What to do when starting a professional organizing business totally overwhelms you
Hi, I'm Leigh Achenbach! I'm a professional organizer working for several companies in Los Angeles, and soon relocating back home to Tennessee to start my own company. I wanted to share my story with you, in case you feel completely overwhelmed right now with the idea of starting an organizing business from scratch.
So many stories I hear from women wanting to get involved in professional organizing sound similar to how my journey began.
You recognize your talent and your passion for organizing while helping friends and family and realize: this is actually a career you could see yourself doing for years to come. You may feel excited, passionate, and eager to get started... BUT you also feel scared, unsure, and lack the confidence needed to know that you have what it takes to actually run a successful business behind the scenes.
For me, taking the time to gain experience - and most of all confidence - has made all the difference in my career as a professional organizer. So, I would like to offer up an idea on how to get involved in organizing that maybe you haven’t considered yet.
This is my story on how I got started and what I have experienced while working as an independent contractor prior to opening my own business.
In 2016 my husband, an Air Force Captain, received orders to be stationed in Los Angeles - 2,000 miles from the place where I was born, raised, and never planned on leaving. The move not only took me far outside of my comfort zone, but I genuinely think that it was the push that I needed to realize my passion and my potential. It was the perfect opportunity to start a new career, something I could see myself doing for a long time.
When I discovered professional organizing I immediately began hunting for local jobs, but I could not find anyone looking to hire an organizer. In fact, most of my research about organizing seemed to be advice geared towards how to start your own business. So, like many of you, I considered opening my own professional organizing business having no actual experience in the field. Although I did graduate from college with an Entrepreneurship degree, the conservative side of me did not feel 100% confident in starting my own business in a place where I had zero connections and no experience.
I found out an organizer in LA and I had a mutual friend in Tennessee. Originally, I reached out to her to get advice on starting my own company. However, when I found out she was looking for organizers I decided to try working for her for a while to make sure this was something I wanted to invest my time and energy into long-term. And so, I want to offer you a different perspective on how to approach a long-term career as a professional organizer and show you the benefits of starting off as an independent contractor before opening your own business.
It is very hard to be confident when you have no experience.
Taking time to work as an independent contractor will help you learn from expert organizers. There are two sides to owning a company – knowing how to deliver the service and knowing how to run a business. Before you can know that you are capable of dealing with the daily tasks of running a business and handling all of the daily stresses that come with it, you should know the basics of the organizing process. You may not have even realized that you can get first-hand experience while working as an independent contractor for an organizing company.
When you can focus 100% of your time on organizing, it will relieve stress and give you confidence in knowing you are capable of delivering a great service to your client. The more you can practice, the more confident you will become, but there are only so many friends and family members that you want to help get organized for free just for the sake of getting some practice. By working as a contractor, you can get paid as you are ‘practicing’ while being able to focus solely on refining your organizing skills.
As an independent contractor you are still your own boss.
You set your availability and your rates. If your availability and rates match up with the needs of the organizing company, then it could be a great match. You are also responsible for paying your own taxes as a contractor. Although this may seem like a disadvantage, I have found it to be great practice for how it will be when I open my business. With each job, I log my hours and mileage. This year I even paid my taxes quarterly!
There are many differences in being an employee and an independent contractor, some of which can be beneficial to you. One advantage of being a contractor is that you are able to work for multiple companies at once. By doing so, you can learn different approaches and processes from several organizers. Seeing processes from multiple companies helped me to develop my own process of how I think I can achieve the best results for my future clients.
In order to own your own business, you really have to be a jack of all trades. Of course, there is organizing, but there’s so much more than that. There’s scheduling, consults, emails, social media posts, marketing, interviewing, budgeting, accounting, taxes, and logging hours.
Soon after I became comfortable with organizing, I began to offer to help with any administrative work I could. I’ve been lucky enough to work for a professional organizer that saw my potential and opened up a lot of doors for me. She has trusted me in these areas and gave me responsibilities above and beyond what an independently contracted organizer is expected to do. It was a great way to ease myself into handling the daily duties of owning my own company, and it has given me so much relevant experience in all aspects of the business. It is so important to always seek out opportunities to learn and practice every part of the process.
Obviously, you won’t make as much money working as an independent contractor versus owning the company. But for most of us, this phase is not about the money. It’s about gaining experience and learning from your mentors. As an independent contractor, you are not allowed to receive benefits from the companies you work for, and most organizing companies will require you to be self-insured. But remember, this is a tax-deductible expense you are able to claim at the end of the year.
One thing I’ve learned from a business owner’s perspective is that it can be hard to know where to find quality workers. That is why I would highly encourage you to be the one to reach out to organizers near you. It is important for you to be proactive. Even if they don’t need your help immediately, they can always call you in the future when business picks up. Remember that it is important to be upfront about the fact that you are considering starting your own business. But it really is as simple as that.
so WHAT’S NEXT?
Our time in LA is almost up! My husband will be leaving the Air Force in March, and we are in the process of building a new home in Tennessee. For the past two years I have worked as an independent contractor for different organizing companies, and now I feel more prepared and confident than I ever have before. I have taken this opportunity to learn from the best and feel like I have a solid foundation to start my business.
Although your situation may not be exactly like mine, you can still give yourself the opportunity to learn the process of organizing by becoming an independent contractor. If you don’t yet feel confident that this is a career that you are willing to quit your current job for, or worry about the idea of constantly marketing yourself, maybe you will consider contacting other organizers in your area to see if they could use you. Most importantly, be patient. Remember this is something you want to be successful long-term! Starting your own business right away is not the only solution to fulfill your passion for organizing!
If the idea of legalizing a new business, plus the investment of branding and marketing your professional organizing biz totally overwhelms you right now? Do yourself a huge favor and check out the Build Your Team guide from Pro Organizer Studio to learn the secrets of building a biz just around subcontracting for other established organizers. (That means YOU get to do the fun organizing stuff, while they handle domain names, Facebook ads and LLCs.)
You'll learn WHY professional organizers need subcontractors so much (so you'll know how to position yourself to their benefit!) plus all the legal stuff that goes along with being a subcontractor, rather than an employee.
The next organizer you contact will be so impressed with how prepared you are to work in her company!