If you want to succeed at running a Professional Organizing company, you need to have the right tools -- and that includes not only training and coaching, practical tools like forms and templates, but also a strong graphic brand and a powerful and content-driven website. But you don't have to worry about creating everything from scratch, because I've put together the perfect "jump-start" kit.
How Is Your Training Program Set Up?
This interactive home-study program is broken up into the 12 course modules listed below. Because this is a downloadable "do-at-home" course, you are under no time constraints -- complete your homework assignments at your own pace, work on lessons as they become appropriate to your business, and submit them as you finish. It doesn't matter if it takes you a day or a month or a year! Unlike in-person training, there are no classes to attend, no lost time, and no travel costs. It's a great option for someone who is trying to run an organizing business while working a second job, raising kids, or going to school. Each course (approximately 20-30 pages long) includes a:
- a detailed discussion of the topic at hand -- covering important organizing and entrepreneurial concepts, offering practical business and organizing tips, explaining the rationale behind different ways of working with clients or running your company, and pointing out potential problems you might run into
- a set of homework assignments -- interactive exercises (some situational, some analytical) that test your problem-solving abilities, understanding of how to practically apply organizing techniques with your client, and business skills -- as well as role playing that asks how you would handle certain situations either running your company or working with clients
- a customized review and written commentary on your assignments -- I will personally review all of your answers and submissions and provide you with in-depth feedback, including a recognition of areas where you are headed in the right direction, expanded ideas for developing your service offerings, and suggestions for overcoming obstacles you may or may not have recognized
- a bibliography -- of additional relevant books, articles, and publications
Once you have finished each assignment, you will submit an emailed copy of your homework back to me according to the enclosed instructions. Your work will then be reviewed, and you will receive a thorough written report filled with comments and suggestions. This review is not like getting a "grade" -- there is no passing or failing. It's more like coaching on paper -- I will point out potential pitfalls, solutions, and techniques you might not have thought of, as well as places where you are right on track and issues you need to be aware of as you proceed.
You and I will also schedule 12 one-hour coaching sessions (either via phone, Skype, or internet chat, depending on your preference). Each is intended to cover a different training topic from the list of course modules -- however, we will customize your sessions to make sure that we discuss those issues that are most important to your business. These sessions are your chance to talk through specific questions or concerns you have about running your company, dealing with clients, marketing, professional development, or organizing technique. And you will have unlimited access to email communications with me, between sessions -- to ask additional questions, find solutions to a problem that has just recently occurred, or discuss new ideas that my suggestions have brought to mind. This package is perfect for new organizers who are just starting out and want a "soup to nuts" education on running an organizing business. You are guaranteed to get a comprehensive training in the running of an organizing business, and you will receive a certificate of graduation to include in your credentials upon completion.
Session 1: What Kind Of Organizer Am I
Thinking about becoming a Professional Organizer? Or just starting up and not sure in which direction you want to head? This 20-page session will help you decide if organizing is for you, assess your strengths, show you the gaps in your skill set -- and give you a start on "defining" yourself as an organizer.
Session 2: Setting Up Your Business
- knowing why you want to be an organizer and what your goals are
- deciding to specialize or not to specialize...that is the question
- discovering who your clients are and what kind of work you enjoy
- identifying characteristics of a successful organizer
- keeping yourself motivated on the long road ahead
- assessing your skill base and finding ways to strengthen your weaknesses
- overcoming your fears about self-employment
- putting your educational and career background to work for you
Being an organizer is more than just organizing -- you must know how to run a small business successfully (and legally!) if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur. This 20-page session covers all of the administrative details you need to consider as you are starting a new organizing business.
- understanding licenses, registrations, and insurance coverage you will need
- choosing the right business entity for your situation and goals
- recruiting members of your team and knowing when you need help
- calculating your start-up expenses and deciding to pay for them
- setting up a working environment for privacy, function, and comfort
- deciding on equipment and supplies for your desk and in the field
- a 14-step process for forming a legal and functional business organization
Please note -- this course covers legal and tax issues related to starting a business. It is available in U.S. and Canadian versions -- but some information may not be applicable if you are starting a business in another country.
Session 3: Laying It Out On Paper
Your business plan is an important (and often overlooked) tool -- your "how-to guide" for both daily administrative details and long-term goals. This 20-page session will lead you through each aspect of creating a workable business plan that contains every detail about running your business.
Session 4: Proactive Pays Off In The End
- what is your market and where will you find them?
- who is your competition and how are they doing in business?
- how will your business distinguish itself from other organizing companies?
- what services and different levels of service will you offer?
- how will you price your services and what kind of income can you expect?
- how will you market your services to different client populations?
- how will you handle day-to-day business administration?
- how will measure success and how will you overcome your weaknesses?
Many people wait until a problem arises to discover that they have overlooked some important legal, financial, or administrative details. This 21-page session will help you create structure within your business -- and set policies governing your client relations -- before you become overwhelmed!
Session 5: Learning The Trade (Storage)
- developing a legally defensible contract and other client documentation
- setting your work schedule to maximize billable hours and efficiency
- developing solid internal procedures for completing routine business tasks
- setting proactive external policies for dealing with client issues
- determining policies for travel, cancellations, payment for services, etc.
- outlining responsibilities and expectations (yours and the client's)
- creating systems for tracking client information, accounting, and to-do's
Down to the nitty-gritty! Space organizing is one of the three basic "competencies" people expect from a Professional Organizer. This 22-page session will teach you how to apply basic space planning skills while organizing a residential or business client's storage areas.
Session 6: Learning The Trade (Paper)
- teaching basic organizing principles for maximizing space to clients
- identifying ways to strengthen your skills in weak areas
- understanding the major causes of clutter at home and at work
- knowing what questions to ask clients to make decisions about clutter
- helping clients determine their space organizing goals and priorities
- knowing what tools you will need to complete the job
- working through a complete "action plan" for a fictional client
Each of your clients will have to deal with paper -- both at home and work. And in most cases, paper will be their number one organizing priority. This 24-page session will teach you how to apply basic paper management skills while organizing a residential or business client's filing system and desk.
Session 7: Learning The Trade (Time)
- teaching basic organizing principles for managing paper to clients
- identifying ways to strengthen your skills in weak areas
- knowing what questions to ask clients to make decisions about paper
- helping clients determine their paper management goals and priorities
- setting up customized systems for filing and incoming paper "to-do's"
- cutting down on incoming paper and understanding records retention
- knowing what tools you will need to complete the job
- working through a complete "action plan" for a fictional client
You will be expected to assist clients in identifying and eliminating time wasters -- as well as help them set and follow-through on priorities. This 22-page session will teach you how to apply basic time management skills while organizing a residential or business client's schedule.
Session 8: Working With Clients
- teaching basic organizing principles for prioritizing and efficiency to clients
- identifying ways to strengthen your skills in weak areas
- knowing what questions to ask clients about how they use their time
- understanding the major time management issues faced at home and work
- helping clients determine their time management goals and priorities
- teaching clients how to delegate and set boundaries around their time
- knowing what tools you will need to complete the job
- working through a complete "action plan" for a fictional client
Although there is no one "right way" to work with your clients, there are some basic principles that all organizers tend to follow. This 26-page session will teach you all about the organizer-client relationship and the structure of organizing sessions.
Session 9: Dealing With Difficult Clients
- setting up an intake form and knowing how to "qualify" a potential client
- scheduling a consultation without giving away all your techniques
- determining a clients' needs and priorities and creating an assessment form
- dealing with the question, "How much do you charge?" and closing the sale
- knowing what to do at your first appointment and creating an action plan
- using communication skills to build trust and keep a client focused
- completing an assessment and action plan for a fictional client
- providing good customer service and "adding value" to your work
"Difficult" can mean so many things -- personality conflicts, difficulty focusing, an inability to maintain organizing systems, or a client's personal issues intruding on your work. This 22-page session will prepare you for those more "challenging" clients.
Session 10: Marketing On A Shoestring
- recognizing the three types of clients and how to proceed with each
- helping clients deal with the fear of change and encouraging change
- creating long-term client relationships and managing follow-up
- working with ADD clients and the special approaches required
- role-playing 12 difficult situations and how you would handle them
- referring clients for other help, and ending a relationship on good terms
- evaluating your work with a client through surveys and questionnaires
All of your great organizing skills are nothing if you can't attract clients. This 26-page session covers a variety of innovative and inexpensive marketing methods. Find out the most effective ways to get the word out about your business -- without going broke!
Session 11: Developing Your Credibility
- identifying your marketing goals and the most appropriate tools
- creating and then refining your unique selling proposition
- building networking relationships that result in client referrals
- designing a business card, flier, press release, and direct mail card
- knowing how and where to market to your different target audiences
- using special offers, promotions, and events to your advantage
- differentiating paid advertising from publicity and making use of both
- creating a year-long marketing plan and tracking your results
The best way to bring in new clients is by building a solid reputation -- become known as an honest business person and a competent organizer. This 32-page session will teach you how to develop a professional and authoritative air for your business.
Session 12: Expanding Your Range Of Services
- joining NAPO, POC, and/or NSGCD
- abiding by each organization's code of ethics
- understanding CPO certification exam eligibility and test structure
- making the choice to refer clients to other organizers
- getting involved in other types of professional organizations
- securing client referrals and building word-of-mouth business
- collecting leads and testimonials from a follow-up survey
- getting involved in public speaking, writing, and community activities
Your business will probably go through many incarnations throughout its lifespan. You may move from consultant to speaker to writer to developer of organizing products -- or in any of a number of other directions. This 21-page session will help you look toward the future and start planning for growth.
Everything You Need To Run Your Business
- comparing the pros and cons of expansion with your goals
- recognizing the different avenues available to you as an entrepreneur
- coming up with new ideas and 4 techniques for expansion brainstorming
- developing a raw idea into a format you can put into action
- evaluating the merits, possibilities, and pitfalls of an idea
- understanding the resources, time, and money required in development
- evaluating feasibility and sending your idea on a trial run
- setting up a measure of success or failure for your idea
This combo package includes everything in the "Business Toolkit
," the "Appointment Toolkit
," the "Bookkeeping Toolkit
," and the "Marketing Toolkit
" -- 201 pages of forms, templates, and sample documents designed specifically for Professional Organizers. Each one is fully customizable -- no password-protected PDFs, no read-only files, no re-creating the wheel. Edit any word or clause to suit your needs and preferences. Change the font or margins, if you like. There is dedicated space on every public document for your logo and company information. And fill-in-the-blank spots let you know where you need to make a business policy decision. You will find yourself using these documents over and over again in your business:
Everything You Need To Master The Internet
- Mission Statement Template (your mission statement describes what you do and how you help your clients -- but it needs to be concise, and it can be hard getting all of your key points across in a clear and succinct manner -- this template will guide you through the process of creating a mission statement that will last you for years to come)
- Vision Statement Template (to have a clear sense of where you want your company to go, you need to make sure that your business plan is in alignment with your personal value system -- this exercise will help you to discover why you do what you do, what your purpose is as a Professional Organizer, and to articulate that clearly to yourself and your clients)
- Sample Business Plan (every business needs a plan, so here is a fully-functional solopreneur Professional Organizing business plan that you can use as an example when write your own -- seeing what someone else has to say about the target population, the competition, how services will be structured, marketing methods, pricing, and future expansion of the business not only makes it easier to verbalize your ideas, but might give you some new ones you hadn't thought of before)
- Business Plan Template (after you have read through an example of a Professional Organizing business plan, now it's time to create your own -- it doesn't do you any good to simply copy another company's plan, as you will have entirely different goals, your own ideal client base, and a unique business model -- this exercise will help you to identify and articulate exactly how you want to run your company, your areas of focus and specialization, and the ways in which you see your business growing and expanding over the coming years)
- Intake Form Template (your goal upon first phone call with a potential client is to gather enough but not too much basic information about their situation -- this form outlines everything that you need to ask in a simple step-by-step format, with space for recording the client's answers -- on this one sheet, you'll have a quick snapshot view of the areas needing to be addressed, the client's organizing goals, what qualifies the person as a "good" potential client, and what your next step will be)
- Assessment Template (at the assessment stage, you want to create a detailed picture of your client's situation and his/her organizing challenges -- you also need to start thinking about the solutions you intend to use to calm the chaos and eliminate the clutter -- this step-by-step form is perfect for carrying with you on that first consultation -- make your notes as you walk from room-to-room with the client, and never worry about forgetting to ask a crucial question, because it's all right there for you, in fill-in-the-blank format)
- Proposal/Bid Template (you may not submit a formal proposal to every client before being hired, but it's always possible that you will be asked to participate in a bidding process at some point in your career, especially if you work with businesses and corporations -- this template guide you through the process of creating a professional-looking proposal that includes the most important information your client will need in order to make a hiring decision)
- Sample Contract (this fill-in-the-blank form lays out all of the key policies and information that you need to include in your contract -- confidentiality, cancellations, pricing, your responsibilities, the client's responsibilities, you name it -- just keep the clauses you want, alter the ones you wish to change, and delete anything that is not applicable to your business)
- Action Plan Template (a good rule of thumb in organizing is "specific is always better" -- the more clearly you flesh out your plan of attack before you begin working with a client, the easier the job will be and the fewer bumps you will hit along the way -- use this form to break each project down into a goal and a series of action steps for accomplishing that goal, complete with a list of resources needed and a deadline/measure of completion for each -- can also serve as the main outline of your plan if you submit formal proposals to clients)
- Client Appointment Log (of course you'll keep track of appointments as you schedule them in your calendar, but if you need to refer back to an appointment date, you don't want to have to flip through months and months of calendar pages to find it -- this form allows you to track every appointment with a client on a single sheet -- you can tell at a glance the date, what the appointment was for, and whether it was canceled, rescheduled, a no-show, or completed -- this is also useful information for spotting negative trends in clients not keeping appointments, so you can address these issues head-on)
- Client Contact Log (you could keep a generic telephone log recording all of your contacts with everyone on the planet, but do you really want to have to shuffle through three months' worth of pages to find out the last time you left a message for a particular client? -- better to keep one sheet in your client's file, tracking all of your communications with that person, in chronological order -- this form will allow you to record phone calls, messages you've left, and even emails, with a clear indication of those items that still need attention and those that are completed)
- Sample Content Licensing Agreement (most organizers develop a large body of content over the years, in the form of articles, home study classes, seminars, workshops, checklists, and training programs -- and licensing that content for use by other business people in other venues is a great source of passive income, but you have to make sure that you protect your rights -- use this sample licensing agreement to guard your copyrights and trademarks, prevent misunderstandings about the scope of the license or right to change the content, and make sure that you are fairly compensated for your work)
- Sample Referral Agreement (when you receive a client that you just can't serve, whether because of their location, the type of service they need, or simply that your schedule is full, you want to be able to refer that person to another organizer -- the same is true when you have a client who needs help in another arena, such as accounting or virtual assistant services or housecleaning -- and it's entirely reasonable for you to request a referral fee from the other professional for sending them that job -- rather than rely on casual conversation and verbal promises, formalize your referrals relationships in a way so that both parties benefit -- use this sample agreement to outline each person's responsibilities, the fee structure, and the consequences if a client is badly served)
- Sample Independent Contractor Agreement (as an entrepreneur, it's quite likely that you will be hiring independent contractors at some point -- these may be folks who help you run your business, market your services, take care of administrative duties, or design you a website -- or they may be other organizers that you bring on to handle day-to-day organizing with your clients, while you manage the team -- either way, this sample agreement will help you clarify the services to be provided and the method of compensation -- it also outlines your "non-compete" and confidentiality clauses so you can feel comfortable sharing your private client information with other professionals -- and most importantly, it indicates that your contractor is exactly that, an independent business person rather than an employee, protecting you from withholding and other tax requirements by the IRS)
- Weekly Scheduling Form (of course, you're going to need a calendar or planner for tracking appointments, but your daily calendar isn't going to let you see how much of your time is spent with clients versus on vital business activities like marketing, administration, and bookkeeping -- used in tandem with your calendar, this handy tracking form will let you see at a glance where your time is being invested, allowing you to make adjustments if one aspect of your business is consuming too much of your week or requires more attention)
- Appointment Reminder Card (it's a good and professional practice to provide your clients with something tangible reminding them of your next appointment when you schedule -- too often, organizers simply verbally agree on a time and date, then get irritated when the client forgets or double-books something else into that slot -- but you can prevent a lot of frustration and lost income by simply using this appointment reminder card with your clients -- print on a heavy card stock and encourage them to post it on the fridge or bulletin board, so they have no excuse to forget you)
- Decision-Making Signs (sometimes, the biggest organizing challenge your client faces is just trying to make a decision -- and of course, that's part of your job during your organizing sessions, to help your clients stop waffling and commit to a course of action -- you can make that easier with these decision-making signs -- one each for "who," "what," "when," "where," "why," and "how" -- each offers 10 thought-provoking questions about the client's habits, assumptions, behaviors, and time/paper/stuff that will help move both of you closer to a decision -- perfect for use during appointments, but also to leave behind as a client "gift" to help make off-hours decisions easier, too)
- Sorting Signs (a lot of what organizers do with their clients is help them sort through the piles and try to determine what should be done with each item -- these sorting signs will make that easier -- just print, tape each to a cardboard box, and there won't be any question or confusion about what goes where -- best of all, these signs don't just tell you that it's "to keep," "to donate," "to sell," "to fix," "to finish," "to toss," or "not sure" -- they offer a descriptive list of situations under which you would decide to put an item in that category, as well as a motivational statement about what you should be prepared to do next with that category of stuff)
- Paper Action Sorting Signs (paper has to be sorted too, but according to a different set of rules than physical objects -- these sorting signs will make that easy for clients to divide their paper stacks according to the action needed to clear that document off their desk -- just print, tape each to a cardboard box or tray, and there won't be any question or confusion about what goes where -- best of all, these signs don't just tell you that it's "to file," "to toss," "to read," "to pass on," "to contact," "to buy," "to decide," "to pay," "to enter in computer," or "to reconcile" -- they offer a descriptive list of situations under which you would decide to put a document in that category, as well as a motivational statement about what you should be prepared to do next with that category of paper)
- Filing Category Creator (the best way to come up with a filing system for a client is from scratch, customized and personalized to suit his or her exact needs -- but when you sit down in front of that pile and try to imagine all the possible potential file categories your client might need, it's easy to forget something -- now you don't have to remember, with this handy list of both personal and business filing categories -- use those categories that make sense and discard the rest -- set up in in a categorical/subcategorical fashion, you're free to use whatever combination of files, folders, labels, boxes, racks, drawers, or other tools that you want -- but you don't have to waste time re-creating the wheel for each client in terms of the actual categories themselves)
- Records Retention Guidelines (it's important that you educate your clients about records retention guidelines, how long they need to keep certain types of documents for legal or tax purposes -- however, you can tell clients to "keep your tax returns forever" a million times, but they still won't remember unless you give it to them in writing -- makes a great client "freebie," a gift that serves a purpose and will help them remember all the rules even when you're not around)
- Document Locator Checklist (it's all well and good to tell a client that he/she needs a document locator, but very few end up doing it -- who on earth wants to have to make up a list of all their vital records from scratch? now you don't have to -- this form includes every and I mean EVERY document or bit of information someone would need to access in case of an emergency -- insurance, banking, investments, property records, vital records, business records, important contacts, you name it -- you can either leave this form with your clients to fill out at their leisure, or you can sit down with their papers and fill it out for them -- hey, another service you can offer!)
- Household Inventory Sheet (when you work with residential clients, it's your job to make sure your folks have a complete and up-to-date household inventory -- take this form room-to-room with your client in tow, and it will guide you through the creation of a simple household inventory -- combine it with a video or photographic log of your client's belongings, as well as a file or notebook containing the appropriate receipts and appraisal documents, and you're giving your client everything he or she needs to be protected in case of a loss or disaster)
- Time Log (organizers always tell their clients to keep a time log in order to track how they spend their days and where time is being lost -- but how many of your clients actually do this on their own? provide your clients with this log sheet and make it easy for them to write down exactly what they are doing each hour of the day for the next week -- then you can sit down together, analyze the results, and build an organizing plan that will help reduce time wasters)
- Delegation Log (quite often, one of the major solutions for "too much to do" is to delegate a few of those chores to family, friends, colleagues, staff members, and hired help -- but the problem with delegating is keeping track of who you asked to do what and when they were supposed to do it by -- this form makes it easy for clients to stay on top of delegated items, knowing when to follow back up and eliminating any risk of tasks slipping between the cracks -- you might even find it so helpful that you use it in your own business, as well!)
- Interruptions Log (most organizing clients experience high levels of interruption throughout their day -- they haven't learned how to draw healthy boundaries or deflect requests that they really don't need to handle themselves -- but in order to correct these destructive behaviors, you first need to have some idea of who is interrupting you, when, why, and for how long -- that's exactly what this form tracks, along with giving clients a system for "rating" each interruption in terms of urgency and necessity -- once they've kept a log for a few weeks, you can help your clients determine how to more effectively handle or prevent each type of interruption in the future)
- Procrastination Log (procrastination is a huge problem for organizing clients, and the only way to help them overcome this issue is to make them aware of where it's coming from -- this log sheet will help your clients to recognize their reasons for procrastinating on certain tasks, and allow you to identify recurring patterns in their behavior that you can then work to correct)
- Master Task List Form (the best way for a client to eliminate mental clutter and a sense of overwhelm is to clear every possible to-do, responsibility, outstanding issue, and unfinished chore out of the person's head and put it on a piece of paper -- this master task list is the perfect place for recording all of these items in one place so they can then be prioritized and moved to a daily task list or calendar slot)
- Daily To-Do List Form (helping your clients stay on top of their to-do's involves much more than simply having them list every responsibility on a big sheet of paper -- after that, you need to teach them how to prioritize, to let go of unnecessary and unrewarding tasks, and to schedule those items that do need done into their calendar so they actually get accomplished -- most importantly, they need a tool that will allow them to choose a reasonable number of tasks to complete each day, in order that they make progress without feeling overwhelmed and giving up -- that's what this form is all about)
- Not-To-Do List Creator (every organizer knows how to help a client make a to-do list, but are you just as skilled at assisting them with a "not-to-do" list? the trick to getting anything done is knowing what to leave undone, and that's what this form is for -- have your clients revamp their to-do lists using this sheet first -- the simple rating system makes it easy for you to help them grade a task's urgency and importance, determine what the activity's payoff and enjoyment levels are, decide whether to tackle it, delegate it, or let it go)
- Elevator Speech Template (how do you respond when someone says, "What do you do for a living?" -- if you aren't sure, or tend to launch into a rambling 5-minute long explanation of the history of organizing, you need to clarify and tighten up your talk -- creating a 30-second "elevator speech" can be one of the quickest ways to interest people in your business -- this exercise will help you distill all the various services you provide down into a powerful and meaningful paragraph that packs a promotional punch! -- first impressions make a difference, so make sure your first impression is short, engaging, and to the point)
- Organizer's Bio Template (while you might have a formal resume that follows every step of your career, outlining all of your previous employers and past responsibilities, most people aren't going to take the time to read all that before considering hiring you -- this exercise will help you create an abbreviated and energized summary of who you are and what you do, focusing heavily on relating your previous experience to your organizing career, and letting potential clients know where your passion comes from)
- Sample Press Release (writing a press release is not an easy task, that's why people pay publicity agents the big bucks -- but there's no reason you can't do your own very successful press releases, you just need a model to follow -- this sample press release from a previous NAPO event is meant to give you an idea of what an "organizing-themed" release looks like, to let you see what your professional association focuses on when sending a release, and maybe even encourage you to join NAPO to share in their promotional prowess)
- Press Release Template (however, simply seeing what someone else does is not enough to help you create a good press release for your company -- this template will guide you through every step, every paragraph of your next press release -- it covers everything from your headline to your hook, including compelling statistics and anecdotes about organizing trends, taking away the reader's pain, and creating a call to action)
- Sample Marketing Calendar (your business plan tells you how to structure your company and your services, but you also need a separate plan for your marketing activities -- this sample calendar offers ideas for 12 months' worth of promotions, a record-keeping system for the events you host and marketing methods you use, and a structured way of tracking the results of each campaign -- this form not only simplifies your marketing efforts, and allows you to accomplish more with less time and effort, but also guarantees that you will be priming the pump every month with consistent and regular promotions -- this form will also help you remember to utilize the full range of marketing options, including PR, live/online events, discounts, and contests)
- Client Follow-Up Plan Form (the goal from day one is to make sure that you keep your name in front of your clients, both potential and current -- however, that's hard to do when you have no follow-up plan -- irregular and "reactive" follow-up just doesn't work, it allows people who might hire you to fall between the cracks, and it's very time-consuming -- it's time to put a more proactive and structured follow-up plan in place for every single client, so from that first conversation, you know exactly every step you will take to keep in touch)
- Follow-Up / Referral Letter Template (once you have completed an organizing project, your job isn't done -- now it's time to contact the client, let them know how much you enjoyed working with them, and ask them for referrals to other friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances who might be able to benefit from your services -- this letter is worded to ask for those referrals in a way that puts your client at ease and also insures a warm lead that is more likely to turn into another client -- it also includes a request for the customer to complete the attached customer satisfaction survey, letting you know areas you could improve and providing you with testimonials you can use in your marketing)
- Sample Customer Satisfaction Survey (sometimes, you don't know how customers feel about your services until you ask -- set up in an easy-to-complete check-box format, this form offers a simple satisfaction survey, asking clients to rate your company's service according to 7 important factors, ask what additional services they might need in the future, and requests additional comments or testimonials -- it also includes a second form on which clients can provide you with contact info for up to 5 referrals of other folks who can use your services -- simply send this off with the follow-up letter and a self-addressed stamped envelope, offer your clients an incentive for returning it, and your business will grow by leaps and bounds)
- Sample Photo Release (pictures speak a thousand words, and it's much easier for people to see the transformative power of organizing with a series of before-and-after photos -- however, if you're going to take photos of your clients' messes with the intention of publishing them in your marketing pieces or on your website or even in a book, you need to make sure you have proper permission first -- this photo release covers all the bases, including permission to use all media formats for any purpose, an understanding that the use of any photos is without monetary compensation, and a legal release for photos including both adults and minors)
- Additional Services Letter Template (whether you started out on a closet, a desk, or time management, there comes a point where you have completed the project and are wondering what to do next -- most clients have a ton of other organizing jobs that need done, but they may not realize that you provide those services, as well -- this letter thanks the client for the work that you've done with the so far, and suggests to the client that you might be able to help them achieve the same sense of order and peace in other areas -- it goes on to describe 14 of the most common residential and business organizing services, simply pick and choose the ones that you provide through your company and follow up with a phone call to answer any questions -- and once your client is aware of your many talents, you can move forward with the next organizing project)
- 4-Page Newsletter Template (sending out a monthly or quarterly newsletter is a great way to show off your organizing expertise, provide people with value, and keep your name in front of your clients and contacts -- however, most organizers just don't have the time to create one from scratch each time -- this newsletter template does all the work for you, complete with table formatting and graphics -- each section is set up to accommodate a specific type of information, from your "tip of the month" to a calendar of upcoming events to your main article -- just plug in your logo, choose a font and color scheme that matches your brand, insert your content, and either mail or email to your contact list -- and if you dread the idea of having to write your own content, then don't! -- you're welcome to use any of my articles, checklists, or tip sheets in your newsletter for free -- marketing has never been so simple!)
- Flier Template (next to your business card, your flier is going to be your most versatile and often-used marketing tool -- a good flier not only describes what you do and how you help your clients, but does so in a way that lets the reader feel as though you're the perfect choice to solve all of their organizational frustrations -- and this template can be re-customized over and over again to suit different populations -- create one flier for downsizing retirees, another for working moms, a third for small business owners -- the possibilities are endless!)
- Direct Mail Coupon Template (when you're offering a sale or promotion, how do you plan to let people know about it? -- having a good, versatile coupon mailer is key to getting the word out about your special offers -- just plug in the details of your sale, print, and mail, and you will find your customers rushing to cash in that coupon before the expiration date!)
- Gift Certificate Template (if you are not already offering gift certificates for your organizing services, you should be -- gift certificates not only encourage existing customers to share your talents with their closest friends and family, they also allow you to offer a tangible "product" to sell -- folks who might not "hire" you for someone else are more likely to "give" you as a birthday, anniversary, or holiday gift -- giving away a gift certificate during a contest or charitable event or silent auction is a great way to increase brand recognition for your company -- and the chances of a certificate recipient hiring you for additional work are very high -- so use this template to create your own company gift certificate and start receiving new business every time you give)
- Social Networking Calendar (these days, everyone tells you that you should be involved in social networking through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn -- but how do you make the time to keep in touch with contacts online when you've got so much else to do? -- this simple social networking calendar will allow you to accomplish all of your tweeting and connecting goals in just a few minutes each day -- just a few quick to-do's each morning, a few more monthly follow-ups, and you'll come across like a social networking pro -- also includes suggestions of some more advanced techniques, when you're ready to move to the next level)
- Invoice Template For Hourly/Daily Jobs (billing your clients doesn't have to be a hugely involved affair involving quotes and bills and other statements generated by a complicated computerized bookkeeping program -- just keep copies of this simple form in your briefcase and write one out for the client as you finish each session -- this format accommodates any hourly/daily job)
- Quote Form For Per-Project Jobs (when charging an hourly rate, most organizers don't quote a total price for a job -- but when charging a per-project fee, you need to be able to calculate and estimate both how long it will take and what you will charge for the work, as well as guarantee that both parties agree to the terms of the quote -- this form gives you the tools to do just that, and is a very professional piece to present to a client along with your formal proposal)
- Invoice Template For Per-Project Jobs (while most organizers bill by the day or hour, sometimes you need to be able to quote and charge for a flat rate per-project job -- this simple invoice allows you to record all of the pertinent details regarding the project, as well as keep track of deposits and timed payments)
- Hourly Tracking For Per-Project Jobs (just because you've quoted the client a flat price and number of hours for the job doesn't mean that you're always going to hit the mark -- it's important for you to keep track of how long those per-project jobs actually take you, compared to what you quoted and charged -- this form will give you the information you need to provide more accurate quotes in the future, and guarantee that your fees adequately compensate you for your time)
- Pricing Calculator (you may think that deciding on an hourly rate for your services is a confusing and complex process, but it doesn't have to be -- your base rate has nothing to do with what competitors are charging, your market, specialization, or even level of experience -- first and foremost, you need to know that your fee is in line with the salary you want to earn, the number of hours a year you wish to work, and your monthly expenses for running the business -- once you know where you stand with regards to those issues, you can adjust your fee to be in alignment with the "going rate" and your expertise -- this worksheet will help you do exactly that)
- Pricing Chart For Hourly Rates (this quick reference chart will show you exactly what hourly rate you need to charge to earn any salary between $15,000 and $300,000 a year, depending on the number of billable hours per week that you want to work)
- Pricing Chart For Shopping Fees (this quick reference chart will show you exactly how much you will earn in "extra" fees if you charge your client each time you shop for supplies -- this system approaches shopping fees from the perspective that a percentage of the amount spent is a more equitable approach than an hourly rate, easier to calculate and more fair to both the organizer and the client -- and with this chart, you can choose a rate that adequately compensates you for the additional time and effort)
- Pricing Chart For Travel Fees (this quick reference chart will show you exactly how much you will earn in "extra" fees if you charge your client for travel beyond a certain set distance -- this system approaches travel fees from the perspective that a per-mile rate is a more equitable approach than an hourly rate, easier to calculate and more fair to both the organizer and the client -- and with this chart, you can choose a rate that adequately compensates you for the additional time and effort)
- Supply Shopping List (part of being a good business person and a good Professional Organizer is having the right tools -- this supply list includes everything that you will need in a solopreneur business, from office equipment and supplies to basic software and technology to outfitting the toolkit that you take on appointments -- great for not only helping you make sure that you haven't forgotten anything, but also for working out a budget so you know what it all will cost you)
- W-9 Form (if you are paid more than $600 in a year by a client, he/she must provide you with a 1099 at the end of the year -- the same is true if you pay more than $600 to any contractor or vendor you use -- this W-9 form is the official way of providing or gathering important tax ID or social security information for the creation of that 1099 -- you can get a PDF from the IRS website, but I've provided it for you here in jpeg format so it can be edited directly from your computer -- just type in your information, insert your signature as a graphics file, and save on your hard drive -- whenever someone needs your W-9, you can easily email it to them without having to print and mail each time)
- Simple Expense Tracking Form (you may use a computerized accounting program for tracking your business expenses, but for many small businesses, that's more expense and trouble than it's worth -- this easy-to-use form allows you to track your basic categories of expenses each month and have a year-end snapshot of how much you've spent on each type of item)
- Simple Income Tracking Form (if you're going to determine whether your business is profitable, you have to know how much money you are bringing in -- but many organizers just deposit their fees in the bank, without taking the time to tally up their monthly income -- this easy-to-use form allows you to track your basic categories of income each month and have a year-end snapshot of how much you've made on each type of service)
- Annual P&L Form / Balance Sheet (once you have tallied your expenses and income, figuring out where your company stands financially is fairly simple -- this form makes it easy for you to identify your assets and liabilities and to see whether you came out in the black or in the red, giving you the information you need to be able to make the appropriate changes in your financial plan for the next year)
- Annual Business Budget (some people treat business expenses differently than personal ones, just because they get a tax deduction for some or all of them -- but you need to be just as smart with your company money as with your personal checkbook -- tax deductions are no reason to spend beyond your means and go into debt -- this form offers an easy way to set up a budget for your company and make sure you are running your business finances according to those guidelines)
- Financial Projection Form (knowing how much you made or spent in a year's time versus how much you wanted to make or spend is important -- but even more important is the ability to look at several years' worth of data and make solid projections about the future -- this form will help you analyze your company's track record and figure out where you should be in the next year, 3 years, 5 years, or 10 years if growth continues at standard rates)
In addition to all these tools, you will also receive a fully customized "Deluxe Website Design Toolkit" (complete with syndicated organizing content), built to your specifications. So what qualifies my hubby to build websites for organizers? For starters, Matt and I were the original creators of OnlineOrganizing.com
(he served as programmer and graphic artist, while I was in charge of content.) During our tenure, the site grew into the largest organizing resource on the internet and won numerous national awards -- so we know a lot about what makes a website work and what doesn't. And since we sold the business, Matt has continued to design websites for individual Professional Organizers (including me -- he's the brains behind the graphics and the blog system at RamonaCreel.com
!) His website packages include:
Everything You Need To Create A Memorable Brand
- Content Management System (the days of tossing a bunch of static HTML pages up on the internet and calling it a "website" are over -- if you want your company to be seen, your web presence must be dynamic, ever-changing, and always expanding -- thanks to the concept of "content management," you can now add to your website on a daily basis, without ever knowing one bit of programming code -- your website design will be based on either a Joomla, Drupal, WordPress, or customized Content Salad system -- to create a new page, simply choose the layout style, enter your text and pictures into a form field, and the system does the rest for you -- you will be able to write, edit, and schedule blog posts, as well as create static descriptions your services, lists of testimonials, pages of before-and-after photos, embedded video or audio recordings, links to external third-party e-commerce platforms, and much more -- best of all, you can manage your site directly through any web browser, no special software or skills needed -- just log into your secure administration account from any computer anywhere, and start editing -- brilliant!)
- Blog Publishing Platform (tell me if this sounds familiar -- you spent a lot of time and money setting up a website, decided at some point to start blogging, then found out that your posts had to be routed through a third-party -- traffic that should have been increasing your site's rankings is instead benefiting Blogger or Wordpress, and you're annoyed at the fact that people are going elsewhere to read your latest posts -- not to mention the fact that, no matter how hard you try or how many different templates they offer, your blog still looks and feels like something "separate" -- fortunately there is a solution that will help even established bloggers keep their content at home, where it belongs -- this system integrates your blog as a PART of your site -- you will create blog posts with the same graphic look and feel as your static pages, embedded in your site and included in your navigation, yet still generating that RSS feed you love so much -- it's easier for visitors to move back and forth between your content and your services, and you will find more of your readers actually hiring you in the long run -- and while showing off your expertise is nice, wouldn't you rather turn visitors into paying customers?)
- Automated RSS Feed Generator (the beauty of a blog is that, unlike an electronic newsletter which has to be emailed out, you can have your posts show up in a million different places on the web with one click of a button -- your website will automatically generate an RSS feed for each of your blogs, no matter how many different topics you choose to create -- visitors can subscribe to these blogs feeds, receiving an automatic update every time you post new content -- you can use these feeds to stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networking sites -- and fans can even syndicate your feed so that your content shows up on their websites, giving you additional exposure)
- Social Networking Integration (everyone tells you that social networking is the key to internet success, but who has time to put up daily posts on all those different sites? -- lucky for you, this content management system does the work for you -- your website and your blogs will be connected to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, the three most popular and heavily-trafficked social networking portals on the web -- your home page will be linked to your social networking profiles via individual "follow me" links -- an RSS feed will be set up that automatically publishes new content from your blogs to your social networking sites, without you having to lift a finger -- and most importantly, a "share this" widget will be installed on each of your pages, allowing readers and visitors to share your original content with others -- coordination with other social networking services and the installation of additional widgets are available at an extra cost -- now you have no excuse not to stay connected!)
- Customized Graphic Branding (a successful website is more than informational, it serves as a unique graphic representation of your business identity -- first impressions count on the web, and your site needs to be visually engaging if you want to catch your visitor's eye -- unfortunately, most web packages either don't include graphics or require you to use a standard "template," and you end up with an impersonal site that looks like a hundred others on the web, but not here! -- your website will include a customized graphics plan that is specifically designed to suit the personality of your business -- it is a bit unusual to find a programmer who is also a successful artist, but Matt's natural talents will help you to stand out from the crowd, no matter what your style or the goal of your website -- this package includes either a new logo or integration of your existing logo, home-page and header design, and a consistent graphic feel across all of your static and dynamic pages -- don't settle for the same old clip art and templates that everyone else on the web is using, when you can have a look that is designed just for you!)
- WYSIWYG Editor (unlike HTML in which each page requires its own individual coding, your website will come with a "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" editor, which functions much like Microsoft Word -- you will enter content into a form field, the system will automatically format the page according to your specifications, and you can preview the end result before publishing the page -- the system knows what color to make the background and where to put the header and how the page titles should look -- but if you want something in bold lettering, just highlight and hit the "bold" button -- you've got easy-to-use buttons for changing the font size or color, for creating a hyperlink, inserting a graphic, and much more -- what it boils down to is that you won't have to hire a programmer to create, edit, or update pages for you, and you can spend your time on the content and save your money for something more important)
- Visitor Feedback (it's one thing to create a "brochure website" that simply provides information about your company -- but you've achieved another level altogether when you can engage visitors in conversation -- your website includes a built-in commenting system which allows readers to share their thoughts and feelings about the topic at hand -- it's a great way to learn more about the organizing challenges your target audience faces, to stay abreast of the latest solutions shared by your colleagues, and to personally connect with those who might be in need of additional help -- plus, it's always a nice ego boost when a new blog post nets you a dozen comments, and you realize that people are actually reading what you write!)
- Privacy Protection (if your website includes your email address and a link for all to see, you are setting yourself up for an inbox full of of junk messages -- automated spambots crawl the web looking for addresses that they can add to their lists, and the best way to avoid these little buggers to NOT post your email on the web at all -- the safer option is to require people to contact you through a form, one which is encrypted to hide your email address -- your website comes equipped with just such a "contact me" form -- and all of your forms, contact pages, and comment fields are protected by a "captcha" human verification test, designed to repel automated spambots -- it's hard to eliminate junk completely, but at least you can make sure that anyone sending it to you is a live human being!)
- Keyword System (keywords are used for cross-referencing content within your site, helping visitors locate information related to a topic of interest more quickly -- your website comes with a robust and flexible keyword system that you can customize entirely to your own needs -- as a relevant keyword occurs to you, add it to the list, then tag any appropriate pages with that word -- a text link will show up on every one of those pages, allowing visitors to see a list of topics with that tag -- and a keyword-rich website naturally rises to the top of the search engine rankings, so using consistent terms over and over again throughout your pages like this will optimize your placement -- a keyword system that kills two birds with one stone!)
- Internal Search Engine (while keywords are the hot and happening way to cross-reference pages, they will never fully replace the convenience of searching for a frequently-used phrase or term -- your website comes with an internal search engine that is powered by Google -- visitors can type any combination of words into the search box, and the system will pull up a list of pages that include that exact or a similar phrase -- a good search engine, don't leave home without it!)
- Hosting And Domain Set-Up (you would think that securing a domain name and setting up hosting for your website would be the easiest part of the process, but it's not! -- you do actually have to know something about computers and the web to choose the right URL, select a good hosting company, and get all of the different components of your site to speak to each other -- fortunately, that's nothing you have to worry about here -- if you're unsure of a good domain name or the name you want has been taken, Matt will assist you in selecting a catchy and memorable one -- he will purchase the initial year's domain coverage for you, and then set you up in an easily renewable annual contract -- he will assist you in choosing a suitable and affordable web host, then handle all the technical aspects of making your website live -- please note that the cost of hosting is not included in your web package, and must be paid directly to the hosting company)
- Complete Control (when you rely entirely upon your webmaster to edit your site for you, you are essentially giving up control over your content and its layout -- it can take weeks for your programmer to address even a simple adjustment, and anything more complicated than a text change is likely to cost you a small fortune -- you will find yourself more willing to work on your site regularly and keep it updated when you can make the changes yourself -- your website comes with a powerful and completely customizable indexing system that allows you to add, delete, edit, or move content any time you want -- so if you get a whim to offer a sale or create a new blog section or revamp your site navigation at 2AM on a Sunday, no problem and no bill!)
- Additional Design Enhancements (both of these packages are intended to provide you with a scalable website that can grow with you as your business grows -- additional design enhancements such as animations, advanced graphics, customized forms, flash presentations, video / multimedia, e-commerce, and other high-end functionality are available at an extra cost -- just speak to Matt directly and he will be happy to help you with any web or graphics project you can throw at him!)
And last (but not least), your package also includes the customized "Logo Design Toolkit." This package includes the creation of a unique logo for your company, specifically designed to suit the personality of your business. That logo will then be scaled and formatted into a business card template, a letterhead template, and an envelope template. Matt will give you these high-resolution graphic files on disc in several different formats (ex: gif, jpg, tif, psd, ai, pdf) that can be used for multiple purposes. Put your logo on the web, include it in other print pieces, downsize it for promotional products or upsize it for banners and signs -- it's like getting a dozen graphics products in one!
This is a solid up-front investment in your company, one that will continue to repay you for years to come. And not only do you get to hit the ground running with a valuable arsenal of templates and a website that attracts visitors from day-one -- but you will also have a veteran organizer to guide you every step of the way, helping you over the obstacles and encouraging your strengths. You'll find that your business grows more quickly, you will avoid some of the unpleasant surprises your newbie colleagues experience in the first year, and you will establish your status as an organizing "expert" in no time!