“So, if I were to become an independent, what kind of work would I do?” Given the shaky state of the economy (and LIS jobs), more and more information pros are asking this question.
Or maybe you’re thinking about adding a second revenue stream in addition to your day job. Or wanting to develop a new career path into which you’ll eventually transition. If you’ve got information skills (or are willing to learn them), there are all sorts of ways to turn that knowledge into income.
What kinds of things can you do as an independent information pro? Three of the most popular types of information work are research and analysis, writing and content development, and information products.
Research and analysis. Examples: company research, market research, competitive Intelligence, patent research, donor research, trends analysis, recruitment research, customer research, trends research.
Who needs it? In businesses, departments handling business development, product development, marketing and sales, and communications and public relationships (PR). Nonprofits, depending on size, may also have need for much of the same types of research, but also are the primary users for donor research.
Check out: Building & Running a Successful Research Business, 2d ed. / Mary Ellen Bates, Information Today, 2010. 488p. ISBN 0910965854.Or order from Mary Ellen Bates’ website Infostore to receive an free half-hour of coaching in addition to the book.
Writing and content development. Examples: writing white papers, client newsletters, business plans, grant proposals, content strategy, topical and targeted articles for websites, syndicated articles, and resource materials for business and nonpprofit websites. Sometimes can include social media writing, such as paid blogging, for client organizations.
Who needs it? Any business or nonprofit for whom authoritative content, community outreach, social media engagement, or content-driven website traffic is part of their strategic plan. Which these days is just about everybody….
Check out: Cashing in with Content: How Innovative Marketers Use Digital Information to Turn Browsers into Buyers / David Scott Meerman, Information Today, 2005. 280p. ISBN 0910965714, and Content Strategy for the Web / Kristina Halvorson, New Riders Press, 2009. 192 p. ISBN 0321620062.
Information products. Do you have a specialized area of knowledge or expertise? Then you may want to consider creating information products that package that expertise and enable you to sell them either in hard copy (e.g., a published book), or through a website you’ve created for that purpose.
Think white papers, e-books, DVD-based tutorials, subscription newsletters, annual trends analyses in a niche area, or “how-to” tip sheets for newbies. Also, it’s possible to create a profitable blog on a niche topic – not a fast way to a steady income, but it can be a good long-term strategy for developing a revenue stream.
Who needs it? Individuals, businesses, or organizations looking for current, authoritative, easy-to-understand information that helps them do something better, faster, cheaper, or more effectively.
Check out: ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income / Darren Rouse and Chris Garret, Wiley, 2008. 220p. ISBN 0470246677.
There are lots more ways to work as an independent information professional, offering either an information-based service or product to a multitude of users. Your job? Develop the needed expertise to position yourself as the go-to solution in your chosen area of information specialization.