I don't understand why some home stagers give their knowledge away for free. Why would a professional home stager offer a free home staging consultation? Why would home owners and real estate agents value your knowledge if you don't? Isn't your expertise worth anything?
I've heard that some home staging training schools advocate giving away free home staging consultations "to get your name out there". Yes, your name is getting out there, but its getting out there as a home stager who gives their expertise away for free. And once you are known as a stager that's willing to give it away for free, it will be very hard to convince real estate agents that your knowledge is worth paying for.
NOTE: For the purposes of this article, a "consultation" is defined as giving specific information on how to prepare a specific home for sale, like "paint this wall Benjamin Moore Fired Lobster", or "this chair should move over here". I am not talking about general information like "declutter and clean". You should be paid for a consultation if you are using your training, experience and expertise to provide specific information.
A bid or estimate is defined as giving pricing to stage a home, and does not include house specific information . "Staging the living room, dining room and kitchen for $xxx" is a bid. Once you have a signed contract and deposit for the staging, you can provide them with more specific information if you choose. Some stagers charge for an estimate or bid (often as a "trip charge") and some don't. This is up to the individual stager and what their market will bear.
You've probably spent a lot of money and time learning about home staging and running a profitable business . If you took a home staging training course, you shelled out hundreds or thousands of dollars. Or you may have gone to college and toiled for years in marketing, design or mid-level management. All that education, training and experience cost you and made you the excellent stager you are today. Don't you think you should be paid for using your knowledge and expertise for someone else's benefit? Are you helping the home owner to prepare their home for the market? Are you helping them sell their home faster and for more money? Are you helping the listing agent to sell their listings faster? Are they getting paid for their expertise?
"But my competition is doing free consultations," you cry. "Potential clients call me and say they talked to my competitor and he/she will do it for free," you lament. Well, guess what. The free information your competitor is giving away (or all that free information on the Internet) must be lacking, or they wouldn't be calling you. (Unless they expect even more-than-free and they are hoping you will pay them for the privilege of giving them your free information.)
If you don't know how to sell the value of your knowledge and expertise, at this point, I would A) ask for a refund from my home staging training provider, because this should be core curriculum and B) fold up my home staging tent and get a job flipping hamburgers (at least you'll get paid minimum wage). Working for free won't pay your rent, your mortgage, buy inventory, pay your lease on your warehouse or storage unit, put food on your table, put gas in your car or keep the lights on. For more information about this topic read On Pricing Power by Seth Godin. If you need help figuring out your value proposition read Powerful Value Propositions or Google "Value Proposition".
I read a fantastic article today No You Can't Pick My Brain. It Costs Too Much on the Forbes website. If you are giving away your knowledge and expertise for free, you should read this article, print it out, tape it to your bathroom mirror and read it every day. The author, Adrienne Graham, shared some really powerful information. One of my favorites quotes is:
Trust me, if they will walk away because they cannot get a freebie, they weren’t meant to be a client and there was no real opportunity in it for you.
If they can't get what they want from you for free, and they walk away, (I call these people "knowledge vampires") they probably would not have hired you anyway. If you let them walk away you have just prevented an knowledge vampire from sucking you dry. There was nothing in it for you.
Adrienne's article goes on to outline the ways you can stop giving away your knowledge for free. A few of the most important are:
- Believe what you know is valuable - if you don't value it, why should anyone else?
- Create a fee schedule - this way when you start to slip and give your knowledge away, you can refer to your schedule and let them know what your time/expertise is worth.
- Don't back down - you'll lose the knowledge vampires as clients, but they really had no value to you anyway (since they weren't willing to pay you). And a few of them might convert to paying customers, once they see you won't give it away for free, which is the best kind of customer to have.
I'm sure I will get a few comments from real estate agents who will say that they give away a lot of information for free and do a lot of work before they get paid at the close of escrow. I know this is the standard and customary way that real estate agents work, but I've never understood how this business model came to pass. I feel bad for real estate agents that have to spend a lot of money out of pocket to market a home and spend countless hours showing homes to prospective buyers without the guarantee of getting paid. Thankfully, this is not how home staging works.
Value your knowledge and expertise. Don't give it away for free. Expect to be paid for helping home owners and real estate agents help sell homes/listings faster and for a higher price.