What 5 years as a home stager has taught me

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I started my home staging business 5 years ago at the same time as the 2011 Brisbane floods. A terrible time for countless Brisbane families and terrible timing to be setting up a real estate related business.

Yet, here I am 5 years later with a solid home staging business.

I know that a lot of readers of my blog are budding or fellow home stagers so I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt along the way. All stagers work differently but I thought there may be a few nuggets below that you may identify with or that you can learn from.

So in no particular order, this is what I’ve learnt..

Success did not come overnight, it crept up slowing and is the culmination of 1000’s of little actions that have moved me along from no business to a full diary.  It all adds up.

When I started my business every thing I did was for the first time – first consult, first furniture hire, first website, first call from a client, first invoice.  There’s a lot of ‘fake it till you make it’ going on, a lot of saying yes and finding out the answers later, a lot of learning on the job. This is not a comfort zone business, (but nor is any business you run yourself).

Home staging (also called property styling in Australia) is a growth business. This means more stagers. I’ve learnt that everyone has a better time and the market grows if stagers support not compete with each other. I know that if I’m sick on the day of an install I can call another stager and she will fill in, I know that if my diary is full I can refer work to another stager and they will do the same for me. I know that it can get lonely working for myself so having stager friends I can call for a catch up makes what I do more rewarding.

In addition to the above, all stagers stage in different ways and that’s good for the market. I personally don’t like the ‘dolls house’ furniture look but it’s cheap and there is a market for it. Conversely I don’t like an overly staged or styled or layered look but others do and it’s appropriate for particular houses. I’ve learnt that this choice is good

I’ve learnt that people sell their properties for very different reasons, not all of them happy. It’s not that I’m actively looking for clients to be crying on my shoulder in the kitchen yet I know that these are the clients that I build a stronger relationship with and that I’m most happy for when they sell. 

It’s the same with houses. I’ve learnt that although they take longer and make my brain explode, I’ve learnt that I enjoy and am good at big old rambling houses that need work before the furniture goes in or that only need a partial stage to supplement my client’s furniture. One big jigsaw of possibilities. Challenging yes, but very rewarding.

Owning my own company consumes my thoughts more than I realised – when I’m not ‘at work’ I’m reading interior magazines, books or blogs, watching Selling houses Australia, sourcing products or doing my admin. I’m generally a good sleeper but not the night before a selection or install when I lie awake thinking of everything that could go wrong or re-arranging the rooms in my head. I”m writing this blog post in the evening after work so probably this is a case in point!

I’ve learnt to value my time. To get paid up front, to get paid to measure for furniture and to get paid for a consult. I’m happy to spend time on the phone but as soon as I’m standing in a client’s house I’m on the clock. Plumbers get paid and so should I. I’ve learnt that this approach means I lose business but at least I haven’t wasted half a day in the process.

I’ve learnt that I’m scared of the financials in my business but that I have to make friends with my tax accountant and book keeper. I’ve learnt that waiting 4 years to appoint both these people is not a good move.  Lets just call this a work in progress.

I’m learning that home staging rules can be broken. Experience has given me the confidence to leave walls painted yellow, terracotta or blue (all recent staging projects) because they add to the ‘feel’ of the house. I’ve learnt to leave a bit of family clutter around or a family photo or two. Things that say happy comfortable family house. Each house is different and needs to be treated differently. 

I’ve learnt that I have a love hate relationship with agents. At their best I’m seen as part of their team (love these agents!) at their worst they text saying “you’re meeting X tomorrow at 9am and we need the furniture by Friday (and if you don’t deliver there are other stagers I can call)”.  “Wow thanks, I feel so special”. My strategy is not to put all my eggs in an agent’s basket. Getting business direct from my clients seems a safer approach to me.

I’ve learnt that everything I do communicates – the way I present my website, the way I write my blog and every e-mail and client contact all helps to brand my business. I’ve learnt not to bad mouth a potential client on twitter only to have that tweet seen by their agent (seriously, what are the odds – no one reads twitter!) Still feel bad about that one. Lesson learned.  I know that I am a sensitive person and that I can get emotional. I’ve learnt that sometimes I need to walk away, breathe deeply, gain perspective so I can respond in a professional way. E-mailing “but it’s not fair!” is not a good approach.

And finally (If you’ve read this far) I’ve learnt that I love to run my own business, to shape it the way I want, to be able to take my kids to after school sport (at least some of the time), to be a role model especially for my teen daughters and not to have to wear a lanyard to work so I can get into the building and use the photocopier!

Are you a stager or thinking of becoming one? What have you learnt along the way or what has resonated with you here? I’d love to know.

And here’s to the next 5 years

 

I’m Imogen Brown, a home stager based in the western Suburbs of Brisbane. Got comments or suggestions? Contact me through my website or on 0432994056

 

 

 

 

 

 

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