HOW TO BECOME A PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZER
Q: I've always been an organized person. Does this mean I will make a good professional organizer?
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. Professional organizers who run their own businesses (as most currently do) may also require administrative, marketing, sales, strategic planning and basic financial skills in addition to general organizing skills.
Q: What kind of education and experience do professional organizers have prior to becoming an organizer?
A: Professional organizers generally have at least a high school diploma and prior work experience in a variety of fields including business, education, social work, interior design, real estate, or engineering among others. There is currently no requirement for certification or mandatory education in order to become a professional organizer.
In addition, the Board of Certified Professional Organizers (BCPO) offers a voluntary industry-led certification program for professional organizers. To earn the CPO® credential, organizers must study organizing literature, verify a specific amount of experience, and take a certification examination. The Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD) also offers a certification program and CPO-CD® credential for those organizers specializing in chronic disorganization.
Q: What kind of organizing specialties are available?
A: Professional organizers have a vast array of services and skills they can provide to clients to help them gain control over their environment. Some organizing areas include home and office organizing, event planning, downsizing, relocation assistance, financial organizing, seminars & workshops, computer, project management, space planning, time management, productivity training, and working with individuals with hoarding tendencies. Some organizers may specialize in specific areas. Others may offer broader, more generalized services.
Q: Are there classes I can take to learn how to become a professional organizer?
A: Yes. In addition to those classes and programs offered by our chapter, we suggest you begin your search on the NAPO (National) website for the new organizer curriculum. NAPO requires new members to take a basic curriculum about organizing before they can be listed as "Professional Members" in the national database, and more advanced courses are also available, including several Specialist Certificates. Educational teleconferences are also available from the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD). A variety of veteran organizers also offer training classes and coaching for new organizers.
Q: Can you recommend some books on becoming a professional organizer?
A: There are several titles on the market; here are some that our members recommend:
STARTING A BUSINESS
Q: Can I make a living as an organizer?
A: Public awareness of the organizing industry is on the rise, which increases the demand for professional organizers. As in any service profession, there are many factors involved in the success of an organizing business. Your skill level, your marketing strategies, the number of hours you put in, and your geographical location can affect your business.
Q: Do I have to start my own business?
A: No. Although most professional organizers currently own and operate their own businesses as solopreneurs, there are some larger organizing companies who hire organizers, either as subcontractors or as employees.
Q: What is my first step in starting a business?
A: The first step is to clarify specifically what you want to accomplish from your business. A basic business plan will help you define your personal, financial, marketing, sales, legal and target market objectives and help you navigate through obstacles or gaps in your plan. A good place to start is your local Small Business Administration, SCORE resource center or in the business section of your library or bookstore.
NAPO National also offers classes on building your organizing business.
Q: What kind of business model should I choose?
A: Organizing businesses range from sole proprietorships to limited liability companies (LLCs) to corporations. We suggest that you discuss this choice with your accountant and lawyer, as there are financial and legal implications that may affect your decision.
Q: Do I need business insurance?
A: The type of work that you engage in will determine the amount and type of insurance that is right for you. The need for general business liability, errors and omissions, automotive, bonding, installation, additional home insurance as well as unique client requirements can be confusing. We suggest that you contact an insurance agent to discuss your situation.
WORKING WITH CLIENTS
Q: How do I get hands-on experience before I have paying 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, speaking, etc.) to see what you enjoy most. Use this opportunity to develop your business policies and procedures. In exchange for your services, ask your friends and family to give you feedback or a testimonial about what they liked about the experience and what you might do differently.
Q: Can I job-shadow with an experienced organizer?
A: To respect clients' privacy and confidentiality, many organizers do not allow job-shadowing. Our chapter, however, offers an opportunity for new organizers to work with veteran organizers through the Community Hoarding Intervention Coalition (CHIC). There are some veteran organizers who offer coaching services to new organizers. And sometimes organizers arrange to swap services in their own homes or offices, both to gain experience and to understand what it's like to be a client.
Q: Should I offer a free initial consultation to clients?
A: Like most decisions in your business, this is an individual one. Some professional organizers offer free phone consultations, while others offer free initial consultations on-site. Some organizers make the first session a full-working session and may charge a minimum number of hours.
Q: Should I have my clients sign a contract?
A: The decision is yours. There are organizers who have no contract and others who use a letter of agreement outlining mutual expectations and policies. A formal contract is usually expected from corporate clients.
Q: How much does a professional organizer charge?
A: Average professional organizer fees can range from approximately $50 to $200 an hour nationwide. Organizers may charge by the hour, by the project, or by a package price. Fees are set by each organizer individually based on geographical location, experience level, and the type of organizing services offered. Many (but not all) organizers list their fees on their websites.