In this interview, we’re learning from Jill Yesko, founder of Discover Organizing and co-author of A Business Roadmap for Professional Photo Organizers: Everything You Need to Start and Grow a Thriving Photo Organizing Business

Jill Yesko founded Discover Organizing in 2003. Since then, she and her team have been serving the Pittsburgh, PA area as professional organizers. Their specialty is working with those experiencing hoarding disorder, physical disabilities, or seniors who need help to downsize. It was clear from the beginning that every client had one thing in common – photos! Jill attributes much of the growth in her business, and up to 50% of its annual revenue, to the increasing demand for Photo Managers.

What advice do you have for someone who’s just getting started as a Photo Manager?

One of the best things that I’ve always done is I’ve leaped a little further ahead than my skill set by trying on new education. I’ve always said, “Sure I do the services”, even if I knew maybe 75% of what I needed to know because I knew that I would get the education I needed from The Photo Managers organization. 

My strategy was to start getting my skill set in line. First, I would write down what I know how to do really well. And that’s what I would heavily market and talk about. Then, if someone asked me if I could do another kind of service, I would find someone that can help me by outsourcing. But, rather than just have them do it for me, I would have that outsourcing person teach me and I would pay them to teach me if I wasn’t getting everything I could from a book or a person. 

In The Photo Managers, I would align with someone in my town and ask if I could pay them to teach me some new skills. Most people are more than willing to do that without even charging me but I remember just learning so much from other people. So having an open mind, but also knowing what your skill set is, what you’re willing to grow, and what you’re willing to do to grow. 

When I first started out, I was only doing scrapbooks and physical pictures. The idea of scanning was not something I was even willing to entertain, it felt like too much, felt too hard. It felt like I would need to know a lot about computers and scanning equipment. And I was really, really afraid. So I just kind of stayed in my comfort zone, I’m embarrassed to say, for about 12 years. Then I went to The Photo Managers conference in 2015 and was inspired to bring home my first scanner. The person from Epson and Kodak and all the vendors were so wonderful with coaching me through everything. Then I started hiring people that actually loved working with computers. Now have a robust team of scanning technicians and photo organizers that do most of the work, and I do project management.


How did you get clients when you were first starting out?


The number one way we did get clients and still get clients is by teaching the community. If you have 10 people show up at your workshop or webinar, you are probably only going to get about 10% of those attendees to sign up with you, even if it’s just for a consultation for a photo plan. Make sure that your classes, in my opinion, are diverse enough to apply to all levels of skill sets. 

Before Zoom, I taught at libraries, church basements, and really anywhere that would have me. I actually started teaching at a high school at night for their continuing education program in my community. I also teach classes for 55+ communities, not independent living communities, but 55+ communities. The number one way we get new clients is through the baby boomer population. But because those people are, in my opinion, very hands-on and they just want a partner. They’re still really active, and they’re still going on vacations and traveling, so they still have the overwhelm that you’re there to fix. 

If you’re not starting out as a professional organizer, like I did, I recommend that you introduce yourself to as many organizers as you can and possibly offer a referral fee. You can take a lot of pressure off of them because many professional organizers do not want to work at the level of detail that a photo manager does.


What do you love most about your job? What do you not love?


The best part of the client relationship is seeing the albums when they’re completed, and seeing the relief come across the client’s face when they look at a computer screen, and they see all of their files neatly organized. Next, I say, “Let’s do a scavenger hunt. I want you to show me Christmas from 1973.” They go right for it and are amazed and how easy it is to find. There are hugs and there’s great gratitude. When I’ve taken that frustration out of their lives and made everything easier and taught them how to use it themselves long after I’m gone, I feel like a rock star! I feel like a superstar because I’ve now given them that gift of memory-keeping. Now they can keep it going, show their friends, and be proud of themselves because they reached out to get professional support.


How do you encourage referrals to bring in new clients?


We prolifically thank our referring clients, because these jobs are anywhere from $2000 to sometimes $15,000 jobs. I’m not going to send just a thank you card for that for a referral person, I’m going to find out what they are interested in. If they like concerts, they’re getting Ticketmaster gift cards. If they love ballroom dancing, they’re getting Arthur Murray dance gift cards. We pay attention to what they enjoy doing. And we do make sure we thank them with an appropriate follow-up. 

Within my own organization, we have what’s called an upselling commission. So since we offer residential organizing, downsizing, and photo management, if somebody in the downsizing department is out doing an assessment and comes across several boxes of slides, or old photos that are stuck together, they will let the client know that we have a photo department. For doing that, I’ll give them a thank you commission from the profits. 


How has being a member of The Photo Managers benefitted you and your business?


Other than the sense of community, because I just love talking to fellow organizers, the best benefit for me was to have access to so much education. The Photo Managers as an organization makes me feel like I can do anything. Now that there are even more classes than ever, it makes me feel like my business can grow any which way at once, it can go any direction it wants to go to. I can leave it the way it is for a while and get really strong in one area or I can start diversifying my skill sets and learning something new. My whole team at discover organizing counts on The Photo Managers because there’s no way I could teach them everything myself.

Watch the full interview with Jill for more tips and resources for new and growing photo managers!