SO YOU WANT TO BE A HOME STAGER: TOP 10 THINGS TO CONSIDER
It’s really easy to become a home stager – easier than wanting to start in real estate – because unlike becoming a realtor, you don’t even have to take any courses. You can just wake up one morning and decide“hey, today is the day I start staging houses!” Presto! Now you’re a home stager! Do you know what you’re signing up for? Many don’t; they think it’s this glam job where TV cameras follow us around all the time and we get to tell people their stuff is ugly and they should throw it out and buy all new. Ummm .. it’s not quite the same thing and it takes a lot of time, perserverence and talent to make a staging business a success.
So here are the top things to consider if you want to become a home stager:
1) Realtors aren’t immediately your friends and most of them won’t want to work with you right away. Often home stagers when they first start out think that if they go to the different real estate offices and introduce themselves, bring some business cards, their portfolio and some treats that the realtors will flock to talk to them. This is a common misconception. Because there are SO many home stagers, especially in larger cities, realtors often feel overwhelmed by all the home stagers who drop by their offices. Many are still figuring home staging out and will say ‘no’ without even considering what is being offered to them. It takes time, perseverance and creating a good reputation to change that. Even then, rejection is a normal occurrence even for seasoned professionals.
2) It costs money to start a home staging business – sometimes a lot of money especially if a stager is investing in building an inventory right from the start. From business registration, liability insurance, staging training & education, branding, marketing materials, gas, storage fees, website, cellphone, laptop, camera … and the list goes on. These are all essential business building items however if you didn’t budget for them they can have you wondering what you got yourself into.
3) Its hard prospecting for clients and if realtors aren’t interested in your services then its even more difficult to get actual staging jobs. If you live in an area where staging just isn’t taking off then it can be very hard to make a living staging homes. I know of many stagers who want to work but are frustrated because the people in their area ‘just don’t get it’.
4) Many aspiring stagers contact experienced home staging professionals looking for guidance, advice and mentoring. As our industry has evolved over the past five years, there are now larger home staging companies that can and do provide all of these things. Our advice is to do your research and seek out the ones which you want to be trained by. When you ask for help and they respond – even if they can’t mentor you or hire you – thank them! We reply to each and every inquiry we get however it is staggering the number of new stagers that do not respond after we have sent them information, advice and/or guidance. For those that do thank us, we remember and are far more likely to hire or mentor them in the future.
5) Home owners and realtors will get upset with you; you WILL offend some of them no matter what you do. Staging by its very nature is intrusive for most home owners and you touch on some very sensitive topics so its only natural that at some point you will offend some of them. Additionally because we tend to work on very tight timelines so that homes can get listed for sale, there is a high level of stress that is felt in both the sellers and realtors and can make for some tearful and angry blowups.
6) Other stagers in your area may not be your friends right away. As much as we want to all get along, the reality is that stagers are fiercely competitive and some may just not play nice at all. The Real Estate Staging Association and local Chapters has come a long way to helping stagers get over their fears so that they can work collaboratively together. If you aren’t a member of RESA, the official trade organization for home stagers and redesigners, we recommend checking them out! RESA is a phenomenal industry resource and provides everything new stagers need to get their business started.
7) The road to becoming a successful home stager is time-consuming.From consults to staging jobs to social media to presentations … and more .. its easy for the job to take over your life. This is one of the areas we constantly struggle with which is creating boundaries between work and my family life. It’s very easy, especially when we are incredibly busy, to be working 10 – 12 hour days, 7 days a week. Investing in business coaching and prioritizing tasks will help new stagers balance both a work and social life so that they don’t burn out too quickly. Additionally, creating a solid business plan and charging appropriately for your services – not giving away services for free – will ensure you work effectively and earn a steady income.
Staging is real estate marketing and the best way to attract full priced offers, quickly.
8) Bad things can and will happen on the job. From scratching a seller’s brand new cherry floors to dropping their antique birdcage that their husband’s mother bought for them for their wedding, these things will happen. Ensuring you are insured, have contracts with your clients to cover you for when of surprises goes a long way in this business. You can’t protect against everything however and there will be jobs where because something unexpected happened, you make no money or you lose money. C’est la vie.
9) That you need to have a solid business plan – and stick to it – to make your staging dreams a reality. Some stagers never do this but the really successful stagers that I know of have business plans not only for the short-term, but also for over the next 5 – 10 years. They are extremely detail oriented, organized and focused. As we said above, charge appropriately, value yourself and the services you offer so that others do too. We have seen too many stagers over the years offer their services for next to nothing only to end up folding their business in under a year because they made no money. If you offer it for free once, people remember and expect you to do that again. Know what your services are worth and don’t be afraid to charge appropriately.
10) You’ll need to become a social media expert to some degree to ensure that you are hitting all your target markets. From interactive websites to Facebook Fan Pages to Tweeting to Blogging .. all of these play vital roles in creating a viable staging business. Building brand and name recognition happens slowly however if you aren’t online then the odds are high your target clients will never find you.
11) I know, I said top 10, but I had to add one more! PORTFOLIO! Get one. Make it all your own work and even if its your house and your sister’s house – make it showcase your talent. You can do all the other things here but if you don’t have actual staging talent then nothing else really matters. If you do have talent but don’t have a portfolio then no one will know what you can do. So show them. And don’t pass off stock photos or other people’s work as your own. People find that stuff out and then your credibility is shot so don’t do that.
The True Porfolio logo ensures that all the pictures on a website represent the stager’s work.
Staging as a career can be incredibly rewarding – especially if it is your passion! Taking the time to create a solid business plan and invest in your staging training will ensure that your passion is also profitable. And if you don’t want to run a staging business, invest in training and then look for a position with a larger staging company. There are lots of ways to be a part of this dynamic industry – you just need to find your niche.