Learning to Index

General Resources When Considering a Career in Indexing

Many questions can be answered by reading the information on this website. In addition, the ASI website offers a wealth of information for prospective indexers on its About Indexing page.

Are indexers mostly freelance, or do they mostly work for publishing houses?


Do I need an advanced degree to be an indexer?

Simply, no. While many indexers do have college degrees, it is not a prerequisite for indexing.

What talents and skills do indexers need?

A good indexer needs to find the center of a discussion quickly and recognize a concept when it is discussed again. A good indexer has a decent talent with synonyms and can see things from the reader’s perspective. A good indexer respects deadlines. Organization skills are required. Business management and marketing skills are imperative. Self-motivation is a MUST.

How do I learn to index? 

By taking a distance education course (see the list below and also on the ASI website). It may take 2–9 months (or longer) to complete a course in indexing. ASI offers many webinars and online learning courses for learning about specific topics in indexing.

How long will it take to establish an indexing business?

It may take a year or more to get that first paid index after completing your course and starting to market your services. It may take another 3-5 years of good marketing to begin to turn away business because you have enough work. Experience varies; it really depends on how aggressively you market your services and whether editors like your work.

How long before I can make “good” money?

It may take some time (6-18 months) to begin to get continuous business. Getting continuous business depends a lot on your repeat clients and their referrals — which in turn depends on how good your work is. Consider whether your finances, working style, and preferences allow for this timeframe. Many indexers moonlight at first until they can count on new and repeat business.

How many books can I do in a month?

The total process — reading, marking, entering, editing — depends upon your skill and the needs of the book.  Speed varies according to the book’s topic, its organization, and the indexer’s skill. The simpler the topics, the better organized the text, the better organized the indexer, then the quicker the indexing process.

Is there business out there?

Yes, there is business out there, and the field will not go away. In fact, indexing will probably grow in scope and importance as information-overload continues to explode.

What if I’m not sure indexing is for me?

Try indexing a book and see how it feels. Read a few of the books from ASI’s list. Attend the national conference (held in the spring) or a PNW chapter meeting, usually held in late September or early October.

How do I join INDEX-PNW (PNW’s listserv)?

Just follow the instructions located here.