You’re starting a professional organizing business! Congratulations and welcome to the industry. Now you are probably wondering “how do I get started and how do I obtain my first clients?”
There are a number of challenges to starting any business. This post outlines eight key challenges that I have identified in starting my own professional organizing business and in mentoring new comers to the industry.
1. Thinking like a business owner and setting business goals.
Before you can run a business, you have to think like a business owner. As part of that thinking, it is important to establish a set of business goals that will guide your activity for the first few months and then be refreshed on an annual basis. Use the SMART criteria to write the goals; make them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time limited. Set goals in the areas of finance (income/expense), clients (ideal client and numbers to match income), marketing (finding clients) and education (what do I need to learn?).
2. Securing first clients (take 1).
Securing one’s first clients can be a scary experience. I recommend seeking six pro bono or “introductory rate” clients. Find six friends and family who will use your services in exchange for before/after photographs and client testimonials. Try to avoid close friends and family as these relationships often come with their own baggage. But let them know you are starting a professional organizing business. They may have other friends and family who would be delighted to have a professional organizer tackle a specific, short term project either on a pro bono or introductory rate in exchange for website photos and testimonials. Use these clients to set up all your systems. Treat them exactly as you would a real client including an invoice.
3. Figuring out longer strategies for lead generation and securing clients (take 2).
Determine who is your ideal client and everything you can find out about them. Be where they are with information about your business. Start with a business card, an authentic elevator/escalator speech and website. Avoid putting too much money into your initial site; my experience is that most organizers refine or rebrand their business significantly in the first two years. That’s a good time to put more significant funds behind a tremendous site.
4. Managing Client Expectations and Assessments
Managing client expectations is a key component to business success especially in a service industry. Find out what your client’s goals are and what their definition of success is. Ask them what they expect. Follow up by telling them exactly what you will, and won’t, be doing within your service. Use a telephone conversation, email, photographs to determine as much as you can about the client needs so that you show up prepared and able to meet their expectations. Never, ever tackle a project for which you are untrained, inexperienced or unqualified. Get help for projects that are unfamiliar. Partner with, or refer to, another company. Determine how you will conduct your assessments and whether or not they will be offered as a free consultation.
5. Handling the first visit and new clients successfully.
Outline exactly what will happen in the first visit including when, and how, they will pay you. Being crystal clear will support the client in aligning their expectations with your service and vice versa.
6. Ensuring that you get paid and keep track of your finances.
As you are starting a professional organizing business you will set up a financial plan. It is important that you are really clear what business model you would like to use and how that will support you financially. Everyone pays the same price for milk and most of us need to provide food and shelter for ourselves. If you are providing a professional, quality service to your clients, you deserve to be paid fairly. Ensure that your payment terms, including deposits, missed visits, prepaid packages and any other model you would like to use, are clearly outlined for your clients. Set up a system to track both revenue and expenses. If you are comfortable with an accounting package to do this, terrific. If not, or the cost is outside your start up budget, use a simple spreadsheet. But keep track – right from the beginning. You will need the information for tax purposes plus, the better you keep track, the more information you will have on how well your business is, or is not, developing.
7. Establishing credibility through education and certification.
Identification of your knowledge gaps is a significant component of starting a business. Figure out what you need to know and get the education as quickly and effectively as possible. Determine where and how you will secure your continuing education in professional organizing regardless of which segment of the industry you chose to work. This is just smart business practice and the sign of a true professional. As part of your education path, set out your road to credentialing. Professional credentials are protection for the public; they assure the public that you have a minimum standard of knowledge, skill and experience. They also provide tangible evidence to your colleagues and clients of your commitment to your chosen industry.
8. Learning to identify clients with chronic disorganization and know where they fit in your business.
It is important that every professional organizer understands even at a basic level what chronic disorganization looks like and where it will fit into their business model. Will you educate yourself on this segment of the industry and be a resource to clients and colleagues? Will you develop a resource list of colleagues who are trained to support chronic disorganization and develop a referral system to these colleagues? It is highly likely that you will come across an individual with CD within the first few months of your business. The sooner you establish business policies on how you will handle this client segment, the more successful you will be in applying your business resources to effectively meeting your client goals and establishing a successful organizing business.
Starting a professional organizing business can be a challenge; it can also be rewarding and fun. Tackle these 8 challenges with diligence and you can enjoy your work, knowing you are off to a great start.