Janet Barclay|Published July 8, 2020|Last Updated December 12, 2020
I’m thrilled to welcome another organizing industry veteran, Judith Kolberg of FileHeads Professional Organizers and Squall Press. Judith serves international and national clients, virtually and in-person.
Judith, how did you come up with your business name?
Years ago, when you said someone was ‘a head’, like a pot head or a Dead head, it meant they were dedicated and loyal to something. I wanted people to know I was really into, dedicated to filing and organizing, thus FileHeads. Remember, this is way back to the 1980s! Also, I wanted to appeal to my cohort group: mid-range baby boomers. And I wanted to sound cool.
How has your business changed since you first started out?
I’ve developed several revenue streams to supplement onsite organizing, including books and other products like Get Rid of Your Stuff flashcards, presentations and webinars. What has not changed is my priority to organize people who are challenged by chronic disorganization.
What is your specialty?
Thought-leadership research, writing, and presentations that point out trends in the organizing industry.
What other services or products do you offer?
I train professional organizers and productivity consultants in digital estate planning. I also am developing a webinar series on disaster preparedness services that will include organizing in preparation for epidemics and pandemics. I love doing book coaching, also known as developmental editing, of self-help and how-to books and products.
What professional associations or other organizations do you belong to?
NAPO, NAPO-GA, ICD, Independent Book Publishers Association and Community Emergency Response Team.
How do you approach a new organizing project?
I’ve gotten pretty good at interviewing a prospective organizing client on the phone after all these years in business. Then I plan an initial onsite visit. If I think my prospective client is not a good report or can’t quite give me a good picture over the phone, I might request pictures or have them fill out a brief questionnaire. I’ve never been one for a formal assessment. I always follow up the call or visit with a one-page proposal.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve discovered about running an organizing business?
I discovered I like to lead.
At what moment did you consider yourself successful?
After I published my first book, I bought an expensive lamp. When I published my last book, I bought a car. I think that did if for me!
What would you do differently if you were starting your business today?
I would have a partner to share the risks and rewards and to help finance the business. I would have more virtual products and services. I would have a tech-pro I could always turn to solve all the device, app, Zoom, phone, etc. glitches I am prone to encountering. I would study the mindset of the on-demand society and gig economy to figure out their organizational problems and solutions.
What is the biggest challenge you currently face in your business?
I have to continue working to support myself, but I’m trying to steer my business activities to those that I enjoy the most and are the most lucrative. The challenge is knowing when it’s time for life after business.
What’s your favorite organizing product? Why?
I like transparent scrapbook folio cases. They are clear, hold a lot more than a file folder, stack and have a handle so they transport easily.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I head to the forest. I like to camp, walk, see birds, hang out with the trees. TV is my screen of choice. I read every night, pure fiction.
What else should we know about you?
I am naturally sociable and though I can keep my own company, I do get isolated sometimes because I live alone and work at home. Coviding has been a challenge as it is to most people. I cook but the best thing I make is reservations!
Speaking of COVID-19, what impact has the pandemic had on your business?
I’ve had to suspend my onsite clients, but my virtual services are in a boom. I am doing time management and planning skill training and implementation with two clients by phone and email.
I offer services ‘to the trade’. Two professional organizers are trained in the Disaster Prepared Professional Organizer program. The modules for that are going online soon. A productivity consultant has just completed the Digital Estate Planning certificate.
But the real increase in business has been in book coaching. This is a great time to write! I have picked up four clients since March 15th.
I’ve lost all my national and international speaking engagements, but I’m hoping that come NAPO2021, I’ll be able to reconnect with my international colleagues and see what we can plan for late 2021.
Do you have any advice to help other organizers keep their businesses afloat as we move through the various phases of the pandemic?
Obviously, virtual services are the way to go. Consider services to offer to the trade.
Get your own book or other intellectual product going. If you can’t deliver services, it’s good to have a product line generating income.
Get your certificates and certifications.
When you can do so safely, help your clients set up their sanitation stations in their homes and harden family routines and chores, especially the kids.
People are cooking more. The Organized Kitchen and Pantry is a hot item.
Hire people, especially those hurting economically right now, to update your database, revise your website, teach you QuickBooks, do your Will and final documents, teach you to Zoom – get your own house in order.
Take this time to learn how to think like a futurist. Check out the Foresight resources on POINT.
Offer gift certificates! I have a client who purchased a $1,000 gift certificate from FileHeads to help keep me afloat. It gifts her an unlimited number of phone organizing time from now till December 30th.
And for goodness sake, go out and play! Run, walk, yoga on the deck, plants on the balcony, lunch with a friend on a 6’ park bench, swim, and go get a foot massage.
Thanks so much for sharing your story and your insights, Judith!