How to Start a Personal Shopping Business
Is a store your happy place? Do you recognize a bargain when you see one? Do you know where to snap up the best pieces to follow the latest fashion trends? Or do you have a knack for sourcing personalized gifts or specialty foods? If so, how does shopping and running errands for a living sound? That’s what personal shoppers do. If you take that one step further and start a personal shopping services business, you’ll also enjoy greater flexibility in terms of services you offer, the number of clients you take on, and your preferred suppliers and brands.
As a personal shopper, you will shop or run errands for someone else. Personal shoppers assist with anything from providing personal grocery shopping services to picking out gifts to finding furniture. Many personal shoppers also buy clothing and accessories for their clients. They might go shopping on clients’ behalf to save them time, or they might go shopping with them and advise them on styles and trends. These personal shoppers work directly for clients or their personal stylists.
You typically don’t need to be qualified to be a personal shopper, but a solid understanding of trends and new products and an existing network of potential clients will help greatly to get your business off to a good start. If you intend to offer personal shopping services for clothes and accessories, your style and wardrobe will be your business card.
A personal shopper service can be a full-time business or even one to offer as a side job to make a little extra income.
There isn’t much data available when it comes to professional personal shopper businesses in the US. According to Zippia, there were well over 33,500 personal shoppers employed in the US, the number of personal shoppers running their own business is unknown. However, demographics are likely to be similar. For example, over 71% of all personal shoppers are women, and the average age of an employed personal shopper is 44. It’s also interesting to note that at the time of that report, New York and Chicago had the highest number of personal shoppers.
By far, the largest market segment within this industry is the personal shopping service for clothing and accessories. It is also one of the most competitive markets.
The last more in-depth market research report from IBISWorld gave this industry a continued positive outlook due to increased disposable income and the trend towards more personalized customer care and services.
That said, it stated that this is a fiercely competitive industry. Especially luxury fashion boutiques and large department stores such as Bloomingdale’s often offer in-house personal stylists and shopping services to their clients. And don’t forget the growth in the number of personal shoppers grocery giants such as Harris Teeter or Walmart offer.
What your target market will typically have in common is a relatively high disposable income, a lack of time or desire to do their own shopping, and/or they are uncertain about styles and trends.
From here on in, you will have some decisions to make. And these should be based on your preferences and expertise, of course, but also your competition. It is worthwhile to do some serious market research at this point. The range of services you offer will also depend on whether you will employ additional staff.
Skills, Experience, and Education Useful in Running a Personal Shopping Services Business
Credentials and Competence. You typically don’t need a degree or specific qualification to start your personal shopping services business. Your credentials are your style and happy, long-term clients. You need to be a competent shopper who can work to a client’s budget. A background in the fashion industry is a plus if you decide to be a personal clothing and accessories shopper and style adviser. Understanding how clothes fit and which styles will be most flattering to your client’s shape and are appropriate to their lifestyle and tastes is very important in this business.
Stay up to date and on top of trends. Having your finger on the pulse is a vital aspect of your work regardless of what personal shopping services you will offer. Being knowledgeable about the latest trends, gadgets, and innovations, about new shops, or new products being released is necessary across the board. Stay connected with your network and your industry. It’ll help you stay ahead of the game and offer your clients a competent and personalized experience.
Excellent interpersonal skills: You’ll be an excellent listener and sensitive to your customers’ needs and tastes. You’ll also need to be able to clearly communicate your ideas and discuss these in a positive way. Also, be prepared to support a style or taste that doesn’t necessarily match your own.
Time management skills. Managing your time well so that the right products reach your client on time and with a smile is critical. There is also a certain amount of troubleshooting skill required, especially when, for example, the gown for the evening’s event doesn’t fit, there are traffic jams, or you have several pick-ups and deliveries to make. Managing your bookings and understanding the time commitment for each one of them is crucial.
Checklist for Starting a Personal Shopping Business
If you’re thinking about starting your own personal shopping business, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Here is a checklist of the essentials to get started.
Step 1: Write a Business Plan
After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your personal shopping services should be to write a business plan. You might think a plan is not that important because starting as a personal shopper doesn’t require a large sum of capital upfront. But the business plan will make you focus on some important aspects of your business, such as who your customers are, how you plan to reach them, projecting income and expenses, and much more. Multiple studies have shown that a business plan helps increase the odds of starting a successful business and sustain it longer-term.
Related: How to write a business plan
Step 2: Name the Business
Finding the perfect name for your personal shopping services business can be challenging. Not only does the name have to resonate with your customers, but it also has to be available to use.
Most states require that if operating under a business name that is different from your own name, a Doing Business As (DBA) or Assumed Name registration will be needed.
Step 3: Form a Business Structure
A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from, which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each type of entity has its own pros and cons, such as liability exposure, costs, and administrative requirements.
When deciding on which business entity is best for a personal shopping business, it normally comes down to the sole proprietorship and Limited Liability Company.
A partnership opens the owners up to unnecessary personal liability because if a partner does something to get the business sued, or runs off with cash from the business, the other partners are personally liable to repay. The corporation can be a good choice because it separates the business assets from the owner’s assets. If the corporation is sued or certain business debts can’t be paid back, the owners aren’t personally responsible to repay them. The downside to the corporation is that it is more complicated than all the other entities and requires more administration than the LLC. If you plan on raising a lot of investment though, the corporation is usually the better choice.
That leaves the sole proprietorship and LLC.
The sole proprietorship is the least expensive and easiest entity to start which is appealing. The downside is the owner is personally liable should anything happen to the business, which is an important consideration. The LLC offers the ability to operate as a sole proprietorship with the liability protection of a corporation. Depending on the state, the cost to form an LLC runs from $40 – $500, which is pretty inexpensive for protecting the owners from business-related lawsuits and certain debts.
Related: Guide to forming your LLC
Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.
Some popular LLC formation services include:
IncFile - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
IncAuthority - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent the first year!
ZenBusiness - $49 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!
Step 4: Select your Location
If you are starting on your own, the location is perhaps not the most important consideration. A personal shopping services business can be run from home as it is less dependent on a brick-and-mortar office space for customers to visit. Even if you decide to employ staff to offer a broader range of services, it doesn’t mean you automatically have to rent a big office or warehouse. A personal shopping services business should work well for remote, distributed teams.
You should, however, consider your location in terms of accessibility to shops, suppliers, and clients. If you are living in a remote area, each errand you run will add considerable travel time.
Related: Choosing a business location
Step 5: Apply for Business Licenses and Permits
You won’t need a specific qualification to offer personal shopping services, but as a business owner, it’s important to identify the necessary permits and licenses before starting your business. These permits and licenses can vary based on the state and town where the business is located. Some common local, state, and federal registrations a private music lesson business may need include a sales tax permit and Employer Identification Number.
Step 6: Find Financing
Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing but getting the funding to start your own business is another. Luckily, a personal shopping services business does typically not require a large amount of capital upfront and can start small scale. However, should you need a loan, it is important to understand that the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able to invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs.
Step 7: Open a Business Bank Account
Keeping your small business and personal finances in separate bank accounts is important to track the income and expenses of your business and identify trends.
Many banks offer free business checking accounts, so be sure to find a cost-effective option for your business.
Step 8: Get your Marketing Plan in Place
Marketing and communication should be big-ticket items on your budget. That includes branding, business cards, online advertising, your online presence both in social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, along with your business website. Make the most of tools such as Google My Business to achieve maximum local visibility.
Mix and mingle whenever you can. Consider radio advertising and a presence at expos and large corporate events. Creating a customer loyalty program can help to encourage new and repeat clients.
Marketing and branding costs will depend on the design, the activity performed, and its volume.
Step 9: Get Business Insurance
There are several types of insurance to consider when starting a personal shopping business. A few of these include:
– General liability insurance protects the business from expenses like medical and legal bills that it could face if a customer is ever hurt while on the business’ property. It will also protect you from being liable for accidentally causing damage to a client’s property or you getting hurt.
– Professional liability insurance helps cover any damages owed if your professional services or advice result in a financial loss for your clients.
– Worker’s compensation insurance covers expenses like medical bills and legal fees that a business might face if an employee were ever hurt while working.
The cost to insure a personal shopping business will vary in cost depending on factors like the business’s location, the value of its inventory (if any), and the number of employees on staff (if any). To get the most accurate idea of what to budget for insurance, request quotes from multiple providers. When comparing the quotes, consider not only the premiums but also how the plan exclusions, coverage limitations, and deductibles compare.
Step 10: Hire Employees
Personal shopping services can easily be run as an owner-operated home-based business. But should you want to hire staff to expand the range of personal shopping services you can offer, the average pay for a personal shopper is $14.78, according to PayScale.
In addition to salary costs, your budget will need to include other employee-related expenses. Workman’s comp insurance, unemployment insurance, and paid time off are common expenses that a business will need to cover when hiring staff. It will also be useful to set aside some time and budget for professional development.
Related: Hiring your first employee
Step 11: Set up an Accounting System
Setting up an accounting system for your business is critical to its long-term success. A good system will allow you to stay on top of your billing and will track income and expenses. It will help you maximize profits, identify trends, and keep the business out of trouble with the government.
The thought of accounting can be intimidating for a lot of new entrepreneurs. There are a number of ways of handling bookkeeping, from DIY to hiring a bookkeeper. These include:
- Pen and paper - Low expense, but difficult to track.
- Spreadsheet - Low expense, but easy to make errors.
- Accounting software - Medium expense, but owner typically inputs expenses. Some great accounting software programs include Freshbooks or Wave Accounting.
- Hire a bookkeeper - Higher expense, though very affordable at $100-$200 per month in most cases. A dedicated bookkeeper will probably save money because, in addition to handling all of the bookkeeping (so you can focus on the business), they also provide personalized tax advice and ensure the business is in compliance.
Find bookkeepers in your local area or use a service like 800Accountant.
How much does it cost to start a personal shopping business?
Becoming your own boss in this industry is relatively easy and does not require a huge upfront investment. For starters, a personal shopping service is the ideal home-based business. You will likely not need to rent an office or warehouse space unless you are, of course, planning to employ staff for your new business or you want to stock staple items.
A large budget item will be your marketing and communication strategy. You will also need a reliable car or small van depending on the services offered, along with a smartphone and lots of business cards. And if you are a personal shopper specializing in fashion, you will need to set a budget aside for a high-quality digital camera and wardrobe.
How much money can you make with a personal shopping business?
According to Indeed.com, the average annual salary for a personal shopper is $54,673 in the US. However, as a self-employed personal shopper, the fees you charge will also need to cover all your overheads and turn a profit. Personal shoppers typically charge per hour or a percentage of the total spending of their clients.
To determine your fees, it will pay to check out your competition, both local and online. Your rate will be influenced by the demand for stress-free, personal shopping services, but also by the supply. Your charges will be determined by what services you offer, how you offer them, your overheads but also your skills and reputation.
Are there grants to start a personal shopping business?
It’s extremely rare to find a grant to start a personal shopping business. If you search for business grants, you will come across a lot of scams and misinformation. Occasionally an organization will offer grants to start a business, however, be skeptical and don’t provide any sensitive personal information or pay money to get more information.
Legitimate federal grants can be found at Grants.gov and you can check on your state’s economic development office to see if they have any grants available.
What is the NAICS code for a personal shopping business?
The NAICS code for a personal shopping business is 812990, which is categorized under A.
The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.