How to Quit Your Job and Become a Professional Organizer
If you have a container for everything, and spring cleaning comes once a month, you may just have what it takes to become a professional organizer. A lot of people will call a professional for help to make their lives super efficient, and one of our favorite professionals is Jeffrey Phillip. He’s made a living out of designing and de-cluttering people’s homes, workspaces and storage space. He’s kind of like an organizational Superman. And this week, in our How to Quit Your Day Job series, Jeffrey gave us the scoop on how he honed his skills and how he turned those skills into a successful business. If a 200-square-foot apartment and a finely organized walk-in closet get you excited, start taking notes, because this could be you.
Jeffrey studied fashion, marketing and event planning in college. Naturally, he always thought his career path would lead him in one of those directions. But he figured out that those professions just weren’t doing it for him, and he was able to get real with himself. He asked himself, “What am I most passionate about?”
He said, “Looking back, I see now that the parts of those jobs I loved the most were always creative in nature and involved me organizing something in the physical space of the office, streamlining our systems and processes or dealing with the logistics for a client project.” Since 2008, Jeffrey has made it his business to clean up, streamline and bring some style to people’s lives.
Put in the Practice. Even without specific classes for organization, Jeffrey continued to learn from practice. He said, “One of the best ways to continue learning and enhancing any craft is to dedicate time to it and understand one’s relationship with the craft, test out new ideas and discover unique solutions.”
Do the Research. Jeffrey went searching for resources and research before making the full leap to being a professional organizer. One of the first things he discovered was the organization NAPO (the National Association of Professional Organizers), which offers several classes and conferences.
Even with this professional guidance, he said he spent a lot of time focusing on himself. “I also spent time figuring out who I was as an organizer and designer and what kind of impact I wanted to have when working with clients.”
Take Inventory of Your Traits. To really harness the clean, orderly potential of a person’s home you have to have vision, design skills and a knack for organization, but it’s more than that. Jeffrey said you need “empathy, compassion, patience, ingenuity, creativity, a keen eye for finer details, an understanding of efficiency, a good sense of business acumen and the necessary skills for running and marketing a service-based business.”
Find the Balance Between Function and Aesthetics. The job of an organizer goes beyond decorating. Jeffrey tries to find ways to make that client’s life function more smoothly, so he focuses on their needs. He told us, “Then, I bring in my influence of blending style and efficiency, so everything has the right flow and function and sings as one cohesive space.” He said that every solution has to be observed from all angles to make sure it’s lasting both functionally and aesthetically.
Deeply Understand the Business Side of Things. Don’t forget you’re running a business. Learning business acumen may not be nearly as fun as learning the names of new Pantone swatches, but if you’re going to keep your head above water and be really succeed, you’ve got to learn the business stuff too. Even though Jeffrey grew up in a family that owned and operated a business, figuring out all of those startup necessities had a steep learning curve. He studied up on laws, regulations, insurance, trademarks and all of the things you need to legitimize and protect your business.
Why didn’t he just pay someone to do that? “Yes, I could have outsourced a lot of these things and gone on the word of the first person I spoke with, but I always want to understand how it all works so that I can fully protect myself by knowing how each piece of the company functions. It is invaluable knowledge to understand how your business works from the bottom up.”
Don’t Give Your Services for Free. Chances are, everyone in your life could use some organization. Early on, you might think that you need clients and they need your services, so you’ll do it for free, just until you build a clientele. But your clientele are the people who will actually pay for your services. Jeffrey said, “I feel that for people to start taking you seriously you need to charge them.”
“Your rates may be on the lower side when you start building your portfolio and clientele, but it is important to start somewhere and adjust your rates as you gain more experience.” Start out with an easy website showing pictures of your work and let everyone know that you’re open for business. Jeffrey said that after he made his first website, he emailed to everyone he knew. “When you take yourself seriously and present yourself professionally, others will see you that way and treat you with the proper respect. It goes back to that old Field of Dreams quote, ‘If you build it, they will come.’”
Contribute Content and Network. Jeffrey spent a lot of time spreading the word about his business through blogging, networking and social media. “Through my networking, I found myself invited to charity events, where I then started donating packages to silent auctions; that’s another great way to acquire new clients and give back to some important causes.” Networking also led him to getting more stories and quotes published and catching the eye of bid names like O Magazine and West Elm.
He said, “I always try to consistently make new connections and not rest on any laurels. There’s a lot to be said for earning the work and a solid reputation.” The best way to get new clients and boost his reputation is still good old-fashioned word of mouth. He said, “The testimonial of a happy client is priceless.”
Keep Yourself Organized. Any entrepreneur knows that this part can be tricky. Life gets messy, and when it does, Jeffrey takes the time to tidy up. He tells himself the same thing he tells his clients: “Maintenance is so important when it comes to organizing. If things get out of hand, you just need to dedicate some time to getting things back in order.”
He keeps his work life organized by ridding himself of all paper and relying a lot on Evernote: “It has truly become a database for my life. I use it for all my note taking, planning, even for my recipes!”
Keep Learning. Jeffrey gets a lot of inspiration from magazines, television, blogs and each one of his projects. Each experience leads to new solutions that he can continue to use in the future. One big thing he’s learned is to look at the big picture and understand people: “It’s about seeing the entire slice of life that happens in the home, which includes everything from what people cook, how they exercise, how they dress, etc. I think it’s important, as well as helpful, to know and understand trends and human behavior.”
Get Ready to Know Yourself. Jeffrey has learned perhaps the most about himself. Starting his own business meant that he had to find his strengths and weakness. He now knows when to say yes and when to pass on certain opportunities. But beyond his entrepreneurial side, he said, “Starting and building a business is an evolution that not only impacts your professional life, but lots of areas of your life outside of work too — from how you socialize to when you go to the gym or yoga to how and when you spend time with your family. There is always so much to learn about yourself, about your work and about those around you. I just try to stay open to the new experiences and possibilities that await me.”
PERFECT YOUR SKILLS
1. An Introduction from Marie Kondo: The #KonMari method of organizing has taken the world by storm, and rightly so. Even if you’re not looking to go pro, her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is the perfect place to channel your inner OCD and seriously clean up your life. Want to get a peek inside? We covered some of her tips right here. (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is $9 on Amazon)
2. The Fundamentals: Remember when Jeffrey mentioned NAPO? We’re loving their course, “Fundamental Organizing and Productivity Principles.” This course gives you basics of organization theory and also covers time management (which is super important for business owners). You’ll also learn about the different types of clients you’ll probably work with and how to get the most out of those relationships. ($180 [$280 for non-members] for a 6-hour class)
3. Must-Have Training: Now we’re getting down to business. If you’re realizing that you want to turn your passion for organization into a profession, this course is great. It’ll teach you about the business know-how. From potential earnings to tips on the craft, you’ll walk away with business goals laid out and some marketing tips. ($44 for a 10-hour course)
4. The Nitty Gritty: When you go pro, you need to be ready for anything and everything — chaotic closets, cluttered pantries, messy drawers and everything in between. Simplify 101 has a list of courses to help you tackle those individual projects, from organizing paper clutter to closets. (Online and video classes range from $19-49)
What passion would you like to see covered in our Quit Your Day Job Series? Let us know in the comments!