A: While being organized yourself is a definite asset, simply doing what works for you may be too limiting for the client. The critical skill that a professional organizer must have is the ability to create customized organizing solutions that work for the client.
Q. Can I make a living being a professional organizer?
A. As in any service profession, there are many variables involved in the success of a business. Your marketing efforts, your skill level, the amount of time you devote to it, and even your geographical area can affect your organizing business. Public awareness of the organizing industry is increasing and stimulating the demand for organizers. In a NAPO membership survey in June 1998, 35% of our members said they bill between 20-40 hours per week and 42% said they had a gross income of $30,000 and above. Over 96% of NAPO members own their own business. The answer is yes!
Q: How do I find out more about becoming a professional organizer?
A: Most people become aware of professional organizing as a field of business from magazine or newspaper articles or from seeing a featured organizer on television. If you believe you have the skills and background to become a professional organizer please contact NAPO Membership information and do research at the library on organizing. You will also want to research how to establish a small business. If there is a NAPO chapter in your area go to a meeting to discover what these organizers are doing. Additionally, some chapters have published booklets to help answer many questions you may have. They are excellent resources and can contain topics such as how to get started, how to set pricing, how to market your services, how to set up your own home office, plus much more. Chapter’s are constantly adding and revising information to keep pace with today’s growing market.
Q. What kind of education and experience do professional organizers have?
A. Many professional organizers have a college degree and prior work experience in various fields. Look at past jobs you’ve held and determine what organizing skills you used in order to perform the required job duties. These are the same skills needed when organizing professionally. Presently, there is no degree program available for organizing. Continuing education is provided through the annual conference, regional seminars and chapter programs. Some veteran professional organizers offer customized training programs.
Q. What kind of organizing specialties are there?
A. Professional organizers have a vast array of services and skills they can provide. Some organizing areas include home and office organizing, event planning, relocation assistance, financial organizing, seminars & workshops, computer, memorabilia, project management, space planning and time management. Most organizers specialize in specific areas and create systems, solutions and information to help provide more control over one’s environment.
Q: Many clients want an experienced organizer. How do I get hands-on experience before I have clients?
A: Offer to organize your friends and family. Try to line up a variety of different projects (e.g. office, garage, paper management, children’s rooms, closets, etc.) to see what you enjoy most and determine what your organizing niche might be. In exchange for your services, ask your friends and family to give you feedback about what they liked about the experience and what you might do differently. You might even want to ask them to write you a letter of recommendation.
Q: How do I start a professional organizing business?
A. You start this business the same way you would start any other type of service business. You can begin by researching how to start a business by going to your local library, taking a class in how to start a business, contacting your local Small Business Development Center, Small Business Administration (SBA), or Service Corps of Retired Executives (S.C.O.R.E.)
Q: Do I need to incorporate my business?
A: That’s up to you. We suggest you consult an attorney and an accountant, specializing in incorporation, to determine what is best for you.
Q: Do I need to carry insurance?
A: It depends on the types of organizing services you provide (e.g. packing and unpacking). We suggest you consult an insurance agent for advice on this matter.
Q: What are the initial set up costs to start an organizing business?
A: Some of the initial set up costs include: educational materials and workshops, professional membership fees, NAPO annual conference, city, state and federal licensing & registration fees, design and printing of your business cards, letterhead, and marketing materials. Additionally, if you do not have a home office, you may want to purchase office equipment and possibly furniture.
Q: How do I market my business to find clients?
A: According to our NAPO membership survey in June of 1998 the top five sources of marketing were word of mouth, client referrals, yellow & white pages, local printed advertising and direct mail. Public speaking is another great way to get your name and face out in the community. Ask to speak at your local service or non-profit organization meetings. Make contacts at Chamber of Commerce functions or participate in seminars and conferences where you can network. You could even teach Adult Education classes or set up your own website. If you can get your name out there, clients will contact you!
Q: How much do I charge for my services?
A: The best way to determine a fee for your clients is to understand what professional organizers in your area are charging for similar services. Most organizers charge by the hour. When deciding what to charge, use this simple formula: take an arbitrary annual salary figure (such as $50,000) and add the cost of benefits such as vacation, sick days, health and disability insurance, and retirement plans. Also add in expenses such as utilities, supplies, equipment, and office rent. Divide this total by the number of hours you can logically expect to work in a year. The typical full-time professional bills about 15 out of 20 working days a month, or 1,440 hours a year (15 days x 12 months x 8 hours a day). (It is important to note that you will put in many non-billable hours doing your own administrative and marketing work.) The result will be the amount you should charge per hour. Eventually, you’ll probably be able to raise your rates as you gain more experience. Think carefully about what your time is worth and be careful not to "under charge" clients.
Q: How can I improve my organizing skills?
A. Join NAPO, attend the NAPO annual conference, and if there is a chapter in your area, join and attend their meetings and trainings. Read as many books as you can on any and all subjects pertaining to organizing and attend seminars and workshops offered by veteran organizers and/or national education companies.
Q: Do professional organizers buy products and supplies for their clients?
A: This is an individual business decision.
Q: How can I expand my organizing product knowledge?
A: Attend the Organizing Expo at the NAPO Annual Conference, browse in stores that carry organizing products for home or office, and subscribe to organizing product catalogs.
Q: What do clients expect from a professional organizer?
A: Clients expect an organizer to be competent in his/her specialized area, to be honest, to be responsible, and to stand behind his/her work. Perhaps most importantly, they expect the professional organizer to maintain confidentiality. It is important for you to discuss what they expect of you and for you to make them aware of what you provide.