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How to Start a Personal Shopper Business

If you like shopping and getting the best deals for your family and friends, becoming a personal shopper might be an ideal option. In most personal shopping arrangements, your client provides you with a list of items (general or specific), and you obtain them and take them to the client. This is a decent option if you’re looking for a reason to get out of the house and make some cash.

How to Start a Personal Shopper Business

Here, we’ll show you everything you need to know about how to start a personal shopper business.

How to Start a Personal Shopping Business

Step One: Write Your Business Plan

The clearer your plan for your business idea, the better off you’ll be. Determine the customers you’ll serve – elderly people, busy professionals, families – the services you’ll provide, etc. 

Consider costs involved. You can operate much of your business from home, but you’ll need money to form your business, set up your website, and market it to your local area.

You won’t have much ongoing costs except for fuel and vehicle maintenance. You’ll need web hosting and money for ongoing marketing and advertising.

Set your rates based on the complexity of the job and time it takes. You’ll charge less to pick up groceries from a list than you would to be a style consultant and shop for hours at a time.

Step Two: Form Your Legal Business Entity

While many businesses can start as sole proprietorships, this business structure doesn’t legally separate you from your business. That’s why it’s best to create a limited liability company (LLC). It establishes your business separate from your personal assets. Here’s where you’ll complete your business name registration, but your brand name doesn’t have to match the company name. You can operate multiple businesses until the same LLC, with a doing business as.

Step Three: Obtain Business Licenses and Register for Taxes

You’ll have different business license and tax requirements based on the type of business you create and the location it operates from. Consult an accountant for more help in this area.

Step Four: Set Up Your Business Accounts and Business Accounting

Once you’ve formed your business entity, you’ll be able to open business checking accounts and apply for a business credit card. You’ll need accounting software like Wave or Freshbooks to keep track of your income and expenses.

Step Five: Develop Your Services Contract

You should have a service contract available for use with all your customers. While you could start with a generic services contract, having an attorney assist with this step is always a good idea to ensure you’re protected.

Step Six: Secure Business Insurance

Business insurance protects your business from liability should anything happen to a client due to your services. You can obtain business insurance from companies like Hiscox, The Hartford, Nationwide, and Next.

Step Seven: Build Your Brand

Here’s where you work on your brand’s logo, slogan, color scheme, etc. But, it’s more than that. 

Your brand is the totality of how your customers perceive you. Think about what makes you unique and how you want to be perceived. Consider your target audience and what they are looking for.

Pay attention to detail and be sure that every element is well-designed and professional.

Keep it consistent. Your branding should be reflected in everything from your website to your business cards to how you answer the phone.

Make sure every touch point is an opportunity to reinforce your brand message.

Keep it fresh, but don’t lose sight of who you are as a company. As your business grows and changes, so should your branding strategy evolve to stay relevant.

Step Eight: Market and Promote Your Business to Potential Clients

There are multiple ways to do this, and the best way depends on your target audience. If you’re targeting senior citizens, you may want to consider some “older” forms of advertising, like radio ads. But, you can still leverage social media advertising and online marketing by targeting people who provide care for their parents and grandparents.

Step Nine: Maintain Quality Customer Service

Repeat customers are the bread and butter of most types of businesses, so keep those customers happy. Set up a referral program to grow your customer base and provide a small discount to the clients who send new customers your way.

Personal Shopping Business: Tools and Startup Costs

As long as you already have a computer and internet access, you can set up your own website and get started with an LLC (which costs about $150 in most US states).

You’ll also need a vehicle, an app for mileage tracking, and accounting software to track your expenses. It helps to have a separate bank account for making your client’s purchases.

Want to try before you commit? No problem—there’s an app for that. These apps are free to use but pay after taking a percentage of the total sale. They are:

  • TaskRabbit: Offers clients payment directly through their secure site. This site focuses on same-day chores and tasks, so you can log in when you need to.
  • Instacart: Bid on shopping shifts to do grocery shopping for your clients with specific lists and instructions.
  • Shipt: This app is much like Instacart, though it doesn’t offer as wide of a service area.

We recommend using these app services to get started with your personal shopping services—and if you like them, build your own website and tout your high satisfaction rating to help gain local clients.

How Much Can Personal Shoppers Make?

 According to Indeed, the average annual salary for a personal shopper in the United States is $41,262 – but as with any industry, that can fluctuate based on various factors, such as:

  • Target Market: If you’re targeting “regular” people and the elderly, you may not make as much as you could working with celebrities. But celebrity gigs are a lot more difficult to land.
  • Business Location: See above – if you’re not in NYC or LA (where competition is fierce), you’re much less likely to land high-dollar clients. In small towns, it can be hard to get your business off the ground.
  • Industry: You could work as a general shopper, handling groceries and household needs, or in the fashion industry, where you also become a professional stylist. Your services dictate your rates and earning potential.
  • Nature of Employment:  As a business owner, you’ll be more in control of your rates, compared to becoming someone’s employee. You can purchase your own benefits like health insurance and retirement accounts.

Pros of a Personal Shopper Business

Personal shopping could work out for you if you like making others’ lives easier. Here are some of the other perks of running a personal shopper business:

  • Form personal connections with clients for repeat business: Personal shopping is one of the easiest businesses for repeat business. That’s because you get to know your clients through personal communication and interviews (if you find clients on your own instead of through the app). Most clients are pretty grateful, too—you’ll serve senior citizens, folks with mobility issues, busy parents, and professionals who really appreciate the help when it comes to shopping assistance.
  • No inventory: You don’t have to manage any kind of inventory. Even your shopping lists can live on your mobile device.
  • Little start-up cost: Beyond your regular insurance and liability, you’re good to go.
  • No extra education needed: Are you a savvy shopper? That’s what counts when running your own personal shopper business—no fancy degree required.

Cons of a Personal Shopper Business

It’s not all sunshine roses in personal shopper land. Let’s take a look:

  • Peak times exist: Peak times mean more money when it comes to bidding for shifts in apps like Instacart, but it also means those off-peak times aren’t so great (kind of like rideshare) on certain apps. If you’re not interested in working during peak times, or you’re unable to due to work or family commitments, it can really put a dent in your income.
  • Can’t bring kids: For liability reasons, you can’t bring your kids on trips with Instacart and most other apps. A popular choice for parents, these apps’ insurance policies do not want to accept the liability of having your child in the car and on the shopping trip. Often, childcare could cost you more than you make on your shift.
  • Can’t be flaky: Older folks might depend on you to get the medication and food they really need. You can’t take a shift or any other personal shopper commitment and flake, or you could put someone’s health in danger.
  • Balancing multiple apps: You’ve got to be incredibly organized to balance multiple apps, when you’re using which app, and which makes the most sense at the time.
  • Returns exist: Make sure you have a policy for items you can’t find or items that must be returned.

FAQs

Is a Personal Shopper Service Business Right For You?

Personal shopping can be a lucrative business if you’re an efficient shopper. Technology helps make personal shopping more convenient for you and your prospective clients, though it also means juggling multiple tasks and personal shopping apps. If you’re especially organized about your time and know how to monetize each opportunity to its maximum potential, you should consider starting a personal shopper business.

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