Monday, January 24, 2011

What's a Professional Researcher to Do without Expert Connect?

Today announced that it will be discontinuing its Expert Connect service.  This is likely in response to their recent acquisition of the firm, ProGenealogists.

A number of my friends who are just getting started as professional genealogists are lamenting the demise of Expert Connect.  They felt it was a great way to connect with clients and get client experience.

So what's a genealogist to do without Expert Connect?

Here are a few suggestions:

1) Participate in the ProGen Study Group

Unlike academic and methodology-focused courses such as Boston University's Genealogical Research Program, the peer-managed ProGen Study Group covers marketing, creating a mission statement and other business-related topics.  The benefit of this program is that you won't be on your own.  Your assigned peer group with be supporting you and giving you feedback. The skills you learn here will take you far in your business.  And the connections with your new peers may connect you to future clients.

2) Join the Association of Professional Genealogists

The Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly (APGQ) is the only publication (that I know of) that is focused on the business aspects of being a genealogist.  Each APGQ if full of advice and suggestions on how to improve your business skills.  The publication alone is worth the cost of membership.

After you join, sign up for the private APG email list.  This is a place for members to meet, network and learn from each other.  When I first started in my business I was quite active in participating on the APG list.  Most, if not all, of my first clients were peers from this list.  Working for my peers taught me not only how to work with clients, but to produce work for clients with high professional expectations.

3) Start Networking!

Some researchers prefer to hide behind the books and computer databases.  The truth is, if you expect to run a business providing your research skills then you are going to need to learn to communicate well with people.  The more face to face meetings you have with other genealogists the more your business will grow.

Develop relationships with other genealogists, build a support network of people in your region who you can meet with regularly.  Alternatively you can connect with others virtually nationwide who share your niche.

Conferences are great places to meet other professional genealogists.  You will find both national conferences such as NGS and FGS, as well as regional ones such as NERGC.

Another great place to network is at chapter meetings of APG.  I belong to the New England Chapter of APG.  I make it my number one priority to get to meetings so that I can develop relationships with my New England colleagues.

Don't have a chapter near you?  Try to find a local genealogical society.  Give freely of your time and expertise and you may find yourself on the road to gaining new clients and a good reputation.

Your Next Step

You'll notice the main themes of the points above are business skills, business skills, business skills and networking, networking, networking.  It's not enough to put your name on a list and wait for clients to come knocking on your door.  You need to get out and start knocking on metaphorical doors so that clients will learn that you exist. 

Ancestry's Expert Connect service may be ending but there are lots of great alternatives if you put your mind to it.  Remember, when a door closes, another one opens. I once had a manager who told me, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."  Start planning how you are going to succeed.


  1. Great post! Would you believe I was about to write the same piece? You've said it well. I hope readers take your advice.

  2. What an excellent post! You definitely have to get out and network as much as possible offline as well as online. It's amazing what resources you can find offline.

  3. I'm asking this as an outsider: Why doesn't the APG offer a service like this? Or do they already?

  4. Sally - Good question. Unfortunately, I don't know the answer.

  5. Here's how "hanging out with other genealogists" gets you business:

    One of my best clients came from a chance meeting in a lobby of a conference. I was there to hang out with other genealogists.

    One of my regular streams of income originated from a conversation I had with a company president at a conference. I was there to hang out with other genealogists.

    I maintain an extensive online profile. This helps me meet people in the genealogy field, and the bigger research industry who may need such services. This has led to meeting many professionals face-to-face. These people refer clients to me. I regularly hang out with other genealogists to foster these relationships so the referrals keep coming.

    Also, hanging out with genealogists is one of the best ways to get the scoop on what's happening in the industry, which is key if you want to stay current and competitive.

  6. Thank you for your article. While I am frustrated with the lack of professionalism by Ancestry in not providing more time, etc., I appreciate your article on what CAN be done.

  7. Marian,

    Thanks for the analysis. The business part of my brain wholeheartedly agrees with your comments.

  8. I find this thread interesting. As a full time professional genealogist, I must say you can get to your end goal by using various methods.