Bonus: 8 tips for starting a home staging business
The market for home staging services is about as close to evergreen as a startup can get - as long as there are homes to be sold, there is staging to be done.
In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), a full 83 percent of home buyer's agents said having home staging in place helped prospective buyers visualize themselves living in that home.
The truth is, the majority of buyers struggle to see a home's true potential without some level of staging in place. Busy realtors don't always have time to oversee this task personally. A ready market exists for home staging experts to forge ongoing working relationships with active realtors.
Once you decide that launching a home staging business is for you, these eight tips will help you get off on the right foot in your community.
Tip 1: Establish a working knowledge of current and classic interior design trends.
Home staging is not exactly the same as interior design. You want to appeal to a broad potential audience rather than pleasing a single client.
So rather than developing one single client persona (your ideal customer in a nutshell) you need to identify a range of potential client personas based on the types of homes you will be staging.
You need to leave the door at least halfway open for imagination to kick in without inadvertently leading prospective buyers in a design direction they don't resonate with.
Most of all, you need to establish your own working "wardrobe" of functional furniture and furnishings that you can then mix and match to suit the needs of different houses.
There is no doubt this will require both knowledge of current, cutting-edge design trends as well as an appreciation for classic interior design styles.
Tip 2: Enroll in courses to round out your business skillset.
Even if you are already very knowledgeable about interior design or even about home staging, as a business owner you are going to be wearing - and juggling - a great many hats on a daily basis.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) states that approximately half of all small business startups don't make it to the five-year mark. A variety of reasons contribute to this high failure rate, but a lack of business knowledge is chief among them.
Local and online courses can supplement your knowledge of business best practices, hiring employees and contract workers, negotiating contracts with vendors and agents, bookkeeping and accounting, internet and social media basics, taxes and insurance for small businesses and so much more.
Investing in these types of courses ensures you launch your home staging business and have the very best chance of success from the start.
Tip 3: Unleash your inner Kondo.
Kondo-izig is actually not a new concept. Marie Kondo, the pint-sized powerhouse who has been decluttering homes and lives across the country on Netflix, has built up a worldwide following of millions by passing along simple, effective tips to organize for more joy.
While your role as a home staging expert won't ever require you to sit with a prospective seller while they agonize over whether to keep those boxes of childhood trophies, you will need to be prepared to help agents with clients whose cluttered homes and closets are repelling buyers.
A great way to start is with your own home and business. Here again, local and online courses can introduce you to universal cleaning and decluttering principles that are sufficiently versatile (as well as somewhat minimalist) to use in many different types and sizes of spaces.
Once you have gotten your own home and workplace set up according to the new principles you have learned, you will have gained a lot more confidence to tackle your first home staging decluttering project.
Tip 4: Begin building your own work team.
While your role as the home staging boss is arguably the most vital, it will definitely take a team to do what you do for multiple clients at multiple locations.
You will need a trusted team you can call as needed to stage and to remove staging. You will likely need to have each of the following professionals on your speed dial from day one of your business launch:
- Moving company
- All-around handyman
- Furniture and furnishings providers
You will also need to have a personal team of advisors you can trust to help you brainstorm through challenges, overcome hurdles, seize emerging opportunities and keep all those hats on straight.
Consider who to invite into your trusted inner circle of mentors and guides you can call for immediate assistance and advice when you need it fast. Consider inviting a diverse group of professionals into your think tank, including an attorney, a CPA, a business coach and at least one home staging professional who is more experienced who is willing to guide you.
Tip 5: Develop your business contracts and fee schedule.
Depending on the area where you will be working and how the real estate market is performing, it would not be unrealistic to expect new client calls on your very first day of business.
So you need to be prepared with all your legal documents and contracts already finalized and ready to go.
Consider the different types of legal contracts and supporting documents you will need. You will need one contract for the broker/clients you work with and another for the vendors/suppliers you contract with.
You will want to be able to proof of licensure/insurance and bonding, a fee schedule for both your services and furniture/furnishings rentals, a professional disclaimer that limits your liability if a home doesn't sell after staging and similar protective documents.
With your fee schedule all lined out based on how you plan to charge (hour, day, month or retainer contract) and all of your documentation finalized and in place, you will be ready to answer the phone the moment it starts to ring.
Tip 6: Plan your advertising schedule and develop your tools.
In many industries today, you don't even need a business card anymore because most networking is done online via LinkedIn and similar tools.
But real estate is still a face-to-face industry where often a profitable business relationship begins with a hello and a warm handshake.
So you definitely want to have business cards! You will also need to have a basic website that explains what you do, shows some samples of your work and offers a way to get in touch with you.
Your advertising will need to happen on two levels: in-person and online. For online advertising, you need to claim your social media handles and begin to develop a presence on each platform.
For in-person advertising, find out about local meetings for realtors and real estate professionals, home selling workshops for sale-by-owner homeowners and gatherings for professionals in complementary industries.
Attending these events and sharing your business cards and information as well as marketing your services online gives you the beginnings of a network you can return to again and again to generate new business.
Tip 7: Roleplay your first sales pitch.
It is so easy to get so caught up in all the nuts and bolts of launching your business you completely forget you still haven't decided what to say when an interested client actually approaches you!
How will you explain what you do? What will you say when asked about what you charge? What about if a prospective client asks for references or links to past projects?
Your inner circle can be so helpful here to brainstorm and roleplay so you can get comfortable talking about yourself and your business in a low-pressure setting.
Tip 8: Do a fantastic job with your first home staging client.
In the world of home staging, "doing a fantastic job" means helping your client, be they broker or individual homeowner, sell their house.
If you have completed all seven prior steps and have arrived here at tip eight, you are ready to do a great job. You have everything you need to shine, earn five-star reviews, generate new leads and continue building your business.
Be sure to post the photos and testimonials on your website and share your success on social media as you go along, creating a compelling portfolio that will eventually do the majority of your networking and marketing work for you.
By taking one step and then another, in no time you will look back over your first successful year as a home staging professional!