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Organize this: A six-figure income
Only neatniks and efficiency experts need apply to become a professional organizer.
November 21, 2005: 2:01 PM EST
By Jeanne Sahadi, senior writer

NEW YORK ( Do you often have an overwhelming urge to help the fuzzy thinkers, procrastinators, pack rats and Pigpens of the world?

If so, you may have some of what it takes to become a professional organizer.

But being the biggest, bossiest neatnik on the block isn't necessarily the best trait for success. You have to have a high degree of patience and an appreciation for your client's personality and habits. Otherwise, your efforts aren't likely to come to much.

That's because the ultimate mission of a professional organizer is not just to make a client's space less cluttered and better arranged, but to customize an organizing process that a client will actually use long after you're gone.

To do that, you need to know what questions to ask to elicit information about a client's working style or lifestyle and you need to be a good problem-solver, said Barry Izsak, president of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO).

Your helping instincts needn't be limited to people's closets. On the residential side of the business, there are a number of specialties. Among them: kitchens, garages, paper clutter, estate sales, moving and relocation, helping seniors downsize to senior living facilities or helping to sort out a client's health insurance claims.

A lot of professional organizers also work with businesses to help them with computer organization, ergonomics, filing systems, and creating policies and procedures manuals. The ultimate goal is to save the company money and reduce stress on workers by making a department more efficient and more productive.

Some professional organizers will even specialize in a type of business. For instance, they may work mainly with legal offices or with medical offices.

No degree is required for the job, but many professional organizers tend to have a college degree, Izsak said.

NAPO is in the process of creating a certification program that will be launched in 2007. In the meantime, it runs training courses and conferences for both members and non-members.

Like those who become real estate agents to make extra money, a lot of people in the organizing field work part-time. But about half work full-time.

Those who do stand the best chance of earning $100,000-plus a year if they're ambitious. And it may not even take that long. For some, it could be as few as five years after entering the field, Izsak noted.

Client work alone isn't the only way to reach that level of income. Some professional organizers achieve it by combining client work with speaking engagements; or by running a business that hires out organizers.

Izsak, for instance, subcontracts out organizers who freelance with his company, Arranging It All. And he's also written a book called "Organize Your Garage in No Time."

Organizers also may earn fees for referring a project to colleagues.

Work is billed by the project or by the hour. Hourly fees can range from $50 to $200 depending on the organizer's experience, location and the nature of the job for which they've been hired, Izsak said.

That's not a bad way to clean up while satisfying a need to create order.  Top of page

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