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Professional Organizer Business Idea

The art and science of organization evades nearly all of us. Even the most orderly, Type-AAA personalities can easily become besieged by armies of nightmare closets, mountains of paper, runaway schedules, and metric tons of buy-now-ask-questions-later stuff. A Professional Organizer business helps residential and corporate clients cut through cluttered chaos by establishing organization systems and teaching clients repeatable and sustainable organization skills. The Professional Organizer’s goal isn’t just to get a client organized. It’s even more important to help them stay organized. This feat is often easier said than done – precisely where a Professional Organizer business fits in.

It’s difficult to place limits on the types of services a Professional Organizer business offers. After all, nearly everything in this world can be organized to some degree! But the universe of possible services shrinks when there’s a dollar sign attached to your expertise. Prospective clients may not necessarily see the monetary value in your organizational prowess. Therefore you must focus on service areas for which clients are willing to pay. Below is a sample of the types of work a Professional Organizing business might do to make money. Because of the expertise required, many organizers choose to specialize in certain service areas. The field of opportunities in this business is simply too broad to realistically become an expert in every niche area.

Organizing Services for Residential Clients

  • Design solutions to help organize storage areas such as closets, garages, kitchen pantries or home offices
  • Perform space planning activities to maximize both household storage volume and living/working space
  • Develop intuitive filing and purging systems for organizing documents and data (both paper and electronic)
  • Provide compassionate coaching for children and adults who struggle with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), hoarding, or chronic disorganization

Organizing Services for Business Clients

  • Work with retailers to optimize (this doesn’t necessarily mean maximize) display space for their products
  • Improve efficiency and consistency of document and data retention, archival and destruction
  • Help your client ship products more quickly by improving the layout and organization of  inventory and packing spaces
  • Reduce repetitive motion injuries while increasing productivity by optimizing layouts and flow of product assembly lines

Did You Know?

  • A 2008 NAPO Survey of 400 US consumers showed that 65% of respondents felt that their home was at least moderately disorganized; 71% said their quality of life would improve if they were better organized; nearly everyone (96%) said they could save time every day by becoming more organized [ref] NAPO, NAPO. 2009 GET ORGANIZED MONTH SURVEY (of 400 Consumers Nationwide). unknown 11/01/2009 Statistic by/from NAPO [/ref]
  • Are we becoming more organized or just purchasing more stuff? Retail dollar sales of storage increased 30% between 2003 and 2007 [ref] unknown, . Homeworld Businss 2008 Housewares Census Storage Overview. Homeworld Business Magazine 10/01/2008
    Statistic by/from HomeWorld Estimates [/ref]
  • According to a 2009 NAPO member survey, organizing services are requested most by clients in the following home areas: home office or den, kitchen, closet, master bedroom, and the garage/attic/basement. [ref]NAPO, . NAPO 2009 Member Survey. unknown 06/30/2009
    Statistic by/from NAPO [/ref]
  • Our personal favorite: According to an IKEA Survey of 300 Vancouverites, Montrealers and Torontonians, “A surprising 31% of those polled claim they feel more satisfied after reorganizing their closet than after having sex.” [ref]IKEA. Corporate. Not Tonight Dear, I’m Cleaning the Closet. IKEA. IKEA, 21 Jan. 2000. Web. 2012. [/ref]

Getting Started in a Professional Organizer Business

Before jumping in and starting a Professional Organizer business, you first must assess your own organizational capabilities. Are you an organized person yourself? If not, this isn’t the business for you. Organization must be part of your DNA. Would you work on someone else’s car if you couldn’t repair your own? Of course not! Same goes for organizing. Why would you try and help a client organize her kitchen if your own kitchen is a poster child for kitchens-gone-wild.

Since you’ll be working very closely with your clients, in addition to your organization skills, you’ll also need the following core competencies:

  • Compassion – showing empathy towards your clients is a must in this business. Many clients are embarrassed with their lack of organization and aren’t necessarily proud that they need help getting organized.
  • Patience – organization (or lack thereof) is a habit. And habits aren’t formed or broken over night. Showing patience while providing consistent coaching will help improve your client’s probability of organizational success.
  • Selling – The art of selling is often overlooked in this profession. Why? Because most people don’t want to spend money getting organized. They may see a Professional Organizer as simply someone who helps clean up the house. Your sales skills will be critical to help you evangelize the monetary value of your services.
  • Consistency – Develop an organizational system for each client and stick with this approach. Don’t change your system in the middle of a project. Major changes will only cause confusion for your client and will make the system harder to follow.
  • Communication – Any client-serving profession, especially consulting, requires excellent communication skills. In your Professional Organizing business, active listening is just as important in how you communicate with your client. Understanding your client’s needs and then teaching him how to maintain the systems you put in place are key to both of your success.
  • Visualization – Professional Organizers work with spaces. As such, having a keen eye for spatial placement and optimization is important. How do you know if you have solid spatial skills? If you usually pick the right size container for storing leftovers, winter clothes or seasonal decorations you’re probably good to go!

Because the Professional Organizer business spans so many different subject areas, you should also begin to narrow your business scope – especially as you just start out.  Would you rather focus on helping residential customers or do you think your organizational skills would fit better in a corporate setting? Defining your initial target market will help you further refine your organizing services and subsequent marketing approach.

Professional Organizer Training

There’s a wealth of training options for Professional Organizers, both for novice and experts. When just getting started, we recommend the courses provided by NAPO (The National Association of Professional Organizers).  NAPO is the most widely known and respected professional association for organizers. NAPO offers a host of training courses such as:

  • An introduction to professional organizing
  • Starting your professional organizer business
  • Organizing for residential clients and businesses
  • Effective client training and skills transfer
  • Working with seniors and special-needs clients
  • Expanding your professional organizing business

For a complete, up-to-date course list, please visit NAPO’s Professional Organizer Curriculum page.

As you grow your business and venture into organization specialties, you’ll want to investigate additional training courses offered by professional organizing business coaches. But to start with, NAPO is your best bet. And if you’re confident that Professional Organizing is for you, do yourself a favor and become a NAPO member. When we last checked, a single membership was $230 per year. The benefits you get from being a NAPO member will more than cover the membership fee. As a NAPO member you’ll have access to:

  • Discounts on conferences, organizing expos, training and certification programs.
  • Access to benefits such as business liability insurance, long-term-care, merchant tools (such as website builders and credit card processors)
  • Professional Organizing periodicals and educational resources
  • Members-only access to NAPO’s online forum for exchanging ideas, asking questions, and accessing literature dealing with the professional organizing business

NAPO has also developed a certification program for Professional Organizers. Operated under the Board of Certification for Professional Organizers® (BCPO), the Certified Professional Organizer (CPO®) designation recognizes Professional Organizers who meet certification standards through qualifications and demonstrated knowledge through examination testing. You can read more about the CPO designation at the BCPO website.

Finding Clients as a Professional Organizer

It should come as no surprise that success in your Professional Organizer business is dependent on your client pipeline. What does surprise a lot of new Organizers is that you will spend just as much time (if not more) prospecting and marketing your business as you will providing your organizing services. If you’re going to make this a viable business, you must be prepared to get creative and find clients. And here are two key marketing challenges you must overcome…

  1. Demonstrate Value – Although Professional Organizers continue to gain greater exposure, many prospective clients may not immediately see the value in the services you provide. A lot of people simply see Organizers as glorified house cleaners. You know this perception couldn’t be farther from the truth! So your job is to convince people otherwise. But how? Simply put, build a portfolio of reference clients and projects…
  2. Build a Portfolio – If you can show potential clients the value that you brought to others, your marketing efforts will be much easier. Not only does a portfolio help educate clients on the value of your services, it will also showcase the quality of your work. Here’s the rub – how can you complete projects to showcase in your portfolio if you don’t have any clients yet? Read on…

To help jump-start your Professional Organizing business, be prepared to take on a few projects pro bono (this means for free). Although these projects won’t immediately help your bottom line, they will definitely pay off in the long run. A handful of pro bono projects will help you:

  • Build a portfolio of projects to show potential clients
  • Gain valuable client references
  • Hone your organization methodology and process
  • Fine-tune your marketing approach and value proposition
  • Test the waters to see if this business is actually for you

Once you build your initial project portfolio to showcase your Professional Organization services, here are a few other ideas for attracting clients:

  • Provide free organizing workshops at your local library or community center. In exchange for attending your free workshop, ask attendees for their email address. After the workshop, follow-up with attendees to see if you can help them with their organization needs.
  • Become a guest journalist for your local newspaper and write regular articles on organization tips.
  • Post flyers in local coffee shops that advertise your services. It helps to provide a complimentary 30 minute organization evaluation.
  • Team up with business that are complimentary to yours to help get your foot in the door. For example, partner with a moving company and help people get started on the right organization foot as they move into a new home.
  • If your community has a weekly market, consider setting up a small booth. There’s usually a tremendous amount of foot traffic at these markets and this provides an opportunity for you to educate and advertise your services. Markets also provide a wonderful way to mingle with people and better understand their needs.

Professional Organizing Keys to Success

Now that you’ve started and have a thriving Professional Organizer business, how do you keep it that way? As the competition in this business increases, you must continue to hone your competitive edge. In large part, you and the key areas of your business that made you a success will help keep you a success. Continue to build upon areas of your business that work well and don’t be shy about getting rid of things that don’t. Based on our conversations with other Professional Organizers, here are a few other ideas to keep in mind as you cultivate your Professional Organizing business:

  • Listen to your clients. Similar to most all service related businesses, the most important voice in your industry is that of your clients. Dig deep in your client conversations to really understand how you can best support them with their organization needs. We disagree with the statement, “The client is always right” in favor of our own version, “The client always has a need.” It’s your job to listen, understand, and fill these needs to the best of your ability.
  • Continue to learn. Ongoing education not only helps keep you current with Professional Organizing trends, continued learning helps you grow as a professional. Make it a habitual part of your business day to read organizing literature. Make it a goal to learn one new thing about this business each day.
  • Improve your communications. How effectively you communicate with your clients is perhaps the most important aspect of this business. We all have areas to improve in our communication, both written and verbal. Communication excellence will help you better evangelize your organizing service value to prospective clients. It will also help you more effectively work with your clients on their organizing projects.
  • Practice what you preach. Just because you read about a new organizing approach, doesn’t mean it will work with your clients. Integrate all of the services and products you use with your clients into your own life. There’s no good substitute for first hand experience and your customers will truly benefit from the intimacy you have with what you sell.

Expanding Your Business

There are only so many hours in a week and, as a service business, time is your biggest revenue constraint. There will hopefully come a time in your Professional Organizing business when your project pipeline is full and you can’t take on any more projects. Many Professional Organizers are quite happy and content, as they should be, with this level of success. However, there are several growth ideas to consider if you one day choose to expand your business model. Keep in mind too that expansion ideas aren’t necessary just for growth. Adding products and/or services to your business can help you diversify and remove some of the risk if one area of your business takes a hit.

  • Create and sell information products online such as organizing guides, books, or “how-to” videos.
  • Expand your business website and include a blog. Within your blog you can sell advertising for products or services that compliment your business.
  • Grow your business reach by targeting clients in nearby cities. This approach may mean that you need to hire employees so this is something you should consider first.
  • Work hard and standardize all of your business methods and create a Professional Organizing franchise.
  • Create an organizing curriculum and teach a course at your local community center or adult learning forum.
  • Design and sell a line of unique organizing products such as filing systems, storage boxes, or intuitive labels.

Professional Organizing Wrap-Up

The Professional Organizing service niche continues to grow as the general population becomes more familiar with the value that organization provides. Our lives will only continue to become more hectic, leaving less time for us to organize everything we need to. Especially with more information assets (such as photographs, movies, or email) that need to be organized, we see Professional Organizers as becoming as pervasive a line item in personal budgets as accountants, babysitters, and landscapers. While the profit potential for this business is somewhat limited, Professional Organizing belongs to a very solid and growing industry. And the great thing about Professional Organizing is that you can start the business with very little cash and test the waters.

If you want to learn more about getting started in this business, please spend some time on the NAPO site and also check out the related resources that we showcase in our sidebar. Best of luck to you in your Professional Organizing endeavors!

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