One Tip for Starting Your Genealogy Business

I received an email from Anna with the following question

“Hello, I have been doing research over 20 years, what are some tips would you suggest to start my business? “

I’ve been thinking about this very question recently!

I feel strongly that this is the answer for anyone thinking about becoming a genealogy professional providing client research services.

Put all the business stuff aside. Forget about your business name, marketing, social media, and all that other stuff.

What I want you to do is to write a report.

Of course, it’s not as simple as that.

First, come up with a research question. It can be from your own ancestry or a local historical figure that was a veteran or something similar. This project will take you 4 hours – just as if a client had given you that time limit. Make sure you choose a topic that can be addressed in that time frame. Otherwise you would need to have a little chat with yourself, the same way you would with a client, that you should change the scope to make it more realistic!

Next, do the research. Here’s the most important part.

Write the report as you research!

That means start the report. Before you even start your research.

For examples of professional reports see the BCG Standards Manual or the BCG website. For this particular report I would choose a Limited-project Client Report: Formal Format where you specify the subject, contract details, research problem, etc.

While you are writing the report make sure you are doing your citations for each document or record as you encounter it. Yes, you will probably have to re-organize your report a little bit as you go or at the end. As you’re writing make sure that what you are researching and providing to the client relates specifically to the research question.

Don’t cheat on this step. The point of this exercise is to establish behaviors that will lead to success as a professional. The other important aspect of this exercise is to force you to establish a process that will reinforce your own success.

Choose how you are going to create those citations.

Choose how you are going to store the information you find.

Will you use a genealogy software program? If so, you need to learn how to create citations easily in that program so that they are available for reference as you write the report.

Maybe you will choose to write directly into a word processing file instead and skip the genealogy software. Will you have a crib sheet of templates to refer to for easy access? What will make creating the citations a seamless part of your process?

When the four hours are over – STOP.

That means both the research and the report writing.

How did you do? Did you answer the research question? Or are you hours away from completing the task according to the scope of the question?

We’re not done yet!

Now, repeat this task two more times!

That’s right. Two more times. Two more research questions and two more 4-hour reports written as you go. Hopefully you will see some improvement in your ability to stay on task and an increase the speed at which you create citations and type up your research.

Success depends on your creating a process that supports your business. All businesses, regardless of type, need systems in place to allow them to act in a professional manner and deliver professional quality work.

You can’t start a business until you are sure you can deliver a professional product in a professional manner.

If you struggle with this task then perhaps you might think about holding off starting your business and seeking some further education such as the ProGen Study Group or the BU certificate in genealogy program or perhaps a week-long genealogy institute.

If you complete the three report tasks and you are comfortable with the process then move right ahead into business planning (which can be addressed in another blog post).

If you have questions as you complete this task, leave them in the comments below or use the TGP Facebook page.

After thought:

I think this really applies to all genealogists not just genealogy professionals. Finding a good process to record your sources is critical for your own sake. If you don’t create the citations then you won’t remember where you found the information. Just make sure that you find the right system that will allow you to create them easily and without fear. If your current process is too cumbersome, find another process or program.