I wrote about starting a genealogy business in March 2013 that was full of some hard core advice. Business is never for the weak-willed. You need to have a lot of internal fortitude to survive any business. I’m going to talk some more about working as a professional and some of the things that people never really consider.
Well, you finally did it. You made the decision that you want to be a little more than a hobbyist and would like to take this more seriously. Aside from the gaping flaws within the community to define what makes a professional, you’re transitioning out of that hobbyist area to amateur. Maybe this move was long over due and you have enough hours to count yourself as a professional, but let’s take the view as if you are just an amateur. In either event, you’re finally sitting at a dedicated desk. Now what?
If you’ve done genealogy for awhile then you’ll be familiar with link depots like Cyndi’s List (which I have never used) and have joined several groups on LinkedIn. But do you have all your bases covered? In talking with friends of mine, we voice the same concerns and opinions over marketing. Everybody wants to be on that “who’s who” list, but not everyone can. How much should you really have invested with this business idea? Do you need a website? A Twitter? Should you have a blog and should it be on LinkedIn? What about supplies? Do you have the paperwork, a letterhead, pens, pencils, and all the other usual office supplies? Do you have a PO Box? You don’t want to use your home address if at all possible unless you believe it’s possible for you to do everything through just email.
One of the many traps you’ll have to navigate a long the way are the money-sucking black holes known as memberships. Why such a sour attitude about them? Because it’s easy to blow out hundreds of dollars on memberships that actually do you no good. Let me rephrase this a little better though so I’m better understood on this point. Do not ever think of a membership like something as a potential Return On Investment (ROI). In other words, there is no promise of ever making anything from them. They are voluntary. I’ve talked to many people who were upset because they paid for a membership to an organization but never received a single client through there.
I read other posts about starting a genealogy business and they usually ooze of positive reinforcement and how-to’s that are great, but I also feel that they are misleading. I cannot and will never tell someone how great anything is. I give the truth of the matter because if you can’t weather the bad days with the good ones, then you won’t last long. I’ve done consultant work for small businesses and self-employed persons. We never talk about the happy days and the good times, if things were good they never would have called me. I come in when things are down or going wrong and we talk about how to survive the tough times and coach them through changes to fix the problem, if possible.
Basically, I can sum it up like this: just because you hang out the “OPEN” sign doesn’t mean clients will suddenly start flocking to you.
Even though it is not unethical to be oozing positive reinforcement at every turn while pushing someone out in the self-employed business world with big eyes and no clues, I personally feel that it is immoral to do. If I were your Sergeant, I would not give you a directive without telling you the known dangers along the way.
I’ll tell you the things others won’t. For some reason people are afraid to have the appearance of being ‘negative’. I obviously don’t have a problem with fronting that label. If you ever had a Drill Instructor, you know that they are hard, mean, and sometimes lead to you believe they are devil-incarnate. That’s me. I won’t tell you something that won’t benefit you, so take the things I have pointed out in in this post and You Want To Start A Genealogy Business? with a grain of salt.
This really is a very fun business to work in. Don’t get discouraged. Here’s a Marine Corps unofficial motto to apply to your life: “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” Make it yours. Own it. Live it.
Would you rather the empty promise of riches or the truth to navigate the terrain?
If you have questions, comment or email me. I sincerely wish you the best in your journey.