Men’s stylist Sarah Gilfillan: how I plan, what to wear on Zoom, winning habits

blog by writer Brian McGee with personal stylist Sartoria Lab

We all take different approaches to harnessing social media (or taming the beast) in our marketing. But regular habits and thoughtful, planned content go a long way to help our ideal clients find us online. It’s hard to deny the power of a plan that we review regularly.

In the latest in a series of interviews with business owners and creatives, men’s shopper and personal stylist Sarah Gilfillan of Sartoria Lab explains her approach to planning curated content on Instagram and beyond. Want to know what to wear on a Zoom call? Sarah has some tips to share with us about that too.

You have a friendly, engaging tone of voice, and get plenty of engagement, for instance on Instagram. (As we’ve done work for each other I’m familiar with Sartoria Lab’s “tone of voice” on social media.) What approach have you taken to build that engagement? 

I usually ask a question in my posts or I might tell a little story or anecdote. I also comment on other people’s posts which I also find really helps……I’ll only comment if I have something genuine to say though! I try not to be too formal or “selly” as I think that’s off-putting – I want people who see my posts on social media to see that I’m fun, approachable and helpful and to demonstrate that I enjoy working with my clients.

Recently for instance I told a story about how long it took me to do my own plumbing, and how I saved money but lost a lot of time – I linked it to how it might take you ages to do online shopping yourself… and how it might be better to hire a personal shopper instead and save your time!

(When I sent that out in a newsletter, a client told me his plumbing story too – fixing a heating system over the Christmas holidays – and bought a session for his wife for Valentine’s Day! Who knew that a mechanical breakdown could lead to romance?!)

I also used a question I’d been asked by a guy who was dating about wearing a football scarf. He thought women might like it because it showed his interests and might attract someone who supported the same team……unfortunately for him, the answers were a resounding no!

blog by writer Brian McGee with personal shopper Sartoria Lab


You’re most active on LinkedIn and Instagram, is that right? Are you trying anything else out, for instance Pinterest? If so how are you getting on with it?

Yes that’s right although I’m not using LinkedIn as much now as I’ve only ever had one job directly from it. I do use Pinterest but I’ve not completely got the hang of it yet. I plan to do more with Pinterest though, as I’ve noticed in the past that’s the one that sends the most traffic to my website.

How do you generate ideas when planning your blogs and social media posts? I imagine part of that is through interactions with your customers, so have you had to take a different approach during lockdown, when in-person styling and shopping trips have been off the cards? 

Yes, a lot of the inspiration comes from clients’ questions and what I’ve seen or they’ve bought whilst on a shopping trip. I still have questions from my online clients but it has been harder during lockdown as obviously there’s not as much need for clothes for different occasions. I’ve tried to be more practical and think about situations people still need clothes, for example outdoor jackets, sturdy boots, things to look good on Zoom or comfy but smart sweatpants.

Have you always found it easy to come up with ideas for your blogs? If it’s become easier, why is that? You seem very regular in your blogging: how do you hold yourself to account? For instance do you coincide your blogs with sending your newsletter?

I don’t always find it that easy, I have to admit. In the past I think I used to over-complicate things and it took a really long time to do, but now I try and focus on what I think clients might find helpful and what they might be googling, so I can provide the answer.

Yes, I coincide it with my newsletter which I committed to sending out on the first of the month about six or seven years ago. I don’t think I’ve ever missed a month. It’s now twice a month and I send out a link to my latest blog (also fortnightly) with that. I know I’ll feel bad if I don’t do it so I force myself to even if I don’t feel like it, and when clients or subscribers get in touch with positive responses from clients, it makes all the perseverance worthwhile.

blog by writer Brian McGee with personal shopper Sarah Gilfillan

What habits work well for you when it comes to generating content for your website and on social media? For instance do you plan your content in advance, or post as ideas crop up – or perhaps a hybrid approach, both planned and spontaneous? 

I do try and plan in advance for Instagram otherwise it tends not to get done. I try and gather up images, testimonials, write tips and so on, and then schedule for the week on Mondays. Stories are more spontaneous though – and I need to get into reels too but I’m not quite there yet.

I like the pictures to look good next to each other so I take this into account when planning my content on Instagram I make sure that I have different types of posts – a testimonial, an inspirational picture, a quote, an image of a garment etc.

As for blog titles, I now concentrate on using “boring” ones that are more likely to match what people are searching for, as opposed to “quirky” ones. I usually add “personal shopper for men” or “personal styling for men” at the end of the description of each image that I use.

That, together with the “Google-friendly” titles, seems to be working quite well in that I get nearly all my business via Google searches.

>>Previous guest interview in this series: SEO specialist Josh Hamit on Google, charming writing, creativity – and eels

blog by writer Brian McGee with personal shopper Sartoria Lab

You’ve said in a comment on LinkedIn that you use Planoly for Instagram and Buffer for LinkedIn and Twitter. What do you like about those two scheduling tools?

I like Planoly because you can see all the images next to each other and you can save sets of hashtags. Buffer is easy to use although it does have moments of unlinking itself from your platforms.

There’s a lot of uncertainty for us all at the moment, whether in business development or making plans more generally. Clouds and silver linings may be a cliché (OK, that’s definitely a cliché)… but have any new opportunities arisen for you during the pandemic? For instance is there scope to do more of your business online even once restrictions are lifted? 

I’ve always offered an online service but I’ve not promoted it much so far.

For instance you can do a Styling Power Hour with me online which goes through colours & styles that will suit you, and this also covers any other specific questions you may have – like what to wear for Zoom calls or interviews.

I also do Online Shopping where I do the research and send my clients links to suggested products. And I also help clients go through the clothes they already own with a Wardrobe Edit and decide what items they might want to part with and what’s more likely to stay, as well as helping to put outfits together.

Being forced to work online more during the various lockdowns has made me feel much more confident about this though and I realise just how much I can still help people, even if it’s not in person. There’s so much more scope being able to work with anyone from anywhere in the world, which can continue once restrictions are lifted.

I’m now thinking of doing an online course too, so watch this space.

blog by writer Brian McGee with personal stylist Sarah Gilfillan

You’re a personal stylist and personal shopper for men, so we’re interested to hear your feelings about post-restrictions life. From your interactions with clients and other stylists, will people want to dress to impress, or will casual dress be more prevalent? After all, when people have been able to work from home, there’s not always been the same incentive on a Zoom call as there is when we meet in person.

I think “smart casual” is the way forward as things had been going in that direction before lockdown anyway; and with everyone used to dressing more casually now, it’s become more acceptable. I’m sure there will be some people who will want to get super dressed-up though and wear suits and ties as they’re so bored of wearing track pants all year!

You have a lot of testimonials on your website, and you also post these on Instagram and LinkedIn. Business owners are sometimes bashful about asking for testimonials from clients. What approach do you take, for instance do you mention when you first start work with a new customer that you’ll ask them for a testimonial later? 

I tend to get lovely messages from clients anyway but I do ask people to post a review on my Google business page after we’ve worked together. I think that really helps when people are searching online. I wouldn’t mention it beforehand – that would feel extremely uncomfortable to me.

Last question, another Zoom-related one. (Other online meeting platforms are available.) What’s your top tip to look and feel our best on Zoom?  

Wear a collar (could be a collared sweater or shirt) or some detail at the neckline and some colour…..make sure it’s not the same as your background. And while we’re talking about backgrounds, how do I put this diplomatically… tidy up!!

(Image credits: Sarah’s headshot by shutterme; PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay; Alexander Shatov  on Unsplash; dimitrisvetsikas1969 & RoyalAnwar on Pixabay; many thanks to Sarah for the headshot and Sartoria Lab logo.)

*What habits work for you on social media? What’s the biggest challenge for you,
whether on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest?
Please don’t hesitate to add a comment below.*

blog by writer Brian McGee with personal shopper Sartoria Lab

4 comments on “Men’s stylist Sarah Gilfillan: how I plan, what to wear on Zoom, winning habits

    • Brian McGee on

      Thanks a lot for your comment, Shona. Yes, good point that about valuing our time! Working more collaboratively has to be a way to maximise our efforts; that’s just one of the reasons why it’s been such a pleasure to work with Sarah on this project.


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