I get asked this question with increasing regularity. And my response is – it depends. Like most things in life, there isn’t a simple answer. Here are a few things to ponder.
What do you consider a living wage?
If you need to earn a 6 figure salary in order to maintain your lifestyle, you’re unlikely to achieve that as a personal historian . I’d suggest you take up cosmetic surgery.
But maybe you’re thinking, “I’m looking at a more modest income, maybe around $50,000 a year.”
Okay. Let’s do the math. On average it takes about three months to complete a personal history book. You might be able to produce 4 books a year. That means you’re going to have to charge your clients $12,500 per book to make $50,000 a year. And remember, you’ll have to deduct your business expenses from that figure.
If you can find clients who are willing to pay you that amount, great. But I’ll be frank. While $12,500 is a reasonable price to pay for a personal history, you’ll find many potential clients will be shocked by the price.
People love the concept of personal histories, but they haven’t a clue about the costs of producing one.
How soon do you need to earn some money?
If you’re new to self-employment, you’re in for a surprise. It’ll take you at least a couple of years of hard work to make your business profitable.
Without another source of income or sufficient savings to tide you over, it’s almost impossible to reach a point where you’re making a living from personal histories.
Do you have the right qualities to be a personal historian?
If you don’t have the qualities that are required of a personal historian, you’re going to find earning a living from this work a challenge. Here’s a check-list of some of those qualities. How do you think you fare?
- excellent interviewing skills
- enjoy working alone
- able to market and promote oneself
- empathetic listener
- comfortable at public speaking
- proficient writing and editing skills
- love variety
- a positive attitude
- enjoy working with people
How hard are you prepared to work?
Being a personal historian can be a very enjoyable hobby. But if you’re intending this to be a business, then be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever worked before. For the first few years this can means 10 to 12 hour days, 7 day weeks, with few if any holidays. Trust me, I’ve been there.
Putting in this kind of effort works if you’re passionate about what you’re doing. But if you don’t have that “fire in your belly”, then do yourself a favor and don’t even start.
You can make a living being a personal historian provided you’ve got the right personality, love life stories and people, are prepared to work hard, and aren’t looking to earn top dollars.
Photo by Renee
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