Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Genealogy and Profit: A Hobbyist's Perspective

There is a robust discussion going on in the genealogy blogosphere this week, at Geneabloggers and elsewhere, about making money in genealogy.

I have perspectives on 2 fronts.

I've always had Google Adsense on my blog, but I recently also added affiliate advertising and occasional links (and a link to Ebates, because you can earn by referring others, but also because it's a fantastic site, and I think anyone who ever shops online should use it). (Yes, that was an affiliate link.) I don't expect to make any money from it, but I hesitated a lot before I did it, and I still have conflicted feelings about it. It doesn't bother me in the slightest when other bloggers monetize their blogs. So many of the bloggers in the genea-blogging community offer real services. Their blogs are informative, or very interesting, or incredibly well-written. The kind of material that people SHOULD be getting paid for. And since I'm not paying for it, well, heck, I'd be thrilled for Amazon, or Ancestry, or Google to be paying them for it. They DESERVE it!

But me? Little old me, with my inconsistent posting, my boring writing, my very few hits? Not only do I not do anything to earn money, I shouldn't even have the balls to attempt to make itty bitty bits of it. It feels . . . presumptuous, maybe. Or naive.

But I'm broke. I had a low-paying job, which I'm about to leave, to have a no-paying job as a housewife. (I'm getting married. Girls don't keep working after they get married.) If ads on my blog mean an extra $15 or $20 a year (which it doesn't, not even close - but a girl can dream), well, I'm at a point in my life where that's not much, but it's not nothing. So I added affiliate links to my blog. But I'm not sure it's appropriate. I'm a hobbyist. This isn't my job. I probably shouldn't be trying to get paid.

When I was most recently looking for work, I would occasionally be caught browsing or writing posts on this blog when I was supposed to be looking for openings or finishing job applications. I kept hearing it suggested - from my mom, in exasperation that I didn't have a job yet; or from a cousin, when I was sending him my resume one week and Grandpa's immigration papers the next - that I should just do genealogy for a career. "You like this, and you're good at it. Why not do it for money?" I kept pointing out that I'm not remotely qualified for that. There are professionals out there - people with training, with experience, with resources at their disposal, people who can write narratives, and cite sources properly, and all the other things that are involved in genealogy beyond just searching online and making the occasional visit to a local repository. I know a lot of the principles involved in good genealogy, things like the "reasonably exhaustive search," but I just don't have the resources to do these things for myself yet, and I couldn't possibly claim to be able to do something for someone else without ever having given it a try myself.

I think I eventually got my point across when I compared myself to my sister, a yoga instructor. "You studied yoga for years before you started teaching. You were good at it. Surely you could have just started charging people to teach them yoga? Why bother specifically getting trained as a yoga teacher? Instead, you waited and went through intensive training as a yoga instructor before you started charging others for your services; it would have been unethical, unprofessional, and possibly even dangerous to do otherwise. Genealogy is the same way; every industry has ethics and standards." (Granted, a bad researcher won't usually cause physical injury, but don't underestimate the danger of inaccurate "facts!")

Is a genealogy career something I might consider in the future? Absolutely. Maybe in a few years, if I'm a stay-at-home mom and our income is stable enough to allow me to make the upfront investment in becoming a qualified professional genealogist, it would be a good time. (Although, I can't for the life of me figure out how genealogy makes a good work-from-home career; I can't even make it a work-from-home hobby!) But I'm not qualified to make a career out of genealogy now, and I don't have the resources - or, honestly, the interest - at this point in my life, to become qualified. And it wouldn't be right to charge people for services I'm not qualified to provide.

**Just kidding about the working thing. I'll be looking for work after I get married, I just probably won't have it right away!


Claudia's Genealogy Blog said...

If that is your goal, go for it....

geneabloggers said...

I want to encourage you to follow your dream and don't defer it. There's a funny thing about dreams deferred . ..

Have you thought about joining the ProGen group? It is a free 18-month study group of the Professional Genealogy group and a good way to learn more about the profession. Let me know if you need info. I just graduated from ProGen4 and am very happy with what I learned.

Katie O. said...

I only briefly alluded to lack of interest in education at the end of my post, but that's still a big part of the reason that I'm not pursuing a genealogy career at the moment. I won't pursue a career without further education (formal or self-directed), and I'm just not ready to commit to more education at this point in my life. I'm still fresh out of grad school, which I started immediately after college graduation and accomplished while working pert near full time. It's going to be a little while longer before I commit to studying anything for a substantial length of time. Strictly on principle, I won't read anything assigned by anything else for some time yet.

Like I said, I may absolutely be interested in a genealogy career in the future, but not until I'm educated and qualified - and now is not a time when I'm interested in that. I need a bit of a break, and might be able to commit to pursuing it in the future.

Jim's Girl said...

I know how you feel. I certainly respect your desire to do it right.

I keep thinking that maybe before I retire, when my girl's a little older, I'll be able to do the courses for certification and then earn a bit of money after retirement. I have a great job, don't get me wrong. Challenging work with fantastic people. But it's just not something I'm as passionate about (addicted to?) as genealogy.