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I’ve measured for hire furniture at a number of houses recently and asked my clients “when do you want to list?”  Their answer has usually been “oh, not until September”

September in Australian minds means the beginning of Spring and the perceived wisdom is that Spring is the best time of the year to sell. Except, what happens when seemingly everyone wants to list in Spring?

1. From a demand/supply perspective there is a wealth of properties on the market in Spring and not enough buyers to go round. I remember flicking through Brisbane News last September thinking ‘beautiful house, another beautiful house, another beautiful house…’ It’s difficult to stand out when there’s so much competition. It’s difficult to attract a premium price when buyers can move onto the next ‘beautiful house’

2. There is a school of thought voiced by Damien Hackett Chief Executive at Place Real Estate that Winter is an excellent time to sell in Brisbane – after all a Winter’s day in Brisbane falls to a chilly 20 degrees!  He says “There’s at least 20 per cent reduction in our listings, but the buyers don’t go away, so what we find is that there is even more competition to buy.” For the whole article on selling during the winter click here

3. From a staging point of view, and this is the bit that I worry about (Yes I’m a born worrier) is that, worse case scenario, all the furniture hire warehouses in Brisbane and all the stylists with their own inventory literally run out of stock.  It happened last Spring and prompted me to write this  Best case scenario is your chosen stylist will be booked solid for 2-3 weeks out so they won’t be able to turn anything round for you quickly. The low level of stock will also cause challenges to the look that your stylist will be able to pull together. Stylists are very used to pulling rabbits out of hats but not if there is no rabbit in the hat in the first place.

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So what to do:

If you have a choice when to list think about not listing in Spring –  there is too much competition and not enough hire furniture!

Contact your stylist at least a month before you want to list. We get booked out and staging a property is a 3 step process (measure, select, install) that takes time. Time that needs to be scheduled ideally across a 10 day period.

If you’re thinking of selling this year I’d love to hear from you. But make it soon!

I’m Imogen Brown a home stager based in the Western Suburbs of Brisbane. If you want to sell your house (at any time of year) then give me a call on 0432994056 or contact me through my website. I’d love to be able to help

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I’ve been trying to find the words to explain the difference between a well staged and poorly staged house.

I realised today that I can’t find the words because good staging is a feeling.

I think we’ve all experienced walking into a property that on paper doesn’t tick all the boxes but that just ‘feels right’.  It’s something to do with seeing a glimpse of the type of life that you could live if you bought the house, the kind of person you would be. It’s aspirational yet achievable. I wanted to buy a house once because the laundry cupboard was filled with labelled baskets of beautifully pressed linen and the sofas were squishy and piled with ticking fabric cushions. The fact that the swimming pool was open to my toddlers and the house was in a flood zone didn’t seem to enter into my decision making process (although luckily my husband was more level headed). I honestly saw myself as Rachel Ashwell, wafting round in my faded jeans, gypsy lace top and bare feet. I don’t think that the house I fell in love with had been staged. Maybe it had. That’s my point. It wasn’t at all obvious and I didn’t think about it. I just saw a comfortable, stylish family house and I wanted a piece of it!

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“This house has been staged” is the worst thing you could say to me. I want people to think that the house is owned by stylish and tidy people and that they could live that way too if they bought the house. Susan Atwell, a fellow stager, explains it as “if it looks staged we did it wrong” and Debra Gould from Staging Diva writes “bad staging is when everyone walks in and says ‘this house is staged’  So what makes a house look and feel ‘staged’

  • Staging 101 Cliches.  Tables set with best china, breakfast tray on the bed, ice bucket of champagne and glasses on the patio (or worse, in the bathroom) and my personal pet hate (as my stager friends know and tease me about) – throws strewn everywhere. We don’t live like this in real life so we don’t need to stage houses like this
  • Furniture that doesn’t go with the style of the house.  There’s a lot of modern, scandi looking, glossy white staging inventory out there. Fine in a modern 2 bed apartment. Screams ‘staged’ in a Heritage house.
  • Furniture that doesn’t go with the price point of the house. If you are staging a modest cottage then high end furniture that the owners could never afford just ‘jars’
  • Some stagers feel the need to over accessorise every available surface.  Look at all my stuff! Look at my styling skills! No thanks – I’m trying to look at the house
  • Conversely to save money many houses are staged on a shoestring budget. With the barest level of furniture and scant layering from accessories the house can only have been staged. I say shoestring but I’ve also seen very sparse styling from high end staging companies
  • The ultimate ‘this house has obviously been staged’ mistake is to only stage a couple of rooms. To be avoided at all costs

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So, knowing the above, how do you stage a house so it doesn’t look staged? Cindy from Turnkey staging in Seattle says that “you know you are done when a space ‘feels right'”  OK, back to a feeling!  Let me try and put some words and actions around that

  • I don’t believe people buy perfect houses. I think they buy comfortable, real, liveable and happy homes.
  • It’s really important to get inside the demographic and lifestyle of your most likely buyer. This means that you will add in a big family dining table, or a homework space, the rumpus will have board games and the ‘right’ cook book will be on the kitchen counter.
  • When staging an occupied house think twice about storing all the furniture and hiring everything from scratch. Think of ways to use some of your client’s furniture but maybe in a different room or in a new way. If you are hiring furniture it doesn’t all have to be display house ‘matchy matchy’  or all in the same timber. It needs to feel as though the house has evolved over time, which most houses have.
  • Listen to the house. Think about how it needs to be staged and the look and feel you want to create. I’ve been told many times that the houses I stage all look so different. This is because every house is different and needs to be treated differently.
  • If you hire furniture, and if at all possible, make sure you have access to a wide range of furniture and styles. That way you can deliver what’s needed rather than ‘what’s available’
  • Pour yourself into every job you do. Never just go through the motions. Keep going until the staging ‘feels right’

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So, what does all the above mean anyway. Why is it important?  The reason houses are staged is for a quicker sale at a higher price. If the staging is too overt and cliche or if it’s too sterile and ‘staged’ the buyers are going to be alert to the fact that the property has been staged. If the staging has been done well and the buyers don’t even think that the house has been staged then their response will be to the house and not the staging. They will fall inexplicably in love and won’t be able to explain why and that’s the ultimate feeling.

I’m Imogen Brown a home stager based in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. If you are staging to sell your house but you don’t want the staging to scream ‘staged!’ then give me a call on 0432994056 or contact me through my website

Further reading:

Staging Diva: Great home staging is invisible

Home Staging Brisbane: Stager as House whisperer

Real Estate.com: Home Stager as cupid

Time for some more before and after photos from the last couple of months.

First up, this lovely one bed plus sunroom apartment in an Art Deco building in New Farm. The mostly likely buyer was a single woman in her 30’s or 40’s, I styled the apartment with a nod to deco. It was elegant without being too girly. This was snapped up by a buyer’s agent for their client within the first couple of days.

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There are some big houses in Stretton and this was one of them. Aimed at an Asian buyer with a family/extended family, this house goes to auction on 30th May. The photos show the main family and dining room and also the large master bed.

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Goodna is a cheaper housing area in between Brisbane and Ipswich. You know that staging is becoming more mainstream when you get a call to stage a house in Goodna. My client had done a great job renovating this cute 3 bed post war cottage and I loved staging it to appeal to first home buyers.

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A lovely Indooroopilly house surrounded by trees  is up next (and just round the corner from my son’s school which was a bonus!). This house had a tranquil, Scandinavian feel. It was a partial stage but this room was empty. I was able to use some Scandi type furniture and accessories to complement the house. This house is for sale.

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The house in Graceville below was a new build and the second time I’d worked with this builder. The house we had worked on next door set a record for the street – only surpassed when this was sold for an even better price. This is the Master bedroom.

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I’ve talked about partial staging before – where I use some of my client’s furniture and add in hire furniture to fill in the gaps. As a home stager, it’s a lot easier to walk into the room below and say ‘it all has to go’. It’s more difficult to work out what could stay and what needs to be stored. The benefits are a lower hire cost but also a more real and less ‘staged’ look to the house – something I’m always aiming for. In this house I kept the buffet (and moved the TV to here), the coffee table and the sofa (but I switched the position of the sofa). I then added in cream and green to lighten the whole look. This house has just listed.

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A lovely Queenslander in Woolloongabba that sold under the hammer at auction. This was another partial stage. My client was away when I staged her house and she trusted me to wave my magic wand in her absence. The before of the master bedroom is a good example of what rooms look like when I first visit a house. Often a room is not used for it’s real purpose or my clients are in the middle of packing. Looks much better without the exercise equipment doesn’t it!

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I see a lot of houses where the tenants have just moved out or are about to move out as was the case in this Bulimba house. The house needed an internal re-paint, some much need maintenance and some hire furniture. That’s one of my daughters in the shot – she was my helper for the day and took her payment as the book she’s holding.  This house sold before auction.

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I staged this townhouse in Paddington just last week. In an amazing location within walking distance to everything that Paddington has to offer. It had a bit of a retro feel going on and definitely needed warming up. I also needed to show prospective buyers how they would use the space.

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I get the vast majority of my furniture from Guest Hire in Salisbury. I’m one of only 5 stylists who are able to do so. I keep returning to Guest because they have the best range of furniture. I believe it’s vitally important to select the furniture that fits with the property you are styling and also the most likely buyers of the property. It’s not about ‘my style’ it’s about the style that’s required for the job. This gives a less ‘staged’, less ‘jarring’ look. It should look like this is the owner’s furniture and they have great taste!

I’m Imogen Brown, a home stager based in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. If you are selling your house, like the range of furniture that I have access to and also my overall style/philosophy then I’d love to help you style and sell your property. Contact me through my website or give me a call on 0432994056

You might also like:

Home Staging before and after Part I

Home Staging before and after Part II

Home Staging before and after Part III

 

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When I first started out as a home stager in 2011 I had 2 criteria for prospective clients:

1. Are you alive? 2. Will you pay me?

Over time I’ve worked out what houses I love to style and what clients I love to work with. Also, over that time the home staging market in Brisbane has grown and more and more people are starting a home staging business.

This means more and more stagers competing for often the same piece of business. When this starts to happen price is often a determining factor and stagers drop their price to get the business. A losing strategy for the stager and the category in general.

I think it’s time for all of us – new and existing home stagers to find our niche. There’s plenty of room for us all but not if everyone’s chasing after 2 bed units!

I’m currently overhauling my website (the company that built it not longer exists so I don’t have much choice). It’s a great opportunity to ask myself questions about the type of business that I want to attract and what I can offer that’s different to other stagers. In short, what do I want to be known for?

There’s a real estate agent in Brisbane who sells houses with tennis courts. Now there’s a niche! But a clever one. Tennis courts usually come with acreage and large luxury houses. If I had a tennis court – she’d be the first person I called when selling my house.

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So, how do you find your niche?

Ask yourself questions such as these… (or better still, get someone else to ask you).

The tangible questions

  • What suburbs do you want to work in?
  • What type(s) of houses are in those suburbs?
  • Where’s the growth in the market?  units or houses? What type?
  • What businesses are other stager’s chasing?
  • What business are you currently chasing and why?
  • What business do you tend to ‘lose’ ? and win? Why?
  • What style of inventory does the furniture warehouse have?
  • What inventory do you have?
  • Do you want to grow or decrease this inventory?
  • Where’s the untapped potential?
  • What do you want to earn?
  • Where do you earn the most money? And the least?

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The intangible questions

  • Why do people say they ring you?
  • Why do people say they hire you?
  • When the phone rings, what business makes your stomach sink?
  • When the phone rings, what business gets you excited?
  • What owners do you like to work with?
  • What’s your overall style?
  • What have been your biggest successes?
  • What projects give you the most satisfaction?
  • When do you give your clients the most value? And the least?
  • How is your style different to other stagers?
  • What do you want to be known for
  • Sum up your point of difference in one sentence.

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Answering the above should give you a good idea of your potential niche. You probably knew this at some level already. Here are some ideas of niches that may appeal:

  • Large builders
  • Small builders
  • Renovated properties
  • Holiday homes
  • Rentals. I get called for this quite often. If anyone can find a low cost way of staging a rental the market is yours!
  • Investor units
  • 2 bed units
  • Downsizers
  • Hoarders
  • Busy Family houses
  • Houses on the market that aren’t selling
  • Acreage properties
  • Period properties
  • Individual properties e.g. converted church
  • Moving from home to aged care
  • Staging to stay: I get lots of calls from people who don’t want to move but want to fall in love with where they live
  • Vacant properties
  • Occupied properties
  • Partial staging. Using what the client has and bringing in hire furniture where necessary
  • Consult only: There is still so much business to be had in this niche but very few stagers actively seek it out.
  • Houses that need renovating. You project manage or specify during the project
  • Luxury houses

I’m sure that you can think of more and when you start thinking about it there is a lot more business to chase after then just the ‘standard’. If you become the expert in one area you will rarely need to compete against other stagers and your clients will happily pay for your expertise.

I think this will help the stagers who are struggling on page 2 and 3 of google. If clients are just looking for ‘a generic stager’ you won’t get a look in but if they are looking for a stager who ‘partners with builders’ that’s more specific and you stand a far better chance.

Now that you have a niche to work towards you can start attracting it. Make sure your website, blog, social media, flyers, business name, newsletter – every point of marketing and client or agent contact promotes your niche.  If you’re just starting out you get to do this from the beginning but you can still make the necessary changes along the way.

I’d love to know if you already have a home staging niche, whether you think you need one or what niche you’d love to be known for. I love to read your comments.

What a fabulous business we all work in and what great opportunities we all have.

 

I’m Imogen Brown, a home stager based in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. I’m currently working on my niche!  You can contact me on 0432994056 or through my website

 

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I staged a house in Wynnum recently.

I was showing the agent round at the end of the install and said “let me know how the marketing campaign and auction progresses, I’m always pleased to find out a house I’ve staged has sold”  He replied “I would never have thought to keep you up to date. I thought that you just staged the house and that was it”

I might be getting a bit above myself. I know I’m a service provider but I do what I do for a reason – to help my clients sell up and move on. I need to know the outcome!

For me, I know when I’ve done a good job staging a house but I never think it’s a success until the house has sold.  The furniture I’d used to stage a house 8 weeks ago came back to the warehouse last week because the house hasn’t sold.  I know that staging is only part of the overall sale – the price and the marketing/photos/agent have a role to play too. I also know that without staging my client would definitely not have sold the house but I still hate to think of a house not selling. The ultimate goal of what I do is not just to make a house present well, it’s to make the house more saleable and to sell for the best price available.

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Many of the houses I stage require upgrades to make them more appealing and move in ready. These upgrades can cost 10’s of thousands of dollars. The aim, always is to get a return on the time and money invested. It’s great when a house sells to be able to see the return on investment. To see that staging works.

I can’t help feeling involved in the sale of my client’s houses. I see myself as their coach, giving them advice as to what colour to paint the walls, where to go for a bathroom upgrade, that they can sort out their kid’s rooms by next Tuesday. I give them the advice and the motivation to present their houses for sale.  When I don’t get to hear the sales result It’s like a coach sending their swimmer off to a swim meet and then not hearing the result. I’d be asking “Did you win?”

So, what happened to the house on the bayside?  I received this e-mail on Saturday afternoon

“Imogen, Just wanted to let you know Wynnum sold under the hammer today. Thank you for your help with the staging!”

Happy? You bet!!

I’m Imogen Brown, a home stager based in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. If you are looking for someone to help present your house for sale then I’d love to help. But don’t forget to tell me when it sells!  Contact me on 0432994056 or through my website

You may also like: 3 keys to home selling success

I’m typing this as the last effects of Cyclone Marcia pass over my house in Brisbane. My thoughts especially are with a lovely lady called Emma. She’s renovating a beach house at Keppel sands and I’ve been following her progress on Instagram. Yesterday her roof got ripped off in the cyclone. Our homes and the families who live within them are so precious and this is another reminder.

We live in a country of sometimes very unkind weather.

The day before the Brisbane storm at the end of November last year I staged this new build in Taringa. Luckily and ironically we got away with only losing one storm lantern on the table outside although the house 2 doors down had a tree through the garage.  Loved the fresh green palette I used for this one. Result? Sold for $1.8m

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One of the first houses I staged after New Year was a beautiful Queenslander in Hendra. A BIG house that included a pool house, a snooker room, piano room & library plus the usual bedrooms and living areas. The photos below are of the upstairs living and upstairs verandah. This house sold in 2 weeks

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If you want to live on the Brisbane river it becomes more affordable but even prettier as it winds it’s way west through Karana Downs. I loved staging this house as it had a slightly retro feel so I could go a bit scandi-retro which is a big trend right now. When thinking about a style I’m always guided by what the house needs (and what’s in the warehouse on the day I select!!). I don’t push my style onto the house.

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I never thought when I started staging 4 years ago that I’d get the call to stage a church.  When staging I often ring the real estate agent to see who they think the buyer will be and the style they think is appropriate. The agent for this property told me “quirky” and “not beige” Great words to work with. The photo below is a before and after of the dining space. I’ve also included another photo of the whole downstairs space so you can see the church interior properly.

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Next up is a 2 bed unit in a beautiful 1930’s block in Ascot. All the timber and ceiling features remained and were the star so I staged in a neutral way so the staging didn’t detract. I was aiming for a modern Poirot feel. This unit sold before auction. Great result.

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Finally I wanted to include a lovely Queenslander on the bayside that I staged only last week. When I stage Queenslanders I like to make them a bit eclectic, elegant and soft. Or as my client told me “The house looks great, the staging is very tasteful and appropriate” If you love Queenslanders as much as I do there are more before and after photos here

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I hope these photos give you an indication of the furniture that I can hire and my overall style.  I have many more waiting in the wings for next time.

 

I’m Imogen Brown a home stager based in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. If you are selling your house and need it staged then I’d love to help. Contact me on 0432994056 or contact me through my website

You may also like:

Home Staging: Before and After

Home Staging: Before and After (part II)

So you’re thinking of staging your vacant to sell?

The house is the star, not the stager

 

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I’ve had a couple of new home stagers contact me recently saying something along the lines of:  ‘I’ve got my website ready and printed my business cards and I’m raring to go but the phone’s not ringing – what do I do?’

I remember this well. It took me 6 months to get my first client. 6 months of setting myself daily tasks whilst stopping the occasional voice in my head that said ‘what are you doing this for, no one’s going to ring, who do you think you are anyway?’

Most home stagers are not an overnight success but, if you keep plugging away it’s the daily actions that will in the end add up. Willing to keep going? Here are some ideas…

Build relationships

  • Ask a stager you admire to mentor you.
  • Ask other stagers if they want some help during a furniture install.
  • See other stagers as a source of support and not competition. If you all do well, the whole category will grow. Follow them and get chatting on social media.
  • Think about who sellers call when they sell – not just agents but carpet companies, handymen, landscapers, floor refinishers, painters, storage companies, removal companies. Get in touch and tell them what you do. They are often asked if they know a stager so become the person they recommend. Refer business to them too.
  • Start a little black book of people you can recommend to your clients
  • Find a networking group or two that suit you. I went to  a local one and also an all female one. A great source of support, contacts and a shot of confidence

Get yourself out there

  • Write your ‘elevator speech’ then practice. When someone asks ‘what’s a home stager’ you can tell them, succinctly, engagingly.
  • Practice saying “I’m a home stager”  You ARE a home stager : )
  • Leave your business card everywhere you can – the local hardware store, at the storage company, the local coffee shop, the real estate office
  • Speak at the library
  • Ask to present at a real estate office
  • Start a newsletter and send it (with permission) to the agents you want to work with.
  • Sponsor something at your kid’s school, give a design consult as a prize.
  • Visit the furniture hire warehouses. Learn the process, introduce yourself
  • Send a press release to your local paper.

Strengthen your on-line presence

  • When I started ALL my business came from my on-line presence both website and social media. Make sure you have a website at minimum and that people can find you easily
  • Pick a couple of social media platforms. I’m on Instagram, Facebook (Set up as a business page to keep it separate from personal), Linkedin (agents use this more than any other social media) and Twitter. Better to do 1-2 well than try them all.
  • Post to your social media CONSISTENTLY. Post Before and After photos, a furniture layout that you like, a great product you’ve found, a sale on at an interior store, share your blogs, other people’s blogs. Make it relevant. You’re building a brand. No drunken selfies please.
  • Follow other stagers, other relevant business owners, real estate agents, journalists, magazines etc. Comment, chat, share.  Repeat!
  • Get yourself a Blog. You’ll rank higher on search engines, you’ll be seen as an expert but above all it will give you content to share on social media and with clients when they ask questions.
  • Put yourself in your client’s shoes. What do they want to know e.g “how do I get rid of my clutter?”  ” What are the best neutrals for staging?” “What are the best return on investment changes I could make before I sell?”  “how do I style my coffee table?”  Then write them the answer on your blog. You’ll be getting your thoughts clear as you research the subject.
  • Ask a local expert questions and turn the answers into a blog post. I got my carpet lady to do this and she was great. It gave her business a plug too.
  • Update your website as you begin to get new business. Before and After photos sell, as do great client testimonials. Your website should be a living thing not a set and forget. Note to self – update your website!!

Learn new things

  • Ask yourself – “what questions could a client ask me?” then go and find the answers so you’re prepared
  • Examples are: “Could you recommend a local handyman?” “Is is possible to spray kitchen cabinets? Who do you recommend? ” I have a broken paver, what do I do?” “What’s the best storage facility round here?” Anticipate the questions and research the answers.
  • Book yourself onto training courses – a one day small business course, a how to take real estate photos course, a social media for beginners course, a styling workshop, half a day flowering arranging.  These courses are often subsidised by your local council.
  • Be careful of procrastination by training. The “I just need to go on another course before I start my business” syndrome
  • Listen to local business speakers at networking events.
  • Read business books that interest you.
  • Download TED talks. You’re a business owner now. Absorb the info. Get motivated and inspired.
  • Take a home staging course. I recommend Staging Diva  (details at the bottom of this link)

Go window shopping 

  • Who has the best range of cushions? Who has the deals on towels at the moment?, where will you suggest a client goes first for lamp shades?
  • If IKEA is close take a trip. If a client had $1000 to invest at IKEA what could she buy to help stage her house (that doesn’t look like it came from IKEA!)
  • Check out the emerging trends in your local interior shops. “Scandi” is huge in Australia at the moment. How and when could you incorporate this in your staging?
  • Pick up catalogues to share with your clients. Then you can point out “these cushions” “this lamp”
  • Go to the hardware store and pick up paint charts and chips. Create a ‘look book’ to share with your clients on neutrals that would work. Ring the paint company and ask for their fan deck.
  • Check out everything you may need during an install – picture hooks, magic erasers, windex, scissors, goo be gone, tape measures, blue tack, paper towel, light globes, toilet roll.  Buy them now if you want. Put your kit together so you’re ready.

Immerse yourself in staging and design

  • Subscribe to favourite interior magazines. Keep the receipts. It’s a business expense
  • Download design and real estate related apps on your phone. My favourites are Instagram, Realestate.com, Houzz, Pinterest and Dulux
  • Read blogs, attend book launches, store launches, get yourself on mailing lists. Ask for interior books for your birthday
  • Set up boards on Pinterest called “home staging before and after” or “my blogs” or “living room layout ideas” or “kid room ideas” or “where to shop for bedlinen”

Attend to business

  • Think through who is doing your accounting and your tax
  • Set up your bank account and credit card
  • Do you need insurance, who will you use?
  • Do you have a contract and for what areas of your business? Get it looked over by an expert
  • Set up your voicemail on your phone, your signature on your e-mail
  • When the phone does ring, will you be ready? Write yourself a ‘script’ to follow until you become a natural.

Look after yourself

  • If you have an empty diary for a day or a whole week – schedule some of the above tasks into your diary. Make it into a job, not a hobby
  • It’s OK to schedule a trip to the gym, or a confidence boosting coffee with a supportive friend. So much of this ‘waiting period’ is a confidence game
  • Set up your workspace. Make it a nice place to be. This is your business now, not a corporate office.

And one more!

And there you have it 50 Actions to keep you more than busy and that certainly beat waiting for the phone to ring

And it will ring.

x

I’m Imogen Brown a home stager based in the Western suburbs of Brisbane. I’d love to know what you’ve tried that’s worked and what you would add to this list. Make it one of your actions for today : )  Read all my blog posts by clicking here  or see my website here

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