Building & Running a Successful Research Business
What's an Independent Info Pro?
What's This Business All About?
I assume that you have some notion of what the independent information profession covers—finding, organizing, and managing information—or you wouldn’t have picked up this book. But different people define this profession differently, and it is a common misconception that most research can be done on the web. While the internet has radically changed how independent info pros operate, much of our work involves research outside the portion of the web that most people are familiar with—that is, beyond what you can find by typing a few words into your favorite search engine.
In the most general terms, independent information professionals work for themselves or as partners in a two- or three-person business; they provide information services, such as research, analysis, information management, or consulting services, and they charge their clients for their services, either per project or on an hourly or daily basis. Many independent info pros worked as librarians or researchers before launching their own businesses; they may have spent years honing their research skills within large corporations or research centers. Others started out as professionals in other fields—lawyers, engineers, or marketing consultants, for example—then shifted their focus to providing research support to others within their profession. What all successful independent info pros have in common are strong entrepreneurial skills. They enjoy the challenge of building a business, they excel at managing their clients, and they are self-motivated. They didn’t all start out as natural entrepreneurs, but they were willing to hone their business skills in order to succeed.
The independent information profession is a wide-open field; there are far more potential clients out there than people providing research and analysis services to them. No one has accurate numbers on the total number of independent info pros in the marketplace. The Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP; www.aiip.org), the trade association of the profession, has about 700 members. But this total does not accurately reflect the total number of independent info pros in business at any point in time; probably 10 times as many exist who aren’t AIIP members. A fairly high turnover rate prevails among independent info businesses, reflecting the entrepreneurial world as a whole, in which, according to many studies, more than half of all small businesses fail within the first year and 80 or 90 percent of all businesses close within five years.
People who leave the independent info pro field usually cite one of the following reasons:
- They miss the daily stimulation of a more traditional office environment.
- They have difficulty dealing with the dramatically fluctuating cash flow.
- They don't enjoy the amount of administrative and marketing work required.
- They no longer have the passion and energy for the business that they had initially.
I have been an independent info pro for nearly 30 years, and I have watched a number of colleagues’ businesses start up and then shut down. Often the closing of the business results in unexpected successes—formerly independent info pros reenter the more traditional work force with newly acquired business skills and often find that they are much more valuable to employers because of their experience running a small business.
Author: Mary Ellen Bates
Bio: Mary Ellen Bates is the owner of Bates Information Services, Inc., a company that specializes in providing research and analysis to business professionals. She writes regularly for EContent, ONLINE, and Searcher magazines, and she is the contributing editor for The Information Advisor. She is the author of Mining for Gold on the Internet, The Online Deskbook, Super Searchers Cover the World, and Super Searchers Do Business. She is the coauthor of Researching Online For Dummies. She lives near Boulder, Colorado.
"Offers a detailed blueprint for establishing your own information research business . . . packed with practical tips and helpful suggestions gleaned from years of hard-earned experience." - Chris Sherman, SearchDay newsletter
"The new definitive independent information professional’s handbook. Aspiring, new, and established independent info pros alike will find a virtual goldmine of information in this book . . . thorough, practical, and a good read." - Elizabeth Kirby, Association of Independent Information Professionals
“Information entrepreneurs have waited years for this book. It offers the guidance, wisdom, and voice of experience that the new business owner needs to succeed, along with the solutions and alternatives the established information professional can put to immediate use.” - Cynthia L. Shamel, past-president, Association of Independent Information Professionals
“Mary Ellen Bates answers every question you could ever think to ask about the independent research field. Speaking from experience and with exceptional insight, she provides a clear, thorough picture of how to launch and operate an independent information business successfully. Building and Running a Successful Research Business is sure to become the leading text for learning this exciting, entrepreneurial field.” - Amelia Kassel, founder, The Mentor Program, and president, MarketingBASE
“Whether you're already running an information business or just starting out, this book is an invaluable resource. Mary Ellen Bates has done it again!” - Marydee Ojala, Editor, ONLINE magazine