Starting a business — not just one as a productivity consultant or professional organizer — requires a lot of mental and physical energy. While many people starting an organizing business think it’s as easy as announcing yourself, there’s a lot more to it.
I receive a lot of questions about this process from new organizers.
While starting a new business as a professional organizer is certainly more affordable than many other business start-ups, it’s unrealistic to think that a $500 budget is going to do it. New business owners need to be prepared to invest money, time, and energy.
Here are some things you should know in advance:
Create a Business Plan
Every business requires a blueprint and systems. While writing a business plan is intimidating, having a “mock up” of one in place is a good idea. Sound too difficult? Give it a try. A business plan will help you think through a lot of what-if situations. For example:
- What if you injure yourself on the job?
- What if your computer gets hacked?
- What if you’re great at hands-on work with clients, but not so great at marketing?
A business plan also helps you think about a lot of costs that you might overlook: insurance, apps, business forms, or even the cost of attending a conference (registration fee, airfare, hotel, transfer to and from the airport, parking fees, sightseeing, coffee, cocktails, meals, and tips). If you attend a conference, don’t forget the cost associated with being away from your business and home (child care, pet care, house sitter).
Anatomy of a Business Plan
There are a variety of places to learn more about writing a business plan, but here are the main components:
- Table of Contents
- Executive summary
- Business Description
- Marketing Plan
- Financial Plan + Statements
For more information, explore this free The One Page Business Plan ®.
Many organizers are surprised at the start-up costs. Here are just a few things to consider:
- Office Costs – Will you have an office outside your home? Whether your office is outside the home or inside, you’ll need: office equipment, furniture, and supplies including business marketing or collateral materials (brochures, business cards, stationery, etc), a computer, phone headset, phone, printer. You may want a video camera and microphone for online calls or to make recordings.
- Organizing Tools – From a label-maker to file folders, you’ll need some supplies to use as you help your clients get organized. Rely on our Professional Organizer’s Favorite Tools List for ideas.
- Payment Costs – How will you accept payments? Investigate your options. Regardless of which you choose, you’ll have banking and credit card processing fees.
- Business License/Permit – Check with the Register of Deeds and/or Secretary of State’s office.
- Dues/Subscriptions – If you decide to join an industry organization such as NAPO or ICD, that means there will be dues associated with membership. You may also want to subscribe to industry services or publications.
- Website – You’ll want an online presence to promote yourself and your services. The cost of a website can vary depending on whether you do-it-yourself or hire a professional web designer / developer to create it for you. Remember, you’ll also most likely be paying annually for your URL, also known as your domain name.
- Mail/Postage – These costs might be small at first.
- Insurance – Health insurance, some type of disability insurance in case you cannot work, business insurance, and maybe insurance for your equipment. Do you want to be bonded?
- Taxes – As a self-employed person, your tax and legal status will change depending on your choice of business entity.
Professional development is an important part of staying current in any field. This is one area many businesses overlook. While it may seem smart to cut this cost at the beginning, over time you will miss out on expertise and certifications that can give your company credibility and a competitive advantage.
Here are a few ways to stay current:
- Books. Here are two useful lists of books you should read: The Ultimate Recommended Book List for Professional Organizers and Hoarding Essentials: Required Reading for Professional Organizers.
- Classes and Webinars – I recommend taking several classes from NAPO. Start with 001 and 104 to learn about the field of professional organizing and how to start your business.
- Conference Tips – What to Pack for a NAPO Conference
- Certification – Everything You Wanted to Know About Becoming a Certified Professional Organizer
Organize Your Dream Team
Many new professional organizers and other small business owners do a lot of work on their own at first. But you’ll soon realize it’s easier, more efficient, and more effective to work with experts who can help you manage things. Here are just some of the people you may need:
- Website Manager/Creator/Designer
- Graphic Designer
- Search Engine Optimization and Pay Per Click manager
Tools for your Toolkit
Ready to get started? Here are some helpful shortcuts:
- Master To-Do List for Starting a Professional Organizing Business
- Ready-Made Business Forms for Professional Organizers
- Professional Organizer’s Favorite Tools List
Software & Apps For Consideration
Consider using software and apps to handle the following:
- Time: calendars, tasks, and to-do lists.
- Productivity: processes for health records, projects, coupons, meals, home inventory, mileage, receipts, recipes, photos.
- Data and website backup.
- Password Management.