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Institute for Professional Organizers™

Grow Your Business – With Subcontractors

In 2013, something startling and unexpected happened. I woke up one day and was not excited to go to work with my client.

What happened? I love to organize.

That was not what I wasn’t excited about. It was the client. I found myself thinking of this client all the time. How could I help her? Why wasn’t she doing the homework between our sessions? How could I get her husband to understand how ADD affected her ability to organize and to not abuse her emotionally by saying she was lazy and stupid?

I started thinking I might want to stop working with clients, and that made me sad. I was at the NAPO conference, and a presenter started talking about compassion fatigue. She went on to explain that compassion fatigue comes on due to ongoing exposure to client struggles. Compassion fatigue is a specialized form of burnout in which the professional organizer no longer feels able to help his or her clients. That hopeless feeling might not be conscious but instead might manifest as cynicism or a growing disdain for clients, or it could be that you experience impatience, an inability to empathize with clients, or overall job dissatisfaction. That was mostly what I was experiencing.

I decided that, for my well-being, I needed to end this client relationship and set clear boundaries with myself about who I would take on as a client in the future. It also occurred to me that there are some clients and projects that are not for me, but they are for others. I did not want to hire employees, but I did want to work with others on projects or have others work on projects that were not appealing to me—like garages!

I reached out to a few women who completed my training program and asked if they would be interested in working as a subcontractor for me.

This was one of the best business decisions I have ever made.

I chose the business model of subcontractors instead of employees to keep overhead costs lower and because I couldn’t guarantee specific work hours.

My team and I can complete large projects in a fraction of the time it would take me to complete on my own with a client, if a project doesn’t appeal to me, I assign it to a subcontractor, and the subcontractor gets work they otherwise would not. It’s a win-win-win! It’s also another revenue stream because I split the fee the client pays with the subcontractors and me.

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