Friday, July 15, 2011

A Practical Guide to Starting a Successful Personal History Business

Jennifer Campbell was one of five women profiled in the February, 2011 issue of More magazine as an entrepreneur who started her business for only $150.00. As a collector of women's success stories, I was immediately intrigued and decided to investigate how she had done this. My research was pretty easy because Campbell had written a book about her undertaking called "Start & Run A Personal History Business - Get Paid to Research Family Ancestry and Write Memoirs".

I ordered the book through Amazon and sat back to wait for its arrival. Less than 10 days later, I held her book in my hands.

Campbell explains. " This is a 'hot' profession: a young industry with vast potential for income and growth. When I started Heritage Memoirs in 2002, I just wanted a creative outlet for my interviewing, writing, and editing skills. Through my father's death and my mother's dementia, I had lost my own family stories and thought there could possibly be a business helping other people avoid that loss." (page 2)

And, as her fledgling business grew, it became obvious to Campbell that the next step was to write a how-to book that covered every aspect of start up for a memoir writing business.

An unexpected bonus is the CD-ROM included on the inside back cover of the book that includes additional resources and templates you can download. Think of this book as your own personal workbook. Each page has lots of white space for note taking.

Chapter one lays the foundation by defining what a personal historian is and does and then broadening the scope of the profession by describing the "why" of this business. This chapter, like all of the others, is clearly arranged with sub-topics and bullet points for easy reading.

One of the features of the book that I like is the quiz Campbell includes on page 13. She lists 25 characteristics that she believes someone should have if they are considering becoming a personal historian. Should you come up on the short end of this list, rather than discourage you from moving forward, Campbell suggests that you simply "...start planning to work on those areas you identified as ones in which you need help." (page 13)

Chapters 3 - 5

As I read further, I found myself thinking that Campbell's book should be required reading for everyone who has ever thought about having a home-based business.

Why? Everything that she covers in these three chapters can be easily applied to any new start up business.

Campbell examines what makes for any good business owner. She distinguishes between two personality types: someone who she describes as a "pair of hands" (page 18) versus that dynamic individual who wants to control their professional/financial destiny - an entrepreneurial spirit.

What is it that separates these two types? "It's mainly one of attitude." (page 18) Some of us know this as the difference between being an employee and being an owner. The former are content to go to their job every day, following the directions of someone else. Their job has a beginning and an end to it.

The owner is someone who has a " of what the business could be in a year or two or five, and they accept that they'll have to do a lot of grunt work and learn all aspects of running a business. They tend to be leaders. They have enough confidence in their abilities and their products to patiently but assertively build a clientele, and carve out a lucrative niche for themselves in the marketplace." (page 18)

Knowing which category you fit can go a long way to helping you be successful. There are happy, productive employees and there are happy, productive business owners. Taking time to figure out which category you want to fit into can save a lot of heartache.

Chapters 6 - 16

The day-to-day action steps, to-do lists, and practical applications for how to get started as a personal historian are clearly laid out in the rest of this book. Campbell leaves no stone unturned as she walks you through start up. If you're researching possible business opportunities for yourself and think that helping people to write their memoirs might be something you'd like to do, you will find no better road map for success than this book.

Kathy H Porter (aka Mrs BizWhiz) blogs about baby boomer women seeking to re-invent themselves either personally or professionally. She invites you to visit: to join the conversation.

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