23 September 2015

Thomas MacEntee Interview on Genealogy as a Business: Part 2

At BIFHSGO Conference 2015 I found myself talking to people who were interested in genealogy as a business. That prompted me to sit down with Chicago-based Rockstar genealogist Thomas MacEntee for an interview on his experience in the business of genealogy.

Thomas, a speaker and author, came to a genealogy career from an information technology background and is very active on the web with sites including High Definition GenealogyHack Genealogy and Geneabloggers.

Read part one of the transcript. My next question was What's a typical work day for you?

TM: My workday is different now than it was maybe three years ago. I broke even maybe three years ago. It took me maybe three years living on my 401k retirement money and I figured it's a rainy day, if there's ever going to be a use for the rainy day money it's now. I had just brought a condo in Chicago, I had a mortgage to pay, I had my mother to take care of, etc. Those were fixed costs that weren't going to go anywhere. So I started slow, I decided what I liked to do which is speaking and writing. What am I good at? Translating technology, especially for older adults as I've done in the past. I started with a business plan -- in the US the Small Business Administration has a great website for free business planning. They go through all the statistics. They say in the US of small business start-ups half fail within five years. I'm in the sixth year now and doing very well. As you progress you determine what you don't want to do. That's where I'm at now. I'm working half the hours I was last year and I'm making three times the income.You're constantly fine tuning. Your business is your baby. You're protective of it. You follow entrepreneurs. You follow start-up companies and see what they're doing. Marketing has been a big key and I had to learn marketing. Everyone thinks I was a marketer -- I guess I was. I'll tell you a story. I was at college in Washington DC. I brought a Christmas Tree on the street. I was going home for Christmas, so I managed to sell that tree back to the Christmas Tree lot on Christmas Eve - they bought it. So people say I could sell anything. Understanding the basics of marketing and social media is key.

JDR: What aspect of your work do you most enjoy?

TM: I like the freedom or working at home and working when I want to. I'm almost never on a schedule except when I do a webinar or when I'm lecturing. My lecturing schedule is usually has me flying out to a city on a Friday night, a speak all day Saturday and fly back on Sunday. I've cut back on those appearances. In the past I've flown about 50,000 miles lecturing all over the US, to Australia, cruise ships, etc. Now I'm doing more publishing, self publishing, which gives me the freedom of getting a royalty cheque each month. With that I can be more selective with what I do and when I do it. For people who work at home, I warn you, if you've never worked at home, you need to have structure, otherwise you'll get up the first day at 8 o'clock, the second day at nine o'clock, then you don't get up the next day. At eight o'clock I'm online checking Facebook and social media. Project management is key. I have a spreadsheet where I manage all my projects with the due dates coded red. yellow or green - green is done, yellow is pending, red is overdue. Basically that's it. Some days I do 11 hours, some days I do two hours. You have to be well organized. Genealogists know we have to be organized to find our records. You need to transfer that to organizing your work.

JDR: You have a lot of publications - short format ebooks? Why that market.

TM: With Kindle I don't have to worry about warehousing and storing print publications. Even with print on demand baby boomers are embracing Kindle, I am because I have vision problems. With a book I can`t enlarge the font or the line spacing, with a Kindle I can do that. Kindle also allows me to do a free book promotion. My last book, 15 Habits of Highly Frugal Genealogists, had over a three day period 6,000 downloads. In the book were money saving coupons and affiliate links which is what I made the money on. Not every book is so successful but I always try to have a free period for a book. I find that my other books sell better during a free period. Peeople get the free book and say hey, I want to buy the other one. Kindle`s an easy platform to use. After that (the required 90 day exclusive period with Amazon Kindle) I work with resellers - Legacy Family Tree, Family Roots Publishing with a pdf version of the book.

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