If you have found yourself down the rabbit hole of digging into your family’s history, genealogy might be the career path for you.
The practice of genealogy is a deeply analytical, but incredibly rewarding field.
This field allows people looking to help others discover more about their clients and their families through the history of their lineage.
Starting a business in genealogy has two parts: Building field expertise and knowledge, and then a thoughtful business plan.
In genealogy, being knowledgeable in the field will boost credibility and business prospects.
Similarly, expertise is important for securing client-approval and trust.
Keep in mind, there are a variety of ways to go about starting a career in genealogy depending on your personal background.
If this is your next career move in life, follow along for a comprehensive guide on starting a career in genealogy.
- How Do I Start a Genealogy Business?
How Do I Start a Genealogy Business?
You likely ended up here because you have an interest in genealogy and want to turn your passion into a sustainable income.
If genealogy has mainly been a hobby that you want to take to the next level, exploring all of the different ways to expand what you already know and gain tangible experience is incredibly important to be a step closer to transitioning your hobby into a career.
When deciding to start a business in something you are passionate about, it may seem overwhelming when deciding where to begin.
Here are some factors to consider when beginning to monetize your work:
- Exposure to Genealogy
- Research in the field
- Professional confidence
- Find your niche
- Develop a business plan
- Define business objectives
Keep in mind that the duration of this article will focus on online careers in genealogy.
Although, if you are looking to start your genealogy business from an office where you will meet with clients in person, do not stop reading.
These concepts can still be applied and very helpful
1. Increase Your Exposure to Genealogy
To become a successful genealogist, finding all of the digestible content available and fully immersing yourself will improve your skills.
The more exposure you receive and involved you are in a topic, the more versed you will become.
There is an abundance of resources available for either free or a very low cost.
A few examples of some content and events that are great ways to get your feet wet are:
- Signing up for newsletters, blogs, and other publications
- Attending webinars and workshops
- Becoming a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists
Following a few genealogy blogs and newsletters from relatable authors will be an entertaining way for you to learn from experts in the field.
There is an endless amount of this type of content available and signing up to receive updates regarding new posts is a great way to make sure you never miss a beat.
Events like webinars allow you to learn about the field more interactively.
Websites like familysearch.com offer webinars multiple times a week to give you the tools related to effectively using their website.
The official website for the Association of Professional Genealogists states that their goal is to offer connection, education, advocacy, and passion to genealogists.
By joining the association access thousands of educational resources and become connected with other genealogists who can help guide your business.
To become a member, it is a $120 annual fee and requires a minimum of 12 hours of continued education in the field yearly.
2. Research in the Field
If you have made it to the point of wanting to begin a business in the genealogy field, then you probably have some experience researching your family’s lineage.
However, the more practice you get, the more credible you will become.
Below is a list followed by descriptions of resources that will allow you to gain more tangible experience in genealogy to help boost your resume.
- Research family history of any friends
- Shadow practicing genealogists
- Build your network
- Find online case studies
See if you can challenge yourself by asking permission from friends and other loved ones in your life to research their family’s history and present your findings to them.
This will give you experience and build a mini clientele whom you can then get testimonials from citing the quality of your work.
Also, take advantage of learning from the professionals.
If you know any practicing genealogists, get in contact with them regarding shadowing them as often as fits both of your schedules.
Even if you do not know any genealogists, utilize resources like LinkedIn to begin building your network of other professionals in the field with whom you can build mentor relationships.
Once you run out of people in your life to research their family backgrounds and reach conclusions, the next step is to turn to case studies.
Case studies are a great way to reach your own conclusions.
They allow you to compare and contrast findings from the original person who ran the study.
3. Get Your Credentials
While the above two points will help enhance your expertise, it is important to make sure that you are qualified on paper.
Whether this is through a related degree, certification, or job experience in the field, being able to show that you have the appropriate educational background and qualifications will open many doors.
Lois Mackin discusses the two types of education you can receive to become recognized as a genealogist:
- ICAP Gen (International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists)
- BCG (Board for Certification of Genealogists)
The ICAP Gen rewards an accreditation in genealogy while the BCG will earn you a certification.
Although both are good, an accreditation is recognized in higher regard than a certification.
Being accredited vouches for competency, while a certification states that the recipient has received training to know how to follow certain standards, according to Aashtoresource.com.
Boston University offers one of the most popular genealogy certification courses.
The class is 15 weeks long and completely online.
The class description states that it will give you the resources to enhance your research and professional skills to allow you to reach genealogical conclusions and earn a highly regarded credential.
4. Grow Your Professional Confidence
When looking to start a business, having confidence in the fact that you are an expert in the area in which you will be offering a service is of the highest importance.
It will go such a long way in landing clients and work by reassuring yourself that you are a professional in this field and have a unique service to offer that clients need you for.
5. Find Your Niche
Once you know you have the expertise and confidence to begin, when starting a business it can be beneficial to have a niche you specialize in.
While genealogy is a niche field on its own, the deeper you can go into that niche, the more likely a client who is looking for exactly what you are offering is to choose you among others.
There are two ways you can look at defining your niche as a professional:
- In the field of Genealogy
- Services your business will offer
If your specialty is honing in on a specific era of time or historical event that would be a way to specialize your services.
For example, if you are a WWII buff and your client is looking to uncover information about a family member during that era of time. Or a wills specialist who unearths wills of ancestors.
As far as your business goes, your niche can also be related to services that will be offered to your clients. For example, outside of taking genealogy cases for clients, you could offer a class or workshop on how to become a genealogist.
When deciding on this, think about how you are an expert and all of how you can add value to someone’s life related to your field.
6. Develop A Business Plan
Behind every great business is a well-thought-out plan.
The planning process is of the highest importance to make sure that your genealogy business takes off.
Take the time to make sure you get this step right.
Do not be afraid to seek help from someone else who might be an expert in entrepreneurship if this is something you foresee yourself struggling with this step.
For a high-level overview, check out these 5 important steps to developing a business plan in the table below:
|Define Business Objectives||Identify the problem at hand and the solution you will offer|
|Service Offerings||What will you offer clients and how it will add value to their lives|
|Marketing||The channels you will use to reach your audience|
|Initial Investment||Make sure you have enough to get up and running|
|Setting Prices||Realistic prices for your services|
While you want to make sure you spend time creating a thoughtful business plan to set you up for success, try not to overcomplicate this step too much.
By following these steps, you will be off to a great start to begin your genealogy business.
7. Define Business Objectives
Defining the main objectives for your genealogy business involves the what and the how. You should be seeking to identify the gap in the market and then how your business will aim to offer a solution.
Keep in mind how your business will stand out amongst competitors. Making sure your business solution stands out will lead future clients to gravitate towards your business.
Once you have a grasp of the above, your next step in defining your business should be to craft a mission statement.
A mission statement aims to simplify the goal of your business into a single sentence that encompasses the what, why, and how.
8. Service Offerings
Although the overarching function of genealogy is to trace and research family history, there are many ways in which this service can be offered.
Familysearch.com goes in-depth regarding different services genealogists can offer clients.
Below are are a few that they services that called out:
- Analysis of DNA
- Record Deciphering
- Tracing Ancestry Back
- Descendant Research
- Foreign Record Analysis
- Tracing Back Missing People
Upon choosing services to offer when first starting your business, it is typically the most beneficial to only start with offering one or a few services.
A business that specializes in a small number of specific services will be able to better align with its mission.
A client seeking a particular service is far more likely to choose a professional with a lot of experience in that specific field over someone with a lot of experience in many areas.
How you decide to reach your audience through marketing initiatives can be a major make-or-break factor in how fast your genealogy business will take off.
It is all about choosing to advertise your business in the right places to get your service in front of the desired market.
Although it seems like it is the most important to get your genealogy business in front of as many people as possible, that is not necessarily the case.
The key is being seen by the right people.
Genealogy is already a niche field, so it may be best to try to pay for advertising space on relevant blogs, publications, or YouTube channels that all specialize in genealogy.
Digital marketing tactics like SEO (search engine optimization), Pay-Per-Click advertising, and social media will all play huge factors in driving traffic to your business’s website to convert to clients
10. Initial Investment
Depending on whether you are looking to start your genealogy business online or open a full-blown practice, the costs will look very different between the two.
We will focus on the costs associated with beginning your genealogy practice online.
You can actually start an online business at a relatively low cost.
The first thing you will want to consider is getting your business’ website up and running.
It is important to keep in mind that websites are typically developed over time and the more popular traction your business gets the more features you will want to add to the website.
Most costs associated with a website run at monthly or annual fees and can really vary in price depending on what features you are looking for right off the bat.
However, it is not recommended to take the cheapest route here, because when developing a business you want to appear as legitimate as possible.
Do not throw thousands of dollars into funding your website right off the bat. Try to meet somewhere in the middle.
Digital.com quotes that a small business website will cost about $2,000-$8,000 to get fully up and running.
Below are some of the recommended features to add and associated costs with starting a website, also according to digital.com:
|Website Hosting: Allows content to be put up on the site||$10-$50/ Monthly|
|Domain Name: Ownership of your websites URL, allows traffic to come in organically||$15 average/One-time fee|
|SSL Certificate: Keeps customers data private||$10-$1000/ Month|
If website maintenance and design is something you want to learn and manage yourself, you can save yourself loads of money.
If you are looking to outsource, some other fees to consider are SEO website design and maintenance.
11. Set Your Rates
A genealogist can be hired hourly for as low as $50/hour and up to $120/hour on the very high end.
When first starting and building your clientele, it is recommended to begin charging a lower hourly rate while you are gaining experience.
As you begin to gain more experience, it becomes more appropriate to begin charging clients more.
When deciding on your rate, the interaction and involvement you will be having with your clients can also play into what you will be charging.
The more personal the interaction, the higher you can justify charging. If you will be meeting with them in person, you might be able to charge more than meeting with a client via Zoom.
However, remember to know your worth as a professional in the field. Do not make the mistake of charging so little that your service is free to your client.
You will have invested tons of time and money into your business and deserve to be paid accordingly.
12. Be Open To Feedback
When starting any business, make sure you remain open and welcoming of any feedback.
You should be asking for opinions and reviews regularly.
Many learning curves come with starting a business, so do not expect things to go perfect from day one.
Get in the habit of asking your clients during and after sessions with you about what they thought of your experience.
You should look for what they think you are doing well, but also what could have made their experience better.
Although sometimes tough to hear, negative feedback will only help you improve as a genealogist and business owner.
Now that you have discovered how to start a business in genealogy remember that starting any business is never an easy task.
Trust yourself and do not be afraid to seek help in the process.
By putting in the work to enhance your expertise in genealogy and creating a thoughtful plan, you will begin earning loyal clients.
Turning a passion into a career is incredibly rewarding and gives you the ability to fully love what you do.
By making it to the end of this article, know that you are already on the right path to beginning a fulfilling career in genealogy where you are your own boss!