Over the years, people have contacted me and asked how I became a Professional Organizer and how they can become one too. Well, I am here to tell you how I started and give you some useful tips and resources. Because of the amount of information in this post, I wrote this post in the form of a Q and A. I hope it helps.
How did you become a Professional Organizer?
In 1993, I was helping a family friend organize her book. She was a writer with Multiple Sclerosis, and she was writing her first book. After helping her organize resource papers, she asked if I would help her detangle her necklaces. And, then I help her change her closet and purge her unwanted clothes. And it snowballed into going through other home areas, like the kitchen and attic. While doing this, she and my parents started spreading the word about my unique ability to organize spaces. I started working with different clients. Because I didn't know what I was doing and had no guidance or resources to turn to, there were many failures and successes until I figured out what I wanted my business model and policies to be.
In 1996, I read a Philadelphia Inquirer article about a Professional Organizers association called the National Association of Professional Organizers, now called "National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals," and it hit me. "That's it! That is what I am - A Professional Organizer." And, yes, this is part of the actual article. I kept it because it had some meaning to me and had great facts in it. As you can see, I even wrote the phone number of NAPO at the time on it so I could call right away.
I joined immediately and started spreading the word about my new part-time home-organizing business. It was a slow start because when I would say "Professional Organizer," no one knew what that meant. To help explain it to people, I created a 30-word pitch that I memorized, and when anyone said, "what is a professional organizer? or What is that?" I would say it. It worked pretty well.
How did you get experience doing home organizing?
I charged very little to family and friends to start. However, I realized early that clients would not truly appreciate the transformation unless they paid something for it. In return, they agreed to write a testimonial of their experience and allowed me to take anonymous before and after pictures, and they would refer me to others.
How did you protect yourself and your business?
Before starting the consultation, I had a lawyer friend modify a contract I had created. The fee was smaller since I had created it already. It included a client confidentiality statement, a liability release statement, before and after photo releases, my rates, and a cancellation fee. My client and I would sign and date it before beginning. Back then, there wasn't business and liability insurance you could buy for this type of business, but there is now. Shop around; the prices vary greatly. Check out the Managing Modern Life Organizing(R) Blog post; they talk more about it.
How did you find your best clients?
The Professional Organizer career was starting back then, so the resources (even on the NAPO site) were limited. I tried working with a variety of people. Some had ADHD before it was called that, and others couldn't deal with the weekly work it took to take on this task they created. And others would stop right after they started the organizing process. Others would seem interested but didn't take the extra step to make an appointment and move forward.
How to make an Ideal Client list?
To deal with this frustration, I had to determine what I wanted in a client. So, I created an "Ideal Client" list. This is where I listed all the characteristics of my ideal client. This helped me focus on what I wanted to specialize in as well. My Solutions Consultation was born from this process. It worked out since I have focused more of my energy on small business help and less on physical home organizing over the last several years.
Do you have any tips for running my professional organizer business?
YES, here are some tips I learned that would help you:
- Not everyone will want all your services. So, be flexible in your services until you have enough clients to determine what you want to do and what most people want from you. Then, offer the clients what they want, not what you want to give them.
- Spread the word and help your friends and family first! They will help you build a referral system and create content that you can use for your website.
- Have an effective way to manage your schedule. Then, ensure you can take it with you, whether digital or paper.
- Write up your business process. Answer these questions: What do you do when people call? What do you do when you go to the client? What do you do after the process is finished? Do you send a closing survey? You will need some of this information for your website as well. This will help you, especially if you don't have clients all the time. You may forget what your business process is altogether.
- Track your hours for each project. This will help you determine how long it takes to complete the home areas. This will give you more accurate information to give clients an estimate of the cost. You can also use this information to bill the project.
- Be OK with being hidden. Many clients do not want their spouses to know I was there, so they may not spread the word as much as others.
- Stay calm when visiting a person's house. Show them you are there to help and give no judgments! They will likely say, "I am so sorry you must see it this way. I'm so embarrassed." Do not add to their embarrassment. Be kind and thoughtful.
- Be sure to make additional sales opportunities. You can have a book you want to sell. Or, you may want to have a follow-up service for existing clients. Whatever it is, keep it clear, simple, and easy to understand. If you do not understand it, they will not buy it.
- Reach out to others that may have a similar clientele. Creating business relationships will help you get more clients. You could create relationships with real estate agents and closet installation companies.
Here are some wonderful sites and Professional Organizers / Coaches to help you start your own successful home-organizing business. They also offer tips to help you get closer to your organizing business.
N.A.P.O. offers classes and other discounts after you become a member. (Note: You must be a member of N.A.P.O. to participate in these classes.)
Geralin Thomas from Metropolitan Organizing ®, LLC - offers new Professional Organizers classes through N.A.P.O. and her website. She also provides coaching services.
"Invest in your business! Although the overhead required for starting an organizing business is modest, you’ll still need to invest in your business. Budget for: insurance, education (books and webinars), coaching (a well-respected person who’s active in the organizing industry), conferences (travel, registration fees), associations, and memberships. Hire professionals. Your dream team may include a photographer who specializes in headshots, an editor, a bookkeeper, and a virtual assistant." ~ Geralin Thomas
Janet Barclay from Organized Assistant® - offers website services through her website to help you get your website up and running.
"Don't be afraid to network. It's a fabulous way to combine getting your name out there with gaining access to the ideas and experience of others, both in your community and within your industry." ~ Janet Barclay
Sabrina Quairoli from Sabrina's Admin Services (that's me!) offers virtual or on-site recurring bookkeeping help to aid you with your bookkeeping tasks and online marketing and office administrative organizing services.
"Setting up your books the right way when you start your business is essential. If you do not feel comfortable with bookkeeping, ask your accountant for referrals. They usually know many bookkeepers. And, always ask for at least three referrals." ~ Sabrina M. Quairoli
I hope this post shows you how to become a successful Professional Organizer. Remember, it is OK to ask for help, especially when you are new to the industry. Also, you do not need to do it all on your own. Please share your questions or tips below to continue the conversation. I would love to hear from you.
Rose M Griffith
One of my good friends in Pittsburgh, Patty Kreamer, has been the president of NAPO here. I know from hanging out with her for the last ten years that being a professional organizer is super hard work! I admire you folks.
Organizing and not accumulating stuff comes pretty easy to me, but I have friends who aren't as OCD as me. 🙂 When they work with a professional organizer, everything changes!
By the way, when I was the director of HR at a company, we had several horribly disorganized and because of that, ineffective employees. I bought 15 copies of one of Patty's organizing books and the people lost all the copies but 1!
Thanks for commenting Rose. Over the years, I learned that you can't force someone to change their life. They must take ownership of it first and be sick of being disorganized. I like to inspire people with different practical and easy ideas so they get motivated and excited to change.
I appreciate all this work you did, about becoming a professional organizer. However, as for me, I am the one who keeps you in business. I need to hire organizers since my organizational skill consists of dropping something in a particular part of a room.
Oh wow! you learn something new. had no idea there was an organisation dedicated to professional organizers.
I love this post! Thank you for sharing this Sabrina. Very comprehensive and all.
Printing off this blog post as I type.
Thanks for sharing once more x
I could do with an organiser. Houses in UK are so small and most people are hoaders using their garages to store junk and leaving their expensive cars outside!!! Last year, I managed to get a lot of stuff sent to recycling centres from my garage but this year I seem to have filled it again!!
Hi Mina, Thanks for commenting. Here is a link for The Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers (UK). You can search by your area. Check out my frequent asked questions page for what to ask an organizer.
I've actually thought about whether or not becoming a professional organizer would be a good fit for me, so this post is a great introduction to all that it takes.
There's no doubt in my mind that professional organizers are, "professional". Not only skilled at organizing but I think there's a big creative piece your job. The requires involves, time, drive, specialized skills and artistic vision. I tell you I don't know how you do it. When I try to organize anything, my final product is a bigger mess!
Meredith @ The Palette Muse
This is fascinating, Sabrina, thanks for sharing! I've thought about doing this over the years, since I love organizing. I don't have time at the moment, with all my other creative endeavors, but I'll be sure to read this again if I ever decide to take the plunge. I've worked with a lot of design clients who could really use an organizer first!
Thanks for sharing your personal story! That newspaper article is a real keepsake. What a beautiful a-ha moment! I can imagine this post can do for others what that article did for you.
How nice of you to share your expertise with others. You mentioned when you started out that you made mistakes - I'm sure this list will prevent others from doing the same. Very comprehensive and professional.
I really enjoyed reading about how you became a professional organizer and your approach. I especially liked that you considered what your ideal client was like to help target your business.
I am building a 650 sq. ft. condo and need help. I have pinned hundreds of photos and now I need to organize the photos by rooms. Then I can start deleting the ones I know I can't use or need.
Hi Debbie, Congratulation on your new home. Thanks for visiting. When we built our house, I did the same thing. I purchased large poster board for each room and labeled each one the room name. Then, I went through all the pictures and weeded them down by room. That way, I could work on one room at a time and not get overwhelmed with the other rooms' photos that I came across. I hope this helps you get a clearer vision of what you want in your new home.
Thanks for this!
I have often wondered about setting up a business helping people to organise their homes. I am a minimalist and love to bring order wherever I go.
I knew someone who became a professional organizer. It seems like there is quite a market for it, especially since lots of people are working from home these days. This post seems to be really great advice for those looking to get into the business.
Thanks Erica for stopping by and commenting.
Really impressive Sabrina! I can see why it's worked out so well for you because you took a professional approach and really covered all your business bases. This is a real gem of a post for anyone interested in going into business as a Professional Organizer!
Thanks Marquita! I really appreciate your feedback. =)
I had no idea that there was an organization dedicated to professional organizers! Fantastic! But mostly, I think you are on the mark by choosing your clients well. I think this is the best tactic for successful outcomes in any service profession. Great list of resources too.
Thanks Jacqueline for commenting and stopping by.