Dan Curtis ~ Professional Personal Historian

The 10 Worst Things About Being A Personal Historian.

July 23, 2009 · 4 Comments

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In  a  previous post I wrote about the ten things that I liked best about being a professional personal historian.  Now to be honest, this work has its challenges. I’m not trying to discourage anyone and at the same time I think it’s wise to go into something new with your eyes wide open. Would anything on the following list make you reconsider a career as a personal historian?

  1. Minimal income at the start. Until you’ve built up a client base, your revenues will be slim for at least a couple of years. I speak from experience.
  2. No regular paycheck. If you’ve been a salaried employee, it can be a shock to suddenly find there’s no check at the end of the week.
  3. An uneven work flow. It can often be a question of feast or famine – too many clients or too few.
  4. Working alone. You can spend days and weeks on your own. Now for some this may be a benefit not a handicap.
  5. Marketing your services. If you’re an introvert like me, this can be a challenge.  But if you don’t market your services, you won’t get clients and your business will fail.
  6. Inconsiderate clients. Most are a pleasure to work with. And then I’ve had a few potential clients who never return calls. This, after I’ve spent time  with them working out a personalized life story package and budget. It’s annoying. Other personal historians can attest to their own “clients from hell”.
  7. Little free time. If you want to earn the income you feel you need, you’ll find yourself putting in long days and long weeks. Being  self-employed and successful is hard work especially if you’re trying to balance it with domestic responsibilities.
  8. Working in a profession that is unregulated. Anyone can claim to be a personal historian – there’s no certification or governing body.  For the potential client this can create  confusion. Some personal historians have years of experience and others none. Some charge very little while others charge thousands of dollars.  A potential client can well question why they should pay me a professional rate when someone down the street is offering a bargain basement fee.
  9. Keeping up with changing technologies: An example.  A few years ago I invested a few thousand dollars into the latest 3-chip, miniDV prosumer camcorder. It’s now obsolete because it doesn’t shoot in HD and isn’t flash-based.  I can still get some use out of my camcorder but I will eventually have to upgrade.
  10. If you don’t do it, it won’t get done. It’s not always practical or easy to delegate some tasks. So for most of us it means wearing many different hats. In any one day you can be a marketer, bookkeeper, writer,  editor, event planner, interviewer and administrative assistant.  While this can be a lot of fun, it can also be stressful and lead to burn out.

Photo by Gobi

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Categories: Personal historian
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4 responses so far ↓

  • Mary Ihla // July 23, 2009 at 4:31 pm | Reply

    Your 10 points apply to most freelance situations, including copywriting and Web design. For me, #6 is the most difficult to overcome and the most irritating. You can find plenty of online resources to help you market your business, increase your productivity, and improve your technological skills, but there’s not much out there on how to deal with difficult clients.

    • Dan Curtis // July 23, 2009 at 5:50 pm | Reply

      @Mary Ihla. Thanks for your comment. I agree that my 10 points would apply to most freelancers save for item 8 perhaps. Because personal historians are still relatively new on the scene, there isn’t the awareness on the part of the public about the profession. So what we do and the fees that we charge is all an unknown.

  • Lissa A. Forbes // July 23, 2009 at 9:41 pm | Reply

    #8 hits the mark … not only are there people who work at bargain basement prices, but there are people who offer their version of what professionals offer for FREE! How do you compete with that … and they think they’re not effecting the potential client pool.

    • Dan Curtis // July 23, 2009 at 11:21 pm | Reply

      @Lissa A. Forbes. Thanks for your comment. I agree with you about the problem of FREE. Pretty hard to compete with that. Perhaps some day there will be a certifying body and standards set. Until that time, we will have to “soldier on”.

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