How To Become a Professional Organizer

Updated: Jun. 27, 2023

Are you a whiz at organizing and decluttering? Thinking about launching your own small business? We talked to pro organizers to help you get started.

Decluttering seems to be on everyone’s mind this time of year. New Year’s resolutions are just around the corner, and spring cleaning won’t be far behind. But what if you’re already a pro at organizing? Have you thought about taking your skills to the next level by becoming a professional organizer?

“Becoming a professional organizer takes more than being an organized person,” says Sarah Marie Dunn, a professional organizer and founder of Ready. Set. Organize. “You also need to know accounting, marketing, social media and sales.” Dunn says working around the clock, especially at the beginning, will be a crucial component.

One of the most important aspects of being a professional organizer is coaching others and asking the right questions, Dunn says. “If you can learn how to help people consider what they own, you may be a successful organizer,” she says.

If this sounds like you, we’ve got tips from Dunn and other pros to help you decide whether to jump into a career as a professional organizer.

Do Your Research

Start by checking out professional organizations in your area, says Brenda Scott, owner and operator of Tidy My Space.

The National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and Professional Organizers in Canada (POC) offer great resources to help. Scott suggests tapping these connected organizations to find members or chapters in your area. “Most members are very willing to help you with start-up questions,” she says.

And check out businesses in other fields as well. “Look at other successful small local businesses to see what they do,” Scott says. You can even ask them for advice, she says, but always reimburse them for their time.

Practice on Friends and Family

“Start working with friends and family to get used to helping others go through their things,” says Dunn. Even when clients reach out to you for help, it may be difficult for them to part with their belongings, so practice your approach with people you know.

Once you’ve honed your skills, ask clients if they’re willing to spread the word about your new business to their friends, family, neighbors and colleagues, Scott says. See if they’ll let you take before-and-after photos, too. Here are a few useful decluttering tips for hoarders.

Maintain a Professional Website

A polished web presence tells potential clients you’re the real deal.

Mary Cornetta, founder and owner of Sort and Sweet professional organizers, hired a web designer to develop her website. Out-of-the-box website builders like WordPress and Wix are an option, too. Your website should reflect your brand, highlight your services and give potential clients a clear way to contact you.

“A professional website is definitely worth the investment, and shows that you’re serious,” says Scott.

Advertise

Without clients, your business can’t succeed. Use marketing and advertising, traditional and web-based, to reach your full potential. Cornetta says Google ads drive business to her website.

Pay-per-click ad models like Google Ads and Amazon Ads allow you to target specific audiences and only pay when people click on your ad. Set keywords and location parameters so when someone searches for “professional organizers in [city/region],” your web site appears. You can set a budget ceiling, too.

Build a Brand

Having a social media presence goes without saying, but it’s not enough to throw up a Twitter handle and call it a day. Engaging with your followers will build your brand and help you land clients.

“I really focused on being consistent, informative and relatable when it came to social media — specifically Instagram — and now receive a great deal of potential clients through there,” says Cornetta, also the chief executive officer at Organized Overall.

Know Your Strengths

You clients know they need help. Are you the right person to offer what they need? Think about what you have a passion for — and the skills to provide — before throwing the kitchen sink at potential clients just because others may offer similar services.

“The services you provide depend on what you love to do and what you’re good at,” says Scott. “Focus on that and don’t be worried what others are doing. Be true to your strengths and expertise!”

Specialize

Once you understand your strengths, focus on translating them to your clients. Offering specialized services can make you stand out. “I’d rather get really proficient in one or two areas and be the `go to’ organizer for those things,” says Cornetta.

If you’d like to help people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, hoarding tendencies or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Scott says to consider becoming certified for these specific conditions.

Pick a Great Name

If you’re successful, you’ll be saying it for a long time. The Small Business Administration advises picking a name that matches your brand and doesn’t compete with the services you’re offering. (“Love This Mess” works on a throw pillow, but it sends the wrong message for a professional organizer.)

Whatever you choose, make it one you love that matches your style. “I let my gut pick out my business name,” says Cornetta. “I really like plays on words, so the term Sort and Sweet popped in my head one day. Some people think I own a bakery, but the majority get what we are!”

Get Certified (or Not)

Certification organizations like NAPO and POC offer courses and certifications in professional organizing. Both have high standards of ethics and practice, says Scott. For NAPO, Dunn says it takes about 1,500 hours of paid client work and a lengthy exam to become a Certified Professional Organizer.

You can still launch your business without being certified. “Most people just need the help and are grateful that you’re there to provide that,” says Dunn.