There are milestones to celebrate in your organising business. There are anniversaries and revenue targets and launch dates, and they are all worth celebrating. But I want to talk about the less obvious, often more fulfilling milestones to watch out for so that you can celebrate them to the max. I list 7 of these in a loose chronological order, but they could arrive in a different order for you.
1. Your First Paying Client
Every organiser remembers their first paying client. It’s exhilarating and frightening all at the same time. If you have a tale to tell about your first paying client experience, I’d love to hear it. Leave a comment below. But if you are just starting out and haven’t had the joy of your first paying client yet, can I give you a bit of advice? Don’t overthink it. Don’t underestimate what you can offer. I know it can be scary to put yourself out there. You may feel like you don’t have enough experience yet. You may feel unprepared. But be assured that you have enough organising wisdom to share with someone who calls on you. You don’t have to have all the answers either. You can always go away and research answers to bring back to your first paying client.
My first paying client rang me based on my Yellow Pages listing. He wanted me to come and organise his wife. He explained that he was a minimalist, and she was a “mess”. On top of that, she didn’t know that he was arranging this. After I spoke with her and confirmed that I would be welcome, we set a time. On my arrival, the husband let me know all the things he expected, while the wife was quiet. I made it clear that the wife was my client, even though he was paying the bill. We worked together in the walk-in wardrobe. My biggest challenge that day was not dealing with the husband, or dealing with the awkward, dark wardrobe space. it was gaining the trust of the wife, which I did. She remained a client for several sessions and attended my workshops as well. Her confidence grew as she discovered her organising style and confidence.
2. This is Working
There will come a moment in every new organiser’s career where they can feel it in their bones. It may come in the form of several new enquiries, or a big job effortlessly landed, or a referral from a reliable source. It is that moment when you think, “Yes! This is working.”
I had my “This is working” moment when I’d been networking for a while with other business owners. I started to receive requests to speak in public, client referrals, and the bookings were consistent. “Yes!”
3. Confidence when Things Go Quiet
Closely related to that “This is working” moment is a feeling of confidence when things go quiet. It may happen because of seasonal changes or global challenges. But when you understand the ebb and flow of your business, and the habits of your ideal client, you will know that beyond this quiet time, there will be a busy one to follow. Of course, if it’s quiet all the time, that’s a problem. But don’t worry. Talk to me about how to combat that.
I personally find that summer holidays are the quietest time in my business, followed in second place by the depths of winter. But come back-to-school or spring, the phone starts running hot again.
4. Full Calendar
Having a calendar with a full client roster is a wonderful thing to celebrate. But it comes with challenges as well. Watch out for burnout. Watch out for overstretching. Watch out for crossing your own boundaries. If you prefer not to work on weekends (like me), then don’t. Just because you have clients clamouring to work with you, doesn’t mean you have to accept them.
Thankfully I learned early on in my organising career to manage my full calendar and truly honour my own values, which included family time and me time. I had to recognise that it felt wonderful to have so many clients who “needed” me, but it felt better when I led a more balanced life.
5. Choosing Clients
Close on the heels of having a full calendar comes being more discerning about which clients you will work with. It may be that you are at a stage in business where you refine your niche and decide that you’ll only work with clients who fall into that niche. It may be that other aspects of your ideal client profile become clearer – their location, for example. In practical terms, it means you are not saying yes to every client that wants to hire you.
When this milestone came along for me, I learned to use the phrase, “I’m not the organiser for you”, and I started referring those clients to organising colleagues who were better suited for that work. It feels empowering. Now I’ve set up my Find Organising Help directory to help me refer even more work.
6. A Price Rise
When your schedule is full and you are turning away clients, it’s time to raise your prices. This is not only good for your bottom line, but it also acts as a natural solution to reduce the number of enquiries you receive, thereby reducing your admin time.
The first time I rose my prices I was nervous. But I needn’t have worried. It didn’t harm my business. Even my current clients at the time were unfazed. Now I have an annual review of my prices and my clients understand. It’s an important part of any business, and it’s one of my favourite milestones to celebrate.
7. Delegating and Outsourcing
Most organisers start out doing it all themselves – the organising (of course!) and the admin and the bookkeeping and the website maintenance and the social media and so on. But there comes a time when you are so busy organising with clients and earning a living that you have to delegate and outsource. Thank goodness there are clever reliable people who are good at those other tasks and can take the load off your shoulders.
I once worked with a woman at a kindergarten, in my “part-time organising” phase. The 3-year-olds would run up to her for help and it wasn’t unusual for eight little hands to be raised up and grasping her arm for attention and assistance while she was helping one child to put on an art smock. I always remember she would calmly say, “I’m not an octopus. I only have two hands. You’ll have to wait.” Well I’m not an octopus either, so I love outsourcing my website maintenance, bookkeeping and some other administrative tasks. I also tell my clients, “D is for Delegate”, and encourage them to take a load off too.
What other milestones to celebrate would you add?