Disclosure. I’ve contributed one small item to this book but I will not be receiving any renumeration from its sale.
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.
This 180 page book is packed with the kind of information I wish I had when I was starting out. The 16 Chapters cover:
- the world of personal history
- the business of personal history
- getting started
- business foundations
- producing a sample
- a guide to producing a personal history
- an online presence
- publicity and promotion
- client relations and customer service
- time management and project management
- growing your business
- accelerating your success and managing growth
In addition, the book comes with a CD-ROM which includes all of the sample templates used in the book as well as resources to help you in your business.
If you buy Personal History Business for nothing else than the chapter on pricing, it’s well worth the investment. For personal historians who are starting out, determining what to charge clients is a challenge. Jennifer’s detailed step-by-step approach will give you the help you need to ensure that you keep your business profitable.
What struck me about the book is that Jennifer makes it clear that running a personal history business takes more than just a love of people and their stories. Her book is like a splash of cold water. After reading it, if you’re still enthusiastic about establishing a personal history business, you’ll go into it with your eyes wide open. A word of caution. Don’t become overwhelmed by the content. There’s a lot to digest. Read it through once for an overview and then come back to chew on smaller portions.
I like Jennifer’s candor. For example, on business plans she says, “Like a lot of small business owners, I resisted doing a business plan for a long time. I think it was a psychological block…I finally got some serious business coaching…” In my eyes, her honesty makes her more credible because I know that she’s writing from personal experience.
The book is also sprinkled with useful tips. They’re terrific. And I wish she’d included more of them and highlighted them so they stood out from the surrounding copy. This brings me to my only real concern and that’s the overall layout and design of the book.
My personal preference is for some breathing space around blocks of text. I found the information on the pages visually congested. I longed for more white space, bolder titles, and little sidebars with tidbits of information, like her “tips”. I would have found it easier to absorb the wealth of material with more visual help. Having said this, I’m aware that there are production costs to consider when designing a book. And Self-Counsel Press, the publishers, probably have a standard layout from which there can be little deviation.
Layout and design aside, this is an excellent book. If you’re serious about establishing a personal history business, you need to do two things - buy a copy of Start & Run A Personal History Business and join the Association of Personal Historians.