Before you begin looking for someone to work with you on a family history project, you need to be sure that you have all the information that you have gathered on this subject ready to give to the researcher. This will prevent such things as a researcher sending you a document that you already have. For more information on what to share with someone who will be working with you, please see this article from Ancestry Magazine called “Hiring a Professional Genealogist”.
Now that you have your materials prepared, the next step is to actually find a researcher. Like other things in life, one of the best ways to find a person to perform a service for you is to ask friends and neighbors whom they would recommend. But in genealogy we often need to find someone in another state or even another country. Word of mouth may not be available here.
When I began looking for outside help, I used the internet to check if there was a local genealogy society in the town/area I was interested in. That is how I found Ellen Gammon (see 10/18/11 post). Another place to look for researcher listings is public library websites. And of course you can put a request on a message board or mailing list. The article, “When to Hire a Professional Genealogist” from genealogy.com, gives a great list of national and international organizations that provide names of researchers.
When you find a person that has expertise in your target area, you are ready to begin the contracting process. This will involve some back and forth communication. First, you need to have a scope of work. What exactly do you want the researcher to look for? What is the time frame in which you want the work accomplished? What is the format of the work: are you expecting just documents or do you want a report with an analysis of findings? This part of the process is covered in more depth in an article from familysearch.com called “Hiring a Professional Researcher” (see Step 5 “Make an Agreement”).