Janet Fishman joins us in this Career Advice from the Pros interview to share her life experience as an organizer of more than just photos! Janet is a professional Photo Manager who is also a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO).

Before becoming a Photo Manager Janet worked in corporate America for over 28 years. She has a Juris Doctor law degree and was working as a corporate trainer of attorneys on a computer research database. In her late 50’s, she was downsized after a large corporate merger and needed to find a new career. Although she had never imagined she would have her own business, she has now been a member of the Photo Managers for over 10 years and successfully manages her own organizing company.


What advice do you have for someone interested in becoming a Photo Manager?


First and foremost, you have to believe in yourself. Second, you have to have a passion for what you want to do. When I was starting out with organizing, I wasn’t sure what area wanted to specialize in. I tried kitchen organizing, garage organizing, moves, working with seniors, paper organizing, photo organizing, I tried it all. Ultimately I found that paper was what I wanted to specialize in because of my business background and life experiences. So you have to try a taste of everything, even within photo organizing. Try a little of everything as you decide what aspects of photo organizing you want to do. 

When you begin talking to people about your business, let your passion emulate from your entire soul. You have to feel it in all the bones of your body and your muscles, dream it, sleep it, and breathe it. You have to be able to say to everyone, “I’m an organizer” and really bring that into every cell of your body. Take action every single day on your business, even if you have another job. 

When I lost my job, it wasn’t that I just lost the job itself, I lost my friends, my community, and my circle. So there was an aspect of feeling lost and directionless. I said to myself, “Look at it, pick something and go in that direction”. So if anyone is sort of struggling, my advice is to pick something and try it for a year. If you don’t like it, you can try something else and go in that direction. But try it and really absorb it into your body and soul. Tell everyone you’re doing this. In my case, I was hooked on being an organizer in three months, so it happened much faster than I expected.


How did you find your first photo organizing clients?


There are many different methodologies for finding clients. Some people love networking groups and I tried many over the years but that wasn’t my thing. Some people love social media. I do have a social media presence that I outsource to people who handle that for me, but that’s not for me. Some people do a lot of advertising with Google ads or Facebook ads, and that wasn’t my thing either. For me, having a really good website, and really good SEO (and it took me several different hires to find the right person to do that), was one of the better ways to find clients. 

Another method that worked for me is being a member of professional associations and having a very good profile in those directories. Potential clients will go on to NAPO, or The Photo Managers. I’m also a member of ICD, which is the Institute for Challenging Disorganization, and ADAM, the American Association of Daily Money Managers. People go on to those sites because they trust an organization. If somebody is really serious about being a photo organizer, they will have joined an organization and they’ll have done some training. So by being on those directories, it gives that seal of approval. 

You can also get work from professional organizations by connecting with other members. Veteran organizers will often post when they need assistance with an urgent job. Starting out as an assistant can lead to referrals and jobs because your colleagues will get a taste of what you do. And if they can’t handle a job, or they’re overloaded with jobs, they’ll pass it on to you. 


What do you love most about your work as a Photo Manager?


One of the major things I love is that I’m in charge. No one’s going to lay me off again. All the hard work that I’m putting in is benefiting me. If I want to stay up all night working or work all weekend, that benefits me. I can also regulate when I want to take time off.

My life’s purpose is to inspire people. It gives me a lot of personal satisfaction and excitement to be part of helping someone find solutions to their pain points.


What do you not like about your work?


I delegate the financial stuff, even though I’m fully capable of doing it. But with regards to photo organizing, one of the things I don’t like is I get people who want to throw away historical photos after they have been scanned. If you have 100-year-old photos, I’m not going to let you do that. Coming from a photography background, and understanding the history of photography and cameras, I know that it’s not just the image in the photo, but it’s the paper, the development, the type of film, and the camera that was used. It hurts me so much to see old photos trashed and I will do what it takes to preserve them.


What skills from your past experiences have been useful to you as a Photo Manager?


I have a Juris Doctor degree. I was never a practicing attorney, but I worked as a corporate trainer for a company that taught legal research to attorneys. Part of my job was to go out and give presentations on our computer database. Public speaking skills became a real benefit because I continue today to do a lot of speaking. I also worked very closely with the sales team, so I learned how to find the pain points that that law firm or attorney was handling, and how to research that. Today I can use that as I am coaching and mentoring people and helping them find the pain points of their clients. 

Through handling the finances of my family, founding my photography business, and owning property and stocks, I learned how to read all those statements, real estate papers, and insurance documents. Now, I can help my clients with their family finances if the spouse that handled that has died. When they don’t know the questions to ask or what to do if there’s fraud on their credit card, for example, I can help. All of this experience I was able to bring into my business.


Our live audience had some great questions for Janet about running an organizing business and starting a new career as a Photo Manager. Watch the full interview for more.