Many online research jobs require creativity and critical thinking which could keep workers safe from the robot revolution
Everyone’s worried about robots taking all the jobs in the future. It’s already been a major factor in the nearly 10 million manufacturing jobs lost in America since 2000.
But there is a section of the economy that should be safe from the rise of the machines, a group of jobs that will take human creativity and thinking to do correctly.
Online research jobs may seem like a category where robots could replace human workers but the fact is that we’ll always need a human eye to search and analyze information.
If you are in one of those jobs that can be done by a robot…and that’s most jobs, looking into how to get started as an online researcher could be a very smart move.
Online Researcher Job Description
Being an online researcher is just one of the many jobs moving to the gig-economy. Traditional jobs are becoming less traditional as freelancers and remote workers take more of the economy.
In the past, a full-time worker would be involved in brainstorming marketing ideas, researching information and creating the advertising copy. Slow economic growth and changes in healthcare requirements have led many companies to outsource these tasks to contract employees.
Some freelancers work through an entire project while others may just specialize in certain pieces.
That’s where an online researcher comes in. They’re hired after a project idea has been developed. The client might know exactly what kind of information they need or may just have a vague idea. They may have a list of websites or resources from which you can source information or you may be on your own to find it.
Specifics in each online research job are going to vary but they usually all share a few standard characteristics.
- It’s usually a remote job, i.e. not in the client’s office, at home or location independent
- The client provides a due date for the project but the researcher determines when they will work
- The researcher sets their rate per hour and estimates a total project cost
- The researcher generally must find the information through different sources
- Usually no single website or source is sufficient for all information needed
How Do Online Research Jobs Work?
There are a few ways to find clients for online research. We’ll get into these later in the article with some resources and ideas.
Once you’ve got a client, you’ll usually have a quick interview to establish the information they need and potential sources. It’s important to be as detailed as possible during the interview including the purpose of the information and the target audience.
During the interview or just afterwards, you’ll set an hourly rate or a bid for the project. Some freelancers like to submit a formal bid in writing after the interview but I prefer to get it out there on the call. That gives you the chance to gauge the client’s response to your rate, verbally reinforce why you’re worth it and negotiate if needed.
Simply emailing a bid afterwards makes it too easy for the client to say no and move on.
If the client agrees to your price, you sign a work contract and start work. I usually ask for at least a third of the project cost upfront.
Again, it’s critical to establish the quality of sources the client needs and the target audience. Academic researchers will need information from peer-reviewed sources while bloggers may only need anecdotal evidence. Depending on how long the project is set to run, you might try updating the client every week or two to make sure you’re on the right track.
Depending on the size of the project, you’ll either submit your work by email or schedule an interview to present it. The client will then either pay your invoice for remaining payment or will ask for some of the project to be reworked.
How Much Does Online Research Pay?
I’ve worked freelance since 2011 with a lot of that time spent on online research jobs. There’s no set wage for any type of job but there are ranges you can expect for different jobs.
- Data scraping is the simplest online research and involves transcribing information from one or a few websites, usually provided by the client. $5 – $10 an hour
- Miscellaneous article data involves researching individual facts about a topic for online publication. The client will either have specific data needs or ask you just to look for relevant information to support their overall argument. $9 – $15 an hour
- Technical data research will require knowledge about a specific industry or topic to know what you’re looking for and how to find it. $15 – $20 an hour
- Data gathering and analysis is the next level of online research where you are not only required to find the information but have to create content around it, supporting an argument yourself. $20 – $30 an hour
- Research writing is more technical and will usually require you to understand how to cite scientific studies and conduct your own studies from researched analysis. $50 – $150 an hour
Robots could eventually do some forms of online research. In fact, software is available for data scraping now but the output is usually riddled with mistakes and still needs a human researcher to clean it up. Most online research jobs require the kind of critical thinking to source and interpret information that just can’t be programmed into a robot.
Where to Look for Online Research Jobs
The best place to find online research jobs is to let customers come to you through your website. You can set up a basic website in less than half an hour including presenting your qualifications and prior work you’ve done.
Beyond your own website, there are a few other resources to help find online research jobs.
- Freelance websites like Upwork and Freelancer.com are the most obvious but also the most frustrating. You’ll be competing against low-cost providers and may have to apply for dozens of projects before you get one.
- Facebook groups and forums around a niche topic are a good source but take longer to find jobs. You’ll need to engage with the group before explicitly pitching your services but that engagement will build trust and go a long way to getting clients.
- Once you start working, you’ll get a good idea of your target client and can research others for direct email contact.
How to Get Started with Online Research Jobs
There will always be general online research needed but it’ll help if you pick a specific research niche in which to specialize. You’ll be able to do general research jobs but also higher-paying jobs that need more technical research in a specific field.
If you don’t feel like you know enough about a specific field, check out some online courses through Udemy. You’ll also want to start looking for websites and organizations within the topic. This will give you a headstart in finding data as well as learning the jargon specific to the topic.
Your website can be as simple as a few pages; About Me, Blog, Services, Industry Research.
- Your ‘About Me’ page should focus on your credentials and passion for providing quality research.
- Blogging once or twice a month about your research findings and other topics will help draw people from Google search and can really build you pipeline of projects.
- Offer your services on an ala carte basis (customized) as well as hourly and on a package basis. Most freelancers opt to wait until talking to a potential client to discuss prices
- Your industry research page can share prior research you’ve done, highlighting quality work and findings.
Setting up a website is easier than you might think. Go Daddy offers web hosting with guaranteed uptime, a free domain and free email. The shared hosting plan comes with an easy one-click installation and more than 100 free applications to use on your website.
You’ll be able to apply to general research jobs immediately but will want to build up your portfolio of technical research projects.
When I put together my equity research firm in 2011, I completed the first industry research on market integration in Latin America. It took weeks to complete and it was all unpaid but I knew people would be interested in the information. The report was picked up by Bloomberg and I was invited to speak on an expert panel. After that, I didn’t have to do much client marketing because I received so many referrals.
Client marketing is about getting in front of the people that need research, specifically within your technical area. This means joining Facebook groups and forums around the topic. Engage with the group conversation and become a resource for answering questions. After a few weeks, people will start coming to you for larger research projects.
You can also share some of your research findings on social media. Any research you do as part of your own portfolio can be shared but you’ll have to clear it with clients before you share any of the info you’ve sourced for them.
I haven’t talked much about the freelancer websites like Upwork or Freelancer. These are legitimate sources to find research jobs but you’ll work your butt off for every job. You’ll be competing against low-cost researchers and will need to focus on quality to get projects. It’s hard work but can still get you enough work to fill in your time between other projects.
Online Research Jobs for Students
Working online research is perfect for students because you’re accustomed to researching data for your classes. There are a few jobs that are best suited for students.
- Students usually have the connections to get research assistant jobs quickly. They’re already familiar with citations and the structure of formal research.
- Students can do research that requires in-person as well as online research like interviews and polls. Students usually don’t have to juggle a full-time job with their online research projects and can work full-time during the summer.
- The academic work around their curriculum gives students an advantage in any research related to their major. You may not even need to do much research if you already know the information a client needs.
Even if you’re not worried about robots taking over your job, check out online research jobs as a way to make extra money or as a full-time gig. These jobs pay just as much as traditional employment and you control your own hours. Businesses will always need someone to help out and research information, giving you a stable and growing income.