Organization goes viral.
Millions of people worldwide have become captivated by professional organizing shows like The Home Edit, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, and Hoarders, to name a few. However, professional organizing jobs aren’t just for television.
Marie Kondo is a real-life professional organizer, tidying expert, bestselling author, and star of her own show on Netflix. Kondo became famous for creating a method of organizing, the KonMari Method™, which encourages tidying by category – not by location – beginning with clothes, then moving on to books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and, finally, sentimental items. Her method focuses on keeping only things that speak to the heart and discarding items that no longer spark joy.1
What does a professional organizer do?
Before we talk about what a professional organizer does, let’s talk about what they don’t do. Professional organizers are not maids or cleaners. They don’t clean windows or attics, and they don’t just do what you tell them to do.
A professional organizer is a person who can help you organize any of the physical or digital spaces in someone’s life and help with projects large and small. A professional organizer might help one client work through their compulsion to hoard items and help them understand the psychological impulse behind it, and then facilitate the removal of unwanted belongings. Or, someone might hire a professional organizer to set up systems, from shelving to labels, that help clients establish a little more order and clarity in their lives.2
Professional organizer jobs
Whether a professional organizer works full- or part-time, most professional organizers are sole-proprietors—meaning that it is important to have an entrepreneurial spirit and willingness to learn the skills necessary to run and market a successful, service-based business.
There are many different types of organizing jobs, and the projects you work on as a professional organizer might depend on your skills or interests. For example, some professional organizers will organize just about anything for a client, while others might specialize in a particular area. If you worked in finance before pursuing a professional organizing job, you could specialize in organizing financial items for clients like bill paying or tax preparation. If you worked as a teacher before pursuing a professional organizing job, you might specialize in organizing children’s areas and items.
The most successful professional organizers are champions of personal transformation and strive to help their clients change their processes and lives in a positive manner.
Professional organizer salary
According to Thumb Tack, professional organizers charge $117 for the average job, but prices can range from $50-$540 on the low and high end, depending on the location and local economy. Professional organizers charge an average of $55 per hour for their services nationwide but can vary by region. Cost may vary, depending on the exact organizing job. For example, a personal organizer may charge $50 per hour for standard home or office organization but charge $60 per hour for work that includes a lot of heavy lifting — such as sorting out the dark end of a basement.3
National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals
Like many professions, the organizing and productivity industry is unregulated. Anyone with a few dollars can purchase business cards, set up a website, and call themselves “Professional Organizers” or “Productivity Consultants.”
In 1983, the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) started in a Los Angeles living room. A small group of women offering organizing services gathered to network and exchange ideas. Since its inception, NAPO has worked hard to set premier industry standards, increase public awareness, and educate organizing and productivity professionals.
Today, NAPO has over 3,500 members worldwide dedicated to helping people and organizations bring order and efficiency to their lives. Their mission is to be the leading source for Organizing and Productivity Professionals by providing exceptional education, enhancing business connections, advancing industry research, and increasing public awareness.4
How to become a professional organizer
To become a professional organizer under NAPO’S gold-standard track, you must:
- Join the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals as a Provisional Member
- Complete Professional Practices Coursework through NAPO University, learn the fundamental principles and skills in organizing and productivity growth, and advance to Professional Member status.
- Begin working as a professional organizer and meet the eligibility requirements to sit for the Certified Professional Organizer
- Pass the Certified Professional Organizer
- Recertify your Certified Professional Organizer credential every three (3) years to maintain your CPO status.
NAPO University and Membership
Taught by experts in the industry, NAPO University’s course offerings cover the fundamentals of the profession and advanced training in multiple topics, enabling you to deliver the highest-quality service to your clients and run your business successfully. NAPO University offers courses in various formats to accommodate different learning styles and fit busy schedules.
The Professional Practices Coursework offered by NAPO is designed to establish a basic knowledge for Organizing and Productivity Professionals and provide a path to Professional Member status. Being a Professional Member allows you to:
- Become searchable in NAPO’s public directory
- Earn a Specialist Certificate
- Apply to become a NAPO University Instructor
- Join a Special Interest Group (SIG)
- Vote in Board Elections
Earn a certificate for specialized training
If you want to perform specialized organizing jobs, you can deepen your knowledge in a particular area of study. Offered to NAPO Professional Members only, NAPO University’s Specialist Certificates do not expire and or require Continuing Education Units for renewal.
- Brained-Based Conditions: The Brain-Based Conditions Specialist Certificate will help professional organizers and productivity consultants develop foundational knowledge for working with clients experiencing symptoms or having diagnoses of brain-based conditions. NAPO Education’s Team of Experts has defined a brain-based condition (BBC) as anything that causes a person to have ongoing difficulty or challenging differences with cognition, emotion, socialization, or behavior.
- Team Productivity: As a productivity consultant, your client often works as a leader or member of a team. To be effective, you will need to help your client employ team-centric strategies to impact change. Whether the issue is managing the dynamics of shifting internal roles, complex external factors, unfocused schedules, or challenging collaborations, your client needs you to help them be more productive. This track will build your expertise in working with clients who strive to boost their productivity and successfully contribute to goal achievement for their whole team.
- Household Management: Systems make our businesses successful, so why not apply them at home? You can help your clients with a holistic strategy for challenges in their home life. The Household Management track equips you to build structure across the information and activities your clients see in the residential setting. The result is a household that more easily handles the everyday and unexpected situations that come their way.
- Life Transitions: Life transitions are challenging because they force us to let go of the familiar and face the future with a feeling of vulnerability. This track is designed to provide support, ideas, and tools for PO’s/PC’s to help their clients face these challenges, either at home or work. This track will strengthen your foundation and equip you with skills to help your clients cope as you work through the transition.
- Workplace Productivity: If your business focuses on micro and small businesses, the workplace productivity track is a great place to start building your knowledge and hone in on this market. This educational track will help you strengthen your foundation in workplace productivity growth by developing three primary class divisions.
- Residential Organizing: Ready to dive deeper into the residential world of organizing? The Residential Organizing track will strengthen your foundation in residential organizing.
Certified Professional Organizer (CPO) Designation
The CPO designation was developed by NAPO and is earned by organizing professionals who have met specific minimum standards and proven through examination and client interaction that they comprehend the entire body of knowledge and experience required.
In want to earn your CPO designation, you must:
- Meet the eligibility requirements to sit for the CPO exam
- Have a minimum of a high school diploma or the equivalent
- Be able to provide documentation of 1,500 hours of paid work experience as a professional organizer within five years before applying
- Agree to adhere to the highest ethical standards as reflected in the BCPO Code of Ethics for Certified Professional Organizers
- Pass the CPO standardized exam consisting of 125 multiple choice questions to be completed within two hours.
Start your professional organizer business
As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, most professional organizers are sole-proprietors and should have an innate entrepreneurial spirit, or at the very least, be willing to learn the necessary skills to run and market a successful service-based business.
- Obtain all necessary business licenses and permits.
- Register for taxes and request an EIN from the IRS.
- Open a business checking account.
- Created a detailed business plan outlining your professional organizer services, pricing for various organizing jobs, estimated operating costs, and goals.
- Develop a system for testimonials and referrals.
- Purchase the supplies needed for any organizing job.
- Draft a contract for services and buy insurance.
- Market your professional organizer services and start making money.
Exposure as a professional organizer and the need for insurance
Exposure to privileged and confidential information is an inherent part of your job as a professional organizer, which is why it’s essential to protect yourself and your professional organizing business. Clients will look for a confidential clause that protects them, but what happens if you intentionally or accidentally violate it? Or want to break the contract?
You agree to take on an organizing job for a client at their home. While at the client’s home, you come across illegal activity and no longer feel comfortable working for that client. If you end the job, are you in breach of your contract? Can the client sue you? What if you wanted to contact the authorities? Would you have to return the client’s deposit?
You create a brand-new filing system for a company’s confidential financial records. Then you are served with a subpoena from the Internal Revenue Service requiring you to cooperate in an ongoing investigation into the company. Do you cooperate with the investigation and divulge your client’s sensitive information? Or do you refuse to cooperate and risk being jailed or fined?
A celebrity hires you to help them overcome a secret hoarding disorder. During the organizing job, someone leaks the celebrity’s secret to the media. Your client thinks you are the leak and decides to sue you. Maybe you aren’t the leak, but the client sues you anyway. Can you afford to defend yourself?
As a professional organizer, you are exposed to so much. There are countless other scenarios where you might be called upon to disclose sensitive client information or make a mistake that exposes sensitive client information.
The first step is to hire an attorney familiar with the professional organizing industry to draft a contract that protects you against as many scenarios as possible. Of course, even if your contract is ironclad, a client could still decide to sue you – which is where professional liability insurance comes into play.
Professional liability insurance, also known as errors & omissions insurance (E&O), may save you time and money if you are involved in a claim. But even more than that, it could help you sleep better at night knowing that you could make a mistake during an organizing job and still come out unscathed. You put a lot of work into launching and growing your business, and that’s why it’s important to protect it. Mistakes happen, and sometimes, clients can be frustrated about a loss and point their fingers at you even when they don’t. Professional liability insurance could be a lifesaver if you find yourself on the wrong side of a lawsuit. It can help pay for court costs, attorney fees, settlements, and judgments.
Market your professional organizer services
Most clients look for services online; therefore, a visible website and active social media accounts are powerful ways to get qualified leads and build brand loyalty among your audience. Every business — large and small — needs an online presence. But when you first start your business, it can be hard to know what to post, when to post, or if your posts are making a difference for your sales. Check out this Beginner’s Guide to Small Business Social Media to maximize your online marketing strategy returns.
Just like Marie Kondo
You might not get your own Netflix show like Marie Kondo, but you can become a real-life professional organizer that helps people find clarity and organization. And with the proper training from the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals, you can learn how to become a professional organizer and be the boss of your very own professional organizing business in no time.
- About Marie Kondo – KonMari | The Official Website of Marie Kondo
- What Professional Organizers Really Do, and How They Can Help You - The New York Times (nytimes.com)
- 2021 Professional Organizer Cost | Hourly Rates & Fees (thumbtack.com)
- National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals (NAPO)