20 Tips For Prospective Professional Organizers
If you are considering becoming a professional organizer, chances are you are organized, determined, and your friends and family have urged you to try this career for quite some time. Although being organized is a great place to start, you will find that it will take a lot of on-the-fly learning and hard work to become a successful entrepreneur.
Below are just a few tips and suggestions to owning, operating and, making your own business successful.
- Have time to dedicate to your business. This one seems easy, but owning your own business is a full time job. You are going to need lots of time and energy to devote to building and developing it. If you are looking to get into this business for a little extra cash, you may be better off to work for an existing organizer who will do the marketing and obtain the clients for you. Most likely you will get paid less, however, you will have little to no cost to get going.
- Choose the business structure that works best for you. Consult your attorney, tax professional, and your business savvy friends to determine what structure will be most effective for you. Read a book such as Working for Yourself by Attorney Stephen Fishman. This book discusses tax liabilities, contracts, business structures and even how to get paid on time. In Connecticut, in order to form my LLC I was required to complete an EIN registration form (free to file), a LLC registration form ($60) and a REG 1 (free). Links to these forms are available upon request.
- Choose a name, logo, and a color scheme. This may seem premature, but you will want to have one cohesive theme through all of your marketing materials. Remember, every time you hand out a marketing piece you are creating your own brand recognition. Get it right the first time, as first impressions are very important. Design sample pieces and show them to family members, friends, and other business owners. Get feedback and redesign when necessary. When you are ready to print, use an online printing service such as Vista Print or Moo. Working with online printers will allow you to get a large number of business cards, brochures, etc for the lowest cost. Note that shipping charges are sometimes high, however quantity discounts often make up for this. Suggested start up materials: business cards and marketing postcards.
- Open a business checking account right away. This will allow you to track all of your expenses from the very beginning. “Loan” your business a small amount, such as $500 get the business up and running. Keep receipts when necessary. Contact your tax professional to see what items can be written off as a business expense. Once you start working for paying clients, open a business savings. As a self-employed business owner you will have to pay taxes four times per year. A savings account will help you save throughout the year for taxes. Determine what software you are going to use for your banking and start using it right away. Accurate records will save you time and money. If you feel it is necessary, obtain a business credit card. However, for many of the business structures used by professional organizers, the card will be tied to your personal credit.
- Determine if you need a special license or permit. Contact your town and state to see what permits and licenses are necessary to open a business. In my area, none are required.
- Obtain business insurance. Contact your current insurance agent to see if they provide business insurance. You need to make sure that you are insured against accidental damage caused by you in a customer’s home.
- Write a business plan. Read up on how to write an effective business plan, or contact a business coach. Business plans give you a clear understanding of your goals, and the steps you need to take to achieve those goals. Don’t worry if your business plan is small and simple to start. You will need to revise it often in the beginning. If possible, have business associates read your business plan and give you feedback and ideas.
- Contact small business resources. Groups such as the Small Business Association (www.sba.gov) are promoters of small business, and are great resources for first time business owners. Also contact local and state agencies.
- Determine where your primary workspace will be located. If you are contemplating renting an office, consider the overhead you will pay and the cost to set up the location with Internet access, office furniture and supplies and a phone line. If you are working from home, clearly determine and define your workspace. Purchase separate office supplies for your work and determine if your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance will cover your business activities.
- Obtain a business phone line. It does not have to be a “land line”; it can simply be another phone line on your cell phone plan (which are often under $10 to add). Simply make sure that all expenses for that phone are paid for by the business, and all customers and other business contacts are given that number exclusively.
- Investigate business groups in your area such as Business Networking International (BNI) and Profit Clubs. These clubs allow you to learn from other small business members, and network with people in other professions who may have customers for you. In return, they hope you have customers for them! These groups can be expensive to join, and require a time commitment. Make sure you visit the group at least twice before making a choice on membership.
- Keep accurate mileage records of places you go and the mileage you traveled for business. This will be a tax write off later on. Also, make sure to notify your insurance company that you will be using the car for business purposes. This may increase your insurance rate.
- Draft a customer agreement and have an attorney examine it. Also, ask other professional organizers what they feel is important to have in their contracts.
- Read books on organization to make sure you feel confident in your skills. This will ensure that you have the best range of tools and ideas available to you at all times.
- Read business books. These will help you get started, promote creative thinking, and they will also help you fuel your energy for the business. Suggested books are: Word of Mouth Marketing by Andy Sernovitz, Purple Cow by Seth Godin and The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. Ask other professional organizers what books have helped them. Make sure you make time to read these books. Reading is part of your business development, and is just as important as making calls and keeping the books.
- Obtain a website. If you have the ability, you can design this yourself, and purchase a hosting account from a company like GoDaddy (www.godaddy.com). For most of us, we need to have a professional take care of this piece for us. Remember that they will need you to provide all of the content and graphics for them to use. The web designer will take the information you provide and create a functional page for you. This will take time so get the web page design process going as quickly as possible.
- Consider working with a local “welcome wagon”, or a town newspaper to advertise. Many professional organizers state that traditional print advertising does not work for them. However, you will know your demographic and geographic area better than anyone else. Contact your Chamber of Commerce to obtain a list of groups in your area and call them to see if they would like a speaker at an upcoming meeting. Although you speak for free, this is a great way to collect attendees’ names and information (do this by offering a small door prize). This will give you potential customers’ name, email addresses and phone numbers. (Be careful about violating the National Telephone Solicitation laws.) Also, contact your local chamber for a list of their members. More information on speaking engagements, and non traditional advertising is available by emailing bonnie@Thejoyfulorganizer.com
- Hire a business coach. A business coach is often a low cost solution and one stop shop for getting all of your questions answered. They have been where you are, and know how to get you up and running the right way, right away. We offer free consultations for budding organizers. Email us at bonnie@Thejoyfulorganizer.com
Remember that each business is different, and that you have a special set of skills and experience to bring to the table. Opening a business and making it successful is a learning process and takes time. Don’t get frustrated, ask for help when you need it, and remember that if everyone was brave enough to own their own business, there would be no employees! Congratulations on taking the first step and good luck!