In an ideal world, professional organizers would have perfect clients who give us full creative control of their space, were motivated to let go of items, are never home while we organize, and jump up and down clapping when they see the final product! Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, as professional organizers, our clients seem unimpressed and even annoyed by our presence, but don’t worry, we have some strategies for how you can stay professional and effective when working with challenging clients.

As a professional organizer, you'll sometimes have to work with challenging clients. Here are some strategies for staying positive.

How Challenging Clients Help

It may not feel like it but when you have clients that expect more out of you or challenge you, it can actually be quite helpful for your business and for your personal growth.

Challenging Clients Help You Identify Your Ideal Client

If you’re a new organizer, you may not have a firm idea of who your ideal client is yet. Having a variety of clients, especially those who are more challenging, will help you identify who you want to work with and the types of jobs you’d like to do in the future.

When you’ve identified your ideal client, it’s earlier to market and price yourself appropriately.

Need Help Setting Prices? There’s an eBook for that.

They Help You Grow

While we all love ideal clients with straightforward spaces, having clients that are more reluctant, reserved, and overwhelmed can help you grow as an organizer and develop skills that will help you work with future clients more effectively, which is important.

Challenging Clients Help You Identify The Need For Boundaries

It can be hard to tell where you need boundaries when your business is new, but when yours are being violated, you know!

Texts on a Saturday night? Non-stop communication for hours? Asking for discounted rates? Boundaries.

Take this opportunity to put new policies in place. It might not help you with this client, but it will help you with future clients.

They Encourage You to Think Outside the Box

Who doesn’t love a good challenge? When you’ve got products you love and a routine for working in a space, organizing can become routine. Clients who challenge you to take different approaches help you get out of a routine and be creative, which develops your organizing skills and keeps you flexible.

Challenging Clients & How to Work with Them

1. The High Expectations Client

Netflix, amIright? With shows like The Home Edit and Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, the Professional Organizing industry has never been bigger, but it can also lead to some unrealistic expectations, especially if you’re an organizer that doesn’t have her own show and has a budget to work with.

Netflix-treatment clients want clear acrylic bins, custom labels, and Pinterest looking spaces (sometimes with or without a limited product budget). Regardless of the budget, this type of client can pose its defiance in trusting you with the space and giving up control. This is your high maintenance – often luxury client. They email, text AND call at whatever hour of the day, expecting a quick response from you. This client wants to see, touch and hold every product you’ve suggested for the space before they approve it. They have high expectations from you from start to finish and make it clear when they don’t like something.

While high expectations can help us work to a higher standard, his type of client can be challenging. They can add anxiety and stress to your day and often make you second guess your skills and expertise. They can also suck up huge amounts of time when you’re off the clock.

Related Post: 7 Questions Professional Organizers Should Ask

As a professional organizer, you may find that some clients don't respect your time.

Strategies for Dealing with High Expectations Clients

  1. Take a deep breath! Don’t worry, we’ve all handled this client and you WILL get through this house and session! You know what you’re doing and your organizing skills will shine through.
  2. Choose one way to communicate. This helps prevent the multiple streams of information you’re getting (which can confuse US if we can’t remember where they said they wanted the wicker baskets for the bathroom but now they have changed their mind to the fabric ones….was it in an email or text?!). We recommend email communication, so it can stay unread in your inbox until you have time to sit down and focus.
  3. Take notes. Track all the decisions and changes they are making. If you track the information along with dates in one place, it helps when you need to reference it.
  4. Know that regardless of how you reorganize that space and your client’s nature, you’re making substantial changes in the style and function. Don’t doubt yourself.

Related Post: Watching that Organizing Show on Netflix? What You Need to Know

2. The Untrusting Client

They hired you, but that doesn’t mean they trust you. This is the kind of client who doubts and second questions everything. The client who is watching your every move…. and you can feel them watching you! This is often the type of client who thinks they can give up control of their space to a professional, but when push comes to shove, it’s giving them anxiety and making them feel vulnerable. We have a few recommendations.

As a professional organizer, you may find that some clients don't entirely trust you.

Strategies for Dealing with Untrusting Clients

  1. Take your time. Go through the space slowly and listen to their process. This will help gain their trust and they will feel that they are being heard. Slowly, they will open up once you have proven to accomplish a space to their liking and they will eventually relax.
  2. Repeat back to them what they have asked during the organizing session. Sometimes reiterating information back to them will help with their analogical way of thinking. 
  3. Explain the process often or what you are doing next. Ie: “now that we have emptied your closet we will sort and go item to item on what you would like to do with that piece of clothing…..keep or toss”
  4. Ask a lot of questions. When you have opinions on an item or space, explain your reasoning and bounce your idea off your difficult clients. Sometimes, providing a logical explanation can do wonders in allowing them to trust your process.

The “I’m Keeping That” Client

Yes, they know they have too much stuff, but that doesn’t mean they want to get rid of it!

This is the overwhelmed client. They know they need help, but don’t know where to start. When they do start, they soon get discouraged and quit. They are drowning in daily life and they simply don’t have the energy to tackle their surroundings. Often, they’re dealing with mental health issues or grief. We’ve all been there.

As a professional organizer, you may find that some clients aren't ready to let go, and it can be hard to change a space in that situation.

Strategies for Dealing with the “I’m Keeping That” Client

  1. Lead with compassion. You may end up having a 5 minute conversation about a paperclip (this has happened to Krystee) so you need to deep breathe (in your mind) and walk them through the process. Remind them of why they hired you and of the changes they’re hoping to make. We suggest you keep these sessions on the shorter side to help them process.
  2. These types of difficult clients often have a hard time deciding quickly (which can frustrate us and take longer than expected) so we need to guide them though with a series of questions “When was the last time you wore this sweater?” “Does it fit well?” “Do you like the colour?”, etc. Based on their answers, you can determine what needs to be done. Don’t push these clients to let go. Honor their choices.
  3. Assign homework. If they can’t decide on some items, have them placed into a “homework bin”. Set an item limit on this bin, ie: “we can place up to 15 items from this space in this bin for you to review before our next session.” If you reach that item limit, then you need to bring them back to the discussion of organizing isn’t successful without decluttering. Remind them you are the expert and they hired you to help with their mental load and part of that is removing clutter and unused items from the home.   
  4. Let any improvement be good enough. Odds are, you won’t make great organizational strides if your client isn’t willing to declutter. If this is the case, do the best you can and let that be good enough.

Working with Challenging Clients

As with every challenging client, open communication is KEY. Ask lots of questions. Be clear about your process from start to finish (a strong contract can help!). Set boundaries. Lead with empathy. Be professional, no matter how frustrated you feel.

By using these tips, we are confident you have more tools in your back pocket for the next difficult client!

As a professional organizer, you'll sometimes have to work with challenging clients. Here are some strategies for staying positive.

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2 Comments

  1. This blog post was on point. As a Professional Organizer I can relate to all of the points.

    Also as an organizer we need to set boundaries and if client / organizer are not a good fit sometimes is best to recommend another person, it’s hard but worth it. Love all the content provided for us the organizers.

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