How To Start An Online Business

by Mike Holman

Recently I was discussing with my wife an idea she had for an online business.  One of her hobbies is genealogy, which is basically researching your family tree so she had the idea of offering a genealogy research service for money.  I don’t know if this business idea will ever get going or not, but I thought I would share some of my thoughts for researching and testing this idea.  Hopefully, some of you will have ideas or even experience at this sort of endeavor.

The basic business idea

Offer genealogy services over the internet for a fee.  For example someone who wants to learn more about their family tree but doesn’t have the knowledge or time to do the research might be interested in purchasing this service.

Reasons why she might be good at this business

  • She is interested in the topic.
  • Has quite a bit of experience and expertise.
  • Has access to paid tools and databases. Most of the “free” genealogy databases are fairly limited and you have to pay to see the good stuff.

Potential downsides

  • Can’t get clients.
  • The profit might not be large enough to make it worthwhile.
  • Might lose interest in her own family research.
  • She finds that she hates researching other people’s family trees.

These are the action items I suggested to research the idea

Competitive research: Look around and see what services other people are offering.  If nobody else is offering that kind of service then it might be an underserved niche or more likely – there is no demand.  :)  If you can find some similar services then try to figure out what exactly they offer and for how much.  You can see their rates on their website or you can email to get quotes from them. This might give you an idea of what kind of hourly rate you can expect.

Determine your services/products

Try to think of specific things you can offer/advertise.  Ie for $N you can do a listing of someone’s grandparents and their siblings.  Or do a family tree up to a certain level.  Or if requests end up being too variable then just advertise an hourly rate or quote for a project.  The competitive research from #1 might help with this.
The problem with genealogy is that it is never “finished” so you have to set boundaries.  It’s also hard to know what people want – will they ask for as much info as possible?  Do they want to know about 1 specific person?  Do they just want to know what countries their predecessors were from?
Pre-packaged “gift” ideas might be a good seller.

Determine rates

This one is easy – look at what others are offering and go from there.  Rates can be changed very easily so just start at a reasonable rate and increase with demand.


In our case I can easily set up a website for her using my existing hosting.  I can also leverage off of 4P traffic to help advertise her services.

I find it interesting to note that this is the type of business which modern technology has enabled.  At one time it would take a huge amount of time to research one line of a family tree going back 200 years so nobody but the richest people could afford it.  Now, access to that info is much more accessible so it is a lot cheaper for someone to offer/buy a service of this type.

I know a lot of our readers have started businesses?  Do you have anything to add?  Have you ever started a business and then quickly stopped when you realized it wasn’t going to work?

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