What I’ve Learned in my First 10 Years of Business

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Barclay Career & Organizing Solutions website 2002

I’m thrilled to announce that it’s been a full ten years since I hung out my shingle! Organized Assistant® as you know it today bears little to no resemblance to the business I launched on June 25, 2002, but it’s been an exciting journey, and along the way I’ve learned a lot about growing and running a business, and about myself as well.

If my claim to learn something new every day is true, that means I’ve learned 3,650 new things in my first 10 years as a business owner. However, much of what I’ve learned is only important to me personally, or to others in my present line of work, so today I’ve selected five important tips that I hope will be helpful to you in your organizing business.

1. Believe in yourself.

Shortly after starting my business, I met with Margaret Miller, who was at that time President of Professional Organizers in Canada (POC). I was torn between joining POC and registering for their upcoming conference; I was hesitant to spend money on both until I started bringing in some income. Margaret wisely asked, “How do you expect clients to have confidence in your business if you don’t have confidence in yourself? I took her advice and invested in both – a decision I have never regretted.

2. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone from time to time.

Once the word got out about my business, I was invited to speak about Personality Type and Time Management at a local bookstore. I was terrified, but it was just too good an opportunity to turn down. Since then, I’ve spoken to dozens of different groups on a wide range of topics. Although I’m still nervous, it’s not the ordeal that it was, and I’ve found it a great way to demonstrate my expertise, gain exposure for my business, and even generate some extra income along the way.

3. No matter what you’re working on, someone else has already done it.

One of the reasons that many of us started our own business is that we like to work independently. However, being independent doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of other people’s experience. Whether I needed the answer to a simple question, a partner for a particular project, or an expert to take on a task that was beyond my expertise and/or level of interest, I’ve been most successful when I’ve reached out and asked for help.

4. Follow your passion.

If you’re not excited about what you’re doing, maybe you should be doing it differently, or doing something different altogether. When an organizing colleague asked me to handle the distribution of her electronic newsletter, I realized how much I loved that type of work and decided to add it to my service offerings. By that time I’d also realized that I preferred business organizing over residential, so I decided to focus on supporting small businesses, and Barclay Career & Organizing Solutions became Organized Assistant®. As the business grew, I eventually had to choose between organizing and virtual assistance, and I went with the service I was most passionate about.

5. Never ever stop learning.

No matter how good you are at what you do, there is always room for improvement. Fortunately, there are lots of formal learning opportunities available, including national conferences, regional conferences, local workshops and seminars, webinars, and teleclasses – not to mention the informal learning that takes place when you network with other business people locally or online, and when you read books, magazines, and blogs such as this one.

If you’re an experienced business owner, what is your number one tip for someone who is building an organizing business?

If you’re just getting started, what information do you need to help you move forward?

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A former professional organizer, I now eliminate stress for my clients by hosting, monitoring, and maintaining their WordPress sites so they don’t have to worry about security, downtime or performance issues. When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, watching movies, and cooking.

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  1. Avatar Pauline Wiles on June 26, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Congratulations on 10 years! This is a great post; my favourite is ‘believe in yourself”.

  2. Avatar Janet Barclay on June 26, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Thank you, Pauline!

  3. Avatar Ellen Delap on June 26, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Love this post! Congrats on 10 years!

    Best tip is to know your strengths. Do what you do well and delegate the rest.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on June 26, 2012 at 4:25 pm

      That’s a really important one – thanks for sharing!

  4. Julie Bestry Julie Bestry on June 26, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    Mazel tov on a fabulous decade of accomplishments. I can’t wait to see what you do next!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on June 27, 2012 at 7:02 am

      Julie, thank you for your inspiration and support. Friends like you are a real blessing.

  5. Avatar Jennif Kubilis on June 27, 2012 at 2:09 am

    Congrats Janet! Its a wonderful feeling hitting that 10 year mark.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on June 27, 2012 at 7:00 am

      Jenn, I remember when I met you that I was so impressed at how long you’d been in business, and although I’ll never catch up to you, the gap seems much smaller now! Thank you so much for your support over the years.

  6. Avatar Rachel Charles on June 27, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    I started my organizing business a year ago. I’m taking it slow because of my kids’ schedules, so I’m not available full-time. Any tips on how to handle jobs and requests when your schedule cannot take them on immediately? I feel bad about postponing them when I’m busy with other clients and don’t want to put them off for a long time. I also want to be advertising, but I do worry about a back-log developing since my time is so limited. Any tips?

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on June 28, 2012 at 7:03 am

      I would start by letting the client know that you aren’t available until date. This will give the impression that there is a lot of demand for your services, and therefore you must be good and worth waiting for.

      There will, of course, be some people who are unable or unwilling to wait. That’s when it’s beneficial to have a relationship with a local colleague to whom you can refer clients you’re unable to serve. The clients will be looked after, your colleague will appreciate the referrals, and will most likely return the favor some day.

      It is important to keep the word out there about your business, but I don’t recommend spending money for advertising if you can’t actually take on the work. Take advantage of free resources such as social media, blogging, speaking to local groups, and some of the other ideas you’ll find here on this blog.

      Good luck!

  7. Linda Samuels Linda Samuels on June 27, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    Congratulations, Janet on reaching your 10-year business anniversary! That is great reason to celebrate. I love this post and what your top learning tips from your journey.

    My number one tip for those that are building an organizing business is to reach out to colleagues for help and advice, but be respectful of their time. As you become more experienced, be generous with others. We learn from one another.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on June 28, 2012 at 7:10 am

      Great advice, Linda! One thing I know for sure is that organizers are in general very supportive of one another. You might meet the odd one who isn’t willing to share ideas, but most are very generous. I especially like the reminder to share with others as you gain experience yourself. It’s actually a pretty cool feeling when you find yourself in that position and realize you have reached another milestone in your business.Thanks for sharing.

  8. Avatar Dendi on September 16, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Great post Janet!

    I love the way you describe about great way to start your own business. Thought It’s point #2 which the hardest thing to do “Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone from time to time”

    Well, as professionals, starting over a new “risky” business could be a big challenge for people, since many people already in their comfort zone with stable income, good career, etc although they haven’t much own “free” time to just sit on the front of TV.

    In addition, ideas of start which business to run is another big issue for someone willing to start a new business.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on September 16, 2012 at 10:16 am

      Thanks for your comments, Dendi.

      When I mentioned stepping outside your comfort zone, I was thinking about taking part in activities that are a little bit scary rather than the big risks of leaving a secure job (if such a thing exists anymore) to start your own business. That is a really big step!

      I firmly believe that the decision about what type of business to start should be based on practical considerations such as whether there’s enough demand for the product or service, but also on the individual’s passion. You have to love what you do!

  9. […] It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that I launched my business twenty years ago today. It doesn’t seem very long ago that I wrote What I’ve Learned in my First 10 Years of Business! […]

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