The truth is that Susan Lehman is a writer for The New York Times. No doubt, she’s a perfectly lovely person, but she might not be an example of my ideal client. As a social experiment, about a year ago, Ms. Lehman contacted personal shoppers at four retailers. They included New York’s very own Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, and the online service Trunk Club. She wrote about her experiences in working with the sales professionals in each setting, highlighting the pros and cons. Had she known to contact me, the Times writer would have only sleuthed around for her article. Still, if only Susan Lehman hired me, she’d have had a whole other experience worthy of an article.

The obvious difference between my service and the services that she trialed is that they are free. I work for a fee. What a difference a letter makes! But, the difference is for all the right reasons. Free shopping and styling services are there to provide easy access to make it super easy to buy, buy, buy. Whereas, hiring me as an independent personal stylist is a ticket to a true transformational experience.

Lehman describes an experience that one in-store stylist describes as a “transformation.” She explained in the article that a few pieces of clothing constituted a new look and totaled $5900. I don’t take issue with the cost of the clothing. But, I wonder how valuable the clothing would be to Ms. Lehman, had she bought it all.

For her experiment, Lehman provided the same information to each in-store stylist. She wanted to “look smarter, more chic and more fun; younger wouldn’t hurt…” She also explained that she was a writer who occasionally had work lunches and dressy events. Each shopper stylist had her own additional questions. One wanted to see photos of the would-be client. One wanted hair color, and clothing sizes. One inquired about budget. Trunk Club sent a whole box of stuff that “all seemed wrong…off somehow.”

These experiences seem like nothing to write home about. But, I could see how this would make for an interesting article for The Times.

The point is, there is tremendous value in foregoing the free experience for the fee experience.

In working with me, you get the full value of my entire experience and expertise. First and foremost, it’s about so much more than clothes. A true transformation of the self must begin from within. Store associates earn their living by selling clothing and accessories. They haven’t got the incentive, interest, or skillset to take you into yourself.

Hair color, sizes, budget, and the like, don’t matter whatsoever without mapping out a whole lot more information than looking smarter, chicer, younger, and more fun. In every situation, the would-be client was left in charge of her experience. In working with me, you surrender your need for control and let me take over. If only Susan Lehman hired me, I could demonstrate how transforming her personal style and wardrobe is a co-created experience.

The points she enumerated to the sales associates, and the answers they wanted from her, only matter in context. Who is she and who does she endeavor to become? What, for instance, would make for an ideal day-to-day wardrobe? And what stylistic messages should she convey at work lunches and dressy events that are different from her day-to-day looks? Without a deep dive into who Ms. Lehman is, dropping big bucks is just spending money.

Admittedly, I work at a level that isn’t for everyone. It’s not just about having the wherewithal to pay for my expertise and service. It’s about having the deep desire to improve and evolve. This is chiefly why most of my entrepreneurial and senior executive level clients do hire me. It’s also why those on track to become senior executives hire me. They know that the extra push will get them to where they want to be.

Clients benefit from my strong vision of who they are so that it translates into a fashion and style vision. Clients don’t have to question the value of an item. But, they can explore how I present them with challenges to evolve their style personas under my careful direction. I only see one client at a time. The client receives 100% of my undivided attention for the entire time we are working together during each session. I present clients with options that expand their mindsets, and doable within their stated budgets. There are times when I will make a strong case that very special investment items are worth going over budget.

If Susan Lehman hired me, or tried to, this independent personal style expert would’ve revealed the process of real transformation. Instead, all she could do is rate the quality of the dressing rooms, the flowers, and the basic free experience. If I were her, I’d be longing for a far more fulfilling experience, too.