How to Recession Proof Your Interior Design Business

If you make your living as an interior designer or decorator the current economy has got to be hurting your business. When the economy is slow, many people who might otherwise hire an interior designer or decorator are forced to move such a ‘non-essential’ service to the bottom of their priority list. If you haven’t felt the pinch yet, brace yourself as your business could take a drastic nose-dive during an economic recession. Nobody really needs interior design services, especially in have-not times.

There’s also the fact that so many of your days are spent on the business-side of design; negotiating with contractors, waiting for deliveries to arrive, billing, gathering quotes, and so on. This is all time that doesn’t directly generate revenue for your interior design or decorating business, and when client billings are already meager, this can really hurt your financial situation.

Maybe you’re one of the many trained interior decorators who have ended up working in retail for a 100% commission. If the economy gets worse and you’re working purely on commission, where does that leave you? Even in good times, if you work for 100% commission you might as well be your own boss and have the freedom to market yourself to new clients rather than being tied to any one store.

When I decided to take the reigns of my life back and do something that would allow me to profit from my creativity, I considered a career in interior design. I struggled with that option countless times across a 20 year period when I was unsatisfied in my work. I researched, and even interviewed, many interior design schools in my "former life" but for some reason I never took the step to enroll. I decided with my BA, MBA and a couple decades of experience in business, being in a classroom for two to four years with kids 20 years my junior was not something I wanted to do.

Never mind tuition costs and the tremendous loss of income while you’re a student. Then who knows how many years of working experience as a designer or decorator would be needed after graduation to really start earning money. I wanted to unleash my creativity and love for decorating, but I definitely needed to start making money as soon as possible. So, I started my own home staging company.

As soon as my business was launched, the money was coming in. Within my second year as a home stager I was making up to $10,000 per month. Compare that to the median annual salary of $36,150 a year for an Interior Designer according to this year. I’m very happy I trusted my instincts!

If you’re an interior designer or decorator and you aren’t making enough money, consider adding Home Staging to your service mix or switching to a more profitable career as a Home Stager altogether.

Here a few ways a home staging business can be more profitable than an interior design business:

• As a home stager you get the opportunity to work with different types of people than you would as an interior designer. Generally, only very high income individuals hire interior designers, which limits your target market. Home stagers work mostly with clients in the middle to upper income level which gives you a much larger percentage of the population to market to, and increases the number of projects available for you to work on.

• Home stagers enjoy a higher volume of projects than interior designers because each one is so short in nature. One interior design project might take months to complete (especially when you factor in the wait times to have upholstery done, or furniture delivered), but the average home staging project takes only a few hours or days. There’s no way I could have decorated hundreds of homes within a couple of years as a new interior designer, the way I did as a new home stager. With such quick projects, a home stager is able to complete (and get paid for) a significantly higher number of projects per year than an interior designer who often has client work on hold through no fault of their own.

• When the economy is slow, people eliminate the non-essentials. Interior design or decorating isn’t really high on the "essential items list" especially when choices need to be made about what to give up, and there’s no real deadline to redecorate or renovate a room. In uncertain times, interior design moves way down on the priority list, while home staging move up. No matter how slow the economy is or how much the real estate market has declined, there will always be people who absolutely have to sell and move by a certain date. Divorce, job relocation, job loss, mounting debts, a death in the family or a birth often get people to put their house on the market even if it isn’t the best time to sell. When a homeowner is desperate to sell their house, a home stager will often be involved since the seller stands to make a handsome profit from their services. When people have less time, less money or less equity in their house, they need a home stager so they can get whatever they can out of the sale of their home! As a home stager, your creativity and talent for decorating will serve you well in slow economic times and slow real estate markets.

I especially love the amount of creative freedom I get as a home stager. Because my clients know I’m decorating their home to sell and not for them to live in, I am able to execute my creative vision without their interference or taking their taste into consideration. I can’t imagine wasting hours sitting with a client who can’t decide which color they want for their bathroom, or which fabric to pick for their drapes. My clients don’t care what I choose as long as their house will sell quicker because of it. Besides that, my home staging business is extremely profitable which every entrepreneur wants.

If your interior design business isn’t doing as well as you hoped, it’s not too late to make a change towards living a more creatively fulfilling career that is also more profitable. Do some research into the home staging field. It’s a career that is virtually "recession-proof".


by Debra Gould
Image by StockSource


Internationally recognized home staging expert Debra Gould is president of Six Elements and creator of The Staging Diva Home Staging Business Training Program with 900+ Graduates worldwide. She is the author of Staging Diva Ultimate Color Guide: the easy way to pick colors for home staging projects, and Staging Diva Ultimate Guide: Creating The Perfect Portfolio to Sell Your Home Staging Services. Debra also offers a Directory of Home Stagers to help homeowners and real estate agents locate home stagers who will decorate homes to sell quickly and for top dollar. To learn more visit


  1. A great article,but I don't agree. In my area home staging is down.Housing is taking another hit and so are people's wallets. They just do not want to spend anything that you could make a living at. I think in these times we have to think a little more creatively...

  2. I also don't agree. These home staging projects offer dimes for compensation... As compared to dollars. In most cases you have no budget to buy new and make profit from goods. The home owners are still concerned with their dollars and where it goes. Your fees are minimal... And you had better have lots and lots of staging jobs. Or you'll be in the poor house soon enough.
    Many RE agents who want to sell a home that doesn't have the furnishings want to 'rent' furniture (which if you don't own a surplus of merchandise to rent them... Then you'll be selecting awful furniture from used sources). And the outcome is NOT worthy of enhancing a portfolio. Aside from the $ it would cost you to own all this merchandise... The 'fees' made are never worth the time, energy, and outcome of design. No matter how creative you get... I don't think anybody is proud of a hodge podge job.
    Sorry... I disagree.

  3. My business partner suggested this to me when we hit a road block in our business a few years back and I am so glad we did. She focused just on getting the staging projects while I focused on getting more residential work. It helped keep our business from going under. Some of the staging clients hired us for their new homes. Having another option for projects saved our business. I wish I had known about this site when we started. Could've saved myself alot of headaches.

  4. I started staging because I didn't have clients coming in & needed the work. I put my name out to every realtor in my area and started getting business slowly. That was almost three years ago. I have a whole section of my business just devoted to that now. Most staging clients don't need more things. They need to GET RID of things. I read the comments of Anonymous that didn't agree. It made me laugh because a good designer can work wonders with little or nothing. I do. But yeah this has been good for my business too.

  5. Excellent post.Recent i read this post.I am pretty much pleased with your good work. You put really very helpful information. best regards.Thanks a lot.Thanks a lot.

  6. Truly said, interior designing has now a days lot of scope not only in designing for house or office but the requirement of interior designer is required in each and every sector of industry.

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