Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! I’m Audra George and I started Pretty Neat: An Organizational Solution in February of 2018. We are a service-based company that helps clients get their homes and spaces organized. Our team mainly organizes for residential clients but we have also helped some businesses as well. We strive for the spaces to not only look great but to function well. We have found that an organized space helps to decrease anxiety and stress, and creates a more peaceful environment. This is our ultimate goal! We help busy families with organization, move management services, decluttering, downsizing, and more.
Pretty Neat started with just me serving clients and was built on excellent communication, treating others well, hard work, and consistency. However, the first year was tough. Clients were not flooding in like I had hoped and it was slow. Business is difficult, especially starting one from scratch. I had so much to learn about how to get clients, manage social media, and run a business.
In the beginning, I started to second guess if I made the right decision to start a business. But, I kept on consistently putting our name out there, learning, growing, and serving clients that did come our way and doing it well. From year one to year two, we grew 800% and we have had continued growth every year since. We went from just me serving clients to gradually adding team members. We are very blessed and thankful to be able to serve others through professional organizing.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
My background is unique but I feel like it taught me so much to bring me to the point of being a successful pro organizer and business owner. I have a master's degree in physical therapy and I treated patients in their home environment for more than 12 years.
I had always been interested in starting a business but wasn't sure if I wanted to start one in the medical realm. I was wanting a fresh start; something where I could continue to serve others but in a new way. I did not know what that would be until I had it suggested to me that I should organize for others because my own home was so organized.
This was a lightbulb moment for me and got me thinking. Is professional organizing a thing? Would someone pay for those services? I quickly learned all about it. The more I looked, the more I found an unexpected link between a cluttered and chaotic environment and how it impacts us negatively in our health and well-being.
To me, there was a definite connection between my medical background and my experience serving patients in their home environment to helping others get their environment in order. The more I learned, the more I felt this could not only help others but be a great business idea. I told my husband about my research and he was very supportive; he helped me come up with our name, register my business, and set up social media accounts. This was just the first step in starting a business.
At this point, I was starting my business as a side hustle and would see how it goes. Luckily, my medical job was very flexible so I could start organizing with clients on my off days. Now, How do I get paying clients?
Take us through the process of designing your services
I now knew that I wanted to start an organizing business but had no idea what to do next and the best way to get to clients that needed my services. I have always known how to organize, it's something that comes naturally to me, but the business side was a whole different thing that I had no experience in. I had a lot to learn.
I quickly joined a group called Inspired Organizer where they taught me and other pro organizers about the business side of this industry. This helped me learn about branding, marketing, websites, and more; what I needed to do to build a successful business. This was so helpful and the information helped me to start building a business that looked legitimate.
Also during this time, I looked a lot at other businesses and what they did. I met with anyone who was willing and asked many questions. I tried to soak up any information that I could to have a plan for how I would run my business and what I needed to do to serve my clients well.
I felt a lot of support and encouragement from meeting with other business owners because they understood what it was like to build a business and how difficult it can be sometimes. I also learned specific things that I needed to implement in my business such as automated scheduling for my website, dealing with supplies and inventory for our projects, deciding on pricing for my services, and taking payment from clients. All important aspects of the business have helped me.
One of the main things that I have implemented since the beginning was our pricing structure. We have always been a per-hour service. I have an all-inclusive approach where with our in-home hours we include extra things such as the consultation, planning for the project, purchasing supplies, and even taking donations for the client of items that they no longer need in their home. I have our pricing set up in packaged deals, where the client receives a discount as they commit to more organizing hours. When I first began, I started my prices fairly low when compared to my local market. I felt I wanted to gain experience working in clients' homes and then I have gradually increased them as time went on. Our goal is to give each client a great value with our services whether they have a small project or an entire house.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I continued learning and got help setting up a website so clients could find me easier, as well as utilizing any free ways to advertise like social media and online apps local to my area. I knew setting up a website was not my thing so I got help from the beginning. I wanted to do it right from the start.
My current website is very similar to the one I started with. Prices and pictures have changed a little but overall the same function and look. I am very pleased with it. Check our website.
Screenshot of my current website:
Luckily funding my business and start-up costs are pretty cheap since it was a service-based company. I funded my website, training, and business registration and later paid myself back once I started making a profit. I stand by the same financial goals that my family uses in our finances; I stay away from debt as much as possible. I have been able to fund and grow my business all organically.
About a month into starting my business and launching my website, I had my first client call. She found me on a local Nextdoor app. I was excited and a bit nervous. I did my first consultation with her and she purchased organizing hours. I left with a check in hand and felt encouraged that this was not only a needed service to help others but a business that I could build. I went home and showed my husband the check and I remember him saying “this could work. This could be a business”.
Business can be difficult and scary, especially when you are first starting out. Learn from others, be willing to fail, and never give up.
Now things were not all up from here. The first year was slow and took a lot of consistency, hard work, and tenacity. I’ve heard the saying, If starting a business were easy, everyone would do it, and it’s true!. Over time, I had more and more clients find me. I did not always feel like I knew what I was doing but I worked hard and figured it out; My motto became “I do things scared”. That is the only way to learn and grow in business even though it was uncomfortable for this type-A personality who wants everything planned ahead of time.
After 12-18 months, I was so busy with organizing clients that I left my home health job and pursued professional organizing full time. Then I gradually added team members to help because we got busy enough that I could not do it all on my own. Managing a team is another aspect that I am still learning but look how far we have come?!? I have learned so much.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Word of mouth:
In a service-based company, I feel the most important aspects of a business for repeat clients are, to be honest, trustworthy, and have great communication. The more potential clients believe you and what you are selling, the more they are going to want you to help them. It takes some time, but the word of mouth and reviews from past clients are my best marketing tool.
For the first two years and beyond, I have focused on having a great website with helpful information for clients, making my processes more user-friendly, and getting help with SEO and social media.
I knew right off, when I was making enough in my business, that I wanted to pay for help with the digital side of running a business. This is not my strong suit and it was taking time away from what I did best and that’s dealing with clients. I used GoDaddy, which manages my website, to help with SEO. At the start of my business, I had no keyword ranking where someone local could even find me online.
Getting SEO assistance was a big help in being more available online so customers could find me and my website. We still look over our keywords and use Google Analytics to guide us in what is working and what is not online. I also hired a virtual assistant who started handling my social media and helped me start my blog. I manage and approve it all but having the extra help in this area is invaluable. I also do a newsletter once a month with updates, pictures, and our blog for our email subscribers.
As far as following and competing with my local competition, I try to stay in my lane and do what I do best. Organizing and treating people well. I have organically grown. I make it a point to not follow my local competition on social media. I feel like the comparison to others can make you feel that you need to change what you are doing. This is not necessarily a good thing and I try to be very authentically me and keep my business doing what has worked so far.
Business can be difficult and scary, especially when you are first starting out. Learn from others, be willing to fail, and never give up.
One of our cover pages for our blog this year:
Check out all our blogs.
As far as advertising goes, I have tried a few local magazines and advertisements here and there. Most of the time I have not seen a huge return on investment compared to the consistent social media, website availability, and staying consistent with the tried and true things I have done in the past. For one reason or another, I have never done any online ads.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today, over 4 years in, we are better than ever. We have grown every year in revenue and in the number of hours we have completed serving clients. I have a team that helps serve our clients; There is still so much room for growth.
Social media traffic and website traffic continue to organically grow. It has never been my personal goal to have a huge following on Instagram or other media platforms. If it happens eventually, so be it. My goal is for potential customers to know about us, know what we do, and have them hire us because they believe that we can help them. I believe our website and social media accounts accomplish this. We keep a very busy schedule seeing clients each week.
I make it a point to not even follow my local competition on social media. I feel like the comparison to others can make you feel that you need to change what you are doing.
As the business grows, I am personally seeing fewer clients face to face and work on the business more. I handle all the daily calls, consults, invoicing, paying team, scheduling, managing/ approving social media/ blogs, and everything else that helps the business continue to grow and serve clients. My goals are for continued growth in revenue and the number of clients being served, as well as, adding to our team as needed. If I have learned nothing else in the past 4 years, it's that there is a great need for our services and room for a lot of growth in the coming years.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
There are several things that I have learned on this journey to grow my business:
- It is okay to not have all the answers.
- Everything that happens good or bad is a learning experience. As one of my good friends and fellow organizers says, “education can be expensive”. This is never more true than when owning a business.
- Being authentically you is the best thing you can offer your customers.
- Take the opportunities presented to you even if it is scary. Something great might come from it.
- You are never going to grow to stay comfortable.
Currently, I am learning more about a healthy work-life balance. In growing a business, sometimes it feels that you can never stop working or relaxing. I am learning more that If I am going to have this business long-term, I need to learn to take breaks and let others help me as much as I can. It is still a work in progress.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Platforms that I use regularly in my business are:
- WordPress for my website
- We use Planoly to schedule social media ahead of time for Instagram and Facebook
- My favorite automation app for my website and client intake is Dubsado
- We also use Asana to create digital checklists
- Canva to make pretty media to print or graphics for social media
I try to utilize free platforms as much as possible. They were especially helpful when I was first starting Pretty Neat.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
My favorite books for business include:
1) The E-myth- Revisited by Micheal E. Gerber. This is about automating your business and creating something that can be replicated and that others can help you with. One of my favorite things that I learned from this book is that if you create a business where everything depends on you to run, then you have created a “job” that essentially never ends. I have found this to be incredibly true. The more my business grows, the more I need others to help me.
2) Profit First by Mike Michalowicz. It is about business finances and a system to handle them. I formulate my business accounting according to this book. It has been really helpful to me.
I also like to listen to any business podcasts and topics on leadership.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Business can be difficult and scary, especially when you are first starting out. Learn from others, be willing to fail, and never give up. If you believe that your product or service is needed, others will see a need for it too.
Where can we go to learn more?
The best place to learn more about our company and what we do is our website. We keep it updated with background information on me and my team, as well as our processes, prices, and what our services include. I strive for the information on the website to be clear so there is no guesswork on how to work with us and what we do. Second to our website, follow us on social media as we post regularly pictures of current jobs plus tips and tricks for our readers.
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
Get our 5-minute email newsletter packed with business ideas and money-making opportunities, backed by real-life case studies.
- 4,818 founder case studies
- Access to our founder directory
- Live events, courses and recordings
- 8,628 business ideas
- $1M in software savings