Millman focuses on time management, task prioritizing, and home or office organization. For teens, this means helping them use a schedule or planner to meet assignment deadlines. Millman's rates range from $75 to $90 per hour.

According to Millman, when clients hire her, "they often feel unsuccessful or poorly about themselves. They see that things are not working."

After adopting her strategies, which may be as simple as creating detailed to-do lists, "the successes become habits. It gives them life skills, confidence, self-esteem and habits they can carry on."

Millman works primarily with teenagers and their parents, but for most other home professionals, a diverse client list is common. "We have clients who range from single professionals to a lady in her 80s," says Adams of My Girl Friday.

Older clients often hire helpers to assist with activities they have difficulty handling alone.

"Older clients go to garden centers for ideas," says Stoneview Landscaping owner Chuck Sells. "But they don't want to put 60 bags of mulch in their car and make a bunch of trips back and forth to Home Depot. We do the heavy lifting for them." (Stoneview rates vary significantly based on project scope.)

Many home service professionals say a number of their clients are busy families with two working parents.

"Couples who both work and have kids don't want to sacrifice their weekends cleaning house," says Patryk Tararuj, owner of Canton-based Green Apple Cleaning. For his firm, the average fee for cleaning a Baltimore rowhouse is $75 to $120 per visit.

Tararuj says that keeping up with cleaning a three-bedroom, three-bath house takes about half a day every two weeks. "If you don't have that time, it'll build up, and you'll never be able to clean the whole house because you'll run out of time."

Nearly half of Towson company Sentinel Pet Care's business comes from midday dog walks, according to owner Patrick Harvey. Almost another half is dedicated to pet-sitting for people traveling on business or vacation. Rates range from $18 to $22 per walk.

"People are working longer hours," says Harvey. "And people care more about their pets these days. If they won't be home for 10 or 12 hours, that's too long for a dog to go without the bathroom or exercise."

Harvey notes that pet owners have several options when hiring someone to walk their dogs. "You can certainly pay the kid down the street $8," he says. "But ... we end up educating our clients about social behavior issues and medical issues," he says, adding that professional pet caretakers pay close attention to even minor changes in pet behavior.

That sense of know-how is what helped sell the Kimballs on Stoneview Landscaping. Before meeting with Sells, they did research and made a few plans.

"We had some idea of what we wanted, but we were pretty limited in our ideas. We thought about steppingstones with gravel. Chuck suggested not doing gravel with little kids running around, since it can be slippery. His experience paid off for us."

Now, the Kimballs have an attractive yard with functional walkways. Perhaps more important, they spent last spring enjoying time with their kids — instead of pulling ivy.

Hiring tips

The best pros are good at what they do but also trustworthy. Here, they share tips for hiring.

•Find out who's working for your neighbors. If you like someone else's landscaping, ask who they use, how they liked them and how much it costs.

•Do homework on potential vendors. You can do online research through sites such as the Better Business Bureau and Angie's List, and request referrals from current clients.

•Make sure they're professional. For instance, firms such as maid services should be bonded and insured.

•Look for knowledge and experience. Beyond the service itself, some companies, such as pet sitters, can help educate clients and watch out for their pets' health.

•Compare estimates. Approach multiple vendors before making a decision.