Ever since the pandemic, many experiences that had traditionally been conducted in person have “gone virtual.” The same has been true in the productivity and organizing professions. While most of us continue to work face-to-face with clients, many of us have also found ways to help clients virtually. What exactly is virtual organizing? To better explain how virtual organizing works, I decided to share some virtual organizing FAQs.
A simple definition of virtual organizing is “Professional guidance provided virtually to help clients achieve organizing and productivity goals.” What kinds of goals? I find the goals are very similar to those that my in-person clients set, including:
- Decluttering of crowded spaces
- Design of storage systems
- Establishment and support for daily routines to maintain order
- Coaching on time management and planning
- Downsizing, floor planning, and renovation guidance
- Digital organizing
- Photo organizing and management
- Follow-up support from previous projects
- Body doubling
These are some of the more common needs, but professional organizers offer a variety of services, depending upon the client’s unique circumstances. How might these needs be met virtually? Here are some commonly asked questions and the answers I typically provide.
Who is a good candidate to work with virtually?
As with in-person organizing, a good candidate for virtual organizing is someone who is committed to the process. As the old saying goes, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”
In addition, virtual organizing tends to work well for individuals who desire direction and instruction but have the ability to perform some of the work themselves. For instance, it would be difficult for a wheelchair bound individual to declutter a room virtually.
It is also necessary that virtual clients are comfortable using technology.
How might the process work?
Each organizer has his/her own unique approach, but in general, the relationship most likely begins with a consultation. The consultation often involves a phone call or video call, what I call a “meet and greet.” During this time, the potential client can explain his/her needs and goals, and ask questions. I schedule ½ hour for this initial conversation.
If the need is organizing of a specific space, it is helpful for the client to provide photographs. I prefer landscape photographs taken from three vantage points in the room. If I will be providing a floorplan or making suggestions for storage containers or furniture, I also request measurements of the space.
After this call, I type up a proposal for the client to review, which includes a summary of our conversation, specific project outline, and the terms of service. I then email this information to the client for review. If the project is a “go,” the next step is to put our first date on the calendar.
Is there a charge for the consultation?
This varies by professional. I offer my consultations free of charge. Once there is a client agreement, it is common for clients to pay a deposit.
How do the calls work?
This depends on what type of project we are working on. I always ask clients to have their computer/laptop/tablet set up in a well-lit space where they can see me, talk to me, be free of distractions, and be able to comfortably work.
If we will be focusing on decluttering, clients need to set up a few things in advance, such as a clear sorting surface and bags/bins for unwanted items (e.g., to donate, to sell, to dispose). We may also need designated spots for items that will require additional review at a future time
(e.g., clothing that needs to be tried on after the virtual appointment, items about which the
client must ask another family member), and for objects that must be returned to someone else. I also like clients to have a container for items we come across that should live elsewhere in the home. Returning these objects to their proper locations is an example of “homework” to be completed after the call.
If the focus of our time will be time management or other types of coaching, the client will need to have his/her calendar (digital or paper), task list (again, digital or paper), and paper and a pen for taking notes.
Do you send an email with an agenda?
Yes, especially for the first call. Before we meet, I send an agenda which lays out the tasks for the call, as well as a list of all supplies that the client should have on hand (see above). These are the results of the mutual consultation.
Typically, at the end of each call, I send an email summary of our session. This includes decisions, observations, and “homework” for the client. I also articulate when we plan to meet again next, and what we will be focusing on during the following session.
What technology do you need to have on hand?
Clients need to have either a desktop, laptop, or tablet. It is possible to work on a phone as well, although the phone screen is small, and some may find it difficult to look at such a small screen for the duration of a session.
I provide a Zoom or Facetime link to the client ahead of our session, so the client needs to be comfortable clicking through the link and getting on the call. Some organizers will record the call for future reference.
How long are virtual organizing sessions?
In most cases, I find 1- 1½ hour calls work best. It can be hard to look at a screen for long periods of time, so these sessions are shorter than my in-person sessions. Calls can be scheduled at intervals that work for each client, such as weekly or bi-weekly. I am flexible on this and suggest the option I think will work best for the project at hand.
Whenever we decide to meet, it is important that clients be fully present for the session,
especially since these sessions are shorter in duration than in-person work. For example, it is optimal to participate when alone and focused, rather than driving the car or caring for little ones who are running around.
How does virtual organizing differ from in-person organizing?
The primary difference is that the client has to do more of the physical work.
When I work in-person on an organizing job, I will typically spend time at the beginning of the session pre-sorting items for client review. This means I crawl under beds, reach into back cabinets, remove items from high shelves, climb the attic stairs, etc. I am also there at the end of the session to set up storage systems, put things away, box or bag unwanted items, haul trash out to the can/recycle bin, and load donations into my car for drop-off (if needed).
When working with a client virtually, it is the client’s responsibility to access belongings, bring them to the sorting surface for review, and finally get them to their final destination. That said, there are options we can explore to support clients who might have difficulty doing these tasks. For example, we might identify a family member who can gather items to a pile near the sorting surface ahead of our call, and then come back and help put things away afterwards. I may also recommend professional resources, such as a junk hauler, charity pickup service, handyman, etc.
Another difference is that I won’t be bringing supplies to the job site. Instead, we identify alternative methods for the client to acquire needed supplies. I often set up an Amazon wish list for clients with the items I am suggesting they acquire. We can talk through exactly what, when, and how to purchase whatever is needed.
In terms of process, my virtual approach mirrors my in-person approach. I provide direction, conversation, opinions (when asked), product suggestions, design services, and whatever else is required to achieve the client’s goals.
Are you available outside of the scheduled virtual session for questions?
This depends on the individual organizer. In most cases, I am happy to answer a quick text as soon as I can (bearing in mind that I may be with other clients or unavailable at any given moment). If a client has a need that will require more than a rapid response, I will suggest we schedule additional time to address it.
How much does virtual organizing cost in comparison to in-person services?
While this varies by professional, my hourly rate is the same for virtual and in-person services. For this reason, a client on a limited budget may find virtual organizing is a great option. Again, the more a client can work independently, the less expensive the project will be.
How do you collect payment?
This is negotiated between the organizer and the client. The most common choice is via a digital payment service such as Venmo or Zelle.
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Have you ever considered using virtual organizing services? Did this answer any of your questions? What else do you wonder about?