The Professional Organizer Apprenticeship

apprenticeship for professional organizers

It is sometimes asked of me when a new student wants to enroll, “Do you think I should do the apprenticeship?” My answer is always the same, so I wanted to explain what I tell people.

Depending on the person, their background and skill set, I will often propose they do the apprenticeship if they don’t have the confidence, skills or experience to get started. And yes, while the course develops some confidence and skills, it does not provide the advice, guidance and mentorship that this apprenticeship offers during their first year in business.

Encountering a difficult or challenging client is a perfect example when advice and guidance is needed by course graduate students. This may not happen right away, but it may come up within the first 3 months or even 6-11 months later. Without the experience that a veteran organizer has in dealing with any type of client, the new professional organizer without a support system is alone in dealing with their client.

Apprentices learn a great deal during the course of their first year in business through the apprenticeship guidance provided to them. It’s there when you need it and there when you don’t need it. Simple as that.

So in making a decision on whether or not you should do the apprenticeship, ask yourself this, “Do I think I’ll need a support system after completing the course, especially if I encounter a challenging client?”

If your answer is “yes” than the apprenticeship is for you.

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How A Professional Organizer’s Website Can Bring Clients

Organizing Lady website design

Think of a website as a brochure with a digital portfolio in it. It fundamentally tells people about you, it lists your services, and it provides a way to contact you.

Organizing Lady website design

Time after time I’ve had clients tell me that they picked me out of other professional organizers because of my website. So what elements did my site have that others may not have had? I decided to look into that. And here are 6 key things I learned:

  1. My photo on homepage. First of all, besides an appealing website design, my site had a picture of me on the homepage. One client told me that they felt more connected to who I was the minute they came to my site. So this is obviously an important feature to some people looking for an organizer.
  2. Less Homepage clutter. My website was less cluttered with content on the homepage than others. While other sites had loads of content compared to mine, most people don’t want to read through everything – they just want to know who you are and what you can do for them.
  3. An appealing professional looking web design. Needless to say, a website that looks out-dated (with a web design from the 90’s or something) will tell people you aren’t business savvy enough to keep your site looking good.
  4. Having a mobile friendly website that can be viewed from any size device. It is the year 2015 folks and people are using their mobile devices to access information on the Internet, so a website had better be mobile-friendly. Otherwise people will not be able to read your site easily on their mobile devices, if it could be read at all.
  5. Large quality images on the site. The days of small images scattered on a website are gone. Best Web design elements today call for large imagery, especially on the Homepage in the top header area. Image sliders are a a popular choice in the presentation of a site and are now used often in web design.
  6. Present yourself as an authority in the field. Since a Website is essentially your presentation brochure to potential clients, you will want to make yourself unique, or stand out from others in some way. There are several ways to position yourself as an authority and one way is writing articles about organizing (like in a Blog on your site).

There were other elements, but not as important as these. Everyone else seemed to have a social media presence and post “before-after” photos and contain client testimonials, so these were not unique to what I had on my site.

I personally design my own sites (including this one) and even developed a business doing web design – Seidler Designs – out of the need from others coming to me to design sites for them. I also had decided to offer this service to fellow professional organizers as well at a very reduced fee ($450 for a 5-page website).

As a matter of fact, I just re-designed a site for a colleague to make it mobile-friendly – Organizer4me.com. The older site’s Homepage was about 3 pages long with content. Here is before and after:

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screen-dm

And feel free to check out my own organizing sites to see the above elements I talked about:

 

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Knowing What Clients To Accept And Hoarders Are Not One Of Them

hoarding

The other day I went to give a consultation to a lady who had recently suffered a stroke that wanted to get her place organized. She claimed her home had fallen into disarray following her stroke and from the accumulation of her mother’s belongings after she passed a couple years prior. The “disarray” this person claimed to have seemed like an ordinary task for a professional organizer. Wrong.

The “disarray” I found upon entering her 2 bedroom mobile home was mountains of junk stock-piled in large heaps up to the ceiling. There was a narrow walkway leading all the way from the back door entryway where I came in through the living room into her bedroom. The destination into her bedroom showed mounds of junk surrounding her bed, with only a clear path in front of her bed where her TV was situated.

hoarding

The word for this type of person is called a Hoarder. I’m sure you’ve heard of them.

Hoarders do not have “clutter” for us to deal with – they have mental issues for us to deal with because, as much as they may want to be helped, they don’t really want to get rid of stuff. It all has “value” to them in some way.

I believe our profession isn’t equipped to help Hoarders. If they were to agree to a “clean sweep” of their stuff using a crew to toss 95% of everything in the junk piles, they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) agree to it. Yet, that’s exactly what is needed.

In the case with the stroke victim, she only called me to help her go through the piles item by item – one by one – to determine what she wants to keep and what she will get rid of. Even if she could afford the hundreds of hours it would take to do this, the health risks being in an environment like that would not be worth the amount of money you might end up with.

mounds of junk

I posted a picture of one of the rooms on Facebook and a fellow colleague commented:

“I did a project that was bad, but maybe not this bad. Respiratory issues followed… I made very good income from the project and it was a tremendous amount of money even tough I gave a massive fee reduction. We worked primarily outside in the driveway but I won’t take another project because of the health challenges.”

The one time I did tackle work like this was on a reality TV show (I won’t mention which one) and I ended up yelling at the field producer and then refusing to return with my crew the next day unless they got an exterminator there. It wasn’t worth the pay I got and, although I was under contract, I knew they couldn’t hold me to it unless they met my demands.

Now, don’t take me wrong here – I have empathy for Hoarders. I do care and I am concerned about their situation and I do want them to get help. It just isn’t the kind of help I can provide to them personally.

I didn’t charge her for my consultation appointment. She wanted to pay me, but I refused her money. I knew she had already spent $1000 to 1-800-JUNK to come and clear a path for her after her stroke so that she could get around with her walker. And they didn’t haul anything away.

See what I’m talking about? She paid $1000 and didn’t have them haul anything away!

A career as a professional organizer has many rewards but working with certain types of clients will not leave you with those rewards unless the place is clear of clutter and organized.

So, please know that you can refuse work if you feel you can’t help them, and if you know it will be a health risk to you.

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10 Ways A Professional Organizer Changes Someone’s Life

The rewards of the professional organizing profession are numerous and Organizers are often called “miracle workers” after they put order in. Creating order out of disorder does leave some miraculous results and will always change a person’s life for the better, in one way or another.

Just removing clutter from a space can be therapy all in itself. Take it a step further and rearrange furniture to make the space more functional and you’ve got a new, fresh area that takes “organization therapy” to whole new level.

lr-before2 lr-after2

An entire room can be transformed, or just one section of a room, like a desk or office area.

office-before1 office-after1

And that’s the business of professional organizers – to transform spaces into livable, more functional spaces.

That said, it should be noted that organizing other people’s spaces is sort of an exact science and has certain methodologies to create order – or  organization – in spaces. The expertise, knowledge and experience of a professional organizer makes all the difference in not only transforming spaces, but transforming lives.

Here are the top 10 ways a professional organizer makes a difference in improving someone’s life:

  1. They see beyond the mess. They can see beyond a disordered space and identify the root of organization problems. This gives them solutions to handle the issue so that a person can get and STAY organized.
  2. They have knowledge of organization basics. These are simple methods that others may not even be aware of or think about using or doing. This knowledge could be as simple as “put the mail in [a designated spot] instead of on there [like tossed on the table].”
  3. Their expertise lends valuable advice. An expert in any field is as valuable as the knowledge and experience they can bring to the client. A professional organizer’s expertise is creating order and providing organizing solutions to help the client live better – more efficiently, more productively, more stress-free.
  4. Their guidance and support helps get the job done. Aside from lending advice, guiding someone through their clutter and disorganization is beneficial to most anyone who calls on a professional for help. This is because they have decided or realized that they can’t do it alone, or don’t want to do it alone.
  5. They offer organizing solutions to fit any organization issue. These solutions can come in the form of advice and/or certain organizing products that help create organized spaces.
  6. They know all types of organizing products and storage solutions to fit any needs. A professional organizer has an eye for products that solve organization issues, and know the stores that carry what is needed.
  7. They have the ability to create space. This ability is derived from the knowledge of how clutter eats space and how removing it can free up space. It also comes from how they see the space once organization is put into it.
  8. Their strategies and organizing systems are custom-made for the individual. By custom-made, means tailor-made to fit an individual’s situation, issue, problem or lifestyle. The “No one shoe fits all” statement applies to organizing someone because everyone is different in one way or another.
  9. They help people streamline their lives. This is accomplished by helping people get rid of what is no longer needed, wanted, or just doesn’t have any value or function anymore – something that some people cannot identify by themselves.
  10. They inspire and motivate people to improve their situation. This alone may be all it takes to make a difference for someone, but it really enables a person to reach their goals and objectives to be organized.

I invite you to offer more ways a professional organizer makes a difference by leaving a comment!

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