The number one question I am asked by people who want to become a professional organizer is, “How much do I charge?” Establishing your fee continues to be the one area where many professional organizers undervalue their services. Let’s explore how much professional organizers charge by determining a reasonable market rate, earning the income you need, and communicating your value to clients.
Selling Your Value
Your clients need to understand the value of your services. It’s difficult for a client to know whether your fee is affordable or reasonable until they have a chance to appreciate your services’ value. If you charge a dollar an hour but don’t produce anything of value, your services are too expensive. If you charge $500 an hour and transform someone’s life, they need you, and they need to figure out how they can hire you. A person who sees and understands the value of something and wants it can always figure out a way to make it happen.
How to Describe the Benefits (Value) Your Client Will Receive
Feature benefits include:
- You have a proven organizing process.
- You will set up systems that will work.
- You will help your client to pick the right containers.
Functional benefits provide your client with:
- More time
- Ability to find things
- Financial savings
- More space
Emotional benefits provide your client with:
- Peace of mind
- Less stress
- A sense of calm
Inspirational benefits provide your client with:
- The ability to achieve their goals
- A sense of freedom
- Clarity, hope, and possibility
- A sense of empowerment
- Increased focus and productivity
Hourly Fee Versus Project Fee
Most organizers charge by the hour. Some organizers offer sliding scale rates if a client wants to purchase blocks of hours, similar to a personal trainer. Think carefully about what your time is worth, and be careful not to low-ball or undercharge your fee just to get the job. If you believe in your worth, your client will, too. There may be occasions to charge a project fee—whole house organizing or corporate projects. For projects, consider adding 15 to 20 percent above your price to account for additional outside time doing research or shopping and to cover the additional time you originally estimated.
Psychologically, people like to think they are getting a “deal,” especially when they feel they don’t have money to spend. I’m referring to packaging your services by reducing the hourly rate with increased hours purchased. However, packages are paid for in total upfront. Which provides cash flow for your business, and it does something even better, it commits the client to the work. Clients canceling their sessions at the last minute are generally a thing of the past because of the financial commitment.
For example, if your hourly rate is $75.00 and you typically work in 3-hour sessions, you could create the following packages:
- 3 hours = $225 no discount
- 6 hours = $400 ~ 10% discount
- 9 hours = $575 ~ 15% discount
- 12 hours = $725 ~ 20% discount
You can create any combination of packages that aligns with your business plan. The key is to require prepayment with a stipulation (in your services and fees agreement) that the package expires within a specified period, i.e., 90 days, and is non-transferable. Ask your business attorney what is legal regarding package expiration and transferability.
Initial Consultation and Needs Assessment
Many organizers do not charge for the initial consultation and needs assessment (usually no more than one hour). Others don’t charge for a follow-up consultation. I do a pretty thorough complimentary assessment on my website (including uploading pictures of their organizing project) and over the phone when a prospect contacts me. This time spent is for my benefit because I’m assessing the problem areas and gathering information about the person’s organizing project and other data to determine if we are a good match. I’m fact-finding, and this assessment is for my benefit. I’m the one learning and not giving them information or solutions, so why would they pay for that?
On the other hand, the consultation—what I call the “discovery session”—is something I charge for, and it happens after we’ve had a phone conversation. I go into the client’s space, already knowing fairly well what I’m walking into because I’ve spent some time on the phone with the client in advance, and they have sent me photographs. The session typically lasts one to two hours. I arrive and do a thorough tour of the space, ask a lot of questions, offer verbal suggestions, and in the end, I send them (via e-mail) a comprehensive written Organizing Plan of Action from which to work. They can then choose to implement it themselves or hire me to work with them,
The client pays for the consultation because they learn what they need to do to remedy their situation. If you clarify who is receiving the information and the benefit, you’ll know whether you’re doing an assessment or a consultation.
You might consider charging a travel fee for clients who ask you to come to their home/office over X miles or over X time. For example, travel over 60 minutes roundtrip, charge your hourly rate in increments of 15 minutes using Google maps to calculate the trip time. I don’t charge the actual time I’m driving because I could get in a traffic jam, which is not the client’s fault.
Materials are exclusive of your hourly fee and are reimbursable expenses. Some vendors offer NAPO members discounts. Many stores offer “trade” discounts. You may want to pass this discount on to your client, or you may want to keep the discount and not charge your client the time you spend purchasing the materials. Or you may wish to charge a materials procurement (shopping) fee.
Professional organizing rates vary from state to state and country to country. The rate is often a reflection of:
- their years of experience
- specialized training they have completed, such as working with the chronically disorganized
- certifications they have earned, such as Certified Professional Organizer (CPO), Certified Professional Organizer-Chronically Disorganized (CPO-CD), and Certified Virtual Organizing Professional (CVOP)
- the location of the work
- what they include in their fee besides their time such as materials or travel
The best way to determine a fee to charge your clients is to understand what professional organizers in your area are charging for similar services. Please do not call professional organizers in your area pretending to be a potential client to find out their fee. Each professional organizer business owner determines their pricing. And because anti-trust laws forbid any business from acting to fix prices, professional organizers cannot coordinate to maintain a certain price level in their area.
You can research other professional organizers’ websites; many list their fees on their services page. As you can see from the examples below, their rates vary from per hour to packages and single or multiple organizers.
- Denise Allan (one of my first students), Simplify Experts, Seattle, Washington, charges $135/hr. She has many years of experience and has earned the CPO and CPO-CD certifications. She is also a speaker and published author.
- Sorted Out, located in multiple locations in Texas, including Plano, Dallas, Fort Worth, Southlake, and Park Cities, lists hourly and package rates for residential $100-$150/hr. to discount 20% or $4,615/40 hours and business organizing $250/2 hours to their gold package $30,000/180 hours.
- Your Space Better, Sarasota, Florida, packages their services ranging from DIY $250 to VIP $6,000+.
- Time4Organizing, Columbus, Ohio, has a 3-hour minimum of $110/hr. for a two-organizer team. $75/hr. for one organizer. 12-hour and 24-hour packages are also available at $1,254 and $2,376/two-organizer team.
You might research and read articles that discuss what a professional organizer does and what they charge. Such as:
- Fixr article “How Much Does a Professional Organizer Cost?” 2022: $450 average for 3 hours + consultation.
- Washington Post article “What to Know About Hiring a Professional Organizer” 2018: $40-$180/hr.
- New York Times article “A Clutter Too Deep for Mere Bins and Shelves,” January 1, 2008: $60–$100/hr.
- NAPO News June-July 2005 “Who Are We? Highlights of the 2005 NAPO Membership Survey,” $49 to more than $125/hr.
- Newsweek article “Clean Freaks,” 2004: $50–$200/hr.
How to Determine a Your Fee
When deciding what to charge, use this simple formula. What salary do you need to earn? Think of it as if you were applying for a job with a company. What salary do you need to sustain your lifestyle?
- Add the cost of benefits such as vacation, sick days, health and disability insurance, life insurance, and retirement plans.
- Add in your operating expenses–everything it costs to run your business. Together this equals the gross annual salary needed.
- Due to holidays, vacation, sick days, professional development, and office time. It is important to note that you will put in many non-billable hours doing your own administrative and marketing work. The typical full-time professional realistically bills about fifteen out of twenty working days a month, or 720 hours a year (15 days x 12 months x 4 hours a day). Divide this total by the number of hours you can realistically expect to work in a year.
The result will be what to charge per hour. For example (Disclaimer – This is only an example and is not a service rate recommendation, nor is it intended to suggest any minimum or maximum rates.):
- $36,000.00 Desired [net] Annual Salary
- +$18,000.00 Annual Operating Expenses, including benefits (50 percent of Annual Salary)
- =$54,000.00 Total [gross] Annual Salary
- /720 Annual Hours Worked
- =$75.00 Hourly Rate to Charge
When and How to Give Yourself a Raise
Eventually, you will want to raise your fee as you gain more experience, education, training, and certifications. When you do raise your price, raise it for past clients too. For clients you are currently working on a project with, you could charge your new fee for future projects with them.
Final Word on Fees
The client wants choices. Find a way to provide your client with options. For example,
(1) hands-on organizing hourly rate will cost the most,
(2) a DIY plan will probably be the least expensive, or
(3) a combination of the two as a package will cost somewhere in-between.
By reading Mastering the Business of Organizing you can learn more about working as a professional organizer and operating a professional organizing business.