Five Reasons to Start a Personal History Business

Tom Gilbert

Tom Gilbert

I recently interviewed four people who were at least 40 years old when they became personal historians. Their individual stories appear in this guest post written for Later Bloomer, Debra Eve’s blog.

Among the four are full-time and part-time personal historians whose areas of expertise range from memoir coaching to ethical wills. Some produce books for their clients; others focus on video or other formats.

Yet they all have the same basic mission: to help others tell their life stories so they can be passed along to the next generation.

The people who get into this business really enjoy it. Here’s why:

1) An emphasis on storytelling — “It’s always interesting because people’s stories are so varied,” said Tom Gilbert, who started Your Life is Your Story, an Albuquerque, New Mexico-based personal history business, after a 30-year career in radio broadcasting.

2) Flexibility – Projects can be scheduled around other responsibilities.

3) Mobility – It’s possible to work from just about anywhere in the world.

4) Minimal overhead – New business owners can get going with basic office equipment.

5) An important purpose – Gratification comes from helping to preserve someone’s family history.

If the idea of a personal history business interests you, stop by the Association of Personal Historians’ website (www.personalhistorians.org). For another example of a late-blooming personal historian, check out this post about Jennifer Campbell of Heritage Memoirs.

You can also poke around such sites as Cowbird, ImaStory and StoryCorps to get a feel for personal history — and to read some wonderful stories about life.

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About Lynne Strang

I'm a writer who blogs about 40-and-older business owners. I am also the author of "Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs: Eight Principles for Starting a Business After Age 40." Outside of work, I enjoy reading, cooking, vegetable gardening and exercise (especially cycling).
This entry was posted in Business, Career Changes, Careers, entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Retirement, Success and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Five Reasons to Start a Personal History Business

    • Lynne Strang says:

      The nice thing about personal history is its variety. Life stories can be shared in many different formats, including photography. Your photos are beautiful, by the way.

  1. I have never heard of this, but what a fantastic job!

  2. Debra Eve says:

    Thank you so much for guest-posting on my blog, Lynne! The post has been so well received. I too love the idea of collecting life stories as a encore career. Actually, I never thought about it until now, but it’s definitely something I could incorporate into the blog. Hmmm…. 🙂

  3. Being from the same vintage as Mr Osmond I can appreciate the desire to do as much as possible, to branch out and really use your skills and talents – too many people start going to seed after they turn 45 because they think it is expected. Baby boomers will be the first generation to really ‘rage against the dying of the light’ because we are eternally young, dynamic and creative-heck we invented the modern world and rock music!

  4. lingzi000 says:

    Thank you for your sharing. The idea of personal business history is fantastic! It is really meaningful passing life experience to the next generation.

  5. Denis Ledoux says:

    As someone who has worked as a personal historian—I call myself a “memoir professional”—for the last 26 years, I can say that it is easy to set one’s self up in the business. There are many people with “an interesting story.” You will meet them every where. There is no shortage of tales. What there is a shortage of are people who are willing to pay a professional fee for a professional service.

    While it is easy to set one’s self up, it is very hard to keep one’s self going year after year and earn an income that feels satisfying. For this, one must set up systems to attract clients and for working with clients and one must develop a hard-nosed attitude about which jobs to take and which to pass on.

    It’s great work if you can get it—and make it pay. (Rule of thumb: your billing fee must be at least twice what you want to receive as a salary. So…those personal historians who charge $30—”but that’s all the client can afford to pay”—an hour are really working at $15/hour. Not very appealing.)

    But, becoming a memoir professional is possible. Anyone reading this who is serious about not only writing but about establishing a business can perhaps do it.

    • Lynne Strang says:

      Some of the personal historians I interviewed mentioned the challenge of creating a steady income stream. Thank you for pointing this out, as it’s an important consideration for anyone thinking of entering the field. More information on the earning potential for personal historians may be available through APH and other groups.

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