Fall 1998 Conference Summary
Expanding Business OpportunitiesThe Fourth Annual Conference of the Massachusetts Society of Indexers (MSI) was very successful. Almost 70 attendees enjoyed a wonderful morning and afternoon of information-packed presentations and networking. Lunch may have been the highlight of the day, despite the excellent presentations. Everyone enjoyed the opportunity to put names from Index-L together with faces, or to catch up with old acquaintances. The conference began at 9:00 a.m. with a welcome from Susan Holbert, president of MSI, and Ann Volpe Daley, vice-president. Then began the presentations:
Marilyn Rowland learned indexing as a child, from her father, and worked early in her career as a freelance indexer and staff abstractor/indexer. She has a B.A. in International Relations and a Masters of City and Regional Planning and has worked as a community development planner, an energy conservation program manager, and an environmental planner and writer. She does back-of-the-book, embedded, and Web indexing, and has a particular interest and expertise in: computers, education and the arts, medicine and health, science and technology, urban and world affairs. She is currently working on an Web index for an online publication. She is chair of the ASI Web Site Committee and co-Webmaster for the national ASI Web site. She helped organize the Massachusetts Chapter of ASI and created and currently maintains the Chapter Web Site. In addition to indexing, she writes and designs Web sites. She and her family live on Cape Cod.
Kevin Broccoli is a freelance indexer and Web site indexer. He has taken the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Graduate School course on indexing and WWWalker Web Development's "Web Indexing" course, based in Sydney, Australia. Recent online projects were for the Halifax, Canada Chapter of the Association of Records Managers and Administrators (ARMA)and the Florida Internet Center for Understanding Sustainability (FICUS). He collaborated on ASI's Tennessee Regional Group's Web site index and consulted on the Web site structure for 21st Century Online and "i3v." Currently, he co-indexes ASI's Web site index. Kevin is Vice President/President-Elect of the ASI's New York Chapter. He also serves on ASI's Web Committee and is co-coordinator for the Web Indexing Special Interest Group of ASI.
Marilyn introduced many in the audience to Web indexing by sharing a unique and challenging project she has been working on (http://www.acxiom.com). She is indexing an online newsletter. She pointed out many of the differences between a print and Web index, not least of all was the immense coding that accompanies a Web index. She also explained some of the difficulties involved in working with site editors, and the issues of consistency and constancy. The nature of a Web site is that it provides an opportunity to publish information immediately, and to update it frequently. Planning the logistics of indexing this information is a job unto itself.
Marilyn discussed how she worked. She creates the index in CINDEX and exports the file to Netscape Composer for coding. Much of this information was new to members of the audience, and there were many questions about the nuts and bolts of Web indexing.
Kevin discussed some of the tools that are available currently, or will soon be available, to assist in indexing Web-based information. He specifically mentioned four applications that he has found useful in this area: Webix, HTML/Prep, HTML Workshop, and HTML Indexer. He discussed the pros and cons of the features on these tools and generated much discussion about what features Web indexers need in software.
Kevin wrapped up his presentation with a discussion of the marketing of Web indexing. He pointed out that the field is just getting going now (after years of explosive growth of UNcategorized information on the Web). He pointed out that he still needs to sell site owners on the concept of indexing their site. He suggests writing articles for Web magazines and creating a portfolio of work to direct prospects to.
A discussion ensued about rates for Web indexing. Most felt that this type of work required a minimum of $30.00/hr. with rates as high as $70.00/hr. in many cases.
How to Increase Your Business When You Don't Like Selling
Martien Eerhart received most of his formal education and training in Europe. With a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology and a second Masters degree in Behavioral Psychology, he taught applied psychology to college level students. At his clinic as a psychotherapist, he conducted his highly popular Effective Personal Management seminars. He increased productivity as the Regional Director for staff Training & Development at the Youth Crisis Hot line. His techniques were unique and effective and saved 34% in the process. As Senior Marketing Director for BioLink Inc., he created new successful sales teams in different parts of the US. Recognized for the development and implementation of a powerful training system for professionals at the May Institute Inc., he reduced cost by increasing retention rates 462%. Today he is president of Global Gateway LLC., a sales and management training company, where he formulated a unique and powerful training system referred to as Entercation (a dynamic process of transfer of knowledge where powerful how-to information is communicated by using interesting examples, stories and wit.).
Marty taught many in the audience some hard-nose sales tactics and indoctrinated us all in how to sell yourself effectively. His first point was that we usually have a 30-second span in which to grab the attention of the publisher, editor or Web site owner that we're talking to. He counsels to create your own "30-second Infomercial." The key elements to include are 1) what you can do for them, 2) what makes you unique and 3) because. Yes, he says that you must actually use the word because in your statement to them. Why? Because (see...) studies show that people are believed when they use that particular statement formation. It doesn't matter what follows, as long as it's there. That gave people some pause.
He also talked about the importance of finding the decision-makers (the person who can make the decision to hire you, without having to check with anyone else), the Power to Walk Away, and DRIP (repeated contacts over a period of time to keep you in mind--it can take from 7 to 29 drips to land a client).
Business Opportunities for Freelancers
Nan Fritz is founder and President of Editorial Services of New England, Inc. (ESNE), a 15-year old, Cambridge, MA firm that specializes in publications services. It provides staffing, project management, and training services for publishers, corporate and nonprofit publications offices, and government. Before founding ESNE, Nan worked as a writer, editor, and publications manager, and held positions with the U.S. government, an academic press, a consulting firm, corporate publications, and a printer.
Nan packed a lot of information into her presentation. She provided an excellent overview of current and future employment trends in New England. Much of this information was intuitive to indexers, and heartening as well. It seems that well-trained indexers are well placed to take advantage of trends in the distribution and retrieval of information going into the 21st century.
She forecasted that the amount of information produced will continue to increase, that print will not go away, but that there will be more information distributed electronically, and that the working world will come to accept flexible solutions to human resource problems.
She presented a profile of the Millennium Worker: a person with integrated skills, independent, and connected to the Big Picture. And she suggested a new term for indexers--information architects. In many ways, Nan's presentation dovetailed nicely with Marilyn and Kevin's.
She discussed Web indexing rates and agreed with the earlier consensus. Finally, she discussed a few nuts and bolts topics. She talked about cover letters, suggesting they be kept short, address the opportunity at hand, clearly state address and phone numbers, and telling why they should look closely at your resume--how can it apply to them. She also discussed how to go about being your own boss. According to Nan, it's important to preserve your independent status by obtaining an Employer Identification Number. No matter your business ambitions, it helps to establish that you are, indeed, an independent contractor. She suggested that we not sell ourselves cheap (a fair wage for a fair product) and reminded us not to forget about paying our taxes and insurance. It's all in the details.
Specialty Indexing Panel:
Medical, Environmental, and Gardening
Hannah Huse has been a freelance indexer since 1987. She has primarily done back-of-the-book indexes for scholarly presses. Her academic background is in archaeology and anthropology, but she also indexes social sciences, history, and art history. In recent years she also indexed garden and ethnobotany texts and found they coincided with a personal enthusiasm for gardening. Hannah is presently coordinator of the Gardening/Environmental Studies Special Interest Group (SIG) of the American Society for Indexing, as well as being active with her local ASI Chapter in Colorado, where she is serving as treasurer. Hannah grew up in New England, living mainly in Massachusetts, with the old family farm in New Hampshire holding her emotional "roots." She now lives in Colorado, but returns to New Hampshire at least once a year.
Jeanne Moody learned the art of indexing and thesaurus construction in courses taken for a degree in information science in the late 1960's. Although most of her career was spent managing special libraries, she indexed a few books and periodicals from time to time to keep up her skills. About 12 years ago, Jeanne decided to become a freelance indexer. Because of an undergraduate major in psychology and minor in geology, she indexes social sciences books as well as those on environmental topics. In 1988 Jeanne received the Wilson Award for indexing Raptor Management published by the National Wildlife Federation. In addition to books, she does annual periodical indexes for The Groundwater Foundation and for the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. Jeanne's big job at present is developing a thesaurus and cumulative index for more than 20 years of the Water Resources Bulletin.
Nancy Newman has worked as a freelance medical indexer for 18 years. Before beginning her freelance career, she worked in the medical copyediting department of Little, Brown and Company for 6 years. Her clients include Lippincott-Raven Publishers, W. B. Saunders Company, and Blackwell Science, Inc. She uses the CINDEX software program.
Joan Omoruyi, Secretary of MSI, moderated the panel discussion on specialty indexing.
After brief introductions, the panelists discussed the methods and specifics of their fields. In the discussion, Nancy (medical) pointed out that there were many sub-specialties under the umbrella of medical indexing. Jeanne (environmental) noted that she felt one needed a "dictionary knowledge of the field, not an encyclopedic knowledge." She used lots of reference books in compiling her indexes. Hannah (gardening) noted that she did general work in her field, but that there are many sub-specialties available.
Hannah (gardening) noted that the language of an index is representative of the audience. Scientific names are included when the audience is more familiar with those, while common names are sufficient for introductory or general works.
Each of the presenters suggested ways for indexers to break into working in a specialized field. Nancy (medical) suggested that indexers investigate individual publishers to determine when the busy periods occur. Publishers are more likely to try a new indexer when they are pressed for time. Also, an indexer new to the field should start with lower-level books (patient manuals or nursing care) before advancing to more difficult texts. She also suggested taking a course in medical terminology (or becoming familiar with it), and approaching book packagers.
Jeanne (environmental) suggested that indexers approach authors (faculty, perhaps) and professional societies in their chosen field. She also suggested volunteering (not as an indexer, but in some other capacity). She told how she landed a job indexing for the National Wildlife Federation while involved in volunteer work there.
Hannah suggested that indexers look at the wide variety of Special Interest Groups now available in ASI.