Professional Organizing is something of a dream job.
When the thought first entered my mind to become an Organizer, I wondered to myself
will anybody actually pay me to do this?
Of course, the answer is yes! Now, more than five years later, I’m often asked to give advice or help on how to break into this career. To answer these questions, I’ve written down my thoughts on becoming an Organizer and I'm offering some tips to get you started.
Let's start with why I became an Organizer. I always thought that I was pretty organized. I managed my house (and stuff in it) and career just fine - until I had kids. Then everything changed.
I no longer had the luxury of time to manage the usual maintenance, paring down or even leisurely planning of meals. I found I was scrambling to manage my work clothes, what to have for dinner and how to manage the boxes of kids clothes that piled up when they changed sizes.
To compensate for the chaos I overspent on meals out, ate poor meals in, chaotically bought clothes that sometimes worked and sometimes didn't, ignored the piles of kid things clogging my house and basement and my paperwork got shoved into piles on my desk until tax time.
I honestly felt terrible.
I can't say for sure exactly when it hit me, but I knew that I needed to do something different for my house and my wallet. I wanted to take back control of my house, my nutrition (for me and my kids), my clothes, and my sense of well being. For me, the answer was organizing and simplifying although I might not have called it that back then.
I started with my clothes and made a sort of capsule wardrobe of simple base items that worked well together. Next, I planned meals. Nothing exciting, but dinners I knew I could cook quickly and were healthy. It was a base that I could go to and expand on when I wanted to and had the time.
Then, there was the house. I pared down. And pared down again until I felt I had just what I needed and loved.
Spending the time to pare down makes you very conscious of what you buy because you do not want to bring things into your house to junk it up again.
You begin to think of those cute things or gadgets as junk invading your space.
I felt free and happy. And I wasn't spending money senselessly. I felt in control of the life I wanted.
At some point along the way I dreamed of helping others Organize but I was not sure if this was realistic. So, I tip toed in. I organized for a few friends while of course keeping my regular job. I expanded my organizing to people outside of my circle and began to gain confidence... and clients.
Every Organizer has a story of how they got into this business. Yours will be unique too!
Often now I get emails from people who want to know what its really like to become an Organizer. I love this profession and see a real need for more Organizers in our communities. People need help and a guide for managing their homes and home life.
I'm sure you want to help too, but have some serious questions.
Here are my answers to the most commonly asked questions.
Do I have the right skills?
Yes- Even if you are not a natural born Organizer you definitely have transferable skills.
These are the skills you have developed throughout your life, which can be from current or previous careers, school or life experience.
Everyone has some organizing skills but you might not have thought of them that way.
Studying at school requires organizing your time and coursework. All jobs and careers require organizing your time, tasks, assignments, paper and possibly people. Managing a home and a family definitely takes organizing skills ranging from simple to complex.
All of these skills are valuable and are “transferable”. This means that the organizing skills you have developed throughout your life in these other areas transfer as true knowledge and are usable in your Organizing career.
TIP: Write down all the Organizing skills that you have and identify which ones you are most comfortable with and that you’d like to provide.
Where do I begin?
Consider first that there are 2 parts to starting an Organizing Business.
ONE- Being skilled at Organizing (which I bet you are!)
TWO- Starting and running a Business (where you might need some direction).
Let’s start with the Organizing part... I always knew I was good at organizing, but I also knew that wasn’t enough. You have to be able to formulate a process for organizing and be able to explain it to your clients.
Did you ever try to explain to someone what you do at work, or if you are a stay-at-home mom or parent, what you do all day? Did you ever have to write your own job description? You KNOW what you do, your know that you are GOOD at it, and you know that you are BUSY, but explaining it in detail is challenging.
It’s like that with Organizing. There are basic Organizing Rules and Organizing Principles. You should have clear methods for any organizing project and be able to explain these to your clients.
TIP: To do this well, it helps to know what an organizer does!
Professional Organizers do more than organizing.
Some people are born with an innate talent for organization. They see a space and can visualize the best way to categorize items and the best place to put them.
However, becoming a Professional Organizer takes additional knowledge and skills.
We have the knowledge and local resources to help you remove most unwanted items in your house, from old clothes to hazardous chemicals.
Many busy clients express that a big obstacle for getting organized is removing unwanted items from their homes.
While almost everyone knows how to remove unwanted clothes, there are many other items that need special attention.
Having the knowledge and resources to remove these tricky items is one asset that makes a great organizer.
We are creative and offer space solutions for every room in your home.
There cannot be a rule for everything.
This is where an organizers Creativity, Flexibility and Ability to Envision the Possibilities of rearranging items in a way that makes the most sense for the client comes into play.
We actually provide the physical labor of rearranging your items in closets, cabinets and rooms throughout the house.
Many clients do not have the time, energy or desire to do this hands-on work.
They may have ideas or solutions to improve their living space but are unable to actually execute their plan. This is just another reason why Organizers are so valuable.
We offer lasting solutions to simplify the maintenance of your home and your life.
Organizers need to know the basic rules of Organizing and more importantly- how to teach these to the client in a simple and relevant way, so they can maintain what they have learned.
Your clients are looking for a way to change their physical space and their approach to managing it.
Explaining the rules of organizing along the way and providing Clients with specific guidelines and customized tips to keep them organized is critical.
Now, let’s talk about the Business side.
For me, the business part was easy. I had a 20 year background in business management with large institutions. But, I can tell you that the business part of organizing will be fairly simple for you too. Probably you’ll start your business as a sole proprietorship- which means it's just you! It is not difficult to set up and manage this type of business.
There are just a handful of details to get down at the begin including bookkeeping, setting up a website and learning some basic marketing. The trick is to know all the details and get them just right.
How am I going to get clients?
Your first clients are always your friends and family. That’s the best place to get no-pressure practice. Treat them like you would in a professional setting.
Beyond your inner circle you’ll need to know who your clients are. What do I mean by that?
Well, once you know the types of organizing there is, the types of people you can help and the types of problems you can help with- then you will recognize almost everyone as your client- and you can offer them your services.
Types of clients include:
People who are moving who want to prepare their house for sale
People who are moving into a new home and want unpacking and organizing services
Couples moving in together who need to combine their things
How much can I make?
So, some people are a little shy about asking this question but it might be the one they want to know the most.
You may love to organize but an Organizing business is a business! And you should care about how much you can reasonably earn.
According to payscale.com Professional Organizers earn from $30,674 to $124,140 per year.
That’s quite a wide swing but Organizing is a flexible and versatile profession.
Some Organizers work part time. Many Organizers boost their incomes by offering additional services including discard donation services, reselling, and speaking engagements. There are many opportunities to build your own unique business.
TIP: Find out what other Organizers in your area’s fees are and make sure that you are in line.
Do I need to join a Professional Association?
There are no special licenses that you need to obtain to become an Organizer, however joining a Professional Association has many benefits.
You benefit from the support you receive from other Organizers.
You’ll have access to Organizing and Business courses.
Joining an Association gives you credibility with your clients and demonstrates your commitment to the Profession.
You can become Certified with a Professional Association. This is truly a great education and provides a boost to your credibility when you demonstrate the highest level of expertise in the Profession.
Professional Associations hold you to a Code of Ethics which gives your clients more trust in you and your business.
Until recently, there has only been one Professional Association for Organizers and a handful of training programs.
I looked for this kind of support and education when I was starting out. I joined one, but I found it to be less than informative and costly. I decided not to invest another penny there and ultimately forged my own way. I had the benefit and experience of over 20 years of business management and consulting under my belt. I made some mistakes along the way but I learned a lot too.
I also discovered that my philosophy was different. I strongly believe that the “secret” to living a good life is to live it simply. Create the simplest systems of living in a home, and live with the simplest of possessions. Sort of like Minimalism, but with more color and less austere. After all, most of us have hobbies and I’m not throwing out my grandmother’s precious letters!
I also try to be as Green as possible. I make every effort to have a low impact on the Earth and that means not giving in to consumerism and the clutter culture. I didn’t really find this ethic in other Organizing programs.
My own home, life and my business centers around not encouraging mass accumulation and instead reducing what you have to what you need and love, not just finding space to stuff more stuff. Simplifying makes our day to day lives easier. We have too much to do, we own too much. Let’s do less chores and less maintenance! Let’s enjoy our lives more.
When I felt brave about openly stating my preferences, I found that I was not alone. There were a lot of Organizers who felt the same way.
So, after putting our heads together and sharing our organizing experiences, successes and business strategies we created the American Society of Professional Organizers.
It’s a new Professional Association for Organizers that focuses on Simplifying and making a career in Organizing attainable. There are just 2 courses in the certification program that were designed to be low cost but complete with everything you need to know to become an Organizer. It’s conveniently self paced and simple to achieve.
Organizing has changed my life. It can change yours too!
Learn more about how you can become a Professional Organizer with this FREE Guide: Starting Your Organizing Business.