One of the benefits of the Internet is the opportunity it presents workers to take control of their lives and work independently. The Internet offers the same benefit to employers who can hire contractors without the administrative overhead of full-time employees. You can make the Internet work to your advantage and begin a new career as an independent research assistant.
The Internet has opened many opportunities for you to work as a freelancer. While you may miss the office crowd, working remotely provides many personal benefits. As a freelancer, you can set your own hours and work in any location you wish as long as you have Internet connectivity. Your commute is to the kitchen for coffee -- no traffic, no wear on your car or nerves and no time wasted simmering on a hot highway. Perhaps the most important benefit is that you can select the work you wish to do -- whatever your strengths are, you can exploit them.
When you make the decision to become a freelance researcher, you need to plan your business as you would any new venture. List your skills and interests. If your background is in a particular field -- medical, technical or legal, for example -- that might provide you with a direction for your business. Marketing should be done with every tool at your disposal. A website, blog and Facebook page are all must-have Internet tools. Do not neglect the telephone. Cold calling scares many people, but a friendly sales call and a follow-up email can open doors. Decide how you will get paid. Paypal is a safe and popular method that many are comfortable using.
What you research will depend on your interests and skills, but the list of alternatives is long. As a virtual office assistant your research could include vetting new employees, finding topics for blogs, gathering information on competitors, researching new products or preparing travel itineraries. Companies need product and marketing research. Authors need information about locations and periods in history. People wishing to learn about their family trees need genealogical research.
You can start to build your business by bidding for assignments on sites like Elance and oDesk. Both sites offer you protection against fraud by holding payments in escrow until you and your customer are both satisfied. Because assignments are put out to bid, the payments may be low because you are competing with people around the world. Therefore, you will need to solicit business without a middleman. Your first assignments may be simple basic tasks, but as your skills grow and you build a portfolio, your research can become more specialized and earn you more money. As you solicit business directly from paying customers be careful to protect yourself. There are scammers who will take your work and run. Demand payments at regular intervals on lengthy assignments.