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This question has challenged professional genealogists for decades. We won’t pretend to have any simple answers, but we can offer a few basic ideas and recommend some key resources you should consider looking at.
A good place to start is to ask yourself, “What would I be willing to pay for someone to perform this research for me at the level of quality I expect?” If it seems reasonable to you, it probably will to others as well.
Think through the expenses you’ll incur in fulfilling the research (gas, parking, copying fees, etc.) and the time it will likely take you. Multiply your time by whatever hourly rate you need to make. Consider any efficiencies that might result when you can fulfill multiple requests on a single trip to repository. The resulting number will probably be a pretty good ballpark estimate of what you should charge.
If the research you plan to offer is similar to the research already offered by other Genlighten providers in different areas, feel free to use your competitors’ prices as a benchmark. Rather than simply trying to beat other providers’ prices, consider matching them (or even charging slightly more) while offering your clients additional value. This could take the form of faster turnaround time, image enhancement efforts, or other added services.
Join the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) and read the articles in their quarterly magazine. You’ll find that the topic of “What to Charge” is a popular one, and that you can benefit greatly from the experience of other researchers in this regard.
Read Chapter 10, “Setting Realistic Fees,” in Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians. Referred to in the trade by its nickname “ProGen,” this is the definitive resource for becoming a successful professional genealogical researcher. Don’t be put off by the word “professional,” however, even if you have no such aspirations. This book has much to offer Genlighten providers in terms of advice, ethical guidelines, and case studies.