In the early 2000s, indexer Martha Osgood posted a series of popular articles in the “Novice Notes” section of her website, Backwordsindexing.com. Here is an extract from one of her articles.
It is said that successful indexers:
- Have good pattern recognition skills
- Read carefully and quickly
- Are good “listeners” who can hear what the author intends to say
- Have good concentration skills
- Are self-motivated
- Have common sense and perseverance
- Are imaginative enough to identify what other readers will want to find
- Are general information addicts
- Enjoy working crossword puzzles (optional)
- Enjoy thinking of one-word synonyms (not optional)
- Dislike marketing their skills, but do it anyway
- Can type quickly and accurately
- Have good spelling and grammar
- Are self-motivated and work well alone
- Are computer-literate, email-literate
- Are detail-oriented, and can make accurate use of indexing conventions
- Are confident enough to make decisions and defend them
- Are respectful of deadlines
- Are good at networking
- Have good language synthesis and/or writing skills
- Are self-motivated and disciplined
- Read mystery books (optional)
- Do detailed needlework (optional)
- Alphabetize things (CDs, books, spices)
- Are self-motivated and like their own company
- Have a tendency toward neatness
- Like to organize things by category (contents of drawers, refrigerators, cupboards, closets, bookcases, spices, life)
In addition, subject expertise is helpful. Indexing coursework with a LOT of feedback is helpful, and Peer Reviews are VERY helpful.
A 2000 survey of ASI members shows that 12% hold doctorates, 50% have earned Masters Degrees, 14% have some postgraduate study, and 20% have a Bachelor’s degree. Only 29% hold library degrees. 90% are freelance, back of the book indexers, and 60% of those work part-time. But if you don’t have a degree, don’t let that limit you. A degree means you have had the time/$ to make yourself noticed to a certain part of the world; the lack thereof does NOT mean you can’t do the work.
DID I MENTION THAT SUCCESSFUL INDEXERS ARE SELF-MOTIVATED?