05 February 2010

Clients, Salt Lake City and the Ecstasy of Being

You may have noticed that I haven't posted in a while. This is because I've been overwhelmed with client work! I'm appalled at myself, but am redeemed by the subtitled theme of my blog – "juggling genealogy and life." I have not perfected this juggling (and am doubtful I ever will), hence the hiatus.

The genealogy "half" of my life can be subdivided into genealogy for profit; genealogy marketing; genealogy volunteering; genealogy self-education; genealogy research pro bono for friends, potential clients and good will; and genealogy research for my own family. Yet, even the genealogy bits are difficult to juggle, and for the past month, I've been focused almost entirely on genealogy for profit, aka, client work.

Towards the end of 2009 I worked on a very large client report –– the study of a Massachusetts master mariner. This was a second phase of research and I'm partial to this client, so I laid it on thick, devoted a lot of extra time to the project and created a lovely biography. As time went by, I became ever more frustrated because I had accumulated so much information in the early research hours that writing the report took much more time than I had allotted. Though the client was happy with the end result, I vowed never, ever, ever, ever to get caught writing after the research. It takes discipline to stop researching and start writing before the allotted hours are all used up. I believe this is a vestige of my early amateur years, when I could research at will, postponing the writing until I had more information. The biggest change I made as I transformed into a professional was to be ultra efficient with my time, which no longer belongs to me but to the client.

For the first time, in 2009, I started to accumulate a lengthy queue of clients willing to wait until I was free. So, when I finally sent the big master mariner report off on 18 December I felt a huge relief. When I resurfaced after Christmas I immediately set out to prepare for my upcoming trip to Salt Lake City.

I first visited the FHL last year in January and it became immediately apparent that I can operate in high efficiency mode there. It is well worth the expense of travel, room and board to spend a week researching there. So much at my fingertips, no travel between courthouses, vital records offices, libraries or other repositories!  It is exhilarating to have so much at your fingertips, every day. The billable hours just piled up and research proceeded at a pace previously unbeknownst to me so I decided then that it would become an annual expedition.


So after the holidays I created research plans for each client in my queue, sent out contracts, then revised my templates. I hit the ground running in SLC and even though I vowed I'd write as I researched, I couldn't and still can't quite get it through my skull that I should sit down and craft a detailed report with proper citations etc. when I'm in a places as fruitful as the FHL. Sooooooooo, I've been writing ever since I got back! And that's why I haven't posted in a month. But don't worry. This time I stopped before my hours were consumed. The lesson has finally sunk in for good, I think.

I spent years and years learning all I could about genealogy via any means I could acquire. I took the NGS Basic Course in American Genealogy, attended NIGR, IGHR, subscribed to countless journals, bought many, many books, subscribed to mailing lists, joined societies, and attended lectures and conferences. Then I spent two years pursuing certification and when I resurfaced a year ago, certified and raring to go, I was finally ready to conquer the world in the form of taking clients full time. I am there, I have arrived, and it's a load of fun. SLC 2011, here I come!

2 comments:

Sheri said...

Oooh Polly, I so want to be like you when I grow up! I am going to NGS in April in SLC, will you be there, or did I already ask you about that?

Polly FitzGerald Kimmitt said...

Sheri, you crack me up! You are well on your way, having already taken the genealogy community by storm with your wit and personality. Sadly, I'm not going to SLC in April. Used up my yearly allotment in January. Have a blast!