Three Crucial Steps to Starting Your Personal History Business.

Interested in starting a new career as a personal historian?  Congratulations! It’s a wonderful field if you enjoy working with people and are curious about their lives.

How should you start your new business?  I know this is going to sound heretical but forget the business plans, brochures, business cards, and website. All that stuff can come later. Believe me. Here’s what you need to do right now.

  1. Talk to some professional  personal historians. When I started out, I found a personal historian in my community who had been doing this work for fifteen years. I spent an afternoon picking her brain.  She was gracious with her time and advice. Talking to experienced personal historians will provide you with invaluable start-up help. To find a personal historian go the Association of Personal Historians website and click on the Find a Personal Historian tab.
  2. Produce a life story book or video. Start with a friend or relative. Even if you’ve already done this for a family member, don’t miss this step. It’s crucial. You need a portfolio you can show prospective  clients and you need experience. What you’ll want to do is keep a very detailed record of the time you spend on each and every phase of the project. This will be useful information in determining the fees you’ll need to charge. Also keep a journal of the things that are working, not working, surprises, and questions you need answered.
  3. Reflect on your experience. After you’ve completed your personal history project, go back and read through the journal you wrote. Reflect on your experience and ask yourself these three questions: Was this a good experience for me?  Am I excited about starting work on another life story? Am I prepared to put in the hard work to make a success of this new endeavor?  If you can enthusiastically answer Yes to these three questions, you’re well on your way. Congratulations!

Photo by iStockphoto

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4 Responses to Three Crucial Steps to Starting Your Personal History Business.

  1. Raymond Beltrami

    I am most grateful for your advice. Many have indicated to me that having the trappings of a business: registered name, blog, wedsite, cards ect were the first steps.
    In the back of my mind I felt that producing first a few stories projects were more important because we learn by doing.
    I am glad that you have dispelled any doubts that clouded the path ahead.
    Thank you. I like your blogg.
    I am a new member of APH.
    I live on the southeast coast of Australia.

    • @Raymond Beltrami. Thank you for your comments, Raymond. I feel too many people spend a lot of time fussing about with all the trappings of getting a personal history business up and running. It’s much better to find out first if this is the kind of work you enjoy and are good at. If it is, then by all means set out to get the business plan in place, the business cards and all the other things necessary to operate a successful business.

      I’m glad you like my blog and welcome to the APH! I hope you’ll be able to join us at this year’s conference in my fair city of Victoria. I know it’s a long journey from Australia but you won’t regret the time or money spent.

  2. Great advice. I enjoyed your article.

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