Getting Started as an Organizing/Productivity Professional
Are you curious about how to get started as a professional organizer or productivity specialist? NAPO, the National Association of Professional Organizers, is a non-profit professional association which focuses on providing members with education, professional development, networking opportunities, and a community of collaborative colleagues. We understand that sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin, and we want to help you get started.
Who are NAPO’s Members?
The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) is a group of approximately 4,000 professional organizers and productivity specialists dedicated to helping individuals and businesses bring order and efficiency to their lives. Our vision is for the world to recognize the value of productivity and organizing and turn to NAPO as the organizing authority. Our mission is to lead and advance the organizing and productivity profession.
In addition to serving professional organizers and productivity specialists, we want to reach consumers and those interested in becoming professional organizers and productivity specialists. We offer programs, information, and guidance for each of these groups.
NAPO members include solopreneurs, employers, subcontractors, businesses, students, academics, and bloggers. The diversity of our membership allows our members to learn from each other. Members are:
- Full-time, part-time, and those with other jobs and/or commitments
- Various ages, genders, educational backgrounds, and work backgrounds
- Specialists in numerous areas including residential organizing, business organizing, personal productivity, business productivity, coaching, supporting clients with chronic disorganization and hoarding disorders, writing, speaking, and environmentally conscious organizing
- People just like YOU!
When you join NAPO, you become part of a community of organizing and productivity professionals who, at one point, made the leap into the professional organizing industry. NAPO provides members of all backgrounds and experiences the opportunity to learn and develop, with members supporting each other along the learning curve.
NAPO offers excellent educational opportunities to help professional organizers deliver quality service and succeed in business. The foundation of NAPO University is the Professional Organizer Curriculum. This curriculum includes courses developed by the NAPO Education Committee and taught by NAPO members who are experts in the field and who meet the qualifications set by the Education Committee.
Upon joining NAPO, you will be a Provisional Member. NAPO encourages growth to Professional Member status, allowing your name to be listed in the Find Your Local NAPO Organizer Directory and the opportunity to join NAPO’s Special Interest Groups (SIGs).
In order to achieve Professional Member status, NAPO requires completion of the Professional Practices Coursework (PPC). These classes are designed to establish a foundation of knowledge of professional practices for organizers and productivity professionals. The three classes include:
Some members join and complete the prerecorded on-demand classes in less than a month. Others take their time or complete the courses in the live webinar format, which allows them to interact with the course presenter.
Once you have completed the PPC, you will be upgraded to Professional status without further action and with no additional fees. Members are upgraded to Professional status once a month, usually toward the middle of the month. When you renew your membership, you will renew as a Professional member, at the Professional rate.
NAPO proudly offers select education courses on-demand, so students can purchase pre-recorded webinars and watch online at your convenience. You can start and stop the on-demand courses to fit into your busy schedule. Additional courses from NAPO’s Professional Organizer Curriculum and session recordings from past annual conferences are continuously being added to the On Demand site, giving students unprecedented access to NAPO University’s education catalog.
What if you are not sure if you want to become a professional organizer?
NAPO University offers Level 1 classes (i.e., 100, 101, etc.) for those considering if our profession is right for you. To get started, we recommend the following classes. Registration for these classes can be done on NAPO.net:
These two classes will give you an idea of what it takes to be a professional organizer. If, after taking these classes, you feel that pursuing a career as an organizing or productivity professional is a good fit for you, follow up with the other classes in the 100 level series (Fundamental Organizing Principles and Starting Out as a Residential Organizer).
- Organizing From The Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern
- Getting Things Done by David Allen
- The Organized Student by Donna Goldberg
- Conquering Chronic Disorganization by Judith Kolberg
- Organizing Plain and Simple by Donna Smallin
- How To Start A Home-Based Professional Organizing Business by Dawn Noble
Commonly Asked Questions
Q: Do I need to be a CPO® (Certified Professional Organizer®) in order to start organizing as a business?
A: No. The CPO® designation is for our most experienced professionals. In our industry, the first step to work towards is becoming a NAPO Professional Member. Meanwhile, you can get started as a professional organizer or productivity consultant with clients by opening your business. You can work to earn your CPO® after you have worked extensively with clients. CPO® designation is earned after 1,500 hours of paid hands on work with your clients within the last 3 years and passing the CPO® exam.
Q: Do I need to be a member of NAPO in order to start organizing as a business?
A: No, but our members tell us that by joining NAPO they are able to kick start their businesses and are better able to navigate establishing themselves in the profession. NAPO offers extensive training and education, networking and camaraderie with other successful professional organizers, credibility to prospective clients, and opportunities for discounts from our corporate associate members. NAPO is the premier association for professionals in the organizing and productivity industry.
NAPO encourages its members to join one of the 33 local chapters or the virtual chapter of NAPO. Chapter membership offers regular networking opportunities with other professional organizers. Local chapters also allow prospective members the chance to attend a meeting prior to joining.
Q: What if there isn’t a chapter near me?
A: NAPO has a virtual chapter for members who don’t have a NAPO chapter in their area.
Q: What do I need to get started?
A: Starting a business as a professional organizer or productivity specialist is just like starting any other business. You will want to be sure you are covered legally and financially. Determine your business structure (LLC, sole proprietor, etc), obtain insurance, file the appropriate paperwork with your city/county/state, keep accurate bookkeeping records, and file your taxes properly. Treat your professional organizing and productivity business in a professional manner, just as you would any other business.
NAPO National and local chapter membership are also highly recommended for support and education as you work with clients and build your business.
Q: What resources are available to help me get started in this field?
A: NAPO offers extensive education to help you. Check out our class Starting an Organizing Business. The class is designed for new and prospective professional organizers. It’s a blueprint for launching a successful organizing business. NAPO University gives you the foundation of knowledge on which to build your career with on demand classes and webinars such as Starting out as a Residential Organizer and Starting Out as a Business Organizer.
Resources like our Corporate Associate Members’ blogs, NAPO Get Organized Blog, and blogs of our members are great ways to learn about starting out in this field.
Once you join, you will have access to MEMBER CONNECT, an online community comprised of all NAPO members, including the most successful veterans in the field. You will be able to ask questions and get answers in real time. In addition, we offer New Member Orientation Webinars to help you to get the most out of your NAPO membership.
Many potential organizers attend our national conference and organizing expo. It’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity to immerse yourself in the field, learn how to market, network within our industry, and grow your business. NAPO offers a Join & Register rate for joining our association and attending conference.
Q: Do all organizing professionals do the same thing? What types of work do organizers specialize in?
A: There are so many different ways professional organizers and productivity specialists help clients. Some begin by focusing on residential clients (de-cluttering and organizing closets, pantries, garages, etc.), while others work with entrepreneurs, small business owners, or corporate clients.
One decision to consider is whether you will launch your own company or join an existing organizing or productivity firm. We encourage potential organizers to leverage their own background and use this when considering the direction they would like to explore.
Productivity professionals and organizers do much more than sort, purge and store. We can assist clients with home office organization, time management, corporate efficiency, specialty projects (from organizing photos to cataloging inventories), blogging/books/lectures, virtual organizing, working with hoarding or chronically disorganized clients, downsizing, moving, and more. Organizing affects many parts of our lives, both in our homes and in our businesses—there is virtually no limit when it comes to what you can pursue within this profession.
Q: Do professional organizers work alone or with others?
A: Some work independently, some collaborate with a team, and some use a combination of both. There are many business models out there, although many organizers begin either as a sole proprietor or work for another organizer.
Q: Are there any rules or guidelines for professional organizers?
A: Many organizing and productivity specialists are also independent business owners, and there are no specific regulations or rules specific to the organizing profession. What sets NAPO members apart is that they agree to uphold NAPO’s Code of Ethics, which establishes guidelines for professional conduct with our clients and with other Industry Members.
Beyond fundamental professional ethics, creating your own professional focus and methodology will result from training, experience, and education.
Q: Should I contact area productivity specialists or organizers and ask them questions before I decide if this is for me?
A: While this is a generally collegial profession, please keep in mind that we are all business owners or employees of business owners focused on delivering results for our clients. We enjoy talking about what we do, but we’re also balancing busy careers and our personal commitments. Before making a call or sending an email to a NAPO member to ask them about how they got into their profession or how they launched their business, research your questions online (or complete a NAPO Education course) so that you’re limiting your inquiry to one or two insightful questions that will make the best use of your fellow professional’s time and your own.
If your questions will involve more than a few minutes to discuss, it’s appropriate to offer to engage the organizer as a consultant as you explore your new profession or launch your new business. Many productivity and organizing professionals offer new business support services, coaching, and one-on-one training for those who are just getting started. Working with a supportive expert at the beginning of your journey in conjunction with NAPO University courses can certainly provide you with a springboard to success.
Q: Can I make a living working in this industry?
A: Please consider this testimonial from Barry Izsak, CPO®, former NAPO President and founder of Arranging It All: Yes, you can absolutely, positively make a very respectable living as a professional organizer. The beauty of this profession is that we have the flexibility to create our own path and there are so many ways to “make it.” We can choose to operate our own business or work for someone else.
Each of us also makes the decision as to how much time we can devote to this work. Obviously, a person who chooses to work part-time as a solo practitioner won’t earn as much as someone who wants and needs to work full-time and plans to build a multi-person company serving a variety of client needs.
I am aware of professional organizers who earn six figure incomes and others who make much less. The need for our services is clearly there. How much you actually earn is largely dependent on whether you are ready and able to commit the time and resources to realize your goals.
Or how about what Nealey Stapleton of The-Organizing-Boutique.com comments:
The short answer is absolutely! Eight years ago, I started my business helping local clients organize their homes and offices. Now I’m transitioning to making my living online with my blog and selling information products. You can earn an income doing almost anything as long as you are willing to learn as much as you can, you know your audience, your product/service is valuable to them and you provide good customer support. Jump in with both feet and rock it!
Judson Crowder, CPO®, of Restorganize®, offers this advice: Yes, you can make a living being a professional organizer, BUT you must be patient and have a strong plan in place. Do your market research, figure out your “audience”, and be prepared to live frugally for a few years as you build your business, technique, and brand. Entrepreneurship is a challenging road, but with perseverance, education, and a true understanding of why you are traveling this road, you can succeed and make a very comfortable living.
Beth Fuchs, CPO®, of Organized to Perfection, encourages: I have been in business for 13 years as a full-time professional organizer and yes, you can make a living in this profession. Everyone’s definition of “making a living” is different, so you decide what that means to you and if you follow your passion, you will always have all you need.
Q: How much money does it cost to start a professional organizing or productivity consulting business?
A: As with all businesses, costs vary. You will want to consider the type and cost of your business entity, licenses in your state, tools you will bring when working with clients, marketing, and membership with NAPO. Keep a record of all these expense for your taxes. Investing time, money, and effort in your business is an important consideration of business ownership and shows your commitment to your business and career.
Ready to join? Start here!