Image consulting is the industry of the future in India and the sub-continent. The need to manage one’s image in a professional and better manner is increasing with each passing day and this gives rise to a great business opportunity to set up an image consulting business.
The path to setting up an image consulting business can be divided under the following major steps.
- Education and training to become an image consultant
- Creating a business identity
- Certification to enhance credibility and confidence
- Marketing to create awareness and to get business
- Providing excellent service to clients creating a positive word of mouth
- Continuously learning and updating the skills
Let me now examine each one of these points in detail.
Education and training to become an image consultant
Image consulting requires in-depth knowledge and training as each client comes with a completely different sets of variables like personal colours, body shape & size and face shape. There are also different roles and goals of a person in life. As Judith Rasband, one of the most senior image consultants in the world says, “Image Consulting is not rocket science. It’s harder!”
Although anyone with a strong desire to help people change their lives can become an image consultant, it does require education and training to be a good one. The following things should be considered while choosing an educator/trainer.
- Credibility in the profession
- Exhaustiveness of the curriculum
- Post training support by the educator/trainer
The program offered should cover the following core competencies as defined by the biggest trade bodies in the field:-
- Technical Knowledge on every aspect of image management
- Professional Development to acquire skills to apply the technical knowledge on others including program and service material to be used with companies and individuals
- Business Management to successfully run an image consulting business
Creating a business identity
After getting educated and trained as an image consultant, it is essential to create a business identity consisting of the following:-
- Formation of a business entity which could be proprietorship, partnership, or an incorporated.
Business cards and other stationary
- Brochure, leaflet etc
It is important to choose the right name for the entity and corresponding domain. As far as possible one should have a .com domain.
Certification to enhance credibility and confidence
Once one has gone through a program and has become well versed with all the core competencies of the profession it becomes essential to get certified by a reputed trade body in the region one is going to run the business in. A certification brings credibility in the eyes of the clients and at the same time gives self-confidence. Some of the trade bodies in the profession are as follows.
- The Image Consultants’ Society International (ICSI)
- Association of Image Consultants International (AICI)
- International Federation of Image Consultants (IFIC)
The certification usually has three to four levels and with increased knowledge and experience one can keep getting certified at higher levels to get more recognition and credibility.
The certification at the first level requires the candidate to be well versed in all core competencies of image consulting and proof of business identity among other criteria which may vary from body to body.
Marketing to create awareness and get business
At this stage one is all set to venture into the business of image consulting. Now the job of getting clients starts, and one must remember, “No opportunity is LOST. Someone else TAKES it.” It is essential to be able to market your own self as even the best cannot do business unless they are able to attract clients. Marketing efforts could include all of some of the following.
- A good website and promoting it through social networking sites
- Advertising in the neighbourhood initially and gradually at city level to promote the business
- Going to clubs, associations, and agreeing to present seminars/lectures on importance of image management and related topics, even for free initially
- Advertising yourself on the relevant association websites
- Undertaking emailing activities to a niche database
Providing excellent service to clients creating a positive word of mouth: Since image consulting is a personalized service, in most cases it is all the more essential to provide the client with excellent service and guidance. This is a business where eventually most of the clients will come through word of mouth and the only way to generate a positive word of mouth is to give excellent service. Remember, no matter what the business is, one only sells a promise and the customer buys satisfaction. If you can fulfill your promise and satisfy the client you have made it.
Continuously learning and updating the skills: As one starts building a business in image consulting one also needs to constantly upgrade skills to keep abreast with latest happenings and trends. One also moves to a higher segment of clients and it becomes imperative to know more and the quest for learning is essential in this business. One should continue to attend programs and keep honing their skills always.
While it may all sound easy but trust me that it is not. Most people coming into this profession/business come from a professional background and this becomes a first time business venture. Running a successful business without support is very difficult. Often people find themselves in a situation where they get so harassed and involved in the nitty gritty of running a business that they are not able to concentrate on the actual work.
The key therefore is to find a training company which not only provides education and training but also provides assistance in setting up and running an image consulting business.
The author, Suman Agarwal, is the senior-most Image Consultant in the Indian Sub-continent and director of Image Consulting Business Institute. Image Consulting Business Institute is a pioneer in India and one of the biggest brands in the world in Image Management and Soft Skills Training Space. It offers programs for people to become Image Consultants and Soft Skills Trainers and at the same time offers Image Management and Soft Skills Training services to individuals and companies.