The first thing you'll want to do is explore the National Association of Professional Organizers. It's a group that represents, trains and certifies professional organizers of all types. If you need help coming up with your own organizing system, you can take classes through the group. It offers testing at sites across the country to get your certification as a pro. Certification is not necessary to work as an organizer, but it can be advantageous. Some attorneys, accountants and other professionals will only work with certified organizers.
Setting Up a Home Office
Select a room in your home where you want to do your organizing work. You'll need a large, flat surface for sorting through documents, such as a desk or long table. If you have small children or pets, you'll want to make sure they don't have unattended access to the room. Nothing destroys credibility faster than having to say, "My dog ate the client's tax receipts." A good supply of file folders, pens and post-it notes are the only other materials you should need, so start looking for coupons for those items!
Depending on where you live, you should be able to reasonably charge between $10 and $15 an hour for your services. Don't ever charge a flat fee for a job, because clients can stuff a lot of documents into one little box and surprise you with the actual amount of work required. You may be able to charge a higher fee during times when there are deadlines approaching, such as the end of tax season. Your services will be more in demand at those times.
Finding Clients for Your Organizing Service
A great resource for finding clients will be local tax attorneys. Make contact with several during non-peak seasons to offer your services to them. (Non-peak seasons means not at the end of a fiscal quarter and definitely not between March 1st and April 15th. They'll likely be too busy to even talk to you then.) Let them know that you're available for sorting documents and that you can do it chronologically by date and month.
If they contract with you to do the work, you'll have to be able to pick up the documents at their office and take them home. You may have to sign a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement with them before they'll work with you. This is standard, in order to protect the financial information of their clients.
Another good source of document organizing work is through estate planning attorneys. Sometimes when a person passes away, he or she leaves behind a large volume of unsorted documents for the estate to deal with. Attorneys frequently hire professional document organizers to sort through these things and categorize them. Fair warning: this can be a daunting task, but it will provide many hours of work from home. People can accumulate a lot of paperwork over the course of their lifetimes, and some never throw anything away. Attorneys will also likely have you sign a confidentiality agreement.
Local businesses can even be a source for work. For example, there may be several years' worth of documents stored away that no one has looked at in a long while. You can sometimes find work like this, and you'll be asked to sort documents based on relevance or some other metric that the business owner provides.
If organizing jobs are scarce at certain times of the year, you may want to think of other ways to expand your services. People pay professional organizers to come to their home and help them develop systems to organize their closets, their kitchen or their garage. If you want to work strictly from home, think about teaching your couponing system to others. You can have people over for tutorial sessions where you teach them how to organize their weekly inserts and coupons for maximum efficiency.