So You Want to be a Home Stager: Top 10 Things to Consider

I read a featured post called  ‘So You Want to Be a Real Estate Agent? Some Unsolicited Advice written by Liz and Bill Spear and it really resonated with me. After being in business over eight years with hundreds of homes staged by our team and multiple awards won .. well tend to get a lot of inquiries from new and aspiring stagers across North America. Which is great! It goes to show just how much our industry has grown since we started our business in 2008.

Today it’s fairly easy to become a home stager – easier than wanting to start in real estate – because unlike becoming a realtor, there isn’t strictly a requirement to take any training. You could  wake up one morning and decide, “hey, today is the day I start staging houses!” Do we recommend that? Definitely not. Perhaps 7 or 8 years ago that would have been fine as the industry was still in it’s infancy. Today, home staging designs rival the designs you see in glossy magazines and the calibre of staging professionals has increased exponentially.

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The caliber of staging designs has increased exponentially over the last decade.

Our team takes ongoing educational classes, seminars and more just to keep on top of current real estate & design trends. This ensures that the recommendations and information we provide to our clients is relevant and current so that they in turn, can make decisions about how to best prepare & present their homes for sale in this challenging real estate market. Their home is their single biggest investment – are they going to chance that on someone with no training, education or experience? No. In fact, the number of untrained and uneducated stagers has greatly diminished which is the reason why our industry continues to improve and impress with the quality of work they do & the results they achieve for their clients.

If you are considering a career in the real estate staging industry, here are our top recommendations:

Be Persistent & Consistent with your Marketing and Networking: 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 agents still don’t understand the job we do and often make mistakes when it comes to choosing and working with a home stager. Part of our job is educating them and continuing to build our role in the real estate process.

Invest in Your Business: 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 that differentiate the pros from the hobbyist stagers who rarely last more than a year or two in business.

Work Hard to Establish Yourself as the Local Expert:  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. Working hard to provide consistently excellent service, marketing effectively about the results you achieve for your clients and looking for venues or opportunities to share your expertise with consumers will set you apart. It takes time to do this – no it doesn’t happen overnight – but it’s the difference between staging being a hobby vs a career.

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The better you communicate and educate consumers, the more likely you will be regarded as an industry expert.

 

Network with other Staging Professionals: Building a staging business on your own can be daunting and scary. While home stagers are naturally competitive, it’s important to realize that there are valuable resources to be found by networking with other staging professionals in your area. Join your local RESA Chapter (if you aren’t a member of RESA yet, you should be) but don’t feel limited to that. Reach out through RESA and other staging networks to professionals across the country – it’s a great way to improve your business, create great business – and personal – relationships that can and will take your business to the next level.

Realize that Staging is not a Glam TV job: Staging is a tough profession. From endless hours of marketing, prospecting and networking to lugging bins of decor, moving furniture and consulting with tough clients it’s not a job for the faint of heart. Home stagers play an important role in the real estate process but with that comes alot of pressure. Recommendations need to be based on knowledge and experience so that you add value to your client’s homes. Your inventory and staging designs need to be effective in improving the overall marketability & presentation of your client’s homes. You will encounter difficult clients who will test you in every way possible. You will offend people, you will need to come up with creative solutions – on the spot – to solve space planning issues in homes and you will need to keep your professionalism and cool during each and every step. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a rewarding career, but it’s not a fluff job.

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This is the happy result but it takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work to get here!

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.

Realize that 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, to clients who refuse to pay or having your inventory stolen. Bad things can and will happen during the course of business. Investing in solid staging contracts plus business & liability insurance are key components to protecting your 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.

Create a Business Plan:  Create a solid business plan when you start your business and revisit it yearly. 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.

Prepare Yourself to Wear a lot of Hats during your first Years in business: Stager, marketing consultant, social media expert, inventory manager, billing specialist … the list goes on. For the first few years you will be performing all the roles within your company so make time for that. Grow slowly, use resources within your staging community to help you on jobs, invest in continuing education. Work hard but know that all your efforts will make your business stronger.

Build your Portfolio: The key way to set yourself apart in this highly visual field is with an excellent portfolio. We recommend – from the start – investing in professional photography services to capture the work you do. Ethically, you should only ever showcase pictures of your own work so avoid stock photos and refrain from stealing pictures from other staging professionals. We are a tight community and stagers who do these types of unethical things can get slapped with lawsuits very quickly.  Make sure you are hired based on your own work, expertise and skills and invest both time and money in making sure your portfolio showcases your talent and brand.

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Building your portfolio – and your brand – is key to setting yourself apart in our visual industry.

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.

Rooms in Bloom Home Staging & Design Inc. is Kitchener-Waterloo’s premier Home Staging Company. Specializing in staging vacant properties and Model Homes, our modern staging designs transform spaces so buyers fall in love with the properties and the lifestyle they represent. To learn more about our services or to view our portfolio, visit our website. To keep up with our current projects, become our fan on our Facebook Fan Page. To contact us directly, call us at (519) 804-STAGE!

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41 responses to “So You Want to be a Home Stager: Top 10 Things to Consider

  1. Thank you – this is a great article! I can’t tell you how many people constantly tell me how “lucky” I am to be doing this as a career and ask me to help them start their own business. They have no idea how much blood, sweat, and tears (and $$$) I have put into making my business successful – it wasn’t “luck!” Yes, it’s a fun and rewarding career, but it certainly isn’t easy to make it profitable or successful. Thanks for the straight talk!

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    • Wow!! Thank you, this helped me understand exactly what Im getting myself into since this is what Id love to do.
      Great article

      Like

  2. Just wanted to let you know that your “Find Us on Facebook” link below #10 on the list above is just an image icon, not a link…. Great article!! I’ll go find you on FB, now! 🙂

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  3. The article was the first I have found that has given me the food for thought I needed to know about starting a home staging business. Thank you

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  7. Great article, I have been in the process of starting a staging/using what you have business for almost a year now, and have found it is very hard to build a client base. I have blogged on fb, had a booth at a festival, stopped in at furniture stores, realitors and more. Most of the work I have had has been word of mouth. I’m finding it to be very difficult to get work….I need suggestions…

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  8. Really appreciate this article! I guess it is a compliment when a client wants to become a home stager; however, there is so much more involved than the actual staging day, and perhaps we make it look easy. I also think there is a misconception out there that there is so much work and it will come quickly and easily. Every job, every contact made with Real Estate agents and homeowners comes from a lot of hard work, never mind all that is involved with creating a staging plan that works with the fixed elements, homeowners items, small budgets, tight timelines…. so much more to say here. I think you really said it well…thank you!

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  9. Wow, I’m scared now, I was thinking to become a stager and didn’t know how to start and this article really helped but I’m scared that it won’t be as easy as I thought. I have the talent for it and I have Business Management degree but the negative part is that I have financial problem and that’s the reason I want to do this to earn some money but I’m not sure if I can still do this or not. Can someone please tell me if I should have money to start ? Thank you again for this helpful article.

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    • Scarlet, I’m just getting started myself. I have put out about $2500 so far with training, website, business supplies, etc. and I’m not close to what I need for inventory, I have just a few basics. I’m thinking consulting will probably be a good start because it doesn’t require inventory. But then it’s getting the word out to let people know I do this and then they have to choose me!

      Like

  10. Excellent article. I’m just starting to look into this career and I’m hoping someone will educate me on a few questions I have. Are there classes or seminars to attend (california) Any that are particularly reputable? Do you receive a certification or a license? What is the average price to attend? How long does the study program take on average? Thanks in advance

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  11. It is just like any other business. You need time, consistency and patience to build your credibility. Some one who want to earn right away should always look for job rather than starting a business. Most important factor is to be positive. Getting frustrated will do nothing but attract more frustration. Being on social media is all good but the truth is you get work by referrals and networking so network,network and network some more. That urning point does come for every one.

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  12. Thank you for these tips!!! Very helpful and informative. I am very grateful for professionals as yourself who are willing to share their knowledge with the rest of us.

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  13. I am a new home staged looking to break into this business Thank You for this article. I value all in put I can get to move forward. Susann Weeden

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  14. Oh, my, gosh. What a great article, thank you! I wish I had read it last week, before I emailed all those “pros” asking for their input and could I shadow them? LOL! I have a thriving coaching business, but intend to stage for part-time passion-work, income and to keep me “on the go” and more active in life! I will take these points to heart as I proceed. My one question – there are many online certifications available at great rates, but I’m considering a certification that is in-person, intensive over 3 days, includes the written component/certification PLUS a day of hands-on work and shopping a full-time stager including her walk us through her $2400 square foot warehouse to learn what she buys and how and where she shops. Do you feel that’s worth $2250 vs. the online program that was only $800(ish). Either way, thanks for sharnig the far-from-glam “realities” as well as the rewards of this career! Keep your insights coming…:)

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    • Hi, It really all depends on how much natural talent you already have as to whether or not the “schooling” (you don’t *have to have all the accredited certification.) It may look good to those who do don’t know that and yes of course one can never learn enough.
      But that is a business in itself.. The people selling courses have found a niche market & are doing making money because of the huge interest in home staging in the last few years.
      And not that anything is wrong with that!
      But some are better than others & sadly it isn’t easy to find out “who is & who isn’t offering good extra education.
      As you have probably seen, those places have great marketing skills, so when you look for reviews you come round full circle to websites connected to them.
      If you really have an understated (non stagey, uncontrived taste & style) aesthetic, you don’t need to be taught that part.
      Yes, there are rules of staging because it is not interior design, but that is available on line & with much study you can absolutely understand the way it works.
      Illaria Barion has a book on the strategy of staging & it speaks the simple truths of it.
      As for inventory, I learned the hard way.
      I had two storage units. I would repurpose great pieces with potential, buy tons of accessories etc.. but it costs me so much in rental that I finally sold my large pieces & just kept my accessories, lamps, bedding etc..
      The client rents the rest. I choose the pieces (and if you don’t live in a major city, have fun trying to find UNpuffy sofas!)
      It is hard to find sleek, tasteful furniture out there, but most rental centers will order in better more sophisticated pieces for you very quickly.
      As far as the clients go, the costs of renting it from you is not that much different so why worry with all that?
      Believe me, it used to keep me up at night worrying that I didn’t have enough, not worth it.
      The above poster who said it is truly all about trying to build a good reputation is right.
      Word of mouth is everything & agents really are not your friends unfortunately.
      I wish it weren’t that way, because WE help them make their commissions!
      But, most of them use you & forget you until they need you.
      They will ignore calls until they have a house that has been sitting on the market too long, THEN you are their pal.
      Then there are the agents who advertise free estimates on their tacky stagings.
      Great for us when we charge for the time it takes to do a consult.
      What?
      We’re supposed to give away our ideas for free?
      Okay, I’m going off on a tangent, yikes.
      Just keep in mind that it is very hard work, long hours & lots of creative fun, but be very careful about whom you give your money to online with the diploma’s, if you have true talent, are a very hard worker & have good social skills, that is enough.
      Your reputation will be your “accreditation.”
      Best of luck to you on your journey!

      Like

      • What a great article and extremely helpful comments. So here is my question to piggyback on your last comment. I am a real estate agent and am successful with my referral business. I have decided to get into home staging mainly because I absolutely love it and it goes hand in hand with my listings etc…I have clients always seeking my help etc… I have an in with another agent who is consistently putting up flips about 10-15 per month. He said that the staging business is mine if I’m up for the task. I am ready to go and have the experience I have and talent and connections I’ve made have gotten me to this place I am. I wanted to know if you could recommend any staging books/websites/business must’s etc….to just give me a bit of a kick start. Thank you in advance 🙂

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  15. so grateful to have stumbled upon this site…wow, it was eye opening…in the very beginning stages of this as a career option…have been a visual merchandiser at pottery barn for three years and very much enjoy the work but the pay stinks and retail is even worse! thanks to all…this was food for thought for sure…excited and scared at the same time!

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  16. Hey.. Great article.. Just wanted to know a few things .. What’s the pay scale of a stager and is it easy to get a job as a stager if ones not from the states .. ?

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    • Pay scale is determined by area, experience, training – its like any other job. If you want to get a job with a company then research them and find out if they are hiring. They will let you when you apply what your salary will be. Established stagers get paid more and many of the very successful ones earn six figures. It takes a long time and dedication to reach that level.

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  17. THANK YOU, SO MUCH!!! This article is so on point. I thought with a background in architecture, home staging business would surely be a simple transition, but the tips offered in the article and the following comments have been such great resources.
    I will definitely be sharing this.
    Wish me luck. Thank you, again everyone.

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  18. Interesting reading. I am selling my home, and made the mistake of not researching my stager well enough. The lady I hired is apparently not experienced enough to realize you can’t bring old, dirty, damaged, and torn items in to try and impress potential buyers. Honestly after reading how little education is required to become a stager it is not surprising that there are stagers out there like the one I inadvertently hired. Luckily I have nicely but firmly, demanded she correct the obvious flaws in her materials that she supplied…..incredible to think of how easily I would NOT have hired her if I had seen the poor quality items at another home she had staged. Her website looks lovely….but in person her inventory looks awful and cheapens my home.

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    • I think you bring up such a great point here Gigi! Although I am so very sorry to hear of your frustration, this is an extremely important message for everyone in this industry! As home stagers, building and growing our inventory is only the beginning! It is then a matter of handling, storing and maintaining the items properly and updating them, as needed, on a regular basis. As our staging inventory travels from house to house, there is much that can happen while it is placed in the listing or even during the loading/transporting/unloading process. This is why I have made it a habit to inspect everything very carefully before it is placed into the next listing. ‘Attention to detail’ is absolutely crucial in this business and you just proved that fact with your valuable comment!!

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  20. I just ran across this article by accident but WOW, absolutely excellent!!!! I really enjoyed reading it as I can relate on so many levels. How true… this is not as easy as it appears on television, at all. I am now approaching the 24th year in my journey, strictly staging models homes for numerous years before I ventured out into Real Estate staging. I was shocked and pretty discouraged at how difficult it was to get home sellers (and many agents) to even hear of this valuable service. Time, patience and hard work is required, for sure!!! I have seen so much of that resistance improve since then and it’s really been worth every bit of energy and effort it took for me to get here!! So, to all of you here that truly have a love in your heart for this profession, strongly believe in how your talents can help people and also in your own ability to make your dream become a reality…. regardless of any obstacles you might encounter – don’t ever give up!! I am living proof that it can happen! Happy staging everyone, wishing you many years of great success!!!

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  21. OMG!! I really enjoyed reading your article and the comments left by other readers…
    I’m currently studying to get my BA degree as an Interior Designer, but want to start a staging business while I’m studying to fund myself for tuition (I’m also a single mom with no additional income).
    After reading your article, it gave me more in-depth of what is needed to start this business (I need a business name first – any suggestions?)
    My funds to start is very limited (as I mentioned I’m in school etc) do you know if there’s a grant or loans that I can get to start kick this business?

    Thank you in advance for your guidance, I really need the income as home designs has always been my passion.
    =)

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  23. Thank you for this article, I am an interior design student who has done a few projects. The home staging arena is where I hope to be working soon. This information is very valuable even if I am in Australia. Thank you

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  24. Thank you for the information it is giving me ideas as I am looking forward in starting something on home staging as I didn’t have any clue. Thank you.

    Like

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