Professional Organizer The Buzz


Disorganization goes beyond clutter and lost paperwork. It comes down to money. If a client earns $50,000 a year, every minute is worth $0.42. If they waste half an hour a day, they lose $3,074.40 a year.

That's often enough motivation to call a professional organizer.

Professional organizers organize closets and anything else that needs organizing! They may help families remember to pay their bills on time. They also work with companies. They might organize a big move for a company. Or they might come up with ways to handle mail and other correspondence.

The Deal

"Almost any area of life, be it work, play, home or even hobbies, can be enhanced by a higher level of order," says Audrey Lavine of New York City. Her company is called Life Support Systems.

"While some of my clients are looking for an improvement in an already functional environment, some are so paralyzed by their situation that it takes the help of a professional to even begin to envision a way out, let alone to implement a plan."

Professional organizers provide a range of services to help their clients. This includes providing information, systems, solutions, products and assistance. Many specialize in one or more of these areas:

  • Space planning and enhancement -- large corporate offices or even a teenager's closet
  • Paper and information management -- straightening out insurance tangles to reorganizing computer hard drives
  • Time management - setting the framework for large meetings or coordinating a convention
  • Storage design -- reorganizing file cabinets and making offices environments esthetically pleasing
  • Clutter control -- wading through mountains of correspondence, bills and manuals
  • Moving and relocation management -- corporate downsizing and expansion, to a single family's move across town

"I'm a generalist," says Lavine. "My clients range from artists, teachers and writers, to law firms, public relations agencies and community activists."

Some organizers help adults with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or learning disorders. An organizer can help people to manage their affairs more efficiently.

The Appeal

Professional organizers figure out ways to make a person or a company more efficient. This takes strong managerial skills, flexible schedules, and the ability to listen to other people's needs. It also takes other important qualities.

For instance, professional organizers must be trustworthy. That's because they often have access to highly personal objects, like clothing and documents. In the business world, they have access to trade secrets and other "proprietary" business information.

Another essential quality is patience.

"Organization doesn't just happen overnight. It takes years of practice," says Tammy Teves. Her company is called Chaos Control Organizing Solutions. Her specialties are paper management, kitchens and closets, and time management.

"I'm a 'neat freak.' I always have been," says Teves. As a child, she found herself tidying up after her less-tidy sisters. As an adult, she found herself organizing her friends' kitchens!

Then she saw a television program on the career. After that, she read some articles on organizing, and eventually opened her own business.

Organizers also need people skills. When Teves starts to organize a home or business, the client is right there with her. That's because the client has to learn how to keep up the system she sets up. After all, it's the client that has to remember to use the file system, or to only read a piece of mail once.

"Just being organized or liking to organize things doesn't necessarily qualify you to be a professional organizer," says Lavine.

"The principles and methods of organizing can be learned, but there's a natural problem-solving ability which, in tandem with being able to customize these principles to the individual client's situation, may be an innate talent."

Lavine is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO). She has seen many people start out in this career and not last more than a year or two. Why? One reason is that the job is harder than many think it is. Another reason is that a person in this field also needs to be able to run their own business. In other words, they also have to be an entrepreneur.

The Payoff

Someone who is both a good organizer and a successful entrepreneur can make a considerable amount of money. Professional organizers charge by the hour or project, depending on the type of work involved.

This often translates into a yearly salary of close to $45,000 if the business is operated by one full-time person. However, it can climb into the $100,000 range if an entrepreneur employs a few associates. Organizers charge between $25 and $250 an hour.

"Typically, NAPO members quote a rate in a range of $25 to $125 an hour, depending on location and what the market will bear," says Cyndi Torres. Her company is called Streamline Organizing and is based in La Verne, California.

Organizing home closets and garages are typically at the low end of the pay scale. Organizing corporate offices and giving seminars and workshops typically demand a higher fee.

Start-up costs can be small. "If you're motivated and you have the confidence that this is the job for you, you can start with networking, a business card, and a dedicated phone line," says Lavine.

Lavine designed a simple brochure that spelled out the potential of her services and highlighted her personal style. She also used speaking engagements and workshop opportunities to get word-of-mouth advertising.

The Market

"Awareness of the professional organizer as a distinct profession has grown immensely over the past few years. Now clients are looking for me, rather than me looking for them," says Lavine.

"Working as an hourly consultant has its limitations, so I look to the future for less hands-on organizing work and more revenue from speaking engagements, product design and endorsement."

What does the future hold for organizers? Well, let's put it this way.... People continue to get busier, small businesses are starting up all the time, and computers still haven't given us a paperless society.

Links

National Association of Professional Organizers
Members include organizing consultants, speakers, trainers, authors, and manufacturers of organizing products

So You Want to be a Professional Organizer?
Karla Jones offers some tips and some columns on being organized

Time Management
Some tips from BusinessTown.com