Indexers compile indexes for documents such as books,
periodicals, technical manuals, reports, CD-ROMs and
websites, so that users can locate information quickly
The indexer first studies the document carefully to get an overall idea of what it covers. They then organise the index so that information is easy to find, cross-referencing to make links between related topics.
Computer software is used for the routine tasks such as sorting, formatting and printing
As indexers are usually self-employed, they need to find clients, negotiate work and carry out the tasks associated with running a small business.
Indexers have no set working hours; they work to
customers’ deadlines. This can mean working long hours,
including evenings and weekends, to complete an index on
The work involves sitting for much of the time. Most indexers work from home.
To be an indexer you should:
Nearly all indexers are self-employed and are
commissioned to prepare single indexes. They often
combine their role with professional experience in other
fields such as proofreading and copywriting.
Indexers have to sell their services to publishers, authors, libraries, commercial companies and public bodies, so being able to market their skills is important. It may take some time to build up enough work to rely on indexing as a full-time occupation.
The SI course covers advice on setting up as a freelance indexer and obtaining work, and the members’ area of the SI website also has further information which can be downloaded. The SI holds workshops on working as a freelance indexer and establishing an indexing business.
Qualified indexers are entitled to an entry in the SI annual directory, which is distributed to major publishers and other organisations and is published on the SI website.
Indexers with specialised knowledge, particularly in law, medicine or technology, are likely to have more chance of gaining contracts.
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