tips for starting a home staging business

How to Make a Home Staging Business Plan

The first thing you should do when you start your Home Staging Business Plan is decide the purpose of the document. This boils down to “Is this document just for me? Or is it something I am writing to communicate with other people?”

If you just want to write it for yourself, you may be happy to write a one-page plan with a high-level overview. It doesn’t necessarily need a lot of detailed descriptions, much less attached supporting documentation.

But if you want to use it to communicate with others, such as applying for financing or selling the idea to potential partners, you will want a long-form document that includes standard sections. The plan will need to be both formally written and well documented.

The Writing Is The Least Of It

So you probably think making a business plan is about doing a lot of writing. That can be a big part of it, but it’s really not the most important part.

You need to have something to say that isn’t just fluff. This means you need to do the research and legwork. It also means you need to do some thinking and analysis.

Even if you don’t have any intentions of applying for financing or sharing the plan with anyone else, the process of writing it can be valuable because it forces you to think about all the aspects of the business. It also encourages to think things through.

Here are some things you need to address in your business plan. Each of these sections may be a separate project in its own right. Again, don’t assume that a one page executive summary just for you will some quick and dirty matter of jotting things down.

What Will You Name It?

Naming a business can be a lengthy process. You will want to think about a number of things, none of which are necessarily obvious if you have never done this before. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Real name or fictitious business name?
  • Are there any unfortunate connotations?
  • Can people readily understand it, spell it and pronounce it?
  • Is the domain name available?

An example of a real business name is Smith and Sons or Jane Smith Designs. If you use your actual legal name in the business name, this may reduce the amount of initial paperwork you require.

For example, you may not immediately need a business bank account because customers can just make their check available to Jane Smith. You also may not need to register the name with your local jurisdictions.

A fictitious business name is something like Lollipop Beach Designs. A fictitious business name will require you to both register it and set up a business bank account. Otherwise, you will have no means to cash checks made out to Lollipop Beach Designs.

Of course, always check what the local laws are where you are. Don’t make assumptions based on general advice.

Unfortunate connotations may be something potentially offensive, such as sounding racist or sexually suggestive. But it also could be a case of implying that you have legal credentials that don’t exist.

You could probably get away with calling yourself The Vacuum Cleaner Doctor without getting in trouble with the law because no one will think you really are a doctor. But you can’t use the term doctor in a way that would imply to people that you have credentials that you don’t really have.

In most places, home staging certification isn’t actually required. It’s a fairly unregulated industry. But you should still not imply you have educational credentials that you lack or legal certifications that don’t exist.

The name also needs to be something you can readily and clearly convey verbally. It’s not enough to be something you can clearly convey in writing.

So try saying it out loud or ask a friend what it sounds like. It’s not only tedious to have to spell the name over and over, it’s a barrier to good marketing.

Last, check if you can a good domain for the business. These days, domain names are a crowded market. This gives you a bit of flexibility.

For example, if JaneSmithDesigns.com isn’t available, you may be able to get HireJaneSmithDesigns.com and many people will be fine with that. But a website is such a fundamental part of marketing these days that you do need to take a minute to think about this part of it before you commit to a name.

Company Profile

If you are a one-person shop, this section might strike you as silly. This may be doubly true if you are writing this for yourself, not to seek financing.

But write it anyway.

What experience and education do you bring to the table? Have you run a business before or worked for a small business? Do you know anything about marketing? What other assets do you bring to the table that can help support your dreams of growing a successful staging business?

If this section seems weak, now is the time to consider finding ways to shore it up. You might pursue a home staging certification course to help enhance this section. Or you might attend some local business classes from your Chamber of Commerce to help beef up your profile.

Market Analysis and Marketing Plan

These are often separately written sections in your planning document, but you may be unable to cleanly separate them at the research stage. You need to know what the local market looks like to have any idea about how to promote your business.

So there is some efficiency gained in working a separate document that addresses both of these. You can gather information about the local market and simultaneously jot down notes about the implication that has for marketing your business locally.

If you are in Silicon Valley, your target market may well include high-end homes occupied by people in tech startups. If this is true, you better also plan to have a killer web presence. That will be the language these people speak.

On the other hand, a different market may call for having a very streamlined, basic website that won’t overwhelm or confuse your audience. You still need a website, but TV or radio commercials may play a larger role in your marketing plan.

You might want to start with looking at demographic information and real estate information. You can get a lot of information from the internet, but you will want to do some legwork at some point.

Physically go out and check what your area is like. Maybe keep a small notebook with you or jot notes down in a note-taking app on your phone while you are out and about running errands. For some things, there is just no substitute for seeing it first-hand.

Budget

Staging can be a one-person business to start with, plus it’s very much about skill and knowledge. But that doesn’t mean there are no expenses involved in getting it started.

Once you know what you want to name it and you have some idea about how you will market it, you can start making notes for a tentative budget. Start making lists and making phone calls. Here are some things you will want to have some figures for:

  • What do business cards cost?
  • How much will a website cost you to set up?
  • How much do brochures cost?
  • If you plan to do radio or TV ads, what do they cost?
  • Do you need to pay for a business license, registration, bank account or certification course?
  • Do you need any physical inventory? If so, are there storage costs?
  • Will you work from home or have a separate business office?
  • How much will a proper business phone cost you?

It’s okay if you can’t afford everything upfront. Staging businesses are frequently started on a shoestring budget with some know-how, business cards, a cheap mobile phone and word of mouth.

But if you are going to grow it into a serious business, there will be additional expenses down the line. It can help to have some idea of what those are.

Maybe you plan to start it from home, but you want to move it to a separate office later. You will want to have a good idea of just how much business you need to be able to afford that move.

What Services Or Products Are You Offering?

You may be thinking “Well, I’m offering staging. Duh!” If so, you still have a lot of work to do.

Are you planning on staging empty apartments for new apartment complexes so they can fill their new units? Are you planning on staging occupied homes that are for sale? Are you planning on staging empty houses that are for sale?

It’s okay if the answer is “All of the above,” but you need to know what kind of work you intend to do and you need to also start researching how to price it. Product pricing is one of the most challenging elements of business development and getting it somewhere close to right can be a make-or-break detail for your fledgling business.

Charging too much can mean you don’t attract any clients at all, but so can charging too little. You also need to make sure the price covers costs. If you aren’t covering your costs, you aren’t going to be in business long.

List out any hidden expenses, such as the cost of gasoline (and wear and tear on the car) for driving out to a client’s place. Don’t make the mistake of not counting that because you need a car anyway and you see your car as a personal expense, not a business expense.

A one page executive summary just for your own edification should have the same sections as a long-form plan intended to seek financing. You should also do the same research and analysis.

The primary difference is that you can be more succinct because you don’t need to prove anything to anyone else. The biggest value in doing a one-page executive summary just for you is in going through the process of researching it and making important business decisions, not in the writing per se.

If you are writing a formal document, make sure to run it through a spell checker and grammar checker or have it proofread. You may need to attach additional documents, such as a spreadsheet for the tentative budget or a copy of college transcripts.

Also, double-check what the financing institution requires. It needs to be a custom plan, just like you would write a custom resume if you were job hunting.

Writing a Home Staging Business Plan has a lot in common with writing any business plan. If you feel you need more information, don’t hesitate to seek it.

The Small Business Administration or your local Chamber of Commerce are both potential resources for helping you do this. You may also be able to find other local resources, such as a business incubator, resources at your local college or a local Main Street program.

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About The Author

Jackie Riley

The Home Staging Institute offers courses and products that help people set up and run successful home staging businesses. The Institute was set up in 2007 by successful home staging business owner Jackie Riley. Today, the institute has students in many countries around the world, including America, Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Germany and France. Since 2007, thousands of people have graduated.

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