This is a comprehensive list for new professional organizers starting a productivity consulting or professional organizing business. While reading the list, please keep in mind that there are no right or wrong ways to tackle all the to-dos.
This is your business. You are the boss and the decision-maker. Take your time and enjoy this process. I suggest selecting just one or two sections to focus on at a time. Read the entire list before deciding where you want to start and whatever you do, don’t let the number of to-dos on this list intimidate or overwhelm you.
1. Research the Professional Organizing Industry
- Read organizing books and organizing blogs.
- Read blog posts from homeowners or business owners to learn what kind of organizing challenges people are experiencing.
- Research business advice websites. For some, membership is required.
- Join an organization for networking (like your local Chamber of Commerce), accreditations, coaching, etc. Organizations to start with include, the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO), your local NAPO chapter, and the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD).
- Find a mentor, coach, or business consultant.
- Market research — try to pinpoint the types of client you’d like to work with.
- Consider developing a niche or area of expertise.
2. Name Your Business
- Create a unique name for your business and maybe a tagline, too.
- Check to see if the domain is available (WHOis.net, GoDaddy.com, NetworkSolutions.com, namecheap, or do a Google search).
- Check your Secretary of State website to see if your business name is available and how to proceed regarding filing for a DBA (Doing Business As).
3. Legal, Financial, Logistical
- Write a business plan. Okay, this is not really a legal task, and it’s not 100% necessary to write a business before starting a business but it will be time well spent. In other words, be as strategic as possible when starting a business because there are a lot of “shiny object” that may distract you.
- Decide on your business structure, also known as an entity. You have 4 options: C Corporation, S Corporation, partnership, or sole proprietorship. Most professional organizers are sole proprietors. Educate yourself at your Secretary of State’s website and Registrar of Deeds websites.
- Register your business name at any required agencies (city/county for licenses or zoning permits), or use a service like BizFilings.
- Research tax requirements for your state and apply for tax-exempt status (if needed) with your state’s Department of Revenue.
- Purchase business insurance (general liability, home & business equipment, errors & omissions).
- Once your registration paperwork has been approved and returned to you, complete the federal SS-4 form and obtain a nine-digit EIN number before setting up a bank account in your business name. This is critical because it separates business and personal finances.
- Get a business debit card and/or credit card.
- Set up a merchant account to accept credit cards or a service like PayPal or Square.
- Create a budget and establish a routine for business tasks (depositing payments, recording expenses, reconciling bank statements.)
- Choose an accounting tool and connect it to your bank account. QuickBooks is one option. It needs to be appropriate for small business tasks, and it needs to be user-friendly.
- Set up your desk and office space.
- Set up a phone number and an appropriate voicemail message.
- Purchase a computer, supplies, and business equipment (scanner, printer, headset).
- Create a signature line for your email, include your area code and phone number.
- Purchase a backup system for your computer (Backblaze, Carbonite, SugarSync, iCloud, etc.).
4. Develop Your Services and Pricing
- Create a list of services you’ll offer.
- Estimate your business costs.
- Define how you price your services and what your rates will be (hourly rate, tiered pricing, package pricing, project pricing, retainer fees, cancellation, shopping and research fees).
- Establish billing policies and a Services Agreement and/or Independent Contractor Agreement (check LegalZoom).
- Purchase and set up accounting software; create an invoice and bookkeeping system.
- Decide if you want to hire a bookkeeper or accountant.
- Purchase a domain name or a few domain names, including your own name.
- Set up website hosting and email.
- Create a logo, symbol, wordmark for your business (or hire a graphic designer)
- Get at least one professional headshot.
- Write a professional bio.
- Create business cards.
- Create stationery using Vistaprint or your local print shop (letterhead, notecards, envelopes, address labels).
- Design a website yourself or hire a web designer. Either way, you’ll need a website template and website content management system (like WordPress, Wix, Weebly, or Joomla), and content (pages on your site might include: about you, contact info, services, pricing, testimonials from clients, etc.).
- Create social media profiles on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or LinkedIn.
- Get the word out that you are open for business with a media release, social media posts, and forum posts. Call friends/family/clients and ask for referrals, create a brochure or mass mailing, etc.
6. Define Client Experience and Create:
- New organizing client questionnaires, known as intake forms or assessment forms.
- Consultation process — set expectations of what’s expected and what’s NOT included in your services; explain your billing process.
- A welcome letter and booking confirmation.
- Feedback form, testimonial, and online reviews (Google, Yelp).
Congratulations! You are on your way to starting your own professional organizing business. With my master to-do list, you are bound to feel more confident in your ability to plan your time and your budget. My goal is to have you grow your new organizing business in a sensible, sustainable manner. Make sure you watch the related video on YouTube – How to Start an Organizing Business in Six Steps with Geralin Thomas.