Starting a Home Staging Business in 10 Steps
If you’ve ever been in the market for a house or apartment, you’ve likely come into contact with the work of a home stager. Home stagers work with real estate agents and homeowners to decorate a space—from furniture to accent pieces—so that a property will appeal more to potential buyers.
Are you interested in how to start a home staging business? This step-by-step guide is here to help you break the big task of starting a business down into smaller, more manageable steps with plenty of resources to support you along the way.
Step 1: Write a Business Plan
No matter what kind of business you start, you should begin by writing a business plan. This will serve as your roadmap in those crucial first months and years of running your business, and can also be updated as you reach future milestones.
Your business plan will be a pretty comprehensive guide for your business, including sections on who your target market is, what services you’ll offer, how you’ll price them, how much startup capital you’ll need, when you plan to turn a profit, and more.
Step 2: Choose a Name
Next, make your business official by choosing a name. To do so, you want to think about what will communicate the services you provide, give potential clients a sense of your personality, and appeal to your target market. You want the name of your business to be unique but to also give people an idea of what your business does.
If you need inspiration, read on guide on how to come up with the perfect business name. Once you have some ideas, you’ll then need to make sure they’re available for use by checking with your secretary of state’s website. You can also run a Google search and check with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as well if you want to make sure no business outside of your state is using your name. Once you find an available name that you love, you’ll also want to check that the domain name and any social handles are available as well so that your branding is consistent.
Step 3: Register Your Business
With your business name decided, the next step is to choose a business entity and register your business with your state. You may also want to consult with a business attorney or tax professional at this time, as the entity you choose will affect how you structure your company, your taxes, and your personal liability.
Some popular business entities are sole proprietorships, LLCs, and corporations. The registration process will vary based on which one you choose and where you live. Again, your secretary of state’s office will likely be the resource you’ll use to register your business. Typically, you’ll be able to file forms online and will also be required to pay a nominal fee.
Step 4: Obtain Business Licenses and Permits
Depending on where your business operates, you may need to obtain business licenses and/or permits. These could range from signage permits if you operate out of a physical office space, parking permits if you’ll need to reserve space to unload your wares.
The SBA offers useful resources to help you find out which licenses or permits you’ll need, but it’s also worth checking with a business attorney or advisor familiar with your type of business specifically to make sure you’re covered. After all, failure to obtain the proper licenses or permits before you open for business could result in fines or penalties.
Step 5: Obtain Business Insurance
To protect your business, as well as yourself and any employees you may have, you should look into business insurance. If you do have employees, you’ll be required to carry certain types, such as workers compensation and unemployment.
However, even if you’re a one-person operation, you should still consider insurance. With a home staging business, you’ll be moving heavy furniture around on private property, meaning there’s a real risk something could go wrong. A general liability policy is a good place to start.
Step 6: Build Your Network
With a lot of the paperwork behind you, it’s time to build your actual business. This means getting to know people, introducing them to your business, and getting your name out there.
There are many small steps you can take to build a strong network so that word-of-mouth recommendations can keep your business going strong.
Connect With Real Estate Professionals
When starting your home staging business, one of the best things you can do is to network with real estate agents. Most home stagers work hand-in-hand with these people to get homes ready to sell. Having a large network of real estate agents, brokers, and more is a great way to build your network quickly and to find future clients.
Beyond the real estate world, you may also want to check out building management companies, homeowners, interior decorators, and cleaners in your area.
Go to Networking Events
When you’re starting a business, the best thing you can do is to build a big network, and that means attending networking events.
While networking events can feel forced, they truly are a great way to get to know people in your industry and beyond. Look for networking events that feature the type of clients you want to work with. Be sure to look for industry groups, as well as events for other types of businesses that are tangentially related. You may also want to scope out some open houses in your area to meet brokers and homeowners alike.
Find Home Goods Suppliers
Another important thing to have in your network as a home stager is a list of suppliers for the different home goods you’ll use to stage your jobs. While there may be times when you’ll stage a home with existing furniture, you’ll mostly be in charge of supplying the wares yourself—from large furniture to accent pieces and even art. You want to make each space look as inviting as possible, after all, so people are more inclined to buy.
Purchasing gently used or discounted showpieces can be a great way to build a collection of staging furniture that can be used in many different homes. Finding out where to find high-quality, discounted furniture will be crucial to your success, so you’ll want to build your network here as well.
Step 7: Consider Business Funding
The startup costs for your home staging business will depend on what services you initially offer and whether you already have an inventory of home goods to work with (and the space to store them). If you’re starting from scratch, you may have to invest in some big purchases to stage your first few jobs. To finance these, you may want to look into business funding options.
While new businesses likely won’t qualify for many traditional funding options, like bank loans, you do have a number of alternative options to consider—from personal loans to business credit cards to crowdfunding.
Once you’ve been running your business for a year or so and have the strong financials to back it up, you can seek out other funding options, including business lines of credit, term loans, and even SBA loans.
Step 8: Open a Business Bank Account and Credit Card
Having a credit card and bank account that are used only for your business expenses and income is crucial for separating your business and personal finances. Not only will it make your accounting easier and save you time when you’re paying taxes on your business income, but it will also help protect your personal assets if your business runs into financial or legal trouble.
A business bank account is a good place to start. There are plenty of great options for both business checking and savings accounts, but new businesses will likely only need a checking account at first. As you build your business and have more money in the bank, you then might explore your savings account options to earn interest on your balance.
A business credit card is another must-have tool for any business. Besides being a financing option, as we mentioned above, you’ll also want to make all your business-related purchases with this card. By spending responsibly, you can build your business credit, which can also help you qualify for business loans in the future.
Step 9: Organize Your Marketing Materials
Once you have your business set up and have started to build your network of people and tools, you’ll want to make sure that all of your marketing materials are in order.
Create a Website
One of the best ways to build credibility for your business is to have a business website. This can be a simple page with information about you, your business, pricing, and contact information. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but a straightforward, professional-looking site will help potential customers find your business.
Get on Social Media
Another important piece of marketing is getting on social media. Not every platform will serve your business, but since your work is more visual, you may want to explore Instagram and Pinterest. Creating a LinkedIn page is also a good way to grow your network and connect with potential clients.
Put Together a Portfolio
Before you even have your first client, you want to be thinking about your portfolio. Your portfolio is one of your best marketing tools as it lets you show potential clients your past work. As you build your client base, document work you’ve already done, including decorating for your own home or for friends and family. If you’re not gifted with a camera yourself, consider hiring a professional photographer to document your work—it’ll make a big difference.
Step 10: Keep up With Trends
As your business grows and changes, you want to update it to match the current trends and styles in the home decor market. This means keeping an eye on trade magazines, Pinterest, and other inspiration platforms that’ll help to spark creativity. Attending trade and design shows can also be a way to discover new ideas, as well as grow your network.
The Bottom Line
When you’re learning how to start a home staging business, the number of things to do can feel overwhelming. Just like any big task, you tackle it by breaking it down into smaller, individual steps. And remember that when in doubt, it’s always helpful to consult an attorney, tax professional, or business advisor to ensure you’re not leaving anything to chance.
Sally Lauckner is the editor-in-chief of JustBusiness and the editorial director at Fundera.
Sally joined Fundera in 2018 and has almost 15 years of experience in print and online journalism. Previously she was the senior editor at SmartAsset—a Y Combinator-backed fintech startup that provides personal finance advice. There, she edited articles and data reports on topics including taxes, mortgages, banking, credit cards, investing, insurance, and retirement planning. She has also held various editorial roles at AOL.com, Huffington Post, and Glamour magazine. Her work has also appeared in Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and ColoradoBiz magazines, as well as Yelp, SmallBizClub, and BizCrat.