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When are the training companies going to stop glamourizing this staging profession.

By
Home Stager with Gomes Design

Before you read on, I do love to stage.  My business is primarily consultation based. I have been working at building my business for 2 years.  As much effort as you put into the staging work itself, you have to put more into working at building the business.

I have received a number of calls from people who are staging or want to stage.  They are wanting to know how my business is doing, because, after sometime they have not had 1 job. I mean 9 months to a year. Others ask me if they can be making $31.45 an hour, as 1 program suggests. I have been very truthful.  They are sadly mistaken if they can feed one mouth over the first year.

One of the concerns I have is that quite a few have given up their jobs for the glamourized profession which is still a fairly new industry in many parts of Canada and the US.  I know there are those who have success after many years.  It takes 5 years to break even in most cases. I am still building up my business after 2 years. I Know my business will never give me the lifestyle that I am accustomed to from my husbands income.  Therefore, He will not be retiring early.

When are these training companies going to stop glamourizing the profession,  and be truthful.  When are they going to have, and show concern for those who they are misleading into thinking they will do well right away. These people are making drastic changes taking on large loans and pulling from home equity lines to start a business that they are lead to believe is viable in any area.

I just spoke recently to students in The Decorating program at Fanshawe College.  They are very interested in Home staging and have been hearing that it is a great business right off the bat.  I was truthful.  It is a new industry and you are starting a business which also takes a good 5 years to show some sort of financial success.

Fellow Stagers and training programs, we have an obiligation both morally and professionally to be truthful to those interested in doing Home Staging.  Morally the profession should be concerned for those who are putting themselves in stressful financial situations. Professionally, because we want to be an industry that demonstrates intergrity, honesty and respect.

Comments (25)

Cindy Bryant
Redesign Etc. Home Staging - Houston, TX
"Houston Home Staging Pros"

I get so many calls.  I wish someone would make a video of what really goes into a full staging job from start to finish.  I don't think so many people would think it was so glamorous.  I never thought it was glamourous, but never realized the physical strain, and more hours than I care to mention it takes.  If you carry your inventory, that is a whole other can of worms.

Apr 16, 2009 04:29 PM
David Peterson
Synergy Staging ~ specializing in vacant home staging - Portland, OR
Home Stager Portland OR-Synergy Staging-Portland Oregon

Isabel - Agreed that this is a great post.  I go crazy watching the commercials on how easy it is to get into this business and start making money right away.  It is clearly just a business to lure and crank out students which is sad for those who take the classes and realize what it actually takes to start and run a successful business.  Many are told that they can just call local staging companies and get a full time  wel paying job.  That certainly isn't the reality in our market.  But unfortunately they are in it for the money and it doesn't benefit them to be honest.   I always refer those who call to come to this site to read and learn about the realities of the business.

Apr 16, 2009 06:41 PM
Peg Prather
Vancouver, WA
Vancouver, WA

Isabel; great post! I will answer your initial question: "When are the training companies going to stop glamourizing this staging profession?".  My answer: "Never!" 

They are making more money on the training classes than most stagers ever make on actual staging. So, they simply won't stop with their claims of glamour, fun, easy money, "set your own hours", etc. I guess it's up to consumers/potential stagers to do their homework before hand. Almost every stager I met at the beginning of my staging career is out of business now. Some are quite bitter about it.

I agree with Margaret that people need to have some sort of professional training in interior decorating, etc. However, I believe that 99%  of this job is selling! Selling ourselves, our business, our expertise. And for those of us (myself included) who struggle with the selling aspect, it makes it kind of tough. I too work almost 7 days a week; but could not support myself at this point (after 2 years in the business). However, I'm not giving up!

Thanks for the honest assessment of this profession.

Apr 16, 2009 07:27 PM
Karen Nardella
The Emporium Your Home for Elegant Resale - Conway, NH

I had a personal comment and sent it via email.  I do agree with the topic of this post, but had a question on another I thought best to ask your opinion on as it regards giving away knowledge for free, something I have a hard time understanding.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

A friend in NH

Apr 16, 2009 11:31 PM
Lynn Crawford
A Different View - Olney, MD
Staging DC & Maryland

Isabel - This is an excellent post. I too receive several calls each week from those interested in staging or joining our local ASHSR chapter to "learn" about staging. They are often very disappointed to learn that I am just starting to be profitable after three years of working 60+ hour weeks. Throw in the cost of the inventory I've purchased and they often come back down to earth very quickly.

I recently placed an ad for a staging assistant and one newbie stager I spoke with told me she didn't want to have a job where she had to do low-level tasks such as moving furniture. Huh? What do they think this job entails? Some of the training companies I am familar with and HGTV depict this profession as fun, creative and financially rewarding. It can be all those things but it is also back-breaking work, expensive, challenging when homeower's don't believe in staging and it takes years to build up a Realtor referral base.

Okay I'll step off my soap box but your post really hit home.

Apr 16, 2009 11:55 PM
Kimberly Uksik
Independent - Pickering, ON
Home Stager - Durham, Toronto, On.

Okay,  I can agree partly with what has been said here.  As an instructor for a Staging Company as well as owing my own business.  I guess, I sit on both sides of this. 

I know the struggles that I have gone through over the last three years of owning my own business the countless hours of completing work, marketing and networking that I am not being paid for. 

I don't think that staging schools "glamorize" the staging industry.  I know in my own instruction I tell it like it is from my point of view and my own experiences.  I often say"if you think you are going to stand there and say put that here, put that there, while someone else slugs furniture around the room they are sorely mistaken, it is you that will be doing this work"  I feel that my students should know what the life in a day of a Home Stager really is and what it takes to start and run their own businesses.   I am often amazed at the misconceptions of what a stager really does and I do draw a lot of that back the television shows as well and show a completely differently staging than most of us know is true. 

I guess I could go on and on but it was a good post and I just wanted to spin it a bit

~Kimberly~

Apr 17, 2009 12:49 AM
Ginger Foust
Certified Staging Professional - Oakhurst, CA
Home Stager Oakhurst CA, Dream Interior Redesign & Staging

In my experience the "company" glamourized the profession but my instructor told us the truth.  Of course, the substantial training fee was already "in the pocket" when we discussed $$ during class instruction.  We learned about the hard physical work of actual staging by having to do the work on three houses. 

Don't most training facilities for adults make things appear brighter than reality because they're in the business of recruiting students. I mean what's so great about being a dental hygenist or court reporter or data input clerk but on TV it's a "great job". 

This post makes me think...IF I were to start training how would I handle the phone calls of interest from potential students????  Establishing a training program is expensive and time consuming so one certainly wouldn't want to turn students away, right?  I do agree that a dose of reality is important.   

Thanks for putting this out for discussion Isabel. 

Apr 17, 2009 02:40 AM
Debra Valentine
Designing Details ~ Staging & Design, LLC - Bountiful, UT
Utah Home Staging for, Bountiful, Salt Lake & Surrounding Areas

Isabel: This is a great post for everyone, especially newbies (less than a year) like myself. Since I was "staging" my homes as well as others homes (just for fun and to be helpful) before it became my profession, I had no delusions about the hands-on hard work, coordination and sweat it takes to get the job done. I absolutely LOVE that part of it.

What I did not realize however is that SELLING the concept and then my services would be so tough! Because that aspect is so difficult, I often wonder "what am I doing wrong" and have days (not too many) where I'm pretty discouraged.

Reading what you and everyone else who has responded has said, lets me know I'm on the right track and perseverance does pay off over time. Thank you for keeping me motivated!

 

Apr 17, 2009 05:26 AM
Wanda Richards
Shows Great Home Staging and Web Solutions - Roanoke, VA
Shows Great Home Staging

Isabel - Great post.  I get lots of calls each week from people that are considering becoming stagers.  I try to tell them that it is not a glamorous job and it is probably the hardest work they will ever do.  This is my second year in the business and I could never see living on my staging consults alone.  It is the other income streams that really make this job profitable.  My company is a full service staging company.  We offer consults, furniture rental for vacant homes, and light upgrades such as painting, wallpaper removal, etc.  By offering the additional services, this can be a profitable business for the stager that is willing to think outside of the box, invest in inventory, and work long, hard hours. 

Apr 17, 2009 12:36 PM
Terrylynn Fisher
Dudum Real Estate Group - BuyStageSell.com - Walnut Creek, CA
HAFA Certified, EcoBroker, CRS, CSP Realtor, Etc.

Karen, this should be mandatory reading on the Newbies blog, huh?  Isabel, I am amazed that people seem to want to believe it, and it's not unique to staging.  We hear it all the time in real estate too.  I just take the classes and get my license and then I go to work and people call me to sell them homes, right?  They don't want to work nights or weekends (when the clients are off work and have time to look???)...so what were you thinking?  Easy money, business just flocks to my door.  SO is it our society that proliferates the notion that it's all just so easy, or is it wishful thinking or just stupidity.  Not sure, there is no substitute for experience and really who wants to be the surgeon's first patient, not me.  I want experience and someone who has learned their craft.  The small business association has lots of info about what it takes to start a business, few people go there to get it.  They don't want to know.  AND, I personally know there are awesome training classes that have all the business skills you would need...you just have to do the work.  Then there are some are just stealing your money.  The difference though for someone who makes it is that they realize THEY are the one building the business.  I applaud all of you here working to make it a go.  YOU are here in the tough times, your clients will flock to you in the good times as you'll have earned it with your sweat and tears.  And you have passion or you wouldn't be here.  Keep at it.

Apr 17, 2009 02:48 PM
Janis Gaines
Staging Sells Eugene Homes - Eugene, OR
Home Stager Eugene OR - The Notably Well-Dressed H

Here is the last email I got from someone interested in home staging, followed by my reply:

"Hi, I'm interested in becoming a home stager myself. How do I go about doing that? I have a BS in Fine Art specifically textile and fiber art, however do I have to go back to school and become licensed to become a stager? I've heard of a home staging school called Haverhill, is that something I should look in to?

Any information you could provide me would be highly appreciated.

Thanks for your time,

Xxxxxx

________________

MY REPLY:
Hi Xxxxx,
I’m not familiar with Haverhill, although I believe I’ve seen their ads on HGTV. Check into the background of the trainers and their curriculum and make sure they have a strong background in real estate staging, not just decorating...and remember...sometimes, them that can’t do...teach.

I got my credential at StagedHomes.com four years ago. Its an intensive, 3-day course. The woman who is the CEO/owner has been a realtor for over 30 years and has been presenting workshops on preparing homes for sale for at least 15 of those years. She was an interior designer early in her career so she has a practical background for training people about professional real estate staging (as distinguished from decorating). I also interned with established Stagers for 250 hours before opening my own business.

That said, I would suggest that you think about what’s going on in the real estate industry right now. Professional, established Stagers with well-stocked inventories are struggling. Some are going under.

When I began 4 years ago in the Seattle area, I was passing excess work along to newer stagers by the middle of my 2nd year in business. Now, it is a challenge to meet my basic monthly overhead, even with a strong marketing background. However talented you are, your business will not thrive if you aren’t highly skilled at effectively marketing your services.

I don’t mean to discourage you. However, the market is extremely tough right now, with realtors offering their “staging services” for free. Most of the time, these services are marginal, or just plain bad. But it continues to draw work away from competent, professional Stagers, none the less. The Eugene area is particularly stressed, with an unemployment rate of 12.8 percent.... Even though homes would benefit from Staging WAY MORE now than in a seller’s market, people are scared to spend any money at all.

Best regards and good luck in whatever career you choose to pursue!

 

Apr 17, 2009 07:33 PM
Connie Tebyani
Platinum Home Staging, Inc. : RESA-Pro - Calabasas, CA
Platinum Home Staging, Los Angeles and Ventura County

I blogged about "staging schools" a while back, Isabel, because in my area they are advertising "earn $75 per hour w/ little to no inventory" and sending out "2 certificates for 1 exam" for $150 (with NO training, just taking their "exam") which really makes me boil simply because it IS so misleading. Those who bother to pay fr some of these "schools" will quickly learn the truth & reality.

The schools are in it for the money, and keep in mind, as in ANY industry you will NOT reap the benefits immediately. ANY profession takes time to build a clientele, even doctors and dentists need to "sell themselves" and their services for many years. 

I to, get upwards of 6-10 calls per week from individuals asking if I am hiring.  Many are Interior Designers who have been laid-off from their design firms (which is odd, because my Interior Design portion is booming) or people who just "think they'd be good at it". Personally, I am not formally trained, I do consider myself to be successful at what I do.  When they ask I am politely VERY truthful.

Apr 18, 2009 04:56 AM
Michael Fontana
Round Rock Home Stager Austin Home Staging - Round Rock, TX
@ The Stage Coach

hi, Isabel

Nice topic - great answers.  I'd just repeat a lot of these replies.  One thing that I point out to callers, that is a Fact:  There were 19 people in my training class.  Of the 10 people who were a mix of Stagers and REALTORs who lived in my area, I am the only one still pursuing Staging as a career.  No one talks about the high washout rate, which I am sure varies by location.

True Story: a man at my wife's work was really irritated with his boss one day, and he said, "I should just quit this job and start a home staging business so I can get paid $300/hr telling people what to do with their junk..."  The person he vented to was a work friend of my wife's, and she told him to go tell her this.

My wife, having heard me talk to others about this, smiled at him and asked: "What's your IN?" 

"What do you mean by IN?" he replied.

"Who do you know that would be willing to pay you, a man currently doing a desk job, $300/hr?"

"Well, no one. I would just have to find some one..."

"Well, my husband has been working on it for two years, and puts in countless hours, and it's sure not for $300/HR.  And that's not including start up inventory.  Marketing materials. Loss of income.  Etc..."

Needless to say, he still has his desk job. But I ask that question as well.  Having worked from home for the first five years I lived in TX, I did not have a Social Network to turn to.  Really hard to break into to business with out an IN.

Thanks for sharing.

The Stage Coach Home Staging

Apr 18, 2009 02:20 PM
Sheila Kennedy
J29 Project - Rochester, NY

What a great post!  I have to say that all of the comments make me feel much better.  It is comforting to know that there are others that are working 60 hour weeks and relying on a spouse's income in order to pay the bills. My spouse was asking just this week when I thought I might start making a profit!  I thought for only being in business a little over a year in this market, that I was doing just fine.  All of the marketing and presentations and making connections is starting to pay off, but I was beginning to fear I was doing something wrong.

 I will say that the biggest truth that some of the schools forget to share is that it is a business that you will be running and that requires work and marketing and skill sets that are way different than staging and redesign.  It is that part of my business for which I am so grateful for my accreditation course.  It didn't sell me on techniques to stage, but rather the business side which has been a great jumping point for my business.  Glamorous it isn't - when I share stories with people about packing boxes and moving furniture and .... you all know what I am talking about, they are shocked.

I am not sure if there is a good way to dispel some of the myths involved with some of the advertised schools.  Telling it like it truly is should be our best policy and maybe if we create a realistic information campaign, it might help.

 

Apr 18, 2009 04:02 PM
Jess Graves
JessGravesDesigns.Com - Bristol, PA
Bucks County Decordiva of Home Staging

The reality is any start up business is difficult to launch. We have these staging schools popping up because people are looking for a easy way to start business. What drives a serious Professional Home Stager is the passion they have for helping people sell their homes by staging them to create buyer appeal. You need talent, knowlege, and business experience.It simply does not come for the asking price of $150.00!

 

Thanks for great post, Jess

Apr 18, 2009 11:33 PM
Isabel Gomes
Gomes Design - London, ON
Interior Decorator, Stager - London, Ont

Wow. I have been away from my desk since Thursday participating in the London Spring Home and Garden Show. I am excited to see all the responses.  It varifies that I am not the only one feeling this way.  

I have to head out right now for the last day of the show.  I will be back to repond to all of you.

Have a great day.

Apr 19, 2009 12:04 AM
C. Bartch
Newark, OH

Hi Isabel,

Looking at this from a logical standpoint and taking the emotional aspect out of your great question I'm looking at this this way, a Home Staging Training Co. is a business. A business is up and running to make money. I think it's a consumer responsibility to make informed, well researched decisions before spending their money.

Having been a business owner before I started staging I knew the jobs were not going to magically appear.

I like what Ginger stated above "My instructor told us the truth.  Of course, the substantial training fee was already "in the pocket" when we discussed $$ during class instruction.  We learned about the hard physical work of actual staging by having to do the work on three houses."

 

 

 

Apr 19, 2009 01:06 AM
Sandi Gerrard
Toronto, ON

There is certainly no glamour in it from my perspective - both as a trainer and a redesigner / stager.  It is a lot of hard work.  I always say that I traded 9 to 5 for 24 / 7 when I entered this industry.  That's not to say it's not rewarding though.  But I always tell my students to be realistic - it takes time to build any new business.

Apr 19, 2009 04:05 AM
Deborah Chene
Staging Impressions - Farmington Hills, MI

Hello, I wrote a wonderful response and my computer froze and lost it, so I hope I can remember it.

Training companies are businesses, so they will always put the best foot forward when marketing to attract business.  It is not in their best interest to discourage business.  Consumers really have to do their research and make sure they are going in with a realistic picture.  Google searches alone can help out tremendously as well as reading the press.  I do believe that many of the training companies are targeting a niche market that might not have a strong business background or believe in too much of the sales pitch that they are handed a business in a box or notebook. 

Also in the past and I believe this is changing, many stagers when asked put a positive spin on the story to justify their own investment or not to show that the market was slow.  I can remember my years in real estate when no one would admit sales were slow.  Did you want to tell a home owner you couldn't sell a house?  Don't you want to promote the company you trained with so you give your credentials more authority?  I know of a stager that made the investment because one person she spoke with gave the impression they could provide at least two days a week of work.  Very few can make that promise.

As stagers and professionals we can provide realistic information based on our experience.  If someone wants to believe it they can.  We can also strive to work more on promoting the industry and our companies as independent businesses and with the help of professional and network associations.  Training companies probably need to have services and benefits to stand out from the competition and it never hurts to bring numbers for discounts, but we as custoers can be cognizant of layered fees and services that don't benefit us, or services that we can do on our own.  Are the fees really worth the investment?

With all of the blogs, press and do it yourself information out there, a person should be able to find out a great deal more than what was available in the past.

I love staging and the profession, but it is not an easy start up business.  In Michigan the market has shaken out some of those only in it part time or not committed.  In staging the market might end up having the opposite impact.  It might be that many with secondary sources of income can manage to stay in the game and those hoping for a full time profitable business may have to look elsewhere or rely on other income streams with staging a much smaller piece of the pie.

 

  

Apr 19, 2009 09:45 AM
Annie Pinsker-Brown
Stage to Sell - LA Home Staging - Los Angeles, CA
Stage to Sell, Los Angeles Home Stager

I am so thrilled to see this post Isabel. I'll have been running my Staging business for 5 yrs this July and I had my best year ever in terms of gross revenue in the first 9 months of 2008 (before the stock market crashed in October). The company brought in almost $250K! BUT I only paid myself about $15,000 last year (in salary). Now the corporation covers a lot of our personal expenses (medical insurance, child care, cell phone, etc), which adds up to around $30K/yr. But for working as hard as I do, and for Staging as many houses as I do, $45K can hardly be called a salary! I actually made more profit the year before when I didn't do as many jobs! What people don't realize is that as you get more and more "successful," you have to hire help, you have to buy more inventory (I had 18 houses out at one time last summer and ran out of basics like towels, bedding and vases on numerous occasions), you have to rent more furniture, etc... Your costs go way up as the amount of business you have goes up. So I have realized that this is a profession with very low profit margins. You have to be in it because you love it. You also have to find great people to help you as you grow. And you have to focus on the revenue streams that make you the most money and/or bring you the most satisfaction. (Sometimes they are not the same ones I know.) Whatever business you are in, when you're an entrepreneur, you are in the business of marketing. Staging may be the product you're marketing, but if you're not spending most of your time marketing, you will be out of business quickly. I am always brutally honest when newbies and out-of-work interior designers and set dressers call me each week. I feel like you've got to be cruel to be kind and tell them the truth about what they're getting into.

May 07, 2009 09:50 AM