Tag Archives: key

Encore! The Best Advice Ever for a Personal Historian.

If I were able to go back to when I began as a personal historian, what’s the best advice I could give myself? Here’s what I’d say… Read more.

5 Essential Marketing Approaches You Need for a Successful Personal History Business.

Not all marketing approaches are equal when it comes to your personal history business. Traditional print advertising, for example, isn’t that effective. Few if any of us could sustain the major expense of an ad campaign. And we engage our clients at a very intimate level which requires that they know, like, and trust us before buying our service.

So if not all marketing approaches work, what does?

The collective wisdom of personal historians  who’ve built successful businesses suggests that these 5 approaches are essential.


Having  satisfied clients sing your praises to their network of family and friends  is pure gold. A colleague of mine gets most of her clients by word-of- mouth. If you’re starting out, it’ll take some time before you’ve built a critical enough mass to ensure a steady flow of clients.

This doesn’t mean you can’t begin the process with your very first client. If that person is really pleased with your work, don’t forget to ask for referrals. Check out my previous post Lousy at Getting Referrals? Here’s Some Help for more help.

If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful. ~ Jeff Bezos, founder Amazon.com

engage your community

Because our profession is a very personal business, potential clients want to be able to see, hear, and be inspired by us. So put yourself in the middle of groups  where you’re likely to meet face-to-face with potential clients. You can do this by volunteering, agreeing to sit on boards of community groups, and networking with business associations like BNI. I’ve written more about this in What Do Fishing and Personal History Clients Have in Common?

public speaking

I know this can strike fear in the hearts of the bravest souls but don’t pass up a great opportunity to promote personal histories. I’ve some help for you in  How to Get Control of Your Pre-Presentation Jitters.

Remember that your presentation isn’t about soliciting business but about educating people on the wonderful world of personal histories. Work up a variety of presentations that can fit a 15 or 30-minute time slot. You can read more about honing your presentation skills in my previous article Do You Want to Bolster Your Presentation Skills?

Next, contact groups in your community who might be interested in personal histories such as church groups, genealogical societies, book clubs, and service organizations.

build referral partners

There are a number of businesses which serve some of the same clients as personal historians. These include life coaches, wedding planners, financial planners, and eldercare transition specialists.

Over time you can  extend your reach by cultivating such referral partners. Read more about this in  You Can Do It! Get Referral Partners Today.

talk it up

Don’t underestimate the value of mentioning your work whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. Don’t be shy. Always carry a few business cards.

See your supermarket, bank, library, dentist office, and public transit as full of potential clients.  Chat with a stranger in a line up or with a receptionist or librarian. It works.  I’ve been asked for my card by a cashier at our local grocery store and by my dentist.

You just never know where your next client will come from.

Make it happen!

Don’t turn the chance to go anywhere. Join clubs, do anything you can to get out there and meet people. You are your product. Advertise it.
~ Max Markson, Australian marketing expert

Image iStockphoto

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The Best Advice Ever for a Personal Historian.

If I were able to go back to when I began as a personal historian, what’s the best advice I could give myself? Here’s what I’d say.

  • Talk to some experienced personal historians. Ask them about the rewards and challenges of their work. You’ll get a wealth of good advice and information.
  • Have some cash reserves. Plan to have six months to a year of money to live on. It’s  going to be financially tight as you start up. You don’t need the anxiety of wondering where your next meal is going to come from.
  • Join the Association of Personal Historians. This is a great group for receiving moral  support as well as concrete business and creative help. Find out more here.
  • Create a business plan. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Check out The One Page Business Plan.
  • Have a marketing plan. There’s lot’s of help out there. You might want to take a look at The Quick and Easy Marketing Plan.
  • Ask yourself how well you work alone. If you’ve come from a job where you worked with others, the adjustment to working alone can be a challenge. Check out 12 Key Tips for Working Successfully Alone.
  • Remember you’re a professional. Don’t give away your services. Calculate what you need to earn a year less your business expenses. This will give you a clue as to the fees you need to charge. Don’t haggle with clients. It’s not professional. Check out How Much Should You Pay a Personal Historian? and Are You Charging Hamburger Prices for Gourmet Work?.
  • Always have a written legal contract. Nothing can spell disaster faster than going into a project without a contract.
  • Ensure your clients pay a portion of the project costs upfront. I always have clients make an initial payment on signing the contract. This is a non-refundable deposit and provides some compensation for my time should clients back out of the project before we start. In addition, the contract stipulates a payment at the beginning of each stage of the work.
  • Have a financial/accounting system in place. You need to keep a detailed record of revenue and expenses  for both calculating taxes and assessing your progress. There are several good accounting programs such as QuickBooks which I use or Simply Accounting.
  • Perseverance. You won’t achieve success overnight. You need to plan for at least two years of slogging in order to establish your business.
  • Discipline. You need to have a solid work routine and stick with it. Spending an afternoon watching daytime TV or puttering in the garden is OK now and then but don’t make it a habit.
  • Don’t waste money on print advertising. You can’t compete with the big boys and girls. Personal history clients  want to be able to trust the person who is going to be recording the details of  their lives. It’s better to put yourself in front of potential clients through talks and workshops. In time referrals will count for a good chunk of your business.
  • Have a life. Make sure that you build in down time. It’s easy with your own business to work 24/7. This is a recipe for burnout and failure. Check out Are You Part of “The Great Vacationless Class”?

What’s the best advice you could give to someone starting out as a personal historian?

Photo by iStockphoto

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