Here’s How to Become a Professional Organizer, According to an Expert

published Jan 29, 2023
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I remember attending my first National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) meeting back in 2007. I had just graduated from college and decided I didn’t want to pursue a job in the career field I studied. After a wistful Google search of how to make money doing what I really loved (organizing), I discovered there was an industry for it. Professional organizing looked very different back then than it does today, and it took me a full decade before I could start my own organizing business, Sort and Sweet.

If you’ve been thinking about getting into the professional organizing industry this year, I’ve compiled a list of things you need to do to make that happen. This list isn’t necessarily exhaustive or in order. Some of these things can be done earlier, later, or simultaneously with each other. Nowadays, many organizing business owners, myself included, hire assistants to help with projects. Some have employees while others hire subcontractors. If you decide that starting and running your own business isn’t your cup of tea but you would still like to organize professionally, many of these steps will still apply.

Gain some practice.

First, it’s important to know if you love organizing and are actually good at it. While you might have been decluttering and tidying your own home for years, it’s a completely different experience to work with someone else. Ask open-minded neighbors, friends, or family members to practice in a variety of spaces in their homes. This can be eye-opening if, say, you don’t have kids but they do, so you can try your hand at organizing toys for the first time. Also, you can choose to charge them, even if it’s minimal, for your time and especially if you purchased products. Be sure to ask permission to take before and after photos to build your portfolio. After a few projects, you should know if this is right for you and you’ll be able to feel more confident in your skills and have visual proof for future clients, too.

Consider courses and certifications.

There are many more resources available for budding professional organizers, like NAPO. You can also complete courses and certifications through memberships with other organizations, such as American Society of Professional Organizers and Institute for Challenging Disorganization. I took the more hands-on approach, offering a lower rate to clients at first then raising it as my experience and talent advanced. To this day, there are no regulations stating that you must be a “certified professional organizer” to do business. This is completely up to you and your comfort level.

Create a business plan.

Another thing I didn’t do in the very beginning was create a concrete business plan, so I recommend that you do this early on. When I set out to get my business off the ground, my goal was to land my first paying client. I realized there were a lot of steps between where I currently was and seeing that paycheck and I was overwhelmed. So, I wrote down what needed to be done in reverse order which gave me a clear path and made it feel more achievable. Hint: many of the items that were on that list are included in this one!

Research and accept help.

In addition to more professional organizing resources, there are other types of general business support that I highly recommend embracing before, during, and after you launch yours. I invested in a life and business coach as I wanted to make sure this was the direction best suited for me. After all, I had only worked as an employee up until that point, and being a business owner felt intimidating. There are also free or low-cost resources available to you, like through the Small Business Association. I took a local in-person course on business finances and currently work with a mentor through their volunteer SCORE program. Even if you feel alone in your entrepreneurial journey, remember you have people available to help you navigate it.

Credit: Photo: Sidney Bensimon; Prop Styling: Carla Gonzalez-Hart

Make it legal.

This is a biggie. I wanted to do things the right way so that included being legitimate in my business. I started as a DBA but about six months later, had my accountant file the paperwork to become an S Corp (some organizers choose to file as an LLC). The process was simple and cost minimal in my state but do your research or ask a mentor, tax professional, or attorney, to guide you with the process.

Set up a way to get paid.

After you make your business legal, you need to set up a way to get paid. Banks won’t issue a business account or credit card without a federal identification number. With that, you can approach a business banker to set things up. You will then need a method for invoicing clients. There are a variety of accounting software programs that you should discuss with your accountant. It’s usually best to go with their recommendation as they’ll need to work closely with it come tax season. It’s tempting to use Venmo or similar apps, however, it makes taxes very difficult and can come with legal implications. 

If you’re an independent contractor working for a professional organizing business, you should still set up a new bank account for the pay you receive to keep it separate from personal expenses and to make tax time easier. You can take it a step further and create your own business for tax protection purposes so ask your accountant if they think it’s necessary.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Build a website and social media presence.

This is non-negotiable. If no one can find you, how can they hire you? If you’re up to it, you can do this yourself or you can hire a website designer (and this can be a write-off!). I have always created all of my social media content because I enjoy it, however, I know of organizers who hire social media marketers. The key is to know your strengths and weaknesses and make decisions based on, not only that but also your time constraints. Another tip I have is to focus on just one or two social media platforms to market yourself. To try and go all in on all of them is a recipe for burnout.

Join local networking groups.

Word of mouth will be your best friend, especially at the beginning of your business. Start with small, low-cost, or free networking groups, and then, as your business grows, you can invest in larger ones. For example, the group I started with was about $12 a month. I then went on to join another group that cost close to $2,000 for the year. I was able to gain clients from both and, even better, those clients raved about my services to their friends and family resulting in more business.

Becoming a professional organizer is no simple task but I, along with so many others, am proof that it can be done with the right plan and mindset.