How to Get Genealogy Clients
Or What's Up Wednesday
So you finally did it! You graduated with that certificate in genealogy from an accredited school, and now you're ready to hang out your shingle!
First of all, congratulations! It wasn't easy getting to your goal. It took hard work, and determination! And guess what? It will take those same attributes to get to a profitable business!
There's no two ways about it. You will have to dedicate yourself. Put in the hard work to get the clients. And you will have to be determined to always present your clients with the best work you can possibly do for them.
So, you've set up a home office. You spent a few hundred dollars on a nice desk. You have a comfortable chair. A good computer and printer. The best internet set up you could find. Even a guest chair sitting across from your desk, so you can face clients who will come to your home. You've added bookcases, and all of your study books, as well as research books that you've purchased along the way, are lining those shelves. You probably even have binders filled with your portfolio of research, findings, and written family histories. (Yes, I've been there too!)
Maybe you've added a Genealogy themed poster or two; a mouse pad with a cute genealogy print on it; curtains at the window that reflect antiquities; a globe sits atop the bookcase. A nice oriental rug (it's a knock off, but only an expert will know that) sits in front of the desk.
With cell phone in hand, you sit down behind the desk, and you are lacking only thing.
So, how do you get those first clients? How long does it take to start seeing real money coming in?
First, remember to be humble. You are, after all, just starting out. And you are providing a service for your clients. So, starting out might be slow! That means, unless you have a spouse who can carry the financial burden for a while, you may have to work at another job as you build your business!
Next, let's get the word out.
Here's what I've always done to grab some quick clients for just a few dollars of income. And although you don't make anything, really, the word of mouth starts rolling around and pretty soon you can start rolling in the higher paying clients! I go onto auction sites, like eBay and I make an offer to do some fast, cheap research. Say 2 hours for $10. Yes, I know. No money made there, right?
Wrong. What you will get will be something you can't afford to buy!
See when you offer an introductory offer of something as innocuous as 2 hours of research for $10, and you actually find SOMETHING for a client, they are usually so grateful, that they will come back for more!
Yes, you heard that! MORE! And get this, it only costs you about $1 for that listing you made. (Watch for free listings events on eBay to do this, that way you only pay if the ad sells!) You use up about 2 hours of your time. Reports are sent to your client of your findings electronically. So, you've spent about 2 hours of time, and cleared $9. Okay, so you don't want to live on that, but it gets you a client. And that client will tell another, and that one another, and so on. (Be sure to ask for something specific the client is looking for. And let them know that with that offer, you will only be using electronic databases that you have subscriptions or access to. )
So, you begin to get a small following of individuals on eBay, or CraigsList, or whatever electronic medium you choose to use.
Now, let's start making an online presence for yourself.
The fastest, and easiest presence you can make known is a blog. Yes, I know, you don't think you can write a lick. But you can! Just write like you talk! Basic grammar makes it easy for you, and your readers love it. (Don't use a lot of fancy, schmancy, long words that the average high school student couldn't understand. Yes. I am serious. Use plain, common English.) Don't use slang. Don't use derogatory remarks. Just write from the heart. (And you can download a program called Grammarly that not only checks for spelling and grammar, but will check for accidental plaigerism as well. Best of all, is it's free!)
You can start blogs for free at either Blogspot.com or Wordpress.com. Both are free. And you can purchase your own domain from GoDaddy.com for just a few dollars a year.
Let's start sharing a bit of your knowledge.
What? How can you make money if you give all the secrets away, you ask? Clients want to know that you are knowledgeable, and that at some point they can take charge of the situation. So, do what any one would do. Teach them how to do what you do! Yes. Keep some secrets for yourself. Sure. But give them the basics.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and anyplace else you can possibly think of! Open a Facebook and Pinterest business account, and make sure you are getting every post out there, several times a day!
Next, blog every single day! Yes, religiously. You can actually write up all of your blog posts for a week, or a month, or even longer!, and then schedule them to post automatically. You can even schedule those posts to be featured on social media accounts without having to manually do that with great apps like Tailwind (it's got a free trial that's really free!) and others.
Make sure you have added a Contact form (Kontactr has a free form you can insert into your blog, and it won't cost you a thing!) to your blog so that visitors can contact you!
Join genealogical societies (yes, there are fees, but you're going to have to spend money to make it. It's just the law of starting up a new business. And society fees are tax deductible to your business.) Get yourself an APG (Association of Professional Genealogists) membership. The cost is minimal if you list everything you specialize in on your personal information! People really do peruse the sight for genealogists to perform searches for!
Network on professional sites like LinkedIn. I've worked with some European genealogists who were looking for inexpensive assistance in research here in the States, and with running to get hard copies of documents for genealogists who couldn't make it to my home state.
Volunteer to do research for online sites such as Ancestry or FindAGrave. Take your camera and start documenting cemeteries. Then get them entered into cemetery databases, like FindAGrave. I've had more than a few clients come from seeing my name there!
And lastly, get out there to local events: historical society meetings, genealogical society meetings. Let yourself be heard and seen. Pass out business cards. And let it be known that you are willing to do speaking engagements, just to get your face out there and be seen! I've landed many clients in the meet and greets following a meeting.
There are so many other ways you can also incorporate if you want. But this is how to get immediate clients. With these methods, you will actually start seeing a few clients right away. Don't look for big money to suddenly start coming in. Ask anyone who has been a genealogist for long, and they will tell you they make an average income. Sorry, but if you're looking for a big income, or becoming famous, you'll probably do better in another profession.
However, if you are looking for your passion, the thing that drives you, the thing that you dream about, and researching family histories and family trees does that for you, then you have found your niche!
The main thing is to keep at it. Keep putting your name and your talents out there. Even if you do it at a loss for a while. Eventually you will begin to have an income that you can support yourself on. Or at least support your own research habit! And from experience, let me tell you, that is just as satisfying!
As always, your comments are welcomed.