Home Staging Course Unit 7
How to Start a Home Staging Business
When you start thinking about all of the steps to starting your business, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and lose focus.
The key is to break it down into small pieces that you can complete and then move on to the next piece.
So in this part of the course we’re going to go over how to start a home staging business.
If you’ve missed the beginning of the course or just want to review, go back and check out Unit 1 of our home staging course.
My goal is to keep you on track with action steps that will lead you to an up-and-running business.
In my experience as a home staging instructor, I know that one of the common problems students face is that they want to have all of the answers before they get started.
So let’s get this out of the way right now.
It’s not possible to answer every question about every potential scenario that you may encounter as you start running your business.
You have to trust that you will be able to figure things out as situations arise.
You don’t have to have it all worked out in advance — trust yourself and trust the process.
You WILL be able to handle it.
And even in the event that you make a wrong turn along the way, this is just how life works. You learn from mistakes and move on. So please don’t weigh yourself down with “what if” thinking.
Here is your plan for how to start a home staging business, in a nutshell:
- Learn the techniques
- Get photos of your work as you complete the practice exercises
- Deal with the red tape of business structure and license (if necessary in your area). It’s just filling out forms, don’t worry!
- Decide on your business name and choose your domain name
- Order some business cards
- Build your website (or hire someone)
- Sign up for your marketing platforms
Ready to start?
Work on Your Home Staging Skills
Make sure you are confident in your skills before you start getting clients.
The best way to do this is to study the material, complete the exercises, and stage every room that you have access to.
This is a simple but important part of how to start a home staging business — make sure you’re ready so that you’ll be confident when working for clients.
The more you stage, the better you will get and the faster you will be able to work.
The first time you’re presented with a room that’s in need of staging, you might not know how to jump in and tackle the trouble spots.
After you do it a few times you will develop your eye and a system that works for you.
You may end up using a process that differs from the steps I’ve listed for you.
As long as you get it done in a way that makes sense for you, that’s all that matters.
I’ve had students stage a friend’s house, a neighbor’s house, and even lobbies and offices at work.
A commercial space like a lobby might seem like an odd place to stage, but you’re practicing a lot of the same skills. I’ve had students do it this way. I had one student use a space at her church to do her practice staging.
So, spend some time staging anywhere they’ll let you.
Make sure you take before and after photos. Get in the habit of having a camera handy when you’re about to approach a staging project.
Before and after photos are one of the most important parts of your marketing.
Don’t think too much about it, just shoot before and afters every time you tackle a new room, or even a corner of a room. You may not end up using all of them.
It’s more important to have quality rather than quantity when it comes to your portfolio, so only use the best photos.
The goal is to practice sizing up rooms, making decisions, and developing your hands-on systems for editing and arranging. If you get to the point where you’re having dreams about staging, congratulations! You’re definitely a home stager.
If not, don’t worry, it’ll probably happen at some point.
How to Start a Home Business: Business Structure, License, Insurance
This is the part where you get to make some decisions like whether you want to become an LLC or operate as a sole proprietor or partnership if you have a partner.
(There are other business structures but these are the most common ones to consider at this stage.)
Please note that I’m not a legal expert or a professional business consultant.
Business structure rules and regs and fees vary from state to state, and I’m definitely not an expert or even very familiar with all situations for every state.
Listing every state’s requirements I beyond the scope of this course. I hope you understand.
A sole proprietorship is a great option if you are getting started and plan on doing consultations at first, without any hands-on work. It’s great because it is easy to get started and you can always file the LLC paperwork down the road.
It is easy to set up as a sole proprietorship because, depending on your state, you may not have to file any forms to get started.
With a sole proprietorship, your personal assets are on the line in the event of an event like a lawsuit. You and the business are one and the same. That’s why I suggest using a sole proprietorship when you aren’t doing any hands-on work.
An LLC (Limited Liability Company) will give its owners protection in case the business is held financially responsible for anything.
You can use one of the online services that set up LLCs for a fee, or you can get on your state’s Secretary of State website and find out which forms you need to fill out.
Some states may be easier to navigate than others, and you may decide that a service like LegalZoom is well worth it.
In my opinion, another benefit of the LLC structure is that you’re creating an asset that you can sell one day. If you operate as a sole proprietor and your business name is Mary Smith Staging, that doesn’t give you anything to sell at some point, if you desire, because you literally are the business.
Note: There is no charge for the course, however, we’ve had folks ask about contributing just because they like what we’re doing. We appreciate that support so much. Our mission is to make this rewarding career a reality for anyone who wants to pursue it.
On the other hand, say you build a business called Napa Valley Home Staging LLC. One day you want to sell so you can retire. Now you have something you can sell.
Just to make sure you have this information clearly explained, I’m going to turn it over to the legal experts for a second so you can read this quick article.
Your local municipality may require a business license. A business license is basically a way for the local powers that be to make sure that the business you’re running is appropriate as a home business according to zoning laws.
Since you’re not doing anything on the premises except keeping an office, there should not be an issue about business activities that are not allowed.
For example, some areas may not allow a home business that has clients stopping by. Other areas do allow client visits, but only up to a certain number per day.
They also want to make sure you’re not employing a large staff or doing anything industrial or noisy.
Applying for a business license for your home business is largely about making sure your neighbors aren’t going to be inconvenienced by your business activities.
The other reason cities have you get licensed is so that they can tax you on your business income.
Where I live, you can make up to a certain amount per year without having to pay tax.
Some areas don’t require a business license for this type of business.
These rules and regs vary so much from place to place that I can’t possibly give an accurate overview of how it will work in your exact location.
In my 15 years or so of teaching experience, I know that students have reported back to me that it was pretty easy and straightforward in most cases.
It might be helpful to do a quick search right now to see what you need to know. Just search your city or town name + business license and you should get the info you need.
You’re probably going to fill out a fairly short form about your business and the activities involved, and there will be a fee involved that it usually in the $30-75 range.
If you are in Canada, here is a business start-up checklist for you.
There seems to be a lot of concern among students about getting insurance. If you are doing hands-on staging work then you definitely, definitely need insurance. You don’t have to join any kind of staging organization that collects yearly dues just so you can get insurance.
I am a huge fan of being very well insured. Things don’t usually go wrong but sometimes they do and in that event you want to be protected. This is extremely, extremely important if you are operating as a sole proprietorship.
An LLC is designed protect your personal assets, but LLCs are not bulletproof.
Make sure you have insurance before you start. Don’t skip this part.
Home staging insurance is just a type of business insurance, it’s not very hard to find. Insurance agents are basically salespeople. If they have the right thing to sell you, they’ll do it.
So call up your agent that you use for your auto, home, or renters policy.
Tell them you’re looking for business insurance for a home staging business. This may or may not involve you having to explain what’s involved in home staging.
If it helps them understand it, tell them it’s similar to being an interior decorator.
Home staging is becoming pretty mainstream so they may know exactly what kind of insurance you need without any explanation.
If they don’t have a business policy, ask them if they have a recommendation for who to call. Insurance agents are salespeople and networkers so they should have a name to give you.
I have never heard of a case where this method didn’t work, but if you get stuck on this part, please email me and I will help you get on the right track.
Now that we’ve covered the first steps for how to start a home staging business, are you ready to move on with more about how to become a home stager?
We’ll get into fun stuff like business cards and getting your home staging website set up.