Lynn at The Armchair Genealogist wrote a post today asking about Genealogist for Hire – The Myths and Misconceptions? Please read her post and comment here or write a response on your own blog and link back to us. Lynn posted several questions. Below are those questions (in blue) and my answers (in black).
Education and communication is key to a great business partnership. How do you communicate with your clients to ensure they are fully aware of the process and the expectation?
After receiving an email request for assistance, I review what the potential client has sent me and begin to ask questions about their request. I like to know as much as possible before deciding if I’m qualified to take on their project. The initial conversation about my process and what they expect to get out of the research may take many emails or a phone call or two. I also do a little prelim research based on what they initially send me before discussing the project with them so I have an idea of what records can be searched and approximately how long it will take.
What do you feel is the biggest misconception customers have about the service you provide?
The biggest misconception I have encountered is that the research will be completed in a very short period of time with no issues.
What do you spend the most time educating your customer about in advance of being hired?
The fact that I need copies of everything they have accumulated on the person or issue to be researched. I cannot stress enough that it is a waste of my client’s time and money if I research and come up with the same things they already have simply because they did not give me all the information. Another issue is related to this in that I may ask about a record or something I discovered and the client tells me they know about that and what their conclusion was (again after not providing all the information). It is in the client’s best interest to provide all the information, both positive and negative findings so the genealogist does not duplicate all of the work. A list of sources examined is also very helpful in addition to the records.
What are the top questions your customers ask about your service?
How long will the project take? What can I expect at the end of the project? What information do you need?
Does having a great experience in hiring a genealogist fall to the client coming into the relationship well prepared or to the genealogist who prepares their client?
I think a little bit of both. Clients who come to the table with their information make it much easier for the genealogist to begin the work. Genealogists need to work with the client and ask as many questions as possible before starting the research. It has been my experience that asking more questions before starting has saved me time in searching for records or analyzing a problem.
I have also run into a couple of clients who want to research right along with me. Earlier this year I had a client from out of state who needed work done in NW Indiana. He had access to some legal databases and journals that I did not and conducted some research while I visited the Indiana archives to look for records. Between the two of us working together we solved a huge mystery. I have another client who is trying to break down a brick wall. We are working together to try to do this. I have no problem collaborating with a client if that is what they want.
Do your customers have myths or misconceptions about what you can provide, in terms of research findings, the time involved or the cost of that time or perhaps the availability of records?
All of my clients (so far) have understood the time required to complete a project. There have been some that are working on a deadline to produce a family history book in time for a reunion or the holidays and I adjust accordingly. There was one instance that someone contacted me on behalf of someone else who wanted a project (U.S. and overseas research) completed in about four weeks but had not provided any information except something very basic. A week passed and still no information was provided. In that case I did politely tell them there was no way I could complete my portion of the project before it was turned over to an overseas researcher to complete their part within that time period. I told this person I would be happy to help them if their deadline could be extended and how much time I thought my part would take. In the end the client was able to extend the deadline and the project went very well.
Here is your opportunity, a chance to educate and communicate. Do you find your clients coming to you well prepared and knowledgeable about genealogy research?
Most of my clients have been knowledgeable and prepared. I have had a couple of instances where the client did not provide all the information up front, even after requesting it more than once, which caused me to duplicate some of the work.
What do you feel are the biggest myths and misconceptions customers have about your genealogy business? Or do you feel people hiring genealogists have never been more educated?
I think the biggest misconception is that all the records are online and the genealogist should be able to find them quickly. All records are not online and research requires visiting the libraries and archives to look at paper records, microfilm, and books. Another is that the genealogists will find all the answers and break down all the brick walls. Sometimes we can, other times we cannot.
Thanks Lynn for posing these questions.
What are your thoughts? Have you hired a researcher or are you a researcher?