But how to become a professional organizer? What kind of personality does the work require? In general, professional organizers like to interact with people, have the patience to listen to clients and learn how to best help them to implement an organization system that will last. Office organizers are also skilled in one or more areas:
- Spatial organization, the ability to visualize how to best arrange things in a given space.
- Systems organization, the ability to develop a filing system or neatly arrange digital spreadsheets and documents.
- Life and goal planning, to help clients to focus on their goals and find the best way to achieve success.
But, don’t kid yourself — this is a business, and business is booming. As a self-employed professional looking for work, you’ll be competing with certified, experienced professionals and well-staffed local start-ups. If you want to get started as an organizer and be able to compete with the other local professionals, there are a few things that you can do to get prepared so you can hit the ground running.
1. Decide on an area of expertise.
Many different types of people seek the help of a professional organizer for different reasons. These can guide you in picking an area of organization to focus on. For instance, remote employees and people who work from home are looking for ways to improve and streamline their daily routine while families, especially those with kids, need help in reducing and organizing the usual clutter.
Most areas of expertise can be organized into one of three areas:
- Kitchen and home organization. This is probably the most common area of interest, and may also include organization solutions for garages, moving, senior living, downsizing or vacation homes.
Office organization. Filing solutions, digital file organization, genealogy records and other forms of paper management are included in office organization. This kind of organization may be less about labels and bins and more about alphabetizing and chronology.
- Problems with chronic disorganization. The term “chronic disorganization” is most often associated with hoarding, the most extreme form of chronic disorganization. Hoarding behavior can be related to mental disorders or prior personal trauma and should be considered very carefully. This area of expertise is not for beginners.The additional security and health safety considerations are much more detailed and will not be covered in this article.
2. Head back to school.
To get some legitimacy for yourself, you may want to start with some pro bono, one-on-one coaching work. Many of the certifications available from professional organization associations require a minimum number of paid hours before you can qualify, and regardless, practice makes perfect! In the meantime, you can get some experience with the professional community by joining a professional association and attending local meetings and events. The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) has local chapters, where you can meet and interact with other organizing professionals in your area.
Once you do have some hours under your belt, you can apply for certification through NAPO or another professional association.Some training courses are available online, though most come with a cost. The prices for courses range anywhere from $50 for phone advice to more than $1000 for in-person full day classes.
3. Develop your business plan.
If you do decide that this is the career choice for you, the next step is to decide whether this is just a side hustle or a business that needs to be formally (a.k.a. legally) set up. You'll need to decide what kind of business you are — a corporation or sole proprietor. Both have their benefits and downsides, so you'll need to decide which is the better fit based on your needs. You’ll also need to decide on rates for your services, which tend to be between $35 and $50 per hour for beginners. When you decide on this number, make sure to acknowledge your start-up cost. Also, many bloggers and online experts recommend developing assessment forms to track your clients’ needs and preferences.
Now that you’ve got an idea of what it takes to get started as a professional organizer, make sure to get your work noticed — set up Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for your new business and keep in touch with clients on a regular basis so that they know what you’re working on and you know what their needs are.
Full disclosure: Neither the author nor Fairygodboss endorses or is paid by the associations and professionals featured here. If you've decided that this career is the one for you and you need some help developing your personal brand, check out another Fairygodboss article: "How to Brand Yourself Like a Pro."
Dr. Amanda G. Riojas is a Scientific Computing Researcher living in Austin, TX. She is also the Advice Section Editor for the Scientista Foundation Advice Blog, Liaison to the Corporation Associates Committee of the American Chemical Society, and Chair of the ACS Central TX Local Section Women Chemists Committee. Amanda basically spends all of her time trying to tell everyone that women are awesome—because she has a daughter now and wants her to know that girls can do anything.