Home Staging: A Real Business or a Creative Hobby?

Home Stager with Staging Diva / Six Elements Inc.

curb appealHome Staging can be a lucrative business if you approach it as a business. I'm frustrated by the number of home stagers who call themselves professionals and yet don't even take some of the MOST BASIC steps to get their business off the ground.

I do fault some of the home staging training out there, sometimes cheerleading takes the place of actual training. It feels nice when you're in the audience, but what happens when you're sitting in your home office with no clients?

But even with the best training in the world, if you don't approach your business as a professional and take concrete steps to move your business forward on a continual basis, all you have is a CREATIVE HOBBY NOT A BUSINESS!

This post (rant?) was motivated by an email I received today that went like this:

"Can you help me. I started my business a year ago. I never registered my business name and now I've realized that someone else is already using it. I guess I'll need to pick a new name and get new cards. Here are three names I'm thinking of, which one should I use?.... I ran a newspaper ad that was really expensive but I haven't got any projects from it. I am starting to get some photos together for my portfolio. What have I been doing wrong? I'm frustrated that after a year I'm really not making enough money."

Sadly, this type of story isn't unusual. The reality is that launching a business is hard work. If you're not prepared to put in some real time upfront, forget it! Don't waste your money on training, go get a paid job somewhere and forget about following your dreams.

I know that sounds harsh, but I believe in challenging and inspiring people to push past their comfort zones and giving them concrete and practical steps to do it. I'm not a cheerleader.

If you are serious about turning your talent for decorating and interest in real estate into a career as a home stager, recognize that being an entrepreneur means you'll be doing a lot of stuff that no one will pay you for.

Things like:

  • Coming up with a company name and registering your business
  • Building your initial portfolio so that your first prospects will see what you can do
  • Having professional looking business cards designed and printed
  • Building a website or putting your business on the Internet in some way so prospects can find you and see your work
  • Practicing how to talk about what you do in a compelling way
  • Figuring out your pricing strategy
  • Practicing how to explain your rates in a way that doesn't sound like you're asking a prospect for permission to charge them
  • Getting out there and making presentations to groups of people about what staging is and how it will benefit them

No one pays you to do this work, but in doing it you are planting the seeds for the growth of your business. You can read more about this topic in Are you serious about building a home staging business?


Debra Gould, The Staging Diva
President, Six Elements Inc.

P.S. I have events that need speakers and projects that need stagers. You can read about them at The Business of Home Staging




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Sheron Cardin
California Moods Inc - Selma, CA
ARTIST - A Home Stager/Sellers Best Friend!
You have some big fans in the rain forest. I will be interested to see how many comments you get with this post. I have a lot of respect for the way you have merchandised yourself.
Jan 09, 2007 02:52 PM #2
Judy Heinrich
Judy Heinrich Home Staging - San Diego, CA
If we want Reators and homeowners to take us seriously, we have to take ourselves seriously! Staging is still in its infancy stage in most parts of the country, not taking your business seriously only hurts the reputation of our industry as a whole.
Jan 09, 2007 11:08 PM #3
Lucie Quigley
HOLT modern Home Staging - Halifax, NS
Add in there plenty of hard work, lots of patience and a strong belief in yourself and the industry! 
Jan 10, 2007 01:00 AM #4
Eric Reeber
AnnieMac Home Mortgage - Mount Laurel Township, NJ

I have never heard of "home staging" until I joined this site.  I don't believe we have anything like that in NJ.  I believe "Interior Decorator" might be the closest thing to that. 


Jan 10, 2007 03:24 AM #5
Kathy Vaughan
Ryan Taylor Homes - Annandale, VA
I think have a home staged is great, but, in our market, most sellers consider that a skill that the agent should provide. Most, at least in the average price range, are unwilling to take on the extra expense of hiring a stager.
Jan 10, 2007 03:41 AM #6
Ann O'Connell, Solstice Staging
It would be interesting to see statistics on how many people who attend home staging training programs actually pursue the career.  My impression at my training class was that some people take these courses in an honest effort to get a leg up on a new career, while others take them simply as a "continuing ed" type of course.  Anyone out there have any stats? 
Jan 10, 2007 03:45 AM #7
Ann O'Connell
Real estate agent at Oak Real Estate - Boulder, CO
Sorry, I made that last post without being logged in - here's my info:
Jan 10, 2007 03:48 AM #8
Karen Reynolds
Champagne Staging. LLC - Raleigh, NC

Amen Diva, amen.  I have spent the last month making all of my portfolios, marketing materials, doing research into which markets I want to conquer (heehee, gotta be positive) and all of that stuff that I don't get paid for.  I have in the middle squeezed in a few stagings which was great because I learned what I can improve on from the business end and what I need to change.  17 years ago I was one of the first certified paralegals in Califiornia and nobody knew what the heck a paralegal was!  I educated as many as I could about paralegals and suceeded.  We ALL know what a paralegal is today.  The same applies to staging -- no matter where we get our education, no matter what initials we do or don't have after our names, we are all in this great big boat together and we OWE it to each other to spread the good word and work together for the good of improving peoples lives everywhere.  It takes sinverity, perserverence and PATIENCE above all :)

Jan 10, 2007 03:50 AM #9
Janice Sutton
1st Stage Property Transformations - Murrieta, CA
Home Stager - Temecula Murrieta

RIGHT ON Debra!  When I started by business there was so much I didn't realize I needed to accomplish.  Many days I complained to my husband that I didn't want to do the BUSINESS BORING stuff I only wanted to do the FUN CREATIVE part.   My husband reminded me that there are lots of things he doesn't like to do about his job but that's the way it goes!!  So I quick my complaining and moved forward!!!  I started with a business plan that I think was the most important part for me.  Still lots to do BUT love doing what I was meant to be doing!!! 

Jan 10, 2007 04:39 AM #10
Jeff Turner
RealSatisfied - Santa Clarita, CA
Debra :: Starting a business is not for the faint of heart and I often advise against it. There is so much people don't understand about what it takes to start and sustain a business and it's a serious endeavor. This is very good advice.
Jan 10, 2007 05:56 AM #11
Lauren Corna
Archway Realty, LLC - Southlake, TX
Debra-   great post !
Jan 10, 2007 10:47 AM #12
Jessica Hughes
Ambiance Staging - Boulder, CO
I think a lot of the training courses and information you read on the internet portrays staging as an easy money career to get into.  It doesn't take into account the significant amount of hard work, and skill required.
Jan 10, 2007 12:14 PM #13
Maureen Maureen
Orangeburg, NY
Debra - I think setting up and LLC for  your company and getting insurance should be up there also.  The Realtors in my area will not refer anyone without insurance.  Thanks for the great post.
Jan 10, 2007 12:35 PM #14
Ken Spencer
Serendra Realty Group - Buckeye, AZ
for Verrado, Buckeye, Sundance


 You hit the nail on the head.  It takes more than just a dream to make a business.  It's hard work and long term commitment.  This is a great post.  I hope many read and comment on it.


Jan 10, 2007 12:56 PM #15
Jeff Belonger
Social Media - Infinity Home Mortgage Company, Inc - Cherry Hill, NJ
The FHA Expert - FHA Loans - FHA mortgages - USDA loans - VA Loans

Debra....  good post. But I think what you talked about is for many different types of businesses.  And I am just as frustrated in regards to many loan officers in the mortgage industry that don't know what they are doing....don't take it seriously... and this is what you said...  But even with the best training in the world, if you don't approach your business as a professional and take concrete steps to move your business forward on a continual basis, all you have is a CREATIVE HOBBY NOT A BUSINESS!   So true

again, good job

Jan 10, 2007 03:33 PM #16
Debra Gould
Staging Diva / Six Elements Inc. - Toronto, ON
The Staging Diva

Thanks for all the great comments to my original post!

I think the reason the vast majority of all new businesses fail within the first year is people grossly underestimate the amount of time and effort they'll need. In some cases it's also a case of under capitalization. Fortunately that reason is not as much of a factor in staging because it's such an inexpensive business to start (unless you'll be buying all your own staging inventory, which isn't "necessary" and is a choice about how you want to structure your business).

I don't believe in "get rich quick" schemes. The people that jump on staging (or real estate for that matter) looking for that will be in for a shock. I did take my first year's staging income in the $30,000 range and more than triple it within my second year (yes that was from staging, not teaching staging), but I devoted about 70 hours a week, every week, to it for those first two years.

I also benefited from the fact that I have a BA in Communications, an MBA in Marketing, almost 25 years experience as a marketer, and I'd already been an entrpreneur for almost 15 years before starting my staging business.

Many of those approximately 7,000 hours I spent building my staging business over the first two years were spent on trial and error. Figuring out how to explain the benefits of staging in a clear and compelling way, building my website, and figuring out my pricing and marketing strategies, fine tuning the services I was prepared to offer, networking, marketing, establishing business relationships, etc.

The reason many Staging Diva Graduates are having the early success they are, is because I tell them candidly what I learned over those 7,000 hours of trial and error. There is a small group of Graduates that haven't done anything with what I've taught them, so they don't have businesses. They're paralyzed by their own fear of failure, or fear of success, or they just plain don't want to work that hard and hope that projects will magically fall in their laps.

In addition to how hard you're willing to work, how focussed and disciplined you are when you are working, it's also about expectations and intentions. Not everyone wants to build a huge business and there's nothing wrong with that. Not everyone has to support themselves and therefore have the luxury of having a "business" that's really more of a "hobby" (I just don't happen to be one of them)! 

Jan 12, 2007 03:49 AM #17
Phyllis Pafumi

Laying the ground work for your business is just as important as doing the prep work for a house before you stage it..

Phyllis Pafumi

Jan 14, 2007 01:26 AM #18
Debra Gould
Staging Diva / Six Elements Inc. - Toronto, ON
The Staging Diva

Exactly... I continue to hear from people who don't even have a company name yet and they can't figure out why no one has hired them. Instead they say, "clearly there's no demand for home staging in my area." Reminding me of one of my favorite quotes:


The best excuses don't feel as satisfying as success! 




Jan 14, 2007 03:20 PM #19
Tina Parker
Keller Williams Select Realty - Bedford, NS
CNE, REDM, SRES, CSP Home Staging REALTOR, Halifax

Make sure you LOVE what you do when setting up a business, it is this passion that will help you maintain the faith and perserverance you will need during the first crucial year.  This is clearly the best advice I was given before I started.

Jan 15, 2007 12:34 AM #20
Jennifer Fivelsdal
JFIVE Home Realty LLC | 845-758-6842|162 Deer Run Rd Red Hook NY 12571 - Rhinebeck, NY
Mid Hudson Valley real estate connection
A great post, the basic priciples you outlined can be applied to anyone starting a business,  Following these simple rules will help you avoid major headaches.
Jan 16, 2007 10:29 PM #21
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The Staging Diva
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