Start a home staging business by following these 10 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your home staging business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a home staging business?
The startup costs for a home staging business depend on which types of services the business will offer. Potential owners who plan to only consult with homeowners can bootstrap a home staging business for less than a few thousand dollars. Full-service home staging businesses, which have goals of handling more lucrative projects, like filling empty homes with showhome-quality furnishings and accessories, are much more expensive to open. Besides the costs of acquiring, maintaining, and storing an inventory, there are other expenses like transportation and labor costs. One critical expense every home staging startup needs to consider is the cost of a website. A beautiful website is the single most important marketing tool in the industry. This requires hiring a professional web designer and photographer, which is pricey, but necessary.
What are the ongoing expenses for a home staging business?
Marketing is a big cost for all home staging businesses. This includes the cost of hosting a website and other forms of advertising. Depending on the scope of the business, monthly costs may also include rent for office and storage and labor.
Who is the target market?
The target markets for a home staging business are homeowners and real estate agents. Homeowners are more willing to hire new and less experienced home staging businesses than real estate agents.
How does a home staging business make money?
A home staging business makes money by charging clients for their services. Clients generally pay for an initial consultation when they meet with a home stager for a walk-through of the property. After the initial consultation, customers can pay for additional advice on a per hour basis. Home stagers who are responsible for decorating a completely vacant home will normally charge a set rate per room per month. Many home staging business insist on a minimum contract length.
How much can you charge customers?
According to Thumbtack, the average home staging business charges between $165 and $2195 per staging job. Of course, the fees vary widely depending on the area and the type of service the home staging company provides, and whether the home is vacant or occupied. Some home staging companies charge as much as 1% of the sales price to stage an empty home.
How much profit can a home staging business make?
It is not uncommon for experienced home stagers to earn more than $10,000 a month.
How can you make your business more profitable?
A home staging business can earn additional money decorating homes and businesses for special events. In addition, many of the same skills of home staging use every day are transferable to working in the field of interior design.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Home Staging Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your home staging business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Open net-30 accounts
When it comes to establishing your business credit, net-30 vendors are considered the way to go. The term "net-30," which is popular among vendors, refers to a business credit arrangement where the company pays the vendor within 30 days of receiving goods or services.
Net-30 credit terms are often used for businesses that need to obtain inventory quickly but do not have the cash on hand.
Besides establishing business relationships with vendors, net-30 credit accounts get reported to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our guide on the best net-30 vendors so you can start building business credit now, so you never have to worry about cash flow in the future. Keep in mind that poor cash flow is the #1 reason businesses fail!
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a home staging business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Certificate of Occupancy
Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a home staging business location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a home staging business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a home staging business location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your home staging business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
Home staging businesses should require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
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How to promote & market a home staging business
Often the best way to promote a home staging business in the very beginning is to get out there and start pounding the pavement. Visiting open houses in the area is a good way to meet lots of neighborhood real estate agents and home sellers. Speaking at or attending conferences for local real estate agents is good way to meet potential clients. After completing a few jobs, home staging business owners shouldn't forget to update their websites with before and after photos and testimonials from past clients.
How to keep customers coming back
Getting results for clients while offering reasonable rates and friendly service is the best way to receive consistent work from real estate agents and referrals from home sellers. Some home staging businesses offer real estate agents steep discounts compared to home sellers to encourage repeat business.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use.
Recommended: Find the best phone system for your business; check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2021.
Start A Home Staging Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
Owning a home staging business is an ideal full or part-time business for creative people looking for a business they can run from home or a small office. Due to the nature of the industry, owners of a home staging business need to have a flexible schedule. Late nights and working during the weekends is typical. Some of the work may involve moving heavy furniture and other physical activities.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a home staging business?
Running a home staging business means there is always something to do. Of course, home decoration is part of the business, but that only comes after securing a contract. That means the owners of home staging businesses spend most of their time marketing to real estate agents and home sellers through direct contact or through an online presence.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful home staging business?
While potential owners of a home staging business do not need to acquire any professional certifications, those who attend workshops or enroll in a certification program will find they have a leg up in the industry. Many home staging business owners come from the field of interior design. The bare minimum to own and operate a home staging business is the ability to know how to decorate a home in a way that will appeal to a particular demographic of buyers.
What is the growth potential for a home staging business?
There is real growth potential in the home staging industry. The popularity of interior design magazines and TV shows like House Hunters continue to influence what buyers expect to see when they attend an open house. That means empty rooms and poorly presented homes are likely to put off buyers. Today's home sellers are willing to spend money to attract multiple offers on their property.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a home staging business?
While it is possible to open a business in this industry without any training or experience, landing clients can be tough. Enrolling in a hands-on program will not only give potential owners valuable advice on the design and the business aspects of the business, but will also allow them to start building a portfolio of projects to showcase online. New owners need to understand the legal and financial aspects of this industry especially when it comes to writing and signing contracts. Access to a good lawyer is a great asset for home staging business owners when they are just starting out.
How and when to build a team
A team of movers is critical from day one for any home staging businesses that plans to stage vacant homes. All employees need to be trustworthy and dependable because they will have access to the homes of the clients.