Book Review: Managing Client Expectations by Standolyn Robertson

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Managing client expectations

Are you on Goodreads? I love it because:

  1. it helps me keep track of the books I’ve read
  2. it’s a great way to learn about books I might want to read
  3. I get to see what other people I know are reading

The third reason is how this post came to be. When I discovered that Standolyn Robertson had written a book for organizers, and that Hazel Thornton (who’s been a guest blogger here more times than I can remember) was reading it, I asked her to write a review for Your Organizing Business when she’d finished it – and here it is! 


Standolyn Robertson is an expert on one of my favorite topics. Why is it a favorite? Because it doesn’t matter how fancy your website is, how well your company logo shirt compliments your workbag, or how talented you are at organizing, if you can’t manage client expectations.

As a 20-year veteran in the organizing and productivity industry, and a former President of NAPO, she’s written an article on this topic, presented it at conference, recorded a class (NAPO OD4-403), and now… drumroll, please… she’s published a book called Managing Client Expectations: A Guide for Organizing Professionals.

As a 15-year veteran myself, I think there are few aspects of the organizing and productivity business as important, and as under-discussed, as this one. And Standolyn knows what she’s talking about! I loved her book and recommend it to newbies and veterans alike.

Standolyn writes about Managing Client Expectations in stages, namely:

Stage 1: The Beginning of the Relationship

Getting to know the client’s situation, goals and challenges; telling the client how you work; dispelling preconceived notions about organizers who make you get rid of all your stuff – “You guide, they decide” — and about television shows that make home makeovers seem quick and easy.

Stage 2: The Middle: The Initial Client Contact

Being aware of the variety of things can happen while actually working with the client; what to do when the project changes (“scope creep”), or when you realize there’s been a miscommunication; the difference between policies and procedures.

Stage 3: The End of the Appointment and the Beginning of a Lasting Relationship

How to wrap up a session, follow up, and prepare for next time. One section cracked me up because I’d experienced it, but never put a name to it before, about how not to become a “car hostage” or “foyer hostage”, LOL!

Each chapter ends with a handy list of Pro Tips, Rookie Mistakes, Power Questions, and/or Business Strategies, as applicable.

One section I didn’t expect to see was about Self-Care. But it makes total sense. We need to practice what we preach. How can I ask a client to prepare for our session by getting a good night’s rest, and eating something before we get started, if I’m not willing to do the same?

For new organizers, this book would be super-helpful for putting best practices into place from the outset, and knowing what to look for in the way of potential problems and how to solve them. And for veteran organizers, it’s an opportunity to reevaluate your client relationships and adjust your policies and procedures as you recognize the situations you are reading about.

Standolyn includes lots of examples of mistakes she’s made and how they led to improvements in communication, effectiveness, and policies. She describes her interactions with clients with humor, warmth, and respect. Do yourself a favor and learn from Standolyn’s mistakes! But don’t worry about getting everything perfect; missteps are inevitable. Think of them as opportunities to regroup and get it right.

No matter your experience level, you’re responsible for managing client expectations throughout the project. This includes setting expectations up front and resetting them when necessary. By managing client expectations effectively, you can focus on the project at hand and help the client achieve their goals while cultivating a long-lasting relationship. And reading this book will help you do just that.

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Hazel Thornton, creator of The Clutter Flow Chart Collection, is a virtual organizer and family historian based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She combines her genealogy research and organizing skills to help clients tell the stories of their families and their most treasured belongings. Her forthcoming book is called What’s a Photo Without the Story? A Guide to Leaving Your Family Legacy. Visit her online at

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  1. Avatar Seana Turner on August 5, 2020 at 12:05 pm

    I can totally relate to the car hostage with one client. She just hates to see me go. I don’t think she has much company, and COVID has just made it worse. I have learned to bank a bit of time in by ending early so I can spend a few minutes socializing at the end. I’m there to meet the client’s needs, whatever they may be. I just need to plan my time so it all works out. Sounds like a great read. Standolyn really knows her stuff!

    • Hazel Thornton Hazel Thornton on August 7, 2020 at 9:37 am

      Your strategy of wrapping up early with the expectation of socializing is smart. I had a client who wanted to visit at the beginning of each session. I don’t mean discussing how things went organizing-wise between sessions and setting intentions for today. I mean NOT talking about organizing. Not…just…yet… We always did eventually start organizing, though, and (although she did hold me car hostage a couple of times) for the most part I left on time and she did not complain that she was paying for the visiting part.

  2. Julie Bestry Julie Bestry on August 5, 2020 at 1:03 pm

    I loved Standolyn’s book. I’m in my 19th year in business, and I still found so much of it helpful and relevant. The “car hostage” example made me laugh when I read it because I’m such a talker that I need to make sure my clients don’t feel that way! 😉 For me, guarding against scope creep is key, but there were just so many elements of the book where I thought, “Oh, I’ve felt that!” and others where I thought, “I should really be better about implementing that phrasing!”

    • Hazel Thornton Hazel Thornton on August 7, 2020 at 9:29 am

      LOL — Yes, I suppose for some it’s “client hostage” that needs to be avoided! I saw your excellent review on Amazon.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on August 7, 2020 at 1:18 pm

      Julie, that is SO funny – and so you!

  3. Avatar OLIVE WAGAR on August 6, 2020 at 12:57 pm

    I will be ordering a copy today!! I took the NAPO class a few years ago & appreciated it very much. I would like to offer a zoom book club to NAPO-Ohio members & this sounds like an excellent option!!

    • Hazel Thornton Hazel Thornton on August 7, 2020 at 9:26 am

      It would make for an excellent discussion!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on August 7, 2020 at 1:21 pm

      A Zoom book club sounds like a good idea. I belong to a social book club and we’ve been meeting on Zoom for the last few months, for obvious reasons. It’s gone really well and although we miss seeing each other in person, it’s nice not to have to drive, buy or make food, etc.

      • Hazel Thornton Hazel Thornton on August 7, 2020 at 1:25 pm

        We have too. What choice do we have, really? The interesting part will be when some of us are ready to get together again….(and the location where we normally meet is open, or we find another place)…..and some of us are not ready.

  4. Avatar Diane N. Quintana on August 10, 2020 at 9:08 am

    I took Standolyn’s class and loved it. I know I’m going to appreciate her book even more. I think we all have client’s who, from time to time hold us hostage either at the beginning or the end of our sessions. Like Seana, I build in that hostage time. For those who like to chat at the beginning of our sessions, I arrive a couple of minutes early and then leave exactly on time. For those that like to chat at the end, I start wrapping up early allowing enough time for that end of session chatting.

  5. Avatar Sabrina Quairoli on August 10, 2020 at 11:57 am

    I agree, Hazel, this book is not only great for newly formed businesses, but also the businesses that have been around for a while. I am glad the author mentioned self-care in her book. In the early days of my organizing business, as I got busier, I was less likely to take care of myself. As a result, I injured myself. And now those injuries stop me from doing hands-on organizing for others. As organizers, we love to help others. Taking care of ourselves will also help the people we help. And as a result, we will be clearer on the most effective solutions for them. Thank you for sharing this review.

  6. Avatar Melanie on August 10, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    Yet another important book I need to add to my summer reading list! I worked as a dance educator for 17+ years and I never realized how that job prepared me for dealing with clients as an organizer. Wrangling peoples needs and expectations in by being upfront and as clear as possible has always served me well. I have a feeling this book will put a lot of my feelings into words so I can step up my customer service game!! Thanks for the review, I’m sold.

  7. Avatar Janet Schiesl on August 10, 2020 at 3:46 pm

    I remember attending a seminar when Standolyn discussed Client Expectations. It was excellent. It is a must listen for new business owners. Establishing expectations from the beginning can lead to success.

  8. Lucy Kelly Lucy Kelly on August 10, 2020 at 8:48 pm

    Adding this to my reading list, Janet! It’s such a boost to find books like this that can confirm and enhance our practices. Hazel was an excellent choice for reviewer 🙂

  9. Avatar Ronni on August 10, 2020 at 9:28 pm

    Managing expectations isn’t always easy to do, especially the more we get to know our clients. But it is important.
    Whenever I hear the word expectations, it reminds me of a project from a year ago. I was helping a colleague with a huge moving job. Her client was a young Park Avenue lady. After hours of work, the client waltzed in with a team of designers circling her. Within minutes she started shouting at my colleague, “ I’m allowed to have my expectations aren’t I?” when my colleague didn’t organize the closets precisely the way the client imagined it would be. An argument proceeded…and all I wanted to do was go home. I was thankful that it wasn’t my job or my client.
    It’s smart to set expectations from the get- go.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on August 11, 2020 at 1:09 pm

      You make an excellent point about managing expectations getting harder as we get to know our clients. You’ve reinforced the importance of open and direct communication right from the start. It’s much harder to say “I’m not going to do that” if you’ve already done it for them several times.

  10. Avatar Janet Barclay on August 11, 2020 at 1:11 pm

    I have to thank Hazel once again for writing this review. Based on all these great comments, it’s obviously an important book about an important topic by someone who knows what she’s talking about!

  11. Linda Samuels Linda Samuels on August 12, 2020 at 11:12 am

    Standolyn’s book is next on my books to read pile. Managing client expectations is an essential part of the organizing/client relationship. Over the years I’ve attended many of Standolyn’s seminars. She’s a great presenter and I can’t wait to learn more from her. I appreciate the preview, Hazel. “Scope creep, car and foyer hostage” sound familiar and it will be interesting to read more about Standolyn’s perspective.

  12. Avatar Amy on August 13, 2020 at 1:14 pm

    Based on the review, I am excited to read it. 3.99 on kindle is a steal.

  13. Hazel Thornton Hazel Thornton on August 13, 2020 at 2:12 pm

    It’s fun to hear how many of you have taken Standolyn’s class, and how many are eager to read her new book! You won’t be sorry.

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