Are you a whiz at organizing closets and creating order out of chaos? Do you like studying the nuances of feng shui or real estate staging? All these skills can be put to use while you make money as a professional organizer.
What do professional organizers do?
Professional organizers (POs), as the name suggests, spend a good deal of their time helping clients sort through their clothes and accessories and create clutter-free spaces within their homes and offices.
POs that are just starting out typically just organize closets. This involves spending a few hours with the client going over her wardrobe and creating piles of clothes for either keeping, altering or donating.
Some degree of psychology must be applied during this process- many clients will not want to part with any of their clothing or accessories. Thus, successful organization will depend on your skill at organizing as much as diplomatically convincing your client that he has no need for an article of clothing that hasn’t been worn in over a year.
After this task is accomplished, you’ll need to purchase supplies that effectively partition the closet space into hanging rods, racks, shelves, boxes and hooks. Different stores like IKEA, Target and the Container Store have numerous supplies for this purpose.
Generally speaking, about two-thirds of the closet should be devoted to rods. You can create areas that have double rods for shorter items like skirts and shirts. The remaining one-third of the closet can contain shoe racks, storage bins, drawers, hooks, etc.
Join the National Association of Professional Organizers
You can take online classes in topics like closet organization, relocation and working with seniors through the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). The NAPO also offers other benefits including conferences, material discounts, and a certification program. Becoming a Certified Professional Organizer (CPO) can go a long way towards making you look legit and winning you clients, as well as snagging better paying clients.
Perhaps best of all, NAPO offers you the opportunity to apprentice with a seasoned PO so that you quickly learn the ropes and start winning your own clients. This way, you don’t have to wonder how many hours you should devote to a client visit or how much you should charge for an up-front fee.
How to get started as a PO
You can start your PO portfolio by contacting your friends and family members and offering to help them organize their spaces for free. This way, you not only gain valuable experience in the field, but you also have the opportunity to take lots of ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures of your work.
Once you have helped out three or more individuals, create your professional website and post the pictures online. Describe what you did and how the client reacted when you finished your job.
How can you start connecting to outside clients? Consider when people are most inclined to reorganize their closets and other personal/business spaces. Typically, people think about reorganizing their stuff when they experience a life change like weight loss, a move to a new location, or a job switch.
To capture such potential clients, consider posting flyers outside of realtor offices (with permission), on company bulletins, or at weight loss group meetings. Use social media to your advantage and advertise your services on Facebook and LinkedIn groups, on your Twitter account, etc.
Advancing your PO career
There’s no reason why you must organize closets forever as a PO. Once you’ve worked with a few clients, try branching out into other specialties like real estate staging, for example. Or unpacking. Or small business relocation.
Engaging in subspecialties not only bolsters your pocketbook, it also showcases you as having many different talents. And when you have different talents, you can charge more money.
How much should you charge as a PO?
It’s best to charge by the project versus by the hour as a PO. This is because, initially, you will require more time to reorganize a closet or garage. However, after you’ve helped a few clients, your time per project will dramatically decrease.
Obviously, you don’t want to earn less and less money as you gain in experience and speed. And this is why a project fee is preferred.
Most POs charge $200-$400 for a standard closet reorganization, and that’s excluding the costs of materials. Bigger projects, like an attic upgrade or a kitchen overhaul, can command $500 and up. Helping a business streamline its shelf and cubicle space can command several thousand dollars.
There are other ways that POs can earn a living, including giving talks, writing books, and teaching classes and workshops. Many POs set up agencies and contract with other POs while they seek out new clients.
To provide our readers with more information about POs and how they can branch out into other specialties, I interviewed Jeanine Hanson Lewis of The Organizers. Jeanine has been a PO for over 20 years and offers a variety of services including organizing, feng shui and decorating. Please listen to her short interview below to better understand how POs work with clients and what rates they can charge for their services.
The Bottom Line
As a PO, you can not only help people simplify their lives, but you can make some extra money too. The NAPO offers numerous resources for getting started in this field, including trainings, mentorships and conferences. If you’re a stickler for organizing things, this is definitely the money-making opportunity for you.