Start-Up Cost: $1,000–$3,000
Potential Earnings: $30,000–$90,000
Typical Fees: $45–$75 per hour
Advertising: Networking, contacts in fields where you have experience, seminars, newsletters, advertising in trade journals, bulletin boards, freelancer websites
Qualifications: Familiarity with the requirements of the databases in your specialized field, ability to scan information rapidly and pick out what is relevant
Equipment Needed: Computer, office furniture, website, perhaps access to proprietary databases
Potential Home Business: Yes
Staff Required: No
Disabled Opportunity: Yes
Hidden Costs: Marketing required to build a clientele
Lowdown: Companies require many kinds of information, but they often do not have the time or skills necessary to find it. Not everyone has the patience and creativity to be an effective, efficient researcher. The information explosion means that a wealth of data is available, but sorting out what is useful to a particular project can be challenging. Today this work is done primarily through online databases. Successful online research often requires that you specialize in one type of information so that you can draw on your familiarity with Internet locations to produce the information your clients need quickly.
Start-Up: A basic computer and home office, and perhaps access to some proprietary data services, are your basic expenses to get going. Expect to spend at least $1,000 to start; expect to bill at $45 per hour until you develop a strong reputation.
Bottom Line: The task of finding specific data for a client can have the same appeal as solving a puzzle or tracking down the answer to a mystery. Creative thinking is often required to discover new approaches to a search or hidden sources of information. You can use your intellectual curiosity and your desire to leave no stone unturned to develop a successful online research business.
You will be gaining satisfaction by providing information essential to the growth and development of your clients’ businesses. Costs can be difficult to manage, however, because it is hard to predict how long a search will take. You may not always be able to find that last piece of data. You will have to keep learning how to use new databases, and you will have to keep educating potential clients about what your service is and be able to justify what might turn out to be an expensive additional cost to their bill.