acceptable.

If you have a pitch or you’d like to share your portfolio with someone, in particular, go down the cold email route, but make its contents warm and friendly (yet, still professional). Attach snippets of your work and propose a call to talk through your ideas for a collaboration.

Press events are a great way to network with others in the industry too, so be sure to connect with the PRs of various interiors brands and get mingling at events.

How to become a stylist: mug of coffee next to laptop

4. Assist, assist, assist

The best way to learn the ropes of interior styling is to get as much experience on set as you possibly can, and with as many different interior stylists, photographers, and clients as you can so you gain a broad range of skills and insight.

To secure assisting jobs, your best bet is to connect with interior stylists who are likely to need an extra pair of hands-on large-scale shoots. Reach out (via email) with your portfolio and express your interest in being considered as an assistant at any upcoming shoots. And, don’t forget to personalise your email by highlighting a piece of the interior stylist’s work that you particularly love, and explaining why you’re particularly keen to shadow them specifically.

people styling flatlay and taking photo

5. When you’re on set, deliver

You’ve secured your first assisting gig. Now what?

Well, now’s the time to make a really great impression – to demonstrate that you’re a keen learner, you’re a team player, you’re comfortable with both following direction and expressing your creativity.

Use every shoot as an opportunity to connect and build relationships with the team, and to enhance your skillset.

Often, your performance as an assistant on-set will determine whether you’re commissioned again in the future, so it really does pay to do your best work.