What You Need to Know About Becoming a Professional Personal Historian.

I’ve been a professional personal historian now for some five years. I’m occasionally asked by people looking for a new direction in their professional lives if they should consider becoming a personal historian. I usually extol the virtues and tell them how much I love my work. But I’ve never actually thought seriously about what someone needs to consider before taking the plunge. So if you’ve been thinking maybe this is the line of work for you, here’s something to consider. If you can answer yes to each of the following questions, then I think you’re ready.

  • Are you prepared to work for a year or two with little or no income? Like any new business, it takes time to to market and promote your services. So for the first couple of years you’ll likely see more money going out than coming in.
  • Do you know what products/services you’ll offer? Personal historians offer a wide range of services and products that include ethical wills, corporate histories, editing, bookbinding, family histories, photo restoration – just to mention a few. You need to know what strengths you bring to the work.
  • Are you able to work alone for long periods of time? Being self-employed can mean working days without seeing another person. If you come from a job that involves daily contact with work colleagues, you may find it difficult to adjust to the isolation.
  • Are you disciplined and self motivated? There’s no boss telling you what to do. You’re it! If you don’t keep your office organized, prepare marketing plans and materials, and check on possible leads, no one will.
  • Do you have samples of your work? Prospective clients like to be able to see the quality of your work.
  • Do you enjoy working with people? For the most part personal historians work closely with their clients. If you’re not a people person, then this isn’t the work for you.
  • Do you have a support group of friends or professional colleagues? As I mentioned earlier, being on your own can feel daunting at times. It’s really important to have a group of people you can call on for professional advice and emotional support.

How did you do? Don’t give up if you answered no to some of these questions. It might mean you’ll have to do a little more work and planning to ensure you’re ready to become a personal historian. Or the questions may have helped you see that this is not the work for you.

Photo by thparkth

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