Even in this information age, there are a lot of people who don’t own a computer, have no intention of ever becoming computer literate, but who occasionally have need of information that can only be found through computer research. You can profit by being the person they seek out to find that information for them.
Several years ago, I did a lot of marketing on eBay. Some items I put up for sale sold very well. Magnetic jewelry, exotic wood shims and books were my staples in trade, but from time to time I experimented with other things.
The clerks at the local Goodwill knew me well, as I often browsed for things that I could purchase for a dollar or two and then resell on my eBay site for several times the price I had paid for the article.
The most satisfactory thing I did with my eBay site, however, was to sell an hour of research. As I said, I was experimenting to find out what would sell, and eBay isn’t exactly the place people would go to search out such a product, but I tried it anyway.
I offered one hour of research on any subject for $5. At the time, that sounded pretty reasonable. I didn’t make any guarantee of results, but did promise to put forth my best efforts. I got one reply.
The reply was from a man who said his uncle had died in WWII, and he would like to know where he was buried so he could visit the grave. That sounded like a reasonable request to me so I began my search. The man wasn’t sure what branch of the service his uncle had been in so I tried them all, with no luck. I sadly e-mailed my client to tell him I hadn’t been able to locate his uncle’s grave and he wrote back, “That’s okay. I figured it would be hard since he was in the German army.”
Too bad he hadn’t told me that at the beginning. That made all the difference in the world. Even though I had already spent far more than the hour I had promised the gentleman, and he had long since paid me for it, I went online and found a website where German veterans met to talk. Several could speak English and one clued me into a registrar where I could inquire about my client’s uncle.
Within a couple of hours, I had the name of the graveyard and the number of the gravesite where the uncle was buried and sent it off to my client. A couple of years later, he wrote that he had taken his son on a trip to visit the gravesite. How cool is that?
I know, I only got $5, and I spent far too much time on the project, but the satisfaction I received was priceless.l
Anyway, there are lots of more lucrative research jobs available online should you want to get into that line of work. My main experience has been in doing research for people who want to know more about their family history.
If you are interested in doing research online, here are a few tips to help you get started.
1. Gain experience through practice.
Pick a subject and research it as thoroughly as if you were doing it for a client. Choose a disease, or a medicine’s side effects, or perhaps one branch of your own family history.
Don’t just use Google, the most popular search engine out there right now, but try some of the others. They may come up with some little tidbit that is just what you were looking for.
I particularly like Alta Vista, CompuServe, and Google, among the many that are available. Links to these are provided at the end of this article.
2. Do some networking.
Actually, networking is essential for getting almost any kind of work these days. You have to let people know you are available. Tell your friends, your family members, strangers you meet while waiting for a dental appointment, your fellow bloggers online, etc. that you do online research work. If you are only interested in researching family history, mention that, but it is more fun to be open to anything.
3. Advertise your service.
Don’t spend a lot of money on advertising. You can let fellow bloggers know about your service by putting a link at the bottom of each of your posts-a link that leads to a website telling about your business. If you don’t have such a website, think about getting one. There are dozens of places to set up such websites for free. Just two of them are shown in the links that accompany this article.
Print up some business cards on your computer, and be ready to hand them out whenever you find someone showing the slightest interest in using your services.
People advertise all kinds of small business using magnetic car signs. Why not use them for your research business? These signs can be purchased reasonably and are easily detachable at times you don’t want them on your car. Check source #2 below to read an Associated Content article telling more about magnetic signs.
4. Price your service reasonably.
Don’t expect to make a fortune doing online research. It is interesting work, but can become tedious and time consuming. The biggest problem I find is that most jobs end up taking far longer than my original estimate, With practice I have become better at making a more accurate assessment, but still tend to underestimate since I am one of those people who find myself following leads that probably don’t deserve to be followed just because I am curious. Remember, if the job ends up taking more time than you or your client expected, you are the one who will end up losing.
Start by quoting at least an hour or two longer that you think the job will take. If it does end up taking less time that you thought it would, your client will be pleasantly surprised at not being billed for as much as he or she expected to pay for the job.
If you run into problems, let your client know immediately so that you can decide together whether or not to continue the project.
Doing online research is a lot of fun, and I recommend it to anyone who has some extra time, and enjoys tracking down clues. One of the perks is that you can take on as little or as much work as you really want to do. After you finish a project, you can decide not to take on any more and spend some time working in your
yard if you like. The rate of growth is up to you. If you do decide to give it a try, start small, and let your business grow naturally as you become quicker and more efficient at it.
1. Three good search engines
2. Article on Magnetic Car Signs