[Editor’s Note: this is the fourth in a series of posts at Hack Genealogy entitled Genea-Opportunities 2013. ]
I am crazy or at least that’s what some people think when they realize I’m willing to share information on my income earned in the genealogy industry. Most readers know I don’t care what most people think – I’m too busy being successful, thank you. Sound smug? Not really, it is just a survival tactic and a way to keep focused. I have enough self-doubts and demons on a daily basis and I work hard to keep them at bay. I don’t need the cacophony of the Nattering Nabobs of Negativity adding to those voices in my head.
And I get the last laugh: I know that even those who don’t agree with how I share this info will scroll down to the end to see how well Thomas did this year. The old “measuring stick” syndrome. But don’t try to compare what I do with what you are doing or plan to do. I’m unique and I offer unique services. Yes you can replicate some of the projects and I hope they work for you, I really do. I just know that my skill set and my experience have me uniquely positioned. “Your results may vary” is just as true in business success as it is in car mileage.
So read below for the details of what I have been doing for the period January 1 through June 30, 2013 in terms of working in the genealogy industry, while I’m having the time of my life.
Project Management Update
I continue to thrive in my business mainly through my own OCD issues related to project management. As many readers know, in a previous work life I managed large information technology projects including 500 employee office moves. I have developed keen skills when it comes to breaking down a goal into processes and steps that can be tracked on a spreadsheet.
Each day, my project sheet is the first file I open on my computer. I go to the Common Projects tab – where I list recurring tasks such as “read genealogy blog posts” or “review e-mail” – and start setting up tasks for my day. I then review what I didn’t accomplish the day before.
Project management for me is simply reviewing and analyzing tasks, their due dates, their status and prioritizing what needs to be done in a given day. I’m serious when I say that I can’t survive a work day without my spreadsheet. It provides structure and focus. The print out is also good for hitting someone over the head after they contend that I don’t have a “real job” because I work at home and own my own business. The truth is, my days are filled with mundane tasks instead of the oft-imagined sparkling life of lounging around watching Oprah and feasting on sea salted caramels all day.
Income producing activities:
- Articles (writing for magazines and online or editing guides)
- Client (consulting work)
- Presentations (preparing and delivering)
- Publishing (ebooks)
Total hours = 845.14; 32.51 hours per week
Administrative and overhead activities:
- Admin (email and running the business)
- Invoicing (you can’t get paid unless you send a bill!)
- Marketing (gotta sell it!)
- Travel (travel to and from locations for lectures)
Total hours = 522.75; 20.11 hours per week
Volunteer Work and What It’s Worth
One of my goals for 2013 has been to reduce the amount of time I spend on volunteer work. This has been a difficult decision, but a necessary one for me. In late 2012, I evaluated my work with various genealogy societies and not only was I feeling “burned out,” but I was getting cranky and resentful of the time spent on such activities.
I never want to “dread” working on volunteer projects; when I get to that point I know it is time to take a break. So I’ve let both ISGS and FGS know that I won’t be running for any open positions for 2014 and that I’ll be ending work on all projects by the end of 2013.
For the period January 1 – June 30, 2013:
Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS)
I sit on the FGS Board as a Director and as Marketing and Public Relations chair, I handle publicity for various FGS projects. In addition, I made a commitment to assisting with the Preserve the Pensions fundraiser to preserve and digitize the War of 1812 pension rolls at the National Archives.
- Marketing – 24.75 hours
- Preserve the Pensions – 48.75 hours
Total: 73.50 hours
Rate is approximately 3 hours per week of volunteer work for FGS.
Illinois State Genealogical Society (ISGS)
I serve on the ISGS board, I am the ISGS webmaster and I assist with production of the monthly ISGS webinars. In addition I am the Publicity Chair and handle all publicity and marketing for various ISGS projects.
- ISGS General – .5 hours
- Education – 21.25 hours
- Publications – 2.5 hours
- Publicity – 44 hours
- Website – 62 hours
Total: 130.25 hours
Rate is approximately 5 hours per week of volunteer work for ISGS.
Total volunteer time = 205.75 hours or 8 hours per week.
And Then There’s GeneaBloggers
I’m never sure how to categorize my work at GeneaBloggers in terms of 10 posts a week, adding new blogs, tagging post for Daily Blog Prompts. I consider it marketing really – it is a way to promote myself and also serve as an evangelist for blogging and genealogy.
GeneaBloggers – 400 hours, 15.38 hours per week
The total numbers of hours I devoted to genealogy related income producing activities, business administrative activities and volunteer activities is 1,97164 hours. Over a 26 week period this translates to 75.83 hours a week.
Income Breakdown and Expenses
Here is what I was able to bring in during the first half of 2013:
- Advertising – $20.02
- Affiliate Sales – $808.56
- Consulting – $15.311.62
- Publishing Royalties – $2,300.57
- Speaking Fees – $9,450.00
- Web Admin – $243.84
- Writing Fees – $837.75
Total Revenue before Expenses = $28,972.36
Total Expenses for the same period = $5,689.40
A rough approximation is that for the first half of 2013, I earned $23,300.
As for an hourly wage, if you exclude volunteer work but include administrative and other hours, it is $13.40 per hour. Too low? Well I’m a happy guy so it suits me right now. Would I want that figure to be higher? You bet.
So What Does He Do?
Here is an idea of how I make the money listed above:
- Advertising – this income is a residual amount remaining from GeneaBloggers Radio advertising.
- Affiliate Sales – passive income mainly through the sale of the Flip-Pal® mobile scanner.
- Consulting – I work with various clients including some genealogy vendors and some individuals to improve their marketing reach, develop blog content, act as social media agent, or even coach them through a transition and provide information about the genealogy industry.
- Publishing Royalties – more passive income this includes book income and webinar CD sales as well as my editor’s royalty for the Legacy QuickGuides.
- Speaking Fees – income is from speaking in person as well as via webinar for genealogy conferences and societies.
- Writing Fees – income from articles published in genealogy magazines and online.
There Is No Magic Here
No magic or smoke and mirrors involved here. Some considerations to keep in mind so you understand how I make this work:
- Contrary to what you might think, I don’t get comped subscriptions to vendors like Ancestry.com or Genealogybank. I make it a point to pay for those services.
- I share living expenses with my partner (he also works at home and amazingly there has not been a hatchet murder in this house . . . yet). Honestly, I could not do what I do if I lived on my own.
- My mantra for 2013 has been PASSIVE INCOME and BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR. What does this mean? An example: with the Legacy QuickGuides, I could easily have charged an hourly rate for developing the concept, the contracts, the editing etc. But my entrepreneurial spirit and vision kicked in and I made this pitch: pay me a royalty on each and every copy sold.So what’s the incentive and where is the risk? The risk is easy: I could put 6 hours into a guide that sells only 10 copies resulting in a meager royalty. I won’t even begin to tell you what that would be in terms of an hourly rate. But some guides sell hundreds of copies so I make out pretty well on that effort.The incentive lies in my willingness to produce quality work with solid educational content for the genealogy market and in my ability to market the guides to my network. For me, the passive income model of “work once and get paid often” leaves me time for other projects, both work and personal.Will Thomas be spending his winters in a warm get-away living on those checks? No, but it sounds good. The truth is that passive income still has peaks and valleys, but the model is working more and more for me and has been key to a successful start in 2013.
- I just recently was able to get reasonable health insurance ($200 per month) since my partner moved to a company that has a 21st century practice of providing domestic partner benefits. Prior to that he worked for a private, family-owned business. These so called “family companies” that are privately owned and want to dictate a specific value system to their employees are a big reason I run my own business. Don’t get me started.
- After living in some of the most expensive cities in the world, I can get creative when it comes to living expenses (such as not having a car). I live comfortably, but there are no extravagances. And I do have to make lots of choices and opt not to do things or go places because of the cost. And I am fine with that.
So what does all this mean? Well you can draw your own conclusions from the data, but for me this means:
- I need to decrease my Administrative hours and work smarter. This could mean reducing work on non-income producing platforms such as GeneaBloggers. I need to convince myself of this, especially since I just started a new endeavor called Hack Genealogy!
- I enjoy speaking but the travel is killing me. So far I’ve flown 30,000 miles the first seven months of 2013. I have some virtual education projects ready to be launched this Fall and I will be curtailing my in-person schedule starting in 2014.
- I want to increase my passive income stream and this means writing more ebooks like Guide to Wolfram|Alpha for Genealogy and Family History Research. So I’m working on more Kindle materials, more self-publishing and perhaps even licensing my educational presentation materials to other instructors.
- I’m on track for earning over $50,000 in income in 2013 and I think this is within my grasp especially since the second half of 2012 was more profitable than the first half.
So How Do You Make Money In The Genealogy Industry?
Again, no pressure, no numbers asked. But I would love to know the breakdown of a typical day or week in terms of the type of work tasks performed, whether you have similar administrative burdens and also the expenses involved.
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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various genealogy vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statements.
©2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee