A certified professional organizer (CPO) is someone who receives pay for organizing cluttered living spaces or work environments and has received certification in the field. Usually working as independent contractors, these organizers use their experience and knowledge combined with tested principles to create spaces and organizational systems that promote efficiency and give clients more time to enjoy their lives. Certified professional organizers also act as coaches to their clients, offering tips and instructing them in proper organization methods.
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Certified professional organizers work with clients to enhance their lives by developing custom organizing systems and teaching organizational skills. Clients often have busy schedules and quickly become frustrated by their own lack of organization. Professional organizers assist in these situations by taking control of the chaos in the client's life and allowing them to more effectively manage their time, paperwork or closet clutter.
Certified professional organizers also work with businesses. In a commercial setting, professional organizers are responsible for the overall efficiency of the office or other work environment. A well-designed plan from a good organizer can save a business a substantial amount of revenue. Professional organizers plan everything from more efficient handling of paperwork to time management for individual employees and room-by-room work flow designs.
Candidates for a position as a certified professional organizer must possess a high school diploma or equivalent. Good communication skills and a passion and aptitude for organization is also necessary.
Most importantly, however, candidates must receive formal certification through the Board of Certification for Professional Organizers (BCPO). The board is affiliated with the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and maintains a goal of advancing ethical standards in the professional organizer industry. The BCPO is part of the National Association of Professional Organizers' broader mission of developing future professional organizers and promoting the organizing industry.
Candidates interested in BCPO certification must sign the Code of Ethics for Certified Professional Organizers as part of the application process. They must also provide proof of 1,500 or more hours of paid work experience in the field of organization. Organizers are not qualified to sit for the BCPO exam until these hours are complete.
The hours must consist of approved job tasks such as virtual organizing, on-site organizing, coaching clients in organizational skills and being involved in organization workshops. BCPO will allow up to 100 hours for those who have a college degree or continuing education credits related to the field. Another 150 hours can come from writing articles and various other endeavours considered valid preparation for a career in professional organization.
Professional organizers aren't required to submit proof of these hours unless, after successfully completing the exam, they are randomly selected for a post-exam audit. In the audit, they are required to verify their hours. They must demonstrate organization, efficiency and documentation that supports their time involvement in the field. The BCPO performs these audits to ensure the integrity of their high quality standards.
In addition to passing the initial exam, certified professional organizers must become re-certified once every three years. They must submit an annual maintenance fee, sign a new code of ethics document, and submit proof of completing at least 45 hours of continuing education directly related to the field of professional organizing. Some certified professional organizers also become certified through the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD), which offers a more in-depth four-level course.
Certified professional organizers are, in most cases, self-employed. Many work from a home office, as much of their time is spent traveling to clients' businesses and homes in order to evaluate and implement organization systems. If successful enough, organizers may rent or purchase a professional office space for the purposes of organizing their own business, offering a showroom environment to potential clients and establishing a physical location as a point of sale.
Due to the amount of travel required in their field, professional organizers spend a lot of time on the road and their schedules vary daily. While some individuals will adhere strictly to the confines of a 9am to 5pm schedule, others will work evenings or weekends in order to offer convenience to their clients. Depending on the size of their client base and amount of work available, the length of the work week varies between individual organizers and fluctuates with market demand. One week may be light, with an organizer spending less than eight hours on the job, while another may be intense, requiring over 60 hours of effort.
While annual salaries vary widely based on work experience, the variety of services provided, market demand and location, the average annual salary for a certified professional organizer is around $42,000. Those who are just starting out in the business usually earn around $25 per hour, and some professionals with established careers charge upwards of $125 per hour for their services. As with most forms of self employment, success is often dependent upon the individual's quality of work, reputation and networking ability. Other factors that influence salary are the organizer's area of specialization and ability to market their services.