Any professional organizer can tell you how rewarding their career is. It’s not about color-coding your client’s bookshelf or creating a filing system for their wardrobe. A good professional organizer helps clients de-clutter their lives and develop effective habits to keep things on track. That’s the kind of change that can make a big difference.

Unfortunately, not every professional organizing client is a dream to work with. Like any other service-oriented professional, every organizer will sometimes find themselves butting heads with tough clients. The better you get at branding and marketing your business, the less it’ll happen—but it will still happen. So how do you deal with a client who just doesn’t click with you—without wanting to give up and quit?

The client who doesn’t understand professional organizing

Let’s face it—every professional organizer has met at least one of these clients in their career. There are a lot of myths about professional organizing floating around, and not every client is going to do their research before picking up the phone.

Whether you’re working with someone who just has a few misconceptions or someone who’s totally off the mark, the best thing to do is sit down and set them straight. Your client might be…

  • Insistent that you should do your stuff while they’re out of town,
  • Shocked at your estimate of how long the job will take, or
  • Confused by the way you’ve started the organizing process.

Confused design clients

In any of these situations, explaining how you do your job helps your client understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. Many of your tough organizing clients aren’t deliberately setting out to make your job harder—they just haven’t totally grasped your role.

The client who’s too vague

You know the one—the client who won’t articulate what area they want you to focus on or what their objectives are. They just want you to “clean the place up.”

Just like our first tricky client, your first step should be to explain to them why that won’t work. But if that doesn’t do the trick, you’ll have to dig a little deeper. Maybe your client is having a hard time pinning down what exactly their problems are—or maybe they’re not quite comfortable sharing those problems with a stranger.

Skeptical design client

A good way to work with this kind of client is to start asking targeted questions. Some clients will be able to explain their issues with little prompting, but this kind of client will need a bit of a nudge. First, remind them that you’ll keep everything they share with you totally confidential. Then start asking specific questions about their goals, daily habits, and points of stress.

The client who doesn’t value your services

This client tries to weasel their way into a discount or fight down your standard price. Oh, they want your services—just not at full price.

Wondering what the first step is? You guessed it—once again, you’ve got to walk them through the details of your job. Like we said, there are a lot of misconceptions about what a professional organizer does. No client wants to overpay for a service—and if they think your work will just involve a few hours of tidying things up, they might feel like you’re ripping them off. Once they understand what exactly your role is, they may be more willing to meet your rates.

If your client insists on staying cheap, though, it might be time to “fire” them. One of the benefits of owning your own business is that you get to decide who you work with. There’s no need to stick with a client who clearly doesn’t value your work.

The client who won’t commit

They’ve committed to hiring you—they just don’t want to do any of the work that goes along with it. For this client, the point of hiring a professional organizer is to get their home organized once and for all.

It shouldn’t take a course in professional organizing to tell you why this kind of mentality just won’t work. Organizing isn’t a one-time achievement. It’s a process. Without a commitment to staying organized, your client’s home will just dissolve into chaos once more.

Make it clear from the start that this isn’t a one-sided relationship. Yes, you can provide professional advice and assistance in organizing their home, but keeping it that way is up to them. You’ll help them come up with good habits to keep things in order, but those new habits won’t do much good if your client can’t commit!

If you’ve got serious doubts about your client’s willingness to put in the effort, this might be another time to let that client go. Inevitably, their home will dissolve into chaos within a few weeks (or days… or hours…) of your departure.

Messy business woman

Even though this isn’t your fault, it can leave them disappointed and frustrated with your work. That’s never a good sign when your business depends on client referrals and positive reviews.

The client with anxiety or emotional issues

Maybe they’re experiencing mental health problems. Maybe this is their first time organizing after losing a partner, child, or parent. These kinds of problems obviously aren’t your client’s fault, but they can make the organizing process tough on both of you.

You’ll need to approach situations like these with tact and sensitivity, of course, but sometimes that’s just not enough. Some organizers like to prepare for this kind of situation by adding a mental health specialist to their support team. Whether this is a counselor or therapist you can refer your client to or a team member who accompanies you on site, a specialist can help these clients get the support they need.

Clients struggling with mental health issues or dealing with emotional losses can be common clients to professional organizers. If you decide you want to do more work with these clients, it may be worth looking into extra courses or workshops you can take to help you develop the relevant support skills.

It’s also okay to decide you’re not up to the task, though. You can still help your client by referring them to another professional organizer who has the support system or skills they need.

Have you ever worked with a tough professional organizing client? Share your story in the comments and let us know how you handled them!

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