Pop quiz: what’s the one resource every aspiring information broker and independent researcher should read, re-read, and keep handy on his or her desk? The recently released second edition of Mary Ellen Bates’ Building & Running a Successful Research Business (CyberAge Books/Information Today, Inc.).
Subtitled “A Guide for the Independent Information Professional,” the second edition of this popular and practical guide is even more useful than the first edition (2003), because so much has changed in the ensuing seven years. Bates captures this perfectly in her introduction:
When I wrote the first edition of this book, blogs were a novelty; Google’s ad server was cranking out ads so fast that it ran out of “inventory” (not enough advertisers for the space available); and “knowledge management” was the hot new job title. What I find most exciting about what has happened since the early 2000s is that what was then only available to the big players is probably now just an app you can download to your phone.
Changes in the Second Edition
No surprise, the myriad changes that have taken place in the information world have had a huge impact on how information researchers do their work. These changes have been reflected and interwoven throughout the book’s four sections (Getting Started, Running the Business, Marketing, and Researching) in many ways, including as added or revised text, additional resources, and new checklists that help you put into action the recommendations made in the chapters.
But in addition to the wealth of new information, the book retains its original strengths: well-organized, actionable, practical expertise delivered in a supportive, engaging, and very accessible style. Bates remembers well what that first day as an independent information entrepreneur felt like, and it’s clear in the book that she feels your pain – and shares your exhilaration.
Of Special Interest to…
Those of you at the “thinking about” stage will want to check out Chapter 3, “The Joys and Frustrations of Being an Independent Info Pro,” and Chapter 4, “Are You a Potential Independent Info Pro?” Those who’ve already taken the leap and find themselves wondering how to manage the business more effectively will benefit from the very detailed, practical guidance offered in the “Running the Business” chapters.
For research how-to, chapters like “Thinking Like a Researcher,” “Web Research 101,” “Professional Online Services,” and “Deliverables,” provide step-by-step advice for building your research expertise and client value, while “Other Services You Can Offer” provides insight into how to add additional revenue streams to your basic research offerings.
The Biggest Challenge
Based on my experience as an independent information professional, however, and the experience of colleagues (and students considering becoming independent researchers), I’d say perhaps the must-read (and re-read) section of the book is the third one, Marketing.
You simply cannot succeed if you can’t market your services, and this is a major perceived obstacle among those who might otherwise follow this career path. In this section’s eight chapters, Bates identifies what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and when to do it again. The message: marketing is critical to your success, it’s ongoing, but it’s also doable. (And if you’re still stumped, you can sign up for the author’s newsletter for research and marketing tips, or work with her directly via her coaching service.)
Building Toward Success
This new edition of Building & Running a Successful Research Business is a must-have for independent researchers, but it’s also valuable for those of us who do more independent information creation than research.
Being a good researcher or content developer is one thing; being able to build a successful business with those skills is quite a different challenge. The new edition of this classic work will help you meet that challenge, and succeed.