I find it very fascinating that it’s possible to make money with unique hustles.
That’s the reason I started the side hustle series, and today, I have a very interesting and less known hustle, home staging.
Today’s interview will give you a very detailed insight into home staging and show you exactly how to become a home stager and earn money in a flexible way.
Before we get into the interview, I would like to share some interesting facts about Debra Gould.
Internationally recognized home staging expert Debra Gould is president of Voice of Possibility Group Inc. and creator of the Staging Diva Home Staging Business Training Program, with over 30,000 students in 23 countries. An entrepreneur for almost 30 years and author of several guides, Debra has staged millions of dollars worth of real estate.
Celebrated as one of the most influential people in the home staging industry, she has been featured on: HGTV, GlobalTV, CityTV, CBS Radio, This Old House, CNNMoney, the Wall Street Journal, Woman’s Day Magazine, House & Home, Style at Home, and more.
How to Become a Home Stager – Expert Interview with Debra Gould
Can you please tell us about how you got started as a home stager and later became a trainer and mentor to thousands of people all over the world?
While staging and flipping six of my own homes (in four different cities), I was struck by how many ugly properties there are on the real estate market. It makes no sense that people wouldn’t want to present their homes in the best possible light when they are trying to sell them.
After all, no one would try to sell a used car without getting it washed, emptying out the trunk, and vacuuming the interior. And few people would go on a first date, job interview, or any other major event without thinking about how to look their best first!
Yet, millions of home sellers all over the world routinely put their homes (likely their single biggest asset) on the real estate market without first doing everything possible to it so that it will impress potential home buyers.
The only reason they’d do that is because they don’t know any better and/or they have no idea how to “dress their house for success.”
Realizing I had a creative talent these home sellers didn’t, it occurred to me that my decorating eye might actually be something others would pay for. After all, who doesn’t want to make more money when they sell their home?
I started Six Elements Home Staging in 2002 to help homeowners sell quickly and for top dollar. Equally importantly, it allowed me to show my daughter that you can make a living doing something you love.
I never planned on creating the Staging Diva Training Program. I loved decorating and was happy to run my own thriving home staging and redesign business.
After being featured on CNNMoney, HGTV, and numerous magazines and newspapers, I started getting hundreds of emails from struggling home stagers asking how I was so successful.
Everyone wanted to know my “secret.”
That’s when I realized no one was teaching the business of home staging. Perhaps because most courses were taught by people who never actually had a successful home staging business.
By this point, I had figured out the winning business formula through a lot of trial and error. I felt bad for all the frustrated creative people writing to me. They loved decorating and truly wanted to help their clients but didn’t understand how to make a living from it.
So I created the Staging Diva Home Staging Business Training Program, which has grown considerably since 2005 to thousands of students all over the world who have learned all my staging business secrets and are now applying the business model I’ve created.
I’m inspired by their successes every day, and that they’re able to show their own children and grandchildren that it’s possible to build an amazing career around your passion.
What exactly is home staging and how is it different from decorating or interior redesign?
Home staging and decorating (or interior redesign as it’s also called) are very similar. Both services are concerned with creating a visually appealing home, which is why home stagers are often hired for decorating projects. You are either “decorating to sell” or “decorating to live.”
When home staging or “decorating to sell,” we’re very focused on appealing to potential home buyers. It can be as simple as reducing clutter and rearranging what’s already there in new and better ways, right through to bringing in all new furniture and accessories.
Because you’re essentially turning the home into a “product” to sell on the real estate market, most clients will give a home stager free reign to do what they think is best. This can be immensely satisfying because you get to see the results of your creative efforts almost immediately.
Interior redesign or “decorating to live” is all about appealing to your clients and what mood and function they want for each room. Sometimes it’s also about impressing their friends and relatives, but either way, you’re going to be taking their particular taste into account. You’ll make a series of recommendations, but ultimately, the client will choose what they like best because they’ll have to live with it in the years ahead.
I wrote this article to explain why a home staging business beats an interior design one (though you can certainly combine both services in the same business).
Do you need any expertise or education to start this business?
You need to have good taste and some natural talent when it comes to decorating. You don’t need interior design training, but I do believe it’s key to know how to turn your talent into an actual business if you’re planning to make a living at this.
If you’re trying to make a living in home staging or interior redesign (decorating), your biggest challenges won’t be knowing where to put the couch in the living room or how to accessorize a bathroom, but rather
– knowing how to get clients,
– knowing how much to charge, and
– knowing how to make sure you get paid.
That’s why I cover all this and more in detail in the Staging Diva Home Staging Business Training Program.
What is the process to get started in this business?
The process really isn’t that complicated when you know what you’re doing and you have the right business formula to follow. For example, I teach Staging Diva students how to operate their business without needing to buy any of their own inventory of furniture or accessories.
This is a decidedly different approach than what they’d learn in other courses, which advise buying a warehouse full of furniture and accessories to stage multiple properties at once. Not only does that lead to lots of debt (furniture is expensive!) but you’d then have to rent climate-controlled storage space, find a truck and movers, etc.
I’ve staged millions of dollars worth of real estate over the years (from occupied resale homes to vacant homes that needed to be furnished), and I’ve never used my own inventory. I don’t even have a stock pile of throw cushions because I’ve figured out a way to get my clients to pay me to go shopping for them for anything we can’t rent.
So when you follow the business formula I lay out in the Staging Diva Home Staging Business Training Program, all you’ll need to start your business is a laptop, cell phone, business cards, digital camera with a wide angle lens (to capture more of a room in a single photo), professional internet presence (many of my students join the Staging Diva Directory of Home Stagers so they don’t have to learn how to build and maintain their own website), and a car to get around to your clients.
Staging Diva grads range in age from their 20s to into their 70s because this is not a labor intensive business when you follow my approach. Done right, a home stager is more of a creative director (setting the creative vision) and project manager (figuring out what has to happen in what order and when).
For example, I may choose paint colors for an entire home, but I never actually pick up a paint brush. I may decide that a home needs to have minor repairs, cleaning, painting, and some new furniture brought in. I figure out who is going to do what and when, but I never lift heavy things or take out a mop!
If you’re wondering if you have the eye of a home stager, I’ve created a free home staging quiz that you can get here.
Is this hustle suitable for everyone?
It’s suitable for people who have a natural talent for decorating and want to be self-employed. One of the things that make home staging and interior redesign (these can be combined in the same business) such a great way to earn a living is that you are in total control of what days and hours you work. You can book your client appointments around whatever else you have going on in your life.
I started my home staging business as a single mom with a seven-year-old living in a city with no family around to help. I was able to support myself and my daughter while still being able to walk her to and from school everyday, and I didn’t work evenings or weekends.
If someone has creative talent, but they’re worried about starting a business, OR they already have a staging or decorating business and they’re not making as much money as expected, the Staging Diva Home Staging Business Training Program offers all the missing pieces of the puzzle they’ve been looking for.
What are the key points a home stager needs to focus on to be successful?
The key things that will make you successful as a home stager really aren’t any different than any other business, and I say that as someone who has been self-employed since 1989 in various businesses and locations.
Here are the four most important ones:
- Effective and consistent marketing is critical because if potential clients don’t know about you, it really doesn’t matter how talented you are. Knowing how to do this properly is why I was able to get featured on CNNMoney, HGTV, Women’s Day Magazine, and more within my first 18 months as a home stager. Even though I didn’t have a PR person, they all came to me for interviews and features because I had done an effective job marketing Six Elements, my home staging business. Plus, even though I wasn’t spending money on advertising, I had potential clients phoning me saying things like “No matter who I ask to recommend a home stager, they all mention you!”
- Staying focused on (and continuing to move forward toward) your goals. Much of this comes down to mindset. So often I see business owners fail because they couldn’t get out of their own way. They let their fears paralyze them, or they give up as soon as they face a challenge instead of reaching out for the help they need.
- I’ve coached hundreds of business owners over the years, and no matter what industry they’re in, so much of an individual’s success comes down to this area. For example, I had one home stager who told me she couldn’t get clients because she didn’t have a home staging portfolio and she couldn’t get a portfolio because she didn’t have clients! Then she used this as an excuse to not move forward rather than putting on her thinking cap to figure out how she could get a portfolio together. I explained how she could build a solid portfolio of before and after photos in a single weekend in her own house, and then she was able to cross over that hurdle.
- Not being afraid to charge what you’re worth. This can be challenging because when you have self-esteem issues, or you don’t realize how talented you are because what you’re doing comes easily, you imagine that the service you’re offering isn’t worth much. Or you focus on how much YOU would pay for it. This is faulty thinking. A home stager can increase the selling price of a property by tens of thousands of dollars, so why shouldn’t they be well paid for their time and expertise?
- In the Staging Diva Home Staging Business Training Program, I provide a thorough pricing strategy and the thinking behind it so that Staging Diva grads typically earn more than home stagers who aren’t following my formula.
- Operating with integrity. This means that you keep your word with both clients and suppliers. You show up (or follow up) when you say you will, and you explain things properly so your client knows what to expect and how your fees work, etc.
- Your clients need to know that they can trust you and that you’re taking care of their interests. This doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat either. There’s nothing wrong with having healthy boundaries and communicating them clearly. So for example, if you have a home staging or decorating client that keeps phoning you for advice, there’s a point fairly early on where you’ll have to make it clear to them that this is billable time.
How long did it take for you to get your first client?
I had my first home staging client in early January, within about 60 days from building my home staging business website. Given that I started my business just before the holiday season, that was pretty fast. Many of my Staging Diva students get their first project while they are still working their way through my five courses.
How long can it take for someone who is interested in this business to start making money?
When a home stager follows the business formula I provide in the Staging Diva Home Staging Business Training Program, they will be earning a profit with their very first client.
Can you share more details about the course and some success stories?
The Staging Diva Home Staging Business Training Program is unique in the market because it’s one of the few programs actually created by someone who has a track record of success as a home stager. That’s why I can focus on the business model itself because I know what works in the real world.
For example, in my program, students learn how to avoid falling into what I call “the free estimate trap” and never go anywhere unless they know they’re getting paid to be there.
I’ve distilled everything down to the essentials you need to start and grow a home staging business without overcomplicating it. Students work their way through the program on their own schedule.
It would take about 12 hours to listen to the whole thing back to back, but I recommend spreading it out to properly absorb all the material. Most students complete the program over a weekend or several days or evenings, whatever fits their schedule.
This is not an online program in that you don’t have to be on the internet to do it. Once you order it online, you can download it onto your own computer or you can have the program mailed to you. You can pause or rewind sections you want to go back to, and many Staging Diva grads tell me they continue to relisten to the course recordings years afterwards and always learn something new.
All students also have free access to me for 60 days while they’re working through the program via our Staging Diva Network, which is a private online discussion group.
Wow! That’s a lot of expert information about this unique hustle, and I thank Debra for taking time to give this interview and share her tips and experiences with us.
Even if you want to just test the waters and let your creativity flow, this is one of the best choices.
I wish you all the best in starting a new hustle as a home stager and staging beautiful homes!
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