The 3 Keys to a Successful Personal History Business.

A successful personal history business is like a three-legged stool. Take away one leg and you fall on your butt.

So what are the three legs? Simply put, they’re passion, perseverance, and planning or the 3P’s as I like to call them.

1. Passion

Merriam-Webster defines passion as a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept.

You’ve got to have a strong desire to tell people’s stories. It’s what makes you want to get up in the morning and get to work. It’s what gives you that extra boost to push you through the hard times. And believe me, there will be hard times.

Without passion you’ll find your work  becomes a chore. Your lack of enthusiasm will inevitably lead to fewer and fewer clients finding their way to your door.

Passion is the juice that keeps you going.

2. Perseverance

Perseverance is that ability to keep going in spite of setback and difficulties. It gives your passion its backbone.

Research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that “most failures of American startups will occur in the first two years of their existence.”

If you’re expecting to turn a profit within a year, you’ll be sorely disappointed. It’ll take at least two years or more to get your personal history business up and running.

Without perseverance it’s all too easy to give up when the going gets tough.

3. Planning

Planning is an unnatural process; it is much more fun to do something. The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. (Sir John Harvey-Jones)

There’s wisdom in Sir John’s  tongue-in-cheek put down.  It’s true that  doing something is much more fun than planning. That’s why I suspect many small business owners don’t have a business plan.

But if you don’t have a business plan, it doesn’t matter how much passion and perseverance you have, you’re rudderless and you’ll almost certainly run aground.

I’m not suggesting you have to take a year to write a 40 page monster plan. What you need is something that’s relatively simple. According to WiseBread your plan should address such questions as:

  • What’s my product or service?
  • Who are my clients?
  • How will I reach my clients?
  • What are my goals over the next 3, 6, and 12 month period?
  • What are my fixed, variable, and capital expenses?
  • How much do I have to charge to make a profit?

For more help on planning check out these resources:


I see newcomers who go into the personal history business, full of passion for helping people tell their stories. This is  good but it’s not enough. It’s just one leg on our three-legged stool. Without the other legs of perseverance and planning some of these same people sadly give up their dream.

What leg on your personal history stool is wobbly? Please share your thoughts by writing a line or two in the comment box below.

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4 responses to “The 3 Keys to a Successful Personal History Business.

  1. Susan Carpenter Sims

    I have been writing a weekly column for my town’s newspaper for a year and a half now, profiling local businesses, and out of my love for doing this, and the positive feedback I’ve received about my articles, I’ve recently decided to become a personal historian. This post is a great confirmation for me that I’m moving in the right direction, as I definitely have passion and a persevering nature, and I’m currently working on my business plan. Thanks for those links!

    Also, each year I choose a word to guide me for the year, and my word for 2012 is “juice.” Part of what this word meant to me when I chose it (or it chose me), was about taking my current writing business to a juicier level. So your statement, “Passion is the juice that keeps you going” is totally fitting for me.

    • @Susan Carpenter Sims. Thank you for your comments, Susan. I’m glad my post was of some use. If you haven’t already done so, I’d highly recommend that you join the Association of Personal Historians. It’s a very supportive group. All the very best with your personal history business. I hope you have a juicy year! ;-)

      • Susan Carpenter Sims

        Yes, joining the Association is definitely on my list of things to do in the near future! Thank you!

  2. Pingback: The 3 Keys to a Successful Personal History Business. | personal storytelling |

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