Transitioning to Working Only Virtually

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Some of my readers have been offering virtual organizing services for years, so when COVID-19 forced most of the world into lockdown for months, they were ready, willing and able to continue helping many of their clients. Several of the organizers I’ve spoken to enjoy this method of working so much that they have no intention of returning to providing services on site. This includes Juliet Landau-Pope, who also runs the Academy of Virtual Organising, and shares her experience in this post. Read to the end for a special discount on the upcoming Virtual Summit for Virtual Organisers!

Janet

Over the last two years, many professional organisers experimented with working virtually but have now returned to seeing clients on-site. Others are adopting a hybrid model, combining on-site and online services. I’ve taken the bold decision to only work virtually and have set up an Academy of Virtual Organising. In this blog, I explain how my business evolved and reflect on the benefits. I also share some questions to consider if you’re at a similar juncture.

What’s new and different?

Since launching my business JLP Coach in 2008, I’ve developed a portfolio of services:

  • Decluttering and organising.
  • Productivity coaching for students and young adults
  • Speaking and training about organising and time management

All have now pivoted online and led to exciting new opportunities.

Preparing to work virtually

While Covid was clearly a catalyst, I was already familiar with various methods of working virtually. Before I discovered the joys of professional organising, I taught social sciences and study skills at the UK Open University. In addition to classroom teaching, I supported students from diverse backgrounds via a virtual learning environment and by phone. Organising and time management were clearly key to successful study, and procrastination was one of the most common challenges.

To understand more about motivation, I trained as a coach with CTI. The certification programme involved coaching, peer support, group classes and 1-2-1 supervision by phone, providing more opportunities to hone vital skills.

My initial coaching clients were students and educators but a chance conversation with an elderly neighbour opened my eyes to the possibility of applying coaching tools to practical decluttering. And that, in a nutshell, was how my organising business was born.

From the outset I combined face-to-face appointments with phone calls to discuss thorny issues or to boost motivation. As technology improved, I started to coach online, first via skype and more recently via zoom.

The impact of Covid

As lockdown loomed, I invited my regular clients to sample a free virtual session. Since most responded positively I was inspired. In the midst of so much uncertainty, decluttering was an ideal way to help others regain some form of control over their lives. So I went into overdrive, contacting former clients and engaging with social media to promote virtual organising, To my surprise, it wasn’t difficult to gain media coverage, for example, in the London Times.

Aware that many POs were worried about keeping their businesses afloat, I decided to create a free Facebook community and to devise training, based on my own experience, on how to start working with clients online. The Academy of Virtual Organising was launched in spring 2020 and within a few months more than a hundred POs had taken my Introduction to Virtual Organising workshop. In June 2020 I hosted a full-day virtual summit for over 60 virtual organisers, followed by a similar half-day event in January 2021. As interest grew, it became obvious that virtual organising was not just a passing fad, and I became more committed to developing this branch of our industry.

What are the benefits of working only virtually?

Health and safety

Working remotely obviously eliminates the risk of infection but there are other health benefits too. At the grand old age of 58, I no longer have the physical energy or stamina that I did when I started out. A chronic health condition that limits my mobility also contributes to fatigue. And while I love helping clients to solve problems. I don’t miss the lifting and general shlepping that was part and parcel of the job!

New client groups and audiences

One of the chief perks of working virtually is connecting with clients worldwide. It’s been fascinating to network and work globally. Recent clients include: a postgraduate student in Hong Kong (sheltering from a typhoon); a disorganised doctor in Mumbai; a busy entrepreneur in Norway; and a downsizing music teacher in Devon.  I’ve also enjoyed presenting at virtual events, including international conferences of POC and ICD. Other than language and time zones, there seem to be no limits!

Flexibility

Since virtual appointments tend to be shorter and more frequent, my schedule is more flexible than ever. In terms of time management and productivity, it’s been a boon. Last autumn while visiting New York I continued working for a couple of hours per day and as travel restrictions ease, it’s great to know that I can support clients via my laptop from anywhere in the world.

Creativity

Another key benefit has been the impetus to innovate. I’ve embraced new challenges – from learning how to use new platforms to deliver presentations to demonstrate productivity hacks and apps via zoom. The decision to pivot my business online has prompted exciting conversations with colleagues and with other professionals working online. In particular, I’ve been inspired by Sheila Delson who pioneered training on virtual organising and by ICD (Institute of Challenging Disorganization) who also promote education in this field.

Could YOU only work virtually?

Virtual organising doesn’t suit every PO and it certainly doesn’t suit every client. And deciding to transition your entire business online is a huge step. My recommendation is to keep your options open until you’re certain. Ultimately, the decision doesn’t have to be reversible. If you’re contemplating working only virtually, here are some questions to consider:

  • Would you miss working alongside clients?
  • Might you feel isolated if you only worked from home?
  • Could you generate enough income?
  • Are you willing to rebrand your business and to explore new ways of marketing?
  • How would this fit with longer-term career plans?
  • And ultimately, are you up for the challenge?

Where to learn more

Academy of Virtual Organising free Facebook group

Join discussions and find out about free community meet-ups (online, of course). All welcome.

Virtual Summit for Virtual Organisers

Book now for a half-day of training and networking on 24 March 2022 from 13.00 – 17.15 GMT. Use the promotional code JANET to gain a 10% discount.

Featured Image by MKinsey / rawpixel.com

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Gravatar mystery man

Juliet Landau-Pope MA (Oxon), PG Cert AP (Open), CPCC, FRSA (she/her) is a productivity coach, professional organiser and study skills expert, based in London, England.

An Oxford graduate with a background in academic teaching, Juliet completed coaching certification at CTI and launched her business JLP Coach in 2008. She currently focuses on coaching teens and young adults to develop organising, time management and exam revision skills. An expert on procrastination and perfectionism, she regularly leads training and speaks online and in person.

Juliet volunteered for 6 years as head of training on the Board of APDO Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers and devised the 1st UK training courses for POs. She recently served on the ICD Time Management & Productivity task force. In 2020 Juliet set up the Academy of Virtual Organising.

Juliet has written 2 books. Being More Productive (2017) and Clearing Your Clutter (2018), and contributed a chapter on procrastination for the new ICD Guide to Challenging Disorganization for Professional Organizers.

Gravatar mystery man

Juliet Landau-Pope MA (Oxon), PG Cert AP (Open), CPCC, FRSA (she/her) is a productivity coach, professional organiser and study skills expert, based in London, England.

An Oxford graduate with a background in academic teaching, Juliet completed coaching certification at CTI and launched her business JLP Coach in 2008. She currently focuses on coaching teens and young adults to develop organising, time management and exam revision skills. An expert on procrastination and perfectionism, she regularly leads training and speaks online and in person.

Juliet volunteered for 6 years as head of training on the Board of APDO Association of Professional Declutterers & Organisers and devised the 1st UK training courses for POs. She recently served on the ICD Time Management & Productivity task force. In 2020 Juliet set up the Academy of Virtual Organising.

Juliet has written 2 books. Being More Productive (2017) and Clearing Your Clutter (2018), and contributed a chapter on procrastination for the new ICD Guide to Challenging Disorganization for Professional Organizers.

14 Comments

  1. Avatar Seana Turner on March 9, 2022 at 12:01 pm

    I work with some clients virtually, primarily for time management and planning coaching. I find that decluttering is easier to do in person. I like having both options. I do think that setting up some online classes or webinars would be a nice way to offer an alternative service, but I know it would take a lot of work on my part to get that going. So at the moment, it sits on the back burner as an idea. Thanks for sharing about your experience!

  2. Hazel Thornton Hazel Thornton on March 9, 2022 at 7:46 pm

    I am doing less virtual organizing and more virtual genealogy these days. BUT I had already transitioned to ALL virtual services before COVID hit. It really depends on the project, and the client, whether or not it will work well, but I’m happy (at this point in my career) to refer those who really need hands-on help to my trusted colleagues!

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on March 10, 2022 at 12:32 pm

      It’s interesting to see who is working only virtually (a lot more than 2-3 years ago, for sure), who works only in person, and who does both. And it’s wonderful that there are so many business models to choose from, depending on your own interests and situation!

  3. Avatar Julie Bestry on March 10, 2022 at 1:24 am

    I’ve worked with some productivity/time management clients virtually for many years, and can help paper management clients, provided they have some interest in DIY, but it’s definitely more difficult to accomplish straightforward downsizing and physical organizing with clients who need more in-person guidance. I suspect that the more we work virtually, the easier it will be to embrace (as Seana notes) more systematic platforms, like digital courses.

    But I have to admit, I missed my in-person clients during the pandemic. I didn’t see anyone in-person from March 2020-July 2021, and there’s a zingy sort sense of accomplishment (as the piles get smaller) you don’t quite experience in the virtual realm.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on March 10, 2022 at 12:33 pm

      That makes sense. I’m sure being introverted or extraverted will be a factor when deciding which type(s) of services to offer!

      • Avatar Melissa Gratias on March 14, 2022 at 10:29 am

        I am an extreme extravert. I can hardly have a thought without speaking it aloud. However, I have become so cozy and comfy with virtual work that I almost never want to leave my home office again. I don’t know if, now that COVID is more endemic than pandemic, my feelings will change. But, after being stuck *alone* in an airport in the middle of a cornfield in Missouri at midnight with no ride to my hotel, I am *over* the glamour of business travel.

        • Avatar Janet Barclay on March 14, 2022 at 12:46 pm

          That doesn’t sound like much fun! Maybe you can continue working virtually and save your business travel for attending conferences.

  4. Avatar Linda Samuels on March 14, 2022 at 10:27 am

    Juliet, along with Sheila Delson are true pioneers in the Virtual Organizing industry. I love Juliet’s story and how she answered the need, was flexible in figuring things out, and has helped so many clients and professionals through her programs and services.

    I made the permanent business pivot to virtual organizing and no longer see clients in-person. For all the reasons Juliet explained and more, I am so happy about this change.

    I’m looking forward to presenting about “Lessons Learned” and participating in Juliet’s upcoming Summit where Sheila Delson, Alison Lush, and several other presenters will be speaking too.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on March 14, 2022 at 12:44 pm

      As one of the organizers I know who has made this shift, I’m happy to hear that you’re presenting at the summit. I’m sure you’ll have a lot to offer the attendees.

  5. Avatar Sabrina Quairoli on March 14, 2022 at 10:31 am

    My small business has evolved over the 30+ years, I started with home life organizing hands-on, and now I work virtually with small business clients. I do offer the virtual organizing service, but alas, it doesn’t generate enough income for me. Thank you for sharing your insight.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on March 14, 2022 at 12:45 pm

      At least it’s something you can offer along side your other services!

  6. Avatar Julie Stobbe on March 15, 2022 at 2:06 pm

    I follow the hybrid model and I am transitioning to virtual only eventually.. It is fun to work virtually and figure out what style/format of virtual organizing is best for the client.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on March 16, 2022 at 1:03 pm

      I think changing the way we do business from time to time keeps it interesting for us. Who wants to do the exact same thing year in and year out?

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