A career in indexing

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.

If you are looking for an interesting, satisfying and intellectually challenging job which can be combined with other interests and activities, then indexing is a career worth exploring. If the idea of reading for a living appeals, you will be able to use and extend your own subject specialisms as well as developing new areas of knowledge. For those looking for a change of lifestyle, it’s an ideal job that can fit in with the need to organise your own schedules and can be carried out from any location with a suitable internet connection for client contact. 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.

Skills required

  • a good level of English, with a wide vocabulary
  • an in-depth understanding of a document, and the ability to analyse concepts within the text
  • good general knowledge
  • attention to detail
  • methodical approach to working
  • ability to work under pressure and to deadlines
  • computer literacy
  • flexibility
  • entrepreneurial skills

Training and qualifications

The SI training course is unique in giving a thorough training in indexing practice and principles, and will ensure you attain the required professional standard to begin work. Having a recognised qualification will be invaluable in marketing your services to publishers.

Details of the training course can be found on our training course pages.

To see if you have some aptitude for indexing, try our pre-enrolment exercises.

Equipment required

  • A computer and reliable internet connection
  • Indexing software. Specialised indexing software automates routine processes, allowing indexers to concentrate on the intellectual tasks of content and wording.  The most popular indexing programs can be found here (with downloadable demo versions):

Sky Software



Index Manager

  • Reference sources: the internet is indispensable as a reference source, but it is also useful to have a collection of reference books relevant to your specialist subjects

How much can you earn?

Indexing fees are negotiated between the indexer and the client. Indexing fees vary considerably but the Society’s suggested rates may be used as basis for negotiation. These are rates that can be achieved by experienced indexers, but not necessarily those earned by newly qualified indexers. A novice indexer will also work more slowly, resulting in a lower hourly rate, but as you gain indexing experience you will be in a stronger position to achieve (or exceed) the SI published rates.

Once you have recouped the initial costs of training and equipment (usually through your first few indexing commissions), your outgoings will be relatively low, but you will have to make provision for such things as income tax and pension contributions, and you will need a ‘cushion’ to allow for the irregular flow of work. As a self-employed indexer, you will also have the advantage of being able to offset some of your costs against tax.

Finding work

  • SI Directory of Professional Indexers. As a Professional Member of the Society you will be entitled to an entry in our online directory of qualified indexers, which is actively promoted to publishers as a source of reliable indexers.
  • Get to know fellow indexers through email discussion lists, local groups and attending conferences.
  • Research publishers relevant to your subject area and contact them directly offering your services.
  • Use existing contacts from previous employment or areas of work.
  • Social media. Create a profile on LinkedIn and search for editors and fellow indexers to create a professional network.

Find out more about establishing a career.