Starting A Genealogy Business

Starting any business involves similar steps,  and then branches off into specifics relating to a country’s rules. In  Canada, there is a difference in registering a business Federally, or Provincially. All this is explained on the Business Registration website. The type of business has to be defined, whether it will be Sole Proprietorship, Corporation, Non Profit or Limited Partnership, to name the common ones. Titles may vary in different countries. Each type of business has its own guidelines to follow,  as set by the country in which you live.

There may be full protection from creditors, or none, should the business falter and fail.  Having Business Insurance to protect you against a law suit needs to be seriously considered. People get upset about all kinds of things today. They may challenge even your right to operate. Health Inspections for the food industry guard our health. But if you own a small restaurant, one bad review can end your success because of the costs and publicity involved.

It takes about five years for a new business to become financially viable and sustainable. I was told this when I began my genealogy business, one that I had for many years, and from which this website sprang. Changes occur over the years, even the type of equipment and supplies you will need to run the business. One of the most important employees  or contract persons you will need is an IT Technologist, who will set up all of your communication links, especially your company website and then manage it. I get about 17 hacks a day from around the world against this simple website, people wanting to control it for their own illicit purposes. Why bother with this small site? I often wonder. But be prepared that others may fight against what you want to do.

So, It is very important to gather around you people with the skills you do not have and why ongoing education is important for everyone, especially as you age. What about attitude?  Some business leaders resist change, and that can make employees they hire with modern training very frustrated. I struggle with this one myself.  New does not necessarily mean better, but it does to some people. How to find the balance takes sensitivity and insight and that is not learned easily.  People problems can be the most difficult of all for business situations.

Although I still have a genealogy business registered federally, retirement has eased the  profit goal and changed the focus  to preserving history and memories.  What is your goal?  It needs to be fine tuned carefully before beginning.

What helped me the most were daily sessions over six weeks, in which, along with others, I developed a Business Plan. It outlined very clearly the areas of: Identification & Address; Management; Advertisement; Legal & Insurance; Anticipated Cash Flow Chart, Banking, Taxes,  and so on.  When finished, I presented it to three local business men. Their approval gave me an extended, full year of Unemployment Benefits, to fund my life during the start-up phase. This was a government program at the time. I do not know if it still exists, but it clearly identified the importance of planning. Having a  business plan to present to bankers will give you an edge if seeking a start-up loan. Everything about your business should be clearly presented in that portfolio,

There are Heritage and other grants that offer free money for your business. Money may be available to attend conferences and educational opportunities from a grant. Your local township or country may offer grants for things like producing publications they want to give out.  That’s $5,000 to tap into.  Both the federal and provincial governments offer larger amounts for  development grants for community businesses, such as how to help keep seniors in their homes and cared for, as a growing focus for our aging population.

What computer program will you use for Accounting, especially at Tax Time? Do you understand basic bookkeeping? Will you hire someone to take care of financial records, or will you do this yourself?   Do you have the skills to do that, or the time? What about employees? Do you know the rules pertaining to Workman’s Compensation claims? What about sending the Government the Sales Tax collected? At what dollar level must you charge it, but not necessarily before? I got phone calls about this from a government worker looking for my quarterly payments. Are you ready to have the government put a spot light on your life?

May I suggest if you have never started a business, that you spend considerable time studying what is available, both online and in publication. Your local library may be of great help to you in that regard. Do a survey of your market, and know who else in your area is already established in the field of your interest.  Who is your competition?  What about establishing rates, as it does boil down to dollars and cents. What will be your basic charge for various things you plan to sell or do?  What is that breaking point to cover all expenses involved? How will you support the business before your cash flow starts climbing?

What I saw during the period of developing a Business Plan was how some participants changed their original idea to another.  One of the guys who was a butcher decided to write a book how to do it, instead of opening a butcher shop. I made some changes myself. I found that initially a subscription newsletter was key to generating funds in the beginning, while I  developed other products and services..  It takes time to be get known so that people consider hiring you to help them with their family history. I am now retired, and turned that aspect of my business over to my daughter.

I remember when a family hired me (because I was also an RN) to accompany an old Jewish man who wanted to revisit his concentration camp in Europe, and write the story of his life.  All expenses paid of course. So a genealogy business may develop into something you have never considered.

Genealogy or family history research is second only to Gardening as a  “hobby” that generates millions of dollars in revenue.  I appreciate all the work being done across the world to make finding records so much easier now as I sit at my desk and use the Internet. For years, I drove and drove miles to visit every library and genealogy collection I could find. Filming tombstones was part of those travel trips.

I would love to find those wanting to do the same now, to accompany me on a trip, sharing expenses and having a great adventure. I know the way, and there is opportunities for new discoveries. Maybe it could develop into a travel business for you. Having a mentor who have done it before is a lovely gift for someone just starting out who is willing to learn by doing.  You have to travel to find out if you like it or not.

More than one company gathers revenue from selling advertising on their website. I’ve helped someone develop a catalogue they could publish on a website and generate a bit of money that way. Developing your own website will be of great importance. Some businesses operate totally online.  None of us knows how to do any of this  when we start, so never let that stop you.  Believe in yourself and your dream. Put in places things to encourage you, teach you and inspire you.

Life is the greatest adventure.


Photo is of  Norma, working in an office in my youth. See the typewriter (central font ball) and tape recorder. My boss was publishing a  quarterly booklet by subscription.