Category Archives: Marketing

Encore! How to Start and Run a Personal History Business.

I’ve just finished Jennifer Campbell’s recent book  Start and Run a Personal History Business published by Self-Counsel Press. If you’re thinking of making personal histories a business, you owe it to yourself to get this book. Jennifer knows her stuff. She’s been a professional personal historian since 2002 and prior to that had a 25 year career as an editor, writer, and interviewer… Read more.

Encore! How Much Should You Charge for a Speaking Engagement?

One of the questions  I get asked when someone has been invited to give a presentation on personal histories is “How much should I charge?”

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer or formula, but there are some useful guidelines. A colleague of mine and fellow Association of Personal Historians member is Pattie Whitehouse. She has some good suggestions which I’ve summarized below…Read more.

Encore! How to Still be a Winner After Losing a Potential Client.

What do you do when you lose a potential client? A few weeks ago this happened to me. I was disappointed but it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last time that I hear the words, “I’m sorry but…”.  However,  over the years I’ve learned to see this as an opportunity and not as a loss. Let me explain…Read more.

Encore! Worried About Paying the Bills Between Major Projects?

What do you do when you’re between major personal history projects and your bank account is dwindling?  If you’re like me, this can be a stressful time. One solution is to look for smaller projects that can be done relatively easily and quickly to tide you over.  Here are a few things I’ve done… Read more

Encore! Ten Tips for Creating a Great Business Card.

Dollar for dollar, your business card is  one of your best forms of advertising. I’ve been looking at my  card lately and thinking it’s time for a major makeover. It’s not that it’s terrible. It’s just not memorable. So I’ve been doing a little research on what makes for a great card. I’ve distilled it down to these ten key points… Read more.

Encore! Are Your Clients Extremely Satisfied With Your Service?

I was in my neighborhood bank today and as I was coming out, I noticed a sign that read “We hope your experience with us today was extremely satisfying”.  I thought it a bit odd. Most of my banking is pretty perfunctory. As long as the ATM doesn’t screw up, I’m pretty delighted. But the sign got me thinking. What would make your personal history service extremely satisfying for clients? Here’s what I think…Read more.

8 Ways To Make Your Business Stand Out From the Crowd.

In today’s marketplace you’ve got to do more than offer excellent service and product. That’s a given. To separate your small business from all the others offering a similar service you’ve got to be unique and memorable. How do you do that?

Begin by checking out your competition. Look at their websites, blogs, and any printed marketing material. Ask yourself, “What can I do that they’re not doing?”

Taking  my own advice, I  started doing a little research on a few personal history websites. Here’s what I learned.

Generally personal historians do a good job of extolling the virtues of recording life stories.  But there are omissions. This means there’s a real opportunity for you to fill the gaps and  set your personal history business apart.  Here are 8 ways to be unique:

1. Provide a money back guarantee. This provides real comfort for potential clients. It also says that you’re confident about the quality of your work. I’ve had a 100% satisfaction guaranteed label on my home page for three years now and it’s never been a problem.

2. Contribute to your community. Demonstrate your values by listing your volunteer activities. Consider donating a percentage of your profits to a charity that has an obvious connection to life stories such as the Alzheimer’s Association and Reading is Fundamental.

3. Have a toll free number.  Prominently display your toll free number on your home page and other marketing materials. The easier it is for potential clients to talk to you, the better the chance of securing that client.

4. Offer free resources. Put together a series of lists and mini-publications  like 15 Great Memoirs Written by Women , The 50 Best Life Story Questions, and Come to Your Senses and Unlock Childhood Memories.  [Please feel free to use these or other articles  from my blog. All I ask is that you duly credit them.]

5. List prices. There’s no getting away from it, price matters. It’s usually the first thing people want to know. Anything that hints at avoidance can lead to suspicion. I know that personal history fees vary widely depending on the scope of a project. But minimally you can indicate a range. For example: Prices range from $300 for a one-hour video interview to $10,000 for a documentary film biography.

6. Go green.  Consumers increasingly expect businesses to limit their environmental impact. Being green can set you apart. How do you reduce your carbon footprint? In your office do you use recycled paper, compact fluorescent bulbs or LED lights? Do you drive a fuel efficient car? Is your printing done by an environmentally responsible company?

Consider buying carbon offsets. In Canada one of the top ranked companies is Less. In the United States check out TerraPass . Make sure that your clients know your commitment to the environment is more than talk.

7. Be an expert.Write articles that offer tips and advice. These can be on your own blog or for sites such as and   In time you’ll be seen as an expert! 

8. Code of Ethics. If you’re a member of the Association of Personal Historians, (If you’re not, you should be ;-) ) you know that you’re expected to adhere to the APH Code of Ethics. It’s simple to add this as a page to your website. Like the money back guarantee it creates a degree of comfort for your clients.


If I were a potential client in search a personal historian, who would  I hire?

Over and above the obvious need to hire a personal historian with a high degree of expertise, the nod would go to the person who was not only outstanding but went that extra mile and met the above attributes.

How are you going to make your business stand out this year? Drop me a line. Love to hear from you.

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Image by iStockphoto

The Top Personal History Blogs of 2011.

This is my third annual listing of the best personal history blogs of the year.

I’ve been tougher in my selection this year. Blogs that were either “missing in action” or were visually unappealing or had weak content didn’t make the cut.

My criteria for selection is based on the qualities I wrote about in What Everybody Ought to Know About a Successful Blog. Briefly these are:

  • Frequent posts.
  • Consistency.
  • Personal.
  • Short and scannable articles.
  • Uncluttered.
  • Use of graphics, photographs, and video.
  • Catchy headlines.
  • Generous and useful content.

This year there are two newcomers to the list: Beth LaMie’s One Story at a Time and  Sarah White’s True Stories Well Told.

Special mention also goes to three blogs that show what good personal history blogging can be. If you’re not on this year’s list, check these out for inspiration.  The owners know their audience, write great content, post  frequently and consistently, and create a visually appealing format.  Kudos to The Heart and Craft of Life Writing, Women’s Memoirs, and True Stories Well Told.

Without further ado, here are the top eight personal history blogs for 2011, ranked in alphabetical order.  Congratulations to everyone.  Drum role, please!

  • Legacy Multimedia blog. Owner Stefani Twyford says that on her blog “you will read about my passion for personal history, filmmaking techniques, genealogy, and related topics. I will veer off onto other topics from time to time but always come back to the things that make my work and my life a joy.”
  • Memoir Mentor. Owner Dawn Thurston says, “My blog is an attempt to participate in the larger community of people interested in life story writing of all kinds and perhaps help a few people persevere in writing their stories.”
  • One Story at a Time.  Owner Beth LaMie says, “I hope you find my stories of interest, especially if you want to write some of your own family stories.”
  • True Stories Well Told.  Owner Sarah White says, “Here’s where I share the thoughts I might bring up for class discussion. Here’s where I post the writings of my fearless, peerless, workshop participants. Here’s where I share stories from my own life, as well as my pet peeves, pointers, and personal observations. I hope to create the atmosphere you find in my classrooms.”
  • Video Biography Central. Owner Jane Lehmann-Shafron describes her blog as a place for “Advice, essays, samples and inspiration for people interested in preserving their personal and family history through video biography, memorial video, life story and genealogy video.”
  • Women’s Memoirs. Owners Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnet have put together a wealth of information that includes writing prompts, book reviews, and more. Women’s Memoirs is not strictly speaking a personal history site but there’s a lot of useful material  here for anyone involved in personal histories.

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Photo by Jackie

My Top 10 Posts of 2011.

It’s the end of the year and time for list making.  These are the posts from 2011 that were the most popular with readers.  If you’ve missed some of them, now’s  your chance to catch up over the holidays. Enjoy!

  1. The 50 Best Life Story Questions.
  2. 25 No Cost or Low Cost Marketing Ideas for Your Personal History Business.
  3. How Much Should You Pay a Personal Historian?
  4. 15 Great Memoirs Written by Women.
  5. 5 Top Sites for Free Online Videography Training.
  6. The Top 3 Prosumer HD Camcorders Under $2,500.
  7. How to Boost Your Interviewing Skills.
  8. Three Crucial Steps to Starting Your Personal History Business.
  9. 5 Print-On-Demand Sites You’ll Want to Consider.
  10. 12 Top Rated Family Tree Makers.

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Encore! Are You Showing Your Clients How Much You Appreciate Them?

You may have seen the  inspiring video “Johnny the Bagger”.  It’s the true story of how one young man with Down Syndrome changed the experience of grocery shoppers in a simple but profound way…Read more.