Today, I’m sharing my interview with Helenlee Wilkinson from Style Code. Helenlee’s journey in the styling industry started nearly ten years ago. She left a very successful career in health and fitness and is now a full-time style coach! Helenlee is a very inspiring lady, so I hope you enjoy the read. 😊👇
A: Hi Helenlee, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day to talk to me today, I really appreciate it. Do you want to kick off by telling us how you got into the styling world?
H: Hi Aileen, I’m delighted to chat to you. Thank you for the invitation!
H: Around ten years ago, I came across a personal stylist local to me in Durham and paid for a colour analysis. At the time I ran a very successful PT gym with my fiancé. Health, fitness and the gym were my life, and I was astonished that my stylist did such fun work. It blew my mind that she made a living out of something so creative! I was instantly hooked and desperately wanted to learn more about the colour analysis process. The more I learnt, I realised that maybe I didn’t truly love my gym life. I always thought I did, but I didn’t know anything else as it’s what I’d always done. My experience of colour analysis left me questioning everything. It sounds dramatic, but it changed my whole life!
A: Wow! So, what do you do now, all these years later?
H: I’m a full-time Style Coach and I work for myself. My business is called Style Code. I work both online and in-person and focus on taking clients through my signature program ‘Style rut to style code’.
H: It’s taken years to get here. In the beginning, like so many other stylists I offered all the services under the sun. I’ve now reached the point where my niche is well defined and my program is refined after a lot of tweaking and improving. It now sells over and over again.
A: Incredible. What made you finally take the leap into style coaching then?
H: As a child I was super into clothes and fashion. I was really creative and loved looking through all my mum’s catalogues, picking out outfits that I’d want to wear. Sadly, my mum died from a brain tumour when I was 12 years old, and looking back, that’s when all my creativity dried up. I lost my interest in clothes, and looking through the catalogues without mum was just too painful.
H: I grew up with my dad and two brothers who were all obsessed fitness, and as I knew nothing else, I ended up following the same career path. I did a sports science degree at university, qualified as a PT, and then we opened our gym. My whole life revolved around the gym and fitness.
H: Eventually, as I got older, the unresolved trauma I’d experienced with the loss of my mum started spilling out and I suffered a breakdown. As part of the healing process, I started working with a grief counsellor, and as I began confronting everything, my creativity started rushing back. My counsellor encouraged me to explore my creativity and do more of the activities that I loved. So, the colour analysis I treated myself to was part of that process. It was the start of me rediscovering myself.
H: It was a long journey, but I came out of the counselling process finally knowing who I was and what I wanted out of life. I started experimenting with my wardrobe. I had this ‘safe’ wardrobe that was full of fitness gear, which represented the old Helenlee who was just trying to survive, and my new wardrobe that was for the new me who was LIVING again, and not just surviving.
A: You really are an inspiration, Helenlee. You’ve had quite the journey and it’s fantastic to see you thriving and happy, and loving the work that you do. So many women will relate because for a whole host of different reasons, we all lose ourselves at some point and have to do that deeply personal work to find out who we are again.
A: So, what do you think makes you different as a personal stylist? How do you stand out from all the others?
H: There are a few things:
1) Sharing my story, telling people who I am and what I’ve been through. There’s no one else out there like me. I’m unique, and as you say, so many women resonate with the thought of losing themselves due to big life events. Whether due to grief, becoming a mum, changing careers, moving to a new country, for example.
2) Finding my niche and getting totally specific about who I helped. When I first discovered personal styling, it was very much centred around older women, and there was no one helping women like me who were approaching their 30s so that’s where I chose to specialise.
3) Putting together my program which brought all my knowledge together:
- Being a trained coach
- Really into health and fitness
- My understanding of makeup and hairstyling (which I’m also qualified in)
- My interest in ethical brands, particularly makeup and skincare.
H: There’s also my experience of grief and counselling and the realisation I had that my messy old wardrobe was full of clothes that I bought on impulse because I was trying to fill a hole that grief left inside me. I know that so many other women my age are always buying on impulse too, so my program helps them to slow everything down and buy quality pieces they can wear forever.
A: Tell me about taking your work online, Helenlee. What was your experience?
H: I took both your 5 Weeks to Online Colour Expert and Unstoppable Style courses just as we went into lockdown. I’d done the odd online consultation before to work with overseas clients, but just here and there. I wasn’t as well setup for online working as I wanted to be. I didn’t have any of the digital palettes that you provide in the course, and I wasn’t sure about how to create the best online experience for my clients.
H: I signed up for the colour program first because what grabbed me about it, and it sounds really lazy to say so, was that you’d done all the work to put the palettes together, so I didn’t have to. I just couldn’t be bothered with all the effort! 🙊
A: Ha! I totally get that. You can do all the work yourself, but why reinvent the wheel when it’s already been done for you, right?!
H: Exactly! When I saw your posts on Instagram, I was like hallelujah! Where do I sign up? There were so many other things I loved about the program once I’d signed up too, especially the Facebook support group. When you’re self-employed you’re basically on your own, so having the camaraderie within the group was fabulous. And although I’m confident in what I do, it was so good to be able to bring pictures of clients into the group and get a second opinion. Seeing things through another pair of eyes is invaluable to your ongoing learning and development.
A: Totally. You never stop learning, do you? I’ve been in this business for nearly 20 years, and I’m learning something new everyday thanks to all my incredible clients like you.
H: My plan was to always take my services fully online, but taking your programs gave me the shove I needed, Aileen. Not only did I learn so much about how to conduct online consultations, but I also got a massive confidence boost too! To know I’m on the right track and giving a great standard of service to my clients is priceless.
A: Having the support of a community of likeminded people is so important when you’re on your own in business. I’ve worked hard to keep the groups supportive because what I found in the earliest days of my styling career, was that a lot of image consultants felt they were in competition with each other, so there’d be a lot of hiding away, keeping knowledge to themselves. I didn’t want that in my communities. There’s no need to be so secretive or protective because each one of us is different and there’s space for us all. Once we start to show up as who we really are and let people see our imperfections, that’s when clients start flocking.
A: Can you tell me a little more about how you introduced your online services to clients?
H: Sure. So, I started talking about it non-stop on Instagram! That’s my biggest platform where I get around 95% of my clients, the others coming through referrals and the odd Google search. I kept churning out content explaining the process and giving tips and advice, much in the same way that you do, Aileen, and now I’m at the point of getting as many online clients as I did face-to-face before lockdown.
H: The best bit is that all the online work allows me to be location independent, and my husband and I are planning to go abroad for months at a time but continuing to work while we’re away. It’s something we’ve dreamed about, and finally the dream is coming true!
H: I guess what I’m trying to say is that going online has changed my business and changed my life.
A: Fabulous! I love it. A lot of stylists who don’t yet work online tell me they’re worried that they won’t enjoy online work as much as in-house. How have you found it?
H: I actually enjoy the online work more! It was really surprising. I love meeting people from all over the world and come off all my calls literally buzzing with excitement! The client results are no different when you’re working online either. I know so many people question the accuracy when compared to an in-person analysis.
A: The key to colour and style analysis is explaining them in a simple way so that your clients can go away and start finding the colours and styles that suit them. We have all these procedures we follow when people come in-house, but essentially, it all boils down to the same thing. You can get the information across in a much simpler way which doesn’t cost you so much time and energy!
H: Talking of energy, I’ve actually cut the length of my in-person consultations in half since going online! The new way of working got me thinking about my in-house process so now I get clients to send me photos, measurements, and fill out their style personality questionnaire in advance. When they get to my studio, I’ve already got a clear idea of their best colours and style choices, so I talk them through it all, tweaking as I get to know them better, and then we move straight into the teaching part, so they leave with the knowledge of how to build their own capsule wardrobe.
A: It makes so much sense to do what you can in advance of your consultations. Shortening the consultation process means it’s much less exhausting for you and the client!
A: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today, Helenlee. Do you have any final words you’d like to share or advice you’d like to give?
H: Be your most authentic self and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there online. Tell your story and share your experiences. Those posts are the ones that make people reach out, asking to work with you. They never say they’ve been checking out my services (the business-y stuff), but rather they reference a particular post or story I told and how they connected with it.
A: That’s spot on. It’s never about the clothes or the colours, people want to connect with you and find all the things you have in common. It’s once you’ve built up that relationship that they become clients!
A great big thank you to Helenlee for sharing her story with us. 🥰