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How to Become a Freelance Information Broker

The development of the internet and the recent boom in mobile technology have made finding information easy. What’s much more difficult is sifting through a mountain of information to find what’s relevant and responsive to the issue. In today’s busy work environment, businesses increasingly rely on freelance information brokers to locate, collate and deliver the right information and data in response to a specific question or need. If you have excellent research skills and you enjoy hunting to find the right answer, becoming a freelance data broker might be the ideal business opportunity for you.

What Are the Traits of a Skilled Information Broker?

Skilled, successful information brokers share a few common traits and abilities. First and foremost, they enjoy conducting research. The process of searching, refining a search and filtering through pages of results for the right information should be something you enjoy. Information brokers must also possess excellent computer operating skills. A fast typing rate, excellent spelling and solid writing skills will all help you minimize your time and thus maximize your profits.

Also, freelance information brokers must be self-motivated and driven. You’ll need the ability to see a project through from beginning to end, starting with defining the project’s goals, crafting a research plan and following through with the execution of the search. Being an "idea" person is not enough. You must be able to see a project through to the delivery of the data report to the client.

Can You Cope With Being Freelance?

As with any freelance business owner, you should be somewhat comfortable taking calculated risks. Starting a business is always a risky proposition, and success is never guaranteed. You’ll most likely struggle to gain enough clients to earn the income you need. However, with proper planning, smart execution on marketing strategies and a commitment to delivering excellent work, you can succeed.

An friendly, professional demeanor helps attract those new clients. If you’re open to new ideas and potential business relationships, you may find even more business opportunities being presented to you. Don’t let rigid thinking derail you from a potentially profitable idea. A little creativity helps keep your mind open to the possibilities.

Where do you Find Information and Data Broker Training?

Most beginning information brokers will require some training in the specifics of effective research and report preparation. To look into such training programs, start by visiting the website of a professional association for data and information brokers: the Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP). Find out which training programs you can attend to equip yourself with database-researching skills.

Also, look into training offered by the companies that offer the databases most brokers use for research. These databases include LexisNexis, Dialog, Factiva, Westlaw and OCLC. Contact these companies to inquire about pricing; most of these databases charge usage by the hour. They’ll usually offer easy-to-access training for their proprietary databases. This allows you to get training to perform quick searches at minimum cost.

How do you Create Your Freelance Broker Business?

To design your freelance information broker business, think about how you’ll operate on a daily basis. Many beginning freelancers choose to start off pursuing part-time workloads for their new businesses. This approach has many benefits. Primarily it allows you to maintain an income buffer from a full-time job or other sources you may have. You can keep your job while you build up your information brokering business. Over a period, as you secure more contracts, you can make the move to working on your business full time.

What Tools and Equipment do you Need?

Consider your computer equipment and software needs carefully. It’s important to have a fast, reliable internet connection to access web-based information databases. You’ll need to make sure your computer can handle the additional strain of information mining and research. If your computer is more than a few years old, consider upgrading before you launch your business.

How Will You Market Your Business?

Next, think about how you will market your new business. Join a professional organization such as AIIP and your local Chamber of Commerce or service-based organization. If you’re a skilled public speaker, consider offering short workshops on data and information brokering for local business owners. Attend local networking events and connect with the key players in your field of work. Contact them with a proposal to meet their information needs. Make use of contacts you know from your workplace and offer to do freelance projects for them. Finally, create a website for your company. Include a description of your services and contact information.

Should You Specialize?

In the beginning, it is tempting for a new freelance information broker to accept every offer of work that comes along. However, somewhat paradoxically the most successful freelancers are the ones who specialize. If you have the training or experience in a specific professional area, consider specializing in those areas as an information broker. For example, if you have a legal background, you could concentrate on legal research and target your marketing towards local law firms and attorneys. If you previously worked in the medical field, consider specializing in new medication research or developments in surgical techniques.

What are the Privacy Concerns in Handling Data?

It’s crucial to understand your legal and ethical obligations as an information broker before you begin handling personal data belonging to other individuals. Even when the data you collect comes from legal sources open to the public, the way in which that data is ultimately used can violate privacy norms or even legal regulations. As the international conversation surrounding data and privacy continues to develop, the spotlight on data brokers will only intensify. Understand your current legal obligations before you launch your business, then keep up with ongoing developments in your field through news alerts and professional development courses.


Annie Sisk is a freelance writer who lives in upstate New York and is originally from North Carolina. She has written for multiple online websites and media outlets, including recapping hit TV show "This Is Us" for the Baltimore Sun website.