If you relish uncovering hard-to-find facts, you're a prime candidate for starting an Internet research service. Researchers provide valuable information to corporations, nonprofit groups and private individuals on an endless variety of subjects.
Research services are in demand because people want to get the information faster than they would on their own. "Not only do researchers have access to databases [other people] haven't signed up for, but they also are more proficient [at searching the Web]. They can dig deeper and do it more efficiently, getting more information than you would ever think [possible]," says Alex Kramer, owner of Kramer Research in Washington, DC, and president of the Association of Independent Information Professionals in Pennington, New Jersey.
Kramer says many researchers have a background in library science or in professions such as law or accounting. While experience isn't required, it does help give people the research and analytical skills needed for this type of work.
Because online research can be done day or night, starting part time is easy in this industry. Glenna Rhodes, 45, is a reference librarian for a public library in Ashland, Oregon, and an after-hours Internet researcher. She started Informed Source in 1996 after earning her master's degree in library science. The company brings in monthly revenues of $750 to $1,000; Rhodes plans to expand her efforts to earn more than 50 percent of her income from the business during the next few years.
Rhodes originally planned to concentrate on market research for corporations, but soon found much of her clientele consisted of individuals seeking information on medical topics. "I didn't like doing personal medical [research]," says Rhodes, so she hired a consultant to help her prepare a business plan. The plan helped her focus on getting the kind of customers she wants-midsized businesses nationwide that need information but don't have the funds to hire a full-time staff researcher.