Interview with Professional Organizer Sara Skillen

Sara Skillen of SkillSet Organizing

The spotlight today is on Sara Skillen of SkillSet Organizing from Franklin, Tennessee.

Sara provides home and business organizing, coaching, speaking, and Evernote training. She specializes in working with clients challenged by ADHD or another brain difference that affects organization and productivity, and is a member of NAPO, Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), and the ADHD Coaches Organization (ACO).

Sara, how did you come up with your business name?

SkillSet Organizing is a play on our last name (Skillen), which is why the second “S” is capitalized. I actually named the business my husband and I started first (SkillSet Enterprises) about 10 years ago, and then when I developed my organizing business it seemed like a natural fit for that as well. Helping people to develop their own organizing “skillset” is a perfect description for what I do.

How has your business changed since you first started out?

When I first started out, I thought I would market primarily to attorneys, having been a paralegal in a variety of legal settings. That quickly turned out to be too narrow, so the first year I pretty much “threw everything at the wall to see what would stick.”

What started to emerge a little over two years ago is working primarily with clients with ADHD, and I’ve worked to learn as much as can to best serve my clients. I started the Coach Approach for Organizers program in 2016 with the goal of eventually becoming certified, as it’s a natural fit for me to offer coaching as a service in connection with the hands-on organizing.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve discovered about running an organizing business?

How much people are willing to tell and show me. I don’t take their trust in me lightly, and I guess it shows because they often say I know more about their collective life than anyone else. It’s humbling.

At what moment did you consider yourself successful?

When I could routinely look at my calendar and see I was booked 2-3 weeks out.

What would you do differently if you were starting your business today?

I don’t know that I would do anything differently, really. I feel like the journey I’ve taken to get to what fits me and my clients best has gone pretty well.

'I'm surprised by how much people are willing to tell and show me... they often say I know more about their collective life than anyone else. It's humbling.' ~ Sara Skillen Click To Tweet

How do you approach a new organizing project?

I have a very specific phone intake I do with clients to make sure we’re a good fit for one another. It gives me an opportunity to identify their goals (or help them to refine the goals they are unsure of). Once we’re committed to working together, we start in the area that they feel most drawn to. How to begin is usually the most difficult part for clients, so if I can just be there to support that “start” and help them to feel more comfortable we’re off and running!

Do you offer any products or services for other organizers?

Not so far, but I never rule anything out for the future. I have helped several organizers to implement Evernote for their businesses, but I don’t specifically market it that way.

What’s the biggest challenge you currently face in your business?

I’d like to get more of my systems automated and efficient. Finding the time to explore things like a better CRM or online scheduling program has eluded me, but I know I need to make it more of a priority.

What’s your favorite organizing product? Why?

I think there’s a tie: Evernote is huge for me, obviously, because I can keep so much information at my fingertips and find it so easily. On the more physical side, I’m also very fond of Interdesign Linus drawer organizers.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Read, go to the theatre, spend time with my husband and kids, and travel.

What else should we know about you?

Mmmm, not sure. Maybe some of my guilty pleasures, which are (in no particular order) Stephen King novels, 80s pop music, and McDonald’s Egg McMuffins. Someday when I have more time (I don’t know that I’ll ever completely retire), I’d like to get more into genealogy.

Thanks so much for sharing all this great information, Sara!

I’ve known you since you joined the Professional Organizers Blog Carnival in 2013, so it was interesting to learn more about you and your business.

Who’s next?

If you’d like to be interviewed for Your Organizing Business, simply fill out the questionnaire.

    A former professional organizer, I’m now a web designer and Certified Digital Business Consultant. I love helping others succeed by sharing the knowledge and insight I’ve gained through marketing my own business for over 15 years! When I’m away from my desk, I enjoy reading, photography, watching movies, and cooking.

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    1. It always amazes me how much we, as organizers, get to see inside clients’ lives. I love the transformation that happens as we figure out how to make life simpler. Thanks for sharing your business, Sara. I always enjoy reading about other organizers’ business. Best to you and Janet.

    2. I’d like to go on the record as stating that Sarah is the woman who demystified Evernote for me! It was a huge task 🙂

      BS (Before Sarah) I really didn’t get Evernote. However, after a few one-hour sessions (we screen-shared) it started clicking for me as she gently suggested how I could stash and store stuff in my Evernote notebooks.

      She is soooo patient. One of her SkillSets is simplifying matters and spoon-feeding them in palate-able amounts as not to overwhelm.

      • It’s always great to find someone who not only knows something we need to learn, but is able to transmit that knowledge in a way that works. So glad that you two clicked!

    3. I’m impressed with your concise responses to the questions. That speaks to your natural ability to organize and explain. What a lovely interview! It’s always fun learning about how people got started in this industry and the journey they’ve traveled. Kudos to you for going for Coach Approach training. It’s wonderful. I’m a huge fan of Denslow and Cam. They are amazing people and teachers.

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