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.
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.
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.
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.
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!