What are the start-up costs for becoming an indexer?

To work successfully as an indexer, you must make some initial investments. The biggest investment is your time for training and practice, which is critical because the more practice you have, the more efficient you will be.

This article, however, addresses specifically the cash outlay. Fortunately, the upfront technology and education costs are not particularly onerous and could be recovered with your first three or four or five indexing jobs.   


Desktop or laptop computer

You’ll need a 64-bit PC or Mac with adequate memory to run one of the indexing software programs while the browser and your book in Acrobat Reader are open at the same time.


You’ll be spending hours in front of the computer, so invest in a large monitor. It should be at least 27 inches so that you can have your indexing software and the page proofs open side by side on the screen.

Software and services

  • Microsoft Word, the standard word processor used by the industry. Book designers expect to receive your index in a Word document (.docx file) to import into their book designer software.
  • Indexing software ($500–$600)
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader (free)
  • Web browser (free)
  • Email client (most are free)
  • Anti-virus software (might come free with your computer’s operating system)
  • Backup software and external hard drive
  • Internet, should be broadband and must be reliable, as all your communications with your client depend on it.

Laser printer (recommended)

As a beginning indexer, you’ll want to print out the pdf of your book so that you can mark up the pages. (Many indexers, once they become more experienced, move to indexing straight off the PDF on the screen.)

You could delay this purchase and use the copying services at your local office supply company. But once the work is arriving steadily, you will appreciate having your own laser printer.

Inkjet printers are not recommended because they take too long to print out 350-600 pages, and will cost a fortune in ink cartridges. A laser printer—especially one that prints double-sided—is ideal.


Visit the Education and Training page for a list of indexing training programs offered as distance learning and in person in Canada.

Reference books

Expect to gradually build a library of books to help you deal with indexing issues and hone your skills. At the start, however, you need these books on your shelf:

  • Nancy Mulvany, Indexing Books, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005) – $53 US
  • Chicago Manual of Style – $70 US (or buy an annual online subscription for $41 US)
  • Reference books in your field, if any


Membership with the Indexing Society of Canada / Société canadienne d’indexation (ISC/SCI) ($110/year for Canadians, $120/year international) includes access to indexing resources and education, networking opportunities, discounts to conferences and workshops, and a subscription to The Indexer, the quarterly international journal of indexing.

For an additional $55/year, members can advertise their services to the public by listing their profile on the Registry of Indexers Available (indexers.ca/find-an-indexer).


Many new indexers complement their training by engaging with a mentor in the Mary Newberry Mentorship Program. The fee is $100, most of which is an honorarium for the mentor.

Continuing education

Attendance at the ISC/SCI annual conferences is one of the best ways to deal with isolation and find your bearings as a new indexer. The conferences alternate between virtual and in-person (always at a place that you could turn into a holiday trip).

The American Society of Indexing offers a number of webinars on topics each year.

Consider setting aside $200–$500 (not including travel costs to in-person conferences) in your first year.

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