Genealogy, Computers & Money

by JL Beeken on 4-22-2011

While the genea-bloggers world is talking about genealogists making money I’ll throw in my two cents.

First of all, I’m not sure that I understand the conversation and I think I’ve read most of it. Except for anything on Facebook since I don’t go there.

Without explanation, there are obviously people who already make money from genealogy. Certainly people with credentials or serious street cred have a better shot at this. There are people who put up affiliate links hoping to make money. Is this a problem for someone? Is there some reason people are feeling compelled to describe and justify their income? Why genealogists? People are making money doing all kinds of things and I don’t see public analysis of it.

I consider myself not-much-of-a-genealogist and certainly not capable of making money from it. Well, OK, back up the truck. I have spent thousands of hours digitally-restoring old photos, for instance, and if anyone would like to pay me the exorbitant amount that would cost per photo, sure I could make a living from it.

‘Everything should be free’ is not a perception limited to genealogy. I think it pervades the entire Internet. According to someone’s poll, about 1% of the population contribute to the content and the other 99% do nothing but take. Because we can hide behind a keyboard in our pajamas, it’s easy to imagine it’s all just ‘here’ by some kind of magic.

Imagine this: Take your local Main Street and malls, multiply it by all the other towns on the planet, put it all online and that’s the Internet, except with a billion times more billboards. And then add in a few million bloggers, many of whom are mind-bendingly smart, articulate and entertaining, with their unique experiences and perspectives that might not see the light of day except for the Internet. It’s a very rough snapshot but something like that. The point is there’s actual cement under this. Real people, real businesses, real long working days.

I was some ways into my writing, shocked that anyone was reading me amidst the other billions of web pages, when I discovered affiliate programs. I was one of the above-mentioned 99% before that. I didn’t think about the time people put into creating web content. I didn’t know how they made money or if they did.

By then I was spending a lot of time at this so making some money seemed a fair idea in exchange for my research and writing time so I started putting up links. Since then I’ve discovered that 90% of the traffic to my blog are non-genealogists looking for general computer information. Not exactly the shopping crowd. Some of the other 10% are other genea-bloggers and since we all tend to use the same affiliate links; Amazon, Ancestry.com and GenealogyBank, is it surprising there’s very little money to be made from them?

After hearing about people making thousands of dollars a day promoting other people’s products I got interested in finding out how. I never for a minute imagined it would turn JLog into something else and it hasn’t. JLog just is what it is; a place to exercise my excess mental energy and have some fun.

But an opportunity arose to save a local college on the brink of closing (some of you will recall) so I applied everything I learned about marketing to their continuance. It seemed a crying shame to let a high-quality institute of learning disappear for nothing but lack of design & marketing skills. I was promised payment when their ship came in. Their ship came in last Fall with record-breaking attendance. I have not been paid although I did send them a rather large bill.

So much for ‘making a living’. I’m left wondering if, once again, the reality of these magical bits and bytes didn’t quite register. In actual human sweat equity it was over 1,000 hours of my back-breaking/eye-straining time.

As much fun as this has been, practical reality is pressing in on me again. I have been evicted from my present home for ‘landlord use’. Although I haven’t found a new place yet, I know I will be paying much higher rent. It’s no longer a matter of preferring to make a living. I have to make a living. Clearly, this website is not doing it.

The present plan is to take my computer skills into the local community and offer tutoring services at an hourly rate. Yes, I’m good enough to expect to get paid.

This has nothing to do with genealogy per se but it can be reality for bloggers in general. Just because we write, because it’s fun, because we have time, because we gather small or large fan clubs as we go along, it doesn’t mean we can do it forever.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Margaret E 4-22-2011 at 2:25 PM

J,
It sounds like you are saying goodbye, at least for the time being. I was hoping to do more genealogy/old family photo related blogging, but I am working full-time now (as a librarian) which has eaten considerably into my attempts at scanning my old photos. I’ve only succeeded in making two blog posts, since last summer. I’ve appreciated your blog posts related to IPTC, etc. Now that I’m employed I feel I can purchase Photo Mechanic. I wish I could get them to send you a referral fee, as you introduced me to the product. Good luck with your money-making endeavors.
Margaret

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JL 4-22-2011 at 2:32 PM

Margaret, you can also try GeoSetter which is free. (There’s that word again.) I use that more than Photo Mechanic these days. Both excellent programs. You’re right. Photo Mechanic does not pay me for telling you how good they are.

You’ll never know if I’m saying ‘good-bye’ or not. I don’t even know. I have two more blogs half-built so I may come back with a vengeance. But, ’tis true, the pressure is on for me to be doing something to pay my rent.

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