Creating Multiple Income Streams

Professional genealogist Claire V. Brisson-Banks discusses how to create various income streams to supplement the research side of your genealogy business.

Creating Multiple Income Streams

[Editor’s Note: Claire V. Brisson-Banks, BS,  MLIS,  AG® is a professional genealogist and owner of Timeless Genealogies.]

As a professional genealogist, there are times when there are too many clients and times when there aren’t enough clients. So what does one do to keep the income coming in? We need to link up with other businesses, be affiliates, support one another and help each other out by supporting other products connected with our business, etc. Use social media to the max and I believe in giving back to the community you work in; often this opens up opportunities to get work that is paid.

Genealogists love to research; they enjoy the “hunt” for those elusive family members of their clients as well as their own. One of the biggest hurdles is “knowing when to stop” and being honest with a client. If they hire you to do 10 hours of work, you need to do 10 hours and that includes your research, report, documents, etc. When you do more time than what you are being paid for you are (1) reducing your own income, (2) increasing the expectations of the client and (3) creating false expectations for genealogists in general. Learning to structure your time properly with your clients will be beneficial to both you and your clients.

Here are some ways that you can develop other income streams as part of your genealogy business

  • Consider conducting classes online either through “Google Hang-outs,” using Adobe Connect or You Tube or checking out other groups that provide online instruction and seeing what is needed to get involved.
  • Consider being an in person instructor at a conference, a school that offers genealogical subjects either in person or online, your local library, a 50+ community, a local community center and/or a local community college. Each of these groups pays their instructors for the class or classes use your research skills to locate these kinds of facilities in your area. Make sure your business cards and your expertise is known at your local library, someone is always catching the genealogy bug and often they go to the local library to get started after they get lost online, it is very easy for the newbie to be overwhelmed with all that is available for them to try and do this on their own.
  • Check with other genealogical/family history publications to see if there is a need for an article for their publication. Often local societies are looking for articles to fill their quarterly subscriptions, most provide some sort of payment for that article; be sure to check all the fine print before you write the article to make sure you follow all their requirements and monetary payment is worth your time to do the article.
  • Partner with another company that provides services connected with your services. By checking out how to be an affiliate, you can usually sign up and add their logo to your own site. Depending on the terms and the affiliate agreement, the money you earn through this links can vary. However, a variety of different things usually bring in something which all adds up in the end. Sometimes you can exchange logos and help each other. With all the resources available it should be easy to locate companies you can work with in this field. Using Google.com as your search engine, type in “Genealogy Affiliate Programs” and don’t forget to also do “Family History Affiliate Programs”. You’ll be surprised at what comes up, pick and choose wisely, and always read the affiliate materials; each affiliate pays a different percentage of sales made through your site and your links.
  • Consider adding other genealogical/family history products on your own website. When you least expect it, those items do sell and add much needed funds to your income. In 2004 I teamed up with Quintin Publications selling their out of print Family History and Genealogy books on CD. It is amazing how much is sold in a year bringing in something with each sale.

This blog article is barely scratching the surface of this topic. I highly recommend the e-book by Thomas MacEntee entitled: Genealogy Opportunities 2015: How to Make Money in the Genealogy Business available on Amazon.com.

Regardless of all the above, you must keep your skills up, attend conferences, get your name out there, keep an eye on social media, keep up a blog and let others know about your talents. This author has multiple blogs; you can see my contributions here.

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Claire V. Brisson-Banks, B.S., AG® is an Educator, Leader, Librarian, Genealogist, Forensics, Family Historian, Writer, Avid Blogger, Technology Expert, Marketing, Mentor, Lecturer, and Business Owner.

About Claire V. Brisson-Banks

Claire V. Brisson-Banks, B.S., AG® is an Educator, Leader, Librarian, Genealogist, Forensics, Family Historian, Writer, Avid Blogger, Technology Expert, Marketing, Mentor, Lecturer, and Business Owner.

She is the owner of Timeless Genealogies, a provider of ancestral research services. Her personal areas of expertise in connection with genealogy and family history are Technology Advances, Social Media, US, Canadian, England, Scotland, Brick Walls and Working with and Involving Youth in Family History and Genealogy.

Setting Customer Expectations

Professional genealogist Josh Jenkins reviews the importance of using Terms & Conditions with genealogy clients in this article at GenBiz Solutions!

Setting Customer Expectations

[Editor’s Note: Josh Jenkins is a professional genealogist and owner of AncestorStalker.com.]

America’s economy was founded on the principles of a free market. In simplistic terms, someone (typically a business) provides a good or service and in return they receive payment. This is the basis by which companies either flourish or fail. Many other economic factors come into play such as supply, demand and market volatility, but the general premise is elementary.

As a genealogy business, there are many forms of products and deliverables we offer our clients, so it is difficult to quantify exactly how much of a service they have received at the close of a project. Each case can be dramatically different. One project may include DNA analysis for heritage determination that required locating a distant cousin for testing, while another case could command an all-day excursion to a federal archival facility.

Due to the fact there are so many different types of cases we handle, it is paramount that customer expectations are set before beginning each project. Every case, no matter what type or requirements, is based and billed upon number of hours worked. This can be difficult for many customers to come to terms with. The reasoning? Many services we receive in our lives revolve around physical deliverables.

Take for example having your vehicle’s muffler repaired or replaced. You expect a quote for the repair at the outset, a detail of what work will be performed and finally an expected result of having your muffler repaired or replaced. You do not imagine much deviation from the initial estimate and will pay upon satisfaction.

Genealogical and related research efforts are a much different type of service. As many seasoned researchers can attest, some lineages and research objectives still have “brick walls” after years of research. As professional genealogists, we are providing a service, which can lead to little or no information being found. It is a difficult pill for both the customer and the provider to swallow – especially when first beginning in this field.

In the event of little or no information being found, the young genealogist may feel guilty. Perhaps they may not bill several overage hours in an effort to obtain some semblance of a result for the customer. The customer may feel like they were duped, especially when there has been no face-to-face communication, a reassurance they typically receive in brick and mortar business transactions. This is why customer expectations are extremely important to detail before the beginning of any project.

Prior to project initiation, our Terms and Conditions are clearly explained. Our six-page policy is a lengthy read and has deterred some clients from engaging us for services. It is important to recognize that some customers have unreasonable expectations. These are formulated from previous service encounters as aforementioned, as well as glamorized ancestry-related television shows. Our T&C evolves over time as new types of research, services and technologies become available. No project begins without the potential client reading it and then submitting payment in full.

The fact that our customers must “pre-pay” for services is also an area of contention among not only customers but fellow genealogists. I personally have never experienced it, but I know of several colleagues who put in many hours of research, document ordering costs and more. They never received a dime in return, often from irate customers.

Many whom I am in contact with also worked with me in Ancestry.com’s Expert Connect (EC) program earlier this decade before the genealogical behemoth made a quantitative transition with ProGenealogists.com. The EC program had a decent system in place whereby the client’s funds were placed in escrow until the completion and approval by the customer. This system was far from perfect since there were many times that the customer wouldn’t accept the project was over. The professional would then have to request Ancestry.com to accept the project on their behalf in order to issue payment. This would not only delay payment to the researcher, but would cause stress and additional administrative work.

In my opinion, the top priority for a professional genealogist, aside from providing top-quality research, is to be compensated for work. We are not hobbyists in any sense of the word. We are offering a service and should be paid on our schedule. As customers review a large number of genealogists world-wide, they have the ability to pick and choose from the best. It is important we as professional genealogists temper customer expectation and guide them through a process that is often unfamiliar to them.

Josh Jenkins
AncestorStalker.com

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Josh Jenkins

About Josh Jenkins

Josh is the founder and lead researcher at AncestorStalker.com. He has provided genealogical, locate and forensic DNA research services on a global scale for over a decade. He has previously worked for Ancestry.com, has researched for the television hit Finding Your Roots and investigates civil rights era atrocities for the The Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project (CRRJ). Josh completed his Master of Science in Information Systems from UMBC and concurrently works in several Information Technology fields. He lives in Columbia, Maryland with his beautiful wife and three boys.

Working with Genealogical Societies

Genealogist Bob Rettammel shares his experiences in working with genealogical societies in this advice-filled post at GenBiz Solutions!

Working with Genealogical Societies

[Editor’s Note: Bob Rettammel is a professional genealogist and owner of Rettammel Genealogy Service.]

As a working genealogist one has to be able to develop relationships and network with genealogy societies both nearby and at a distance. This blog article will talk about my experience in developing a working relationship with county and regional genealogical societies, including what I think about prior to making contact, how I make the contact, and what the results and long-term benefits are to my business.

First Experience with a Genealogical or Historic Society

Like most of you doing genealogy as a business today, my first experience working with or at a local genealogical society (sometimes referred to as a historical society) was when I started my own family research. My own interest in genealogy began many years back as a teenager spending summers in a small town in Juneau County, Wisconsin where my parents’ families both had roots dating back to the late 1800’s.

As an adult my genealogical research began by visiting the county courthouse register of deeds for any vital records. As I made these early visits over 15 years ago I happened to work next to a person who was a local historiographer for Juneau County. At one point I was not sure of some information in an index and what it indicated for my relative’s record on file. The local researcher was extremely helpful and clarified what the index information indicated to help find the actual record on-site. As I spent a couple hours going through records, I was proactive in asking about what research she was doing and what tips she had for the local records. I learned that she was part of the county historical society which helped researchers and established genealogists collect records for family history. At the time of this unexpected meeting and conversation I asked for the contact information of this historical society. Sometime after this I contacted the local society by email and provided a synopsis of my surname research (research log) and asked what other information (records/data) the society might be able to locate. Within a day I received a response back from a representative of the county historic society who referred me to the person I had met at my first visit to the county register of deeds office!

In working further with this researcher I was able to learn that on my father’s maternal German side, my great-grandfather had a local record called a Declaration of Intent to become a citizen back in the early 1900’s. A person does a Declaration of Intent as the first step (first paper) in becoming a citizen, renounces allegiance to former homeland and declares intent to become U.S. citizen. The local county historiographer for the society was able to help locate a primary record of my great-grandfather; the record indicated the date of arrival to America and the port of entry location. It was so exciting to learn this information and to see a copy of the actual record. Plus it helped establish my family timeline of entry to America, when they might have arrived in the Wisconsin county, where I might find a passenger list for my great-grandfather, what town in Germany he left, and maybe family or neighbors he might have traveled with.

As a Genealogical Business Owner

Besides my first genealogical research experience with a local society as a consumer, what has my business experience learned in working with genealogical societies?

I recommend that when you start a genealogical business to collect a list of your local, county and state-wide genealogy society contacts. To gather such information you can go to your local library or find them on the Internet. The key is just to have easy access to a list that you as a business owner can quickly access when doing work for your clients. You can either keep a hard copy, an electronic document or spreadsheet. Whatever works for you is the key to having a system that helps you to be efficient and timely for your clients.

As a working genealogist I have learned that developing relationships or contacts with genealogical societies is important to a successful business and satisfied clients. In my business I have traveled to local genealogy or historic societies and charged mileage for use of my own personal vehicle for travel. For my business I have determined that a radius of about 100 miles from my home office is reasonable for clients. For clients that have records or needs outside of this mileage radius, I work with Area Research Centers in my State, and local genealogy society researchers who can look for records on site to help my client. [In a prior GenBiz Solutions article, I refer to this as a strategy for collaborating with other genealogists]. Prior to any extra expense for my client, I first provide a detailed written explanation by email about what other resources we may need to finish record collection. I don’t believe additional work should be done without full disclosure to the client that other expenses may incur to locate the records originally requested or that are newly found and will add to the family history search.

For example in the last year I had a client whose paternal family was located in a city that has an active historical society. Prior to going to this location I made sure to have my research log for this family current with findings. The main item for those starting a genealogy business is to think about your purpose and what you are looking for when you start field research for a client. I made contact with the local historic society through email and a follow-up telephone call to work out a date to visit and what records I was expecting to review during my scheduled visit. My experience has been that the local societies like to have time prior to a genealogist’s visit to prepare properly, so they can have the necessary index or books available along with someone there to help with questions. Remember that many of these local societies are managed by volunteers who like to help those doing family history searches. As a business owner it is prudent to leave the society a donation for their services. Remember you may use their services another time or another genealogist will, so acknowledging them is beneficial to all of us.

The result of my travel and time at the city (local) historical society was fruitful in the amount of information I found for the client’s family, including information about the business they owned over 100 years ago in the city. Due to the business and civic events this family was involved with I found a number of historic pictures that were not known by my client’s family.

A most recent experience for a client looking for probate records led me to make contact with a local society that is some distance from my location. This society after reviewing my request and credentials sent (at no cost) the records to an Area Research Center near me, where I reviewed the probate records. This is an example of how a genealogist works with their local societies and regional genealogical centers to find and provide access to the records for business clients.

Working with fellow genealogists, volunteers, and librarians can be rewarding for its shared passion of family history, and making connections can aid in your professional development and in the marketing of your business. Plus we always learn something new and enhance our skills as professional genealogists.

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About Bob Rettammel

About Bob Rettammel

Hello my name is Bob Rettammel, I have been interested in genealogy since I was a teenager, while working with my uncle, who brought out boxes of old pictures that were in upstairs rooms of the family house. Those days 40 years ago brought to life family members on my paternal side that I never met, especially my grandfather.  That summer I put together a photo album of old pictures and that was the start of my interest in the past.

I am a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and Dane County Area Genealogical Society (DCAGS), in Madison, WI. I recently became President of DCAGS.

I have visited Europe a number of times and Germany in 1990 (Austria, Bavaria and southern Germany) and spring 2014 to Berlin and Hamburg, where I visited some German genealogists that continue to help with my own family search.

I have a Masters Degree in Sociology from Marquette University.