The 5 biggest reasons home stagers fail as business owners
I’ve been in the home staging industry for a LONG time and I’ve seen great stagers come and go. I’ve seen some pretty crappy stagers succeed too. Sorry, it’s just true. It doesn’t matter how great you are at creating the perfect environment for the home buyer. If you don’t know how to run your business, you will fail. As a matter of fact, if I were forced to chose between someone who had nearly no design sense, but could follow a well laid out plan, vs an amazing creative with the best design sense, but who was just out there winging it, I would put my money with the former, not the latter.
Home Stagers don’t seem to understand what their business is.
It hurts to say it. I see it all the time, however. It’s obvious when you look at most home staging certification ads. Creatives get into this business because they love home decor and they love decorating. It’s the kiss of death in most home staging businesses. Years ago, before starting my own company, I managed a Real Estate Recruiting office. We could tell the Realtors who would succeed and who would fail by the answer to the question, “Why did you decide to become a Realtor?” If their answers had anything to do with the love of homes, it was over. They were doomed before they got off the ground.
Let’s just be clear that home staging is all about real estate marketing. If you don’t LOVE marketing, don’t become a home stager. Find out how to become a home decor blogger. Make houses pretty and show them off in photos. Earn free stuff, get sponsorships, and grow that business. Home Staging is about creating a MEASURABLE, MARKETABLE difference in the PERCEIVED VALUE of the house. That’s all done by understanding basic human buying habits, body language, and silent signals that our brain perceives without our knowledge. It’s not about design or decorating.
The 5 biggest reasons home stagers fail as business owners
Now that you understand what home staging really is, let’s talk about why most home staging businesses fail.
1. Not understanding how to price to stay in business. There are multiple ways to price your services. Not having a clear understanding on how to price with profitability in mind is the surest way to turn a business into a hobby. Far too often, new home stagers believe that in order to compete that they need to charge less than their successful counterparts. Rarely does this work. What the new stager may not even know is that their counterpart may not have the right answers on pricing either. If you have taken a home staging course and they’ve told you how much to charge, without discussing WHY you need to charge an amount, or how to figure out those calculations, in your market, with your own unique overhead, you have a recipe for failure.
2. Not having a clearly defined target market. In your home staging training, you should have learned about understanding demographics. You should know how to easily identify the buyers for the properties that you are staging. Have you done this with your own business, however? Do you know who you want to be your customer?
Again, let’s be clear. I’m not talking about whether you want to work with Realtors, Builders, Flippers, or Homeowners. I’m talking about what part of town, what price point and what buyer demographic you want to work with. My business at Rave Home Staging, for instance, is all about first time home buyers. Sure, we do all kinds of staging, but more than 80% of our work – and nearly all of our marketing – revolves around that demographic. We have looked at budgets and profitability and know that’s our sweet spot. It’s where we make the most money.
3. Not hiring professionals immediately First and foremost, home stagers need to stop moving their own furniture. If one more stager tells me that they can’t get buyers to pay for it, then I just may lose my mind. If you don’t have a moving team, get one immediately. If you can’t afford it, you don’t have a business. Period. You need to raise your rates. If you think you can’t raise your rates, then again, you don’t value what you do, so how can you expect your customers to? You need to have a professional photographer taking photos of all of your work. Tell me you can’t afford it and I’ll go back to what I just said about movers. You probably shouldn’t be steaming the linens or cleaning glass either. You are a business owner. Your primary purpose, the highest and best use of your time is always getting more business.
4. Stop trying to DO EVERYTHING. After you’ve determined who your ideal customer is, or maybe before then, but either way, they go hand in hand, determine what business offerings you will have. Common businesses in the staging arena are: vacant staging, occupied staging, consultations, redesign, full design, shopping services, model homes, holiday decorating, and more. If you think you can do more than about two of these choices, then you are going to send mixed messages to your customers and you won’t maximize anything.
I know, I know. You must have multiple streams of income and you must diversify. WRONG! The most successful businesses in the world are focused on one or two big things. That’s what they do. Don’t be the jack of all trades. Do be the master of one. If you want to take the island, you must burn the boats. There won’t be “slow times” if you spend all your time on the things that make you the most money. If there are, then you’ll have time to focus on the parts that can only be done when your business has the opportunity to take a breath because you’ve been killer busy the rest of the year.
5. Watch your language. Tell your closest friend of relative all about your business. The good, the bad, the ugly. Listen to your words as you do so. Are they strong, bold, moving forward words? Are they timid, struggling words? The words you use are either the current state of your business, or where it is going. Use the words that describe the business you want to have. Far too often, I hear stagers talk about wishing, but not about doing. They talk about dreaming or goals, but they don’t have deadlines or timelines. Stop being “I” and start being “we”.
I remember when I first started my home staging business 14 years ago. I had owned the business for a couple of months and was a single person operation. I was having a conversation with my father-in-law and kept saying “we”. He finally stopped and asked who “we” was. I smiled and responded, “Me, Myself, and I”. There was zero question in my mind that I would move beyond me into we.
When you think about the future of your business, what do you believe is possible? If you are stuck with the thought of “I can’t imagine…. ” then you also can’t have it. Change this concept to, “Just imagine…” By telling your brain that you want it to imagine that future rather than telling it not to, because you can’t, you can change your whole life.
Now that you know why home staging businesses fail, what will you do?
Have you found yourself guilty of any of the five problems? Have you found yourself guilty of more than one? If so, then don’t wait, take action. Stop the slow bleed out of your business and make an investment into yourself. We offer inexpensive options with our Red Curtain Mastermind, which includes weekly group coaching, to full blown business in a box plan complete with operations manual and step by step checklists and a guarantee of $100K in sales your first year.
Home staging is a business that requires knowledge of clients psychology and deep understanding of the real estate market.
You are 100% correct Eliza! What’s sad to me is how many home stagers think they are just decorators. We are really in the marketing business.