Marketing Strategies for the Professional Genealogist by Kelly E Lee


If you have ever dreamed of making a living as a genealogist, then this book is for you. This book will show you how to survive and thrive as a professional genealogist.

While browsing genealogy social media and forums I often notice comments from family history enthusiasts that are something to the effect of,  “Stop giving away your research for free –you are hurting the industry.” And while I agree with this statement, I have come to believe that many of these genealogists have tried to get others to pay for their services, but to no avail. They give up and then give away their expertise.

A report that was published by Ancestry states that the potential market share for the genealogy industry is 83 million people. Based on these interest levels, the amount of money spent in this industry should be far higher than it actually is. People are willing to spend money on their family history hobby, but they just aren’t finding much worth buying.

Something I feel strongly about is that the genealogy industry hasn’t quite figured out the best way to package and market genealogy services. I see a number of problems with the sale of genealogy services.

Solving the problems within the industry will be a bit of trial and error based on theory and methods that have worked successfully for similar services in similar industries. Let’s look at the legal field for instance. I like using the legal field as an example because it also involves the research of technical information from an expert (ie, the lawyer). The lawyer acquires and accumulates information, then interprets that information for the client. A strong parallel can be drawn between the lawyer and the genealogist as knowledge sourcers and experts.

So after months of research and combing through different methods for selling services – in and out of the genealogy industry, I have found a number of solutions that I feel will make it easier for Genealogists to sell their services and for customers to purchase genealogy services.

At one point I believed that part of the problem with genealogy services had to do with marketing to other genealogists. I have now changed my stance on this. We should acknowledge the different market groups or demographics of the family history customer before selling a service to a particular customer segment.


Genealogists shouldn’t be stuck to methods that are oppositional to the advancement of technology.

As technology and innovation meet genealogy, the industry will evolve. I believe it will evolve in a way that will make the freelance genealogist, a profitable career choice. But we clearly must drastically change the way we market and package products and services in this industry. Let’s think about how genealogies were organized in the past. These documents were reliant on the table of contents, indexes, and a strict format for the organization of data. However, as technology changes online and digital information relies on links and headers. Links and headers are similar to the tables of contents, indexes, but they are just different enough to disrupt the reasoning behind the original organization. A new industry emerging is the concept of user experience and finding user-friendly interfaces that allow the information seeker to absorb a high quantity of information in a highly effortless and efficient manner. Formal, scholarly genealogy documents do not meet these standards.


Grouping Customers into categories.

  1. Customers interested in family history, but not in researching genealogy.
  2. Customers who research their own genealogy, but have some genealogical tasks that they prefer to outsource, while others can use the expertise or perspective of another genealogist.
  3. Customers who are seeking genealogy research for a legal purpose (heir searches, estate law, or probate questions).


 I will not undermine my own research skills because another genealogist found information I couldn’t find. I will appreciate that different genealogists have different areas of expertise.

Charging by the Hour.

There are a couple of fundamental ideas related to pricing strategies that genealogist continually get wrong. First, stop charging by the hour! I cannot emphasize clearly enough that – charging by the hour – is the absolute wrong strategy for a genealogist. Many other industries have thrown this method out the window, and it would make sense for the genealogy industry to discard this compensation strategy. When we charge by the hour, we get ourselves into trouble. As the consultant, we fear that it will take us longer than we expected or estimated to complete the work. Moreover, the client worries that you worked less hours and they feel like they didn’t get a good deal. This creates undue tension between the genealogist and the client. I have a number of strategies that will help to eradicate this tension.

I will avoid charging by the hour for genealogy services and try to convert services into small manageable tasks for a flat rate.

Selling entire family trees is the most problematic trend with genealogy services.

Another huge obstacle that genealogists encounter is forgetting that searching for your family history is a monumental task. This is similar to the family histories given to individuals on shows like “Finding your Roots,” with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and “Who do you think you are?”. However, the viewer does not see all the work that is accomplished behind the scenes.

To illustrate this point, I want you to try an experiment. I want you to add up in your head all of the hours, months, and years you have spent working on your own personal genealogy. It is an incredibly high number. Some genealogists have spent decades on their family history. How could we ever possibly imagine that we could charge someone to perform this same search action? We cannot. How can we possibly ever promise to deliver someone’s complete family history within a short amount of time? We cannot. This is why there needs to be serious consideration regarding converting our prices to project-based fees. We can break down genealogy tasks into small manageable projects with a flat fee.


To illustrate this point further, I am sharing my genealogical services website. The most important part of my Professional Genealogist website is the Services page. Please check this out to see the great examples of services that you can offer your clients as a professional genealogist.

For an extensive listing of genealogical services, please purchase the E-BOOK, “Marketing Strategies for the Professional Genealogist.”

More Information in “Marketing Strategies for the Professional Genealogist.”

  1. Market Segments within the genealogy industry.
  2. Writing a Business Plan.
  3. Detailed descriptions of services to offer genealogy clients.
  4. Lists over 30 Genealogy Services.
  5. Strategies for working from home as a freelancer.
  6. Advertising to potential clients.

This e-book was released on May 26, 2016.


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