Once you have qualified you will want to establish your business.
Indexing offers the flexibility of working from home. For many it is part of a portfolio career encompassing other paid employment or freelance activities such as editorial work, or provides a means of income which fits round other commitments. A degree of entrepreneurial skill will, over time, enable you to build up a solid client-base, and for some this may provide the potential to develop a more full-time career in indexing.
Success breeds success and your first indexing commission may well lead to further work from the same client. But you should be prepared for an uneven work flow and you will need to keep working to expand your client base. It may take some time and perseverance before you can be sure of getting enough work to rely on indexing as a full-time career; initially, you may need to combine it with other occupations. It is advisable to allow about two years to establish an indexing business, although you may find that you are getting plenty of work well before this. Remember, what a publisher requires is a good index delivered on time and within budget. Fulfil these criteria and you’re likely to get repeat commissions.
In a recent survey of new indexers it was found that two-thirds of respondents currently work part-time. Typically, it can take up to two years to get established, although half had received their first job within three months. However work flow tends to be variable. Indexers combining indexing with other jobs felt this offered security whilst exploring indexing as a career, but there is a downside, with urgent deadlines affecting personal life. Most new indexers develop subject specialist areas, although many initially index generalist works as well. Getting qualified as an indexer is no guarantee of work; marketing is absolutely essential. Combining direct approaches to publishers, networking with other members, and having an entry in the Society’s online directory could all lead to success; patience, persistence and professionalism were all considered essential.
SI Members can access the full results of the survey here (member login required)
2012 'Finding Work' survey: SIdelights 2012 No 4 pp7-8
More information on earnings, equipment and working conditions can be found here