Starting an Organizing Business for Little or No Money

If you feel an overwhelming urge to rearrange the furniture in waiting rooms and cafes, then you might be one. If you tidy up at other people’s parties, then you might be one. If you salivate at the site of a California Closets outlet, then chances are your true calling may be quite obvious — you’re a born organizer.

So why not turn your natural “neat-freak” tendencies into a lucrative career? Use your expertise to help the world’s procrastinators, pack rats, office slobs, and fuzzy thinkers get their acts together!

A word of warning before we get down to the nitty gritty: the ultimate mission of a professional office organizer isn’t just to cut down clutter, but to work with a client to develop a customized process that they will then continue to use long after you’ve departed.

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Bellicose and bossy neat-freaks need not apply. A professional office organizer needs to have a high degree of patience. Being a successful organizer often boils down to asking the right questions, sizing up your client’s personality, and developing a system that is clear, intuitive, and simple to implement.

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Some professional organizers work exclusively with “residential” spaces: kitchens, garages, basements, and bedrooms. But if you have a business background or a knack for solving complex problems (an office is essentially a home with 50 residents), then you can take your talents to the workplace.

Professional office organizers help with computer organization and placement, ergonomics, filing systems, and break rooms. The goal is typically to save the company money, and to reduce stress by making the office more efficient, more productive, and more user-friendly.

Office organizers aren’t required to complete any particular degree program, but the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) offers certification courses and training for beginners, intermediate organizers, and advanced mid-career professionals. The classes are available as webinars, teleclasses, and standard-format lectures to accommodate different learning styles and financial constraints.

NAPO offers specialized courses for office organizers, such as “Safety in the Organizing Environment” and “Project Management for Office Business Organizers,” and under the auspices of the Board of Certification for Professional Organizers, NAPO is able to certify qualified students as CPOs (Certified Professional Organizers). Becoming a CPO will not only help you focus your career, it will allow you to charge more for your services.

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While you’re building your skillset and developing a business plan, do a few sample projects for family and friends. Use this as an opportunity to hone your skills, and make sure to take plenty of before and after pictures to use as marketing tools.

Now you’re ready to start advertising your services. Social media is an easy, cheap way to spread the word: Post your pictures, write a mission statement, and begin to build a network. As you get more experience, you may decide to work within a certain niche: Law offices or medical offices, for example.

If you’re taking on bigger clients, then you may need to hire subcontractors to handle tasks like painting, moving furniture, or installing new electrical outlets. Make sure you have registered as a business with your Secretary of State, otherwise you are going to find yourself in hot water during tax time.

The best office organizers can earn as much as $100,000+ per year as freelancers, but working directly for clients isn’t the only way to make money. If you’re interested in working with a team, you can build a business that allows you to manage multiple projects by hiring out organizers and subcontractors, or by collecting a fee for referring projects to colleagues in your area.

Not a bad way to clean up, while you’re cleaning up!

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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