It may seem crazy to think that you could make a living as a web researcher when people can just find the same information themselves for free. However, this view doesn’t take into account the huge amount of value a skilled web researcher offers.
Yes, the end-user has access to the same resources the web researcher uses to compile their reports. However, they lack either the time or the skills needed to review all of the available information, perform data analysis, interpret results, and compile everything into a thorough yet condensed report that accurately addresses the target question.
If you have a tertiary qualification in almost any field and are confident in your ability to rapidly navigate through the overwhelming amount of information that exists online to extract the data needed to create high-quality reports, then you may well have what it takes to launch a successful career as an internet researcher.
Though your clientele will differ depending on whether you sign up with a web research company or launch your own business, your job will be focussed on helping people (pro tip: most of the high-paying opportunities lie in helping businesses understand market research, develop action plans based on your forecasts, and create successful product launches as a result).
If this sounds like the kind of work you’d love to dive into every day, it’s worth taking a moment to review all the benefits and challenges faced by web researchers. This will give you a solid understanding of what your working life will be like and whether it truly is the ideal home-based business for you.
What are the benefits of being a freelance web researcher?
1. Startup costs? What startup costs?
If you’re reading this article, then you already have the tools you’ll need to be a freelance web researcher. A good quality computer and strong wi-fi connection are really all it takes.
If grammar isn’t your strong point, or you have a habit of missing typos, then it’s worth signing up for a free Grammarly subscription. Though this tool is considered to be the world’s best automated proofreader, it does make some odd suggestions sometimes. You can’t just accept everything Grammarly suggests. However, it is brilliant for picking up those typos and missing commas your brain would otherwise skim over.
2. Ultimate freedom
Though the work you do each day will be demanding, and you will have tight deadlines to meet, you are ultimately in control of your schedule. As a business owner, you can set expectations with your clients, and as a crowdsourcing contractor, you get to decide which days you’ll pick up assignments from the job boards.
This means you can develop a daily routine that suits your own natural rhythm the best. If you’re an early riser, you can fit in your morning exercise, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, get to work at 7 AM and be done for the day by early afternoon.
Night owls can ditch their alarm clocks in favor of waking when their bodies are ready, fueling themselves for the day, catching up with friends, and firing up the laptop in the evening when their brains kick into work mode.
Step away from the computer whenever you feel like it. Add a couple of hours to your lunch break to go surfing or do a spot of online shopping – whatever relaxes and resets you for the next round of work.
If you manage this freedom well, you’ll be able to say “yes” to impromptu invitations from friends, allowing you to enjoy the kind of work-life balance most people only dream about.
3. Powerful opportunities to learn and grow
This is probably the greatest benefit for web researchers. Your job is quite literally to learn about your subject matter so thoroughly that you can teach it to someone else in a clear and concise manner.
Since most of the money is to be made in the fields of marketing and finance, a lot of what you learn will also be highly relevant to your own business. Basically, you’re getting paid to boost your own understanding of the world and your ability to grow and develop your business. How good is that?
4. Endless variety
No two days are ever the same when you’re a freelance web researcher. If you’re a contractor, then your work will be determined by the questions being delivered to your job boards.
As a business owner, you will likely specialize in a certain niche. However, if you’ve chosen this path, it’s probably because you have a passion for the subject matter. So, along with growth and learning, each day will be filled with the kind of variety that keeps you from getting bored.
5. Corporate work without the corporate demands
You may find yourself working with huge companies, informing them of everything they need to know to ensure their new product launch is a successful one. While your contacts may be wearing business suits, high heels, and other restrictive (and expensive) corporate attire, you can be lounging in your pajamas while you work. So long as you make your top half presentable for any video conference calls, you’re good to go!
By switching to a home office setup, you can deduct some of your living expenses at tax time since they’re now connected to your home office. You also get to say goodbye to the daily commute, saving you a surprising amount of time and money.
What are the challenges of being a freelance web researcher?
Though the benefits of being a freelance web researcher are tempting, there are some challenges you need to be aware of before taking the plunge and launching your business.
1. You do need experience and qualifications
Much of the information on the internet is wildly inaccurate, and even if a scientific study looks legit, there are many factors that can contribute to it being far more suspicious than it seems on the surface. If you’re asking people to pay you to do research for them, you need to have a whole lot of experience behind you to enable you to accurately deal with the murky swamp of information presented by the internet; and this experience needs to be backed up with a tertiary qualification.
The internet is a valuable resource but it is so full of junk that you need to have a well-honed ability to sift through the rubbish to find the gems. You also need to be able to explain pseudo-science so people understand why you’ve dismissed its claims, and then show why the data you’re presenting is reliable. Avoiding plagiarism and knowing how to properly cite sources are also non-negotiable.
Obviously there’s a lot more to it than this, but suffice to say that web research is not a home business idea just anyone can successfully slide into.
2. You need to figure out how to network and sell your skills
Most people don’t really understand how much talent it takes to be an effective web researcher. They can’t see the value in paying someone to find information they could access themsevles for free.
Of course, as we covered in the point above, web researchers add a whole lot of value to the information they present. However, if you’re not much of a salesperson, you may struggle to convey this to potential clients. This leaves many newbie web researchers foundering in their early days.
To combat this, you’ll need to understand just how much you can offer with your research skills. Depending on the clientele you’re seeking, it may help to present them with conflicting studies and ask them whether they can determine which data set is more reliable. Give them a taste-test of your skills, make sure they understand how complex the work you do is, and they’ll develop a better understanding of why it’s worth their while to work with you.
3. Clients can be troublesome
Many contractors who work for crowdsourcing web research companies report issues with their answers being rejected for vague reasons and payments being denied. Some have even reported that they had answers rejected but then later found out that their content was submitted to the end-user.
Though you have to take every online review with a grain of salt as it’s impossible to know the full context of a person’s praise or complaint, it’s still worth checking out sites like Glassdoor before signing up with the client or crowdsourcing site you’re considering.
If you start your own web research business, then you’ll face the usual issues reported by freelancers in all industries. Clients can be vague about their needs then complain about your results, they can be late in paying your invoices – the potential problems are endless.
Of course, since you’re the boss, you can use these challenges as an opportunity to learn and grow, improving your communication skills, and negotiating with tricky customers. Or, you can make the call to let a client go if they’re a repeat offender and they’re not willing to adjust their poor behavior to improve your professional relationship.
Freelance web research: final thoughts
Though it takes time to establish yourself as a web researcher, this career path offers high earning potential along with the freedoms that come from operating your own business.
If you’re a flexible and curious human who loves diving into new topics and translating complex information into a format that anyone can understand, then the life of a freelance internet researcher may be the ideal choice for you.
Are you ready to take the next steps? If so, check out our guide to getting started as a freelance web researcher.
Do you have any questions about freelance web research? Or did we miss any of the pros and cons you’ve experienced in the industry? If so, please feel free to drop a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!
Note: This article has an affiliate link for Grammarly. This is a service we use here at Hope For Finance, so we’re happy to recommend it to readers.