How to Become an Information Broker
If you have a passion for research and finding out new information, you could turn it into a viable career as an information broker. You see, information is considered a valuable strategic resource by many businesses.
As a matter of fact, according to Smarter with Gartner, 10% of organizations will have a highly profitable business based only on commercializing information by 2020.
With the right information at the right time, businesses can easily get a leg up on the market or on their competition.
As an information broker, you have the opportunity to use your research skills for individuals and businesses who are looking for specific information.
From businesses and PR firms to non-profit organizations and legal firms, everyone has a demand for data, but few have the time or the interest to sit down and sift through hundreds of articles and pieces of information.
Information brokers speed up this process by doing all the research and analysis for clients in order to deliver a more concise answer to their question or need.
All that being said, businesses are more than willing to pay for research and data collection, making information brokerage a lucrative career opportunity.
If you are interested in taking on this career journey, we highly suggest you read on.
WHAT IS AN INFORMATION BROKER?
An information broker or IB is a type of information or data agent. An information broker is responsible for tracking down and locating information that client or business might need.
However, specificity is a necessity for information brokers.
The information they gather must be specific and relevant to the client. In addition, an IB analyzes, organizes, and delivers the information in an efficient and meaningful manner.
An information broker can be a specialist in any subject, such as marketing research, statistics, or scientific data. In a business environment, an information broker could be key in researching competitors in industries.
Information brokers can assist companies in performing background research in a new product concept or learn about other companies producing similar products. They can also do patent research as well as comparative price research.
IBs are valuable in feeling out the different facets of a market or industry to give their clients the information they need to put their best foot forward.
IBs also do not have to work strictly in a business environment. An information broker is also useful to non-profit organizations, who may need guidance on how to apply for grant funding. Another common focus of an information broker is in real estate title searches.
In general, if you have a natural proclivity and passion for research, you might find yourself fit to be an information broker.
The process of researching, refining the results, and filtering through hundreds and hundreds of pages of information can be tiresome for many people.
And with research being the basis of being and IB, you really should enjoy research. However, a passion for research is just the start.
There are a few more common traits and abilities that all skilled, successful information brokers should have.
A skilled information broker should have excellent computer operating abilities. An information broker should exhibit top-notch typing skills as well as good spelling and writing abilities.
Next, an information broker should be self-motivated. Being an information broker is nearly an individually-based job. This means that an IB is responsible for a project from beginning to end.
They must be capable of defining project goals, outlining the research plan and following through with it. Clients will not just want ideas. They want to see IBs as proactive workers who fully embrace a project.
Now that you have a better grasp of what defines an information broker, let’s talk about how you can become an information broker.
10 STEPS TO BECOMING AN INFORMATION BROKER
1. Decide What Type of Information Services You Will Provide
The very first step to becoming an information broker is to decide your specialty. Like we mentioned above, an information broker can service a variety of subjects depending on what that individual company needs.
They might need patent information, marketing or financial statistics, information about competitor’s products, and more.
However, like we said, business is not the only place you can exercise your skills as an information broker. Non-profit organizations, medical research, realty and legal firms all have a use for an information broker.
As such, identify where your particular passion lies.
Make sure you pick an area where you know you can consistently deliver good results.
2. Use A Reliable Computer & Software
If you are planning to establish yourself as an independent information broker, the second thing you have to take into consideration are your tools.
As a self-employed information broker, it is likely that you are working remotely.
This means that you have to consider your computer, software, and workspace very carefully.
So let’s talk about what you need for a productive but low-cost workspace.
In particular, if you are using primarily online databases, you would need a fast-reliable internet service.
Having the internet cut in and out while you are working does not bode well for trying to deliver quality work in a timely manner.
Additionally, you need to ensure your computer can process heavy amounts of information and research.
All that being said, do take the time to update your computer system or even purchase a new one before diving into this profession.
It is for your own benefit that a bad internet service or slow computer does not impede your research projects.
3. Find the Research Source That Will Serve You
The next step is to identify your main databases and information services. There are many online databases that gather information on a wide variety of subjects.
You want to make sure you locate the database or information service that relates to your field of research.
Some leading research databases are EBSCO, LexisNexis, the Educational Resources Information Services, and Westlaw. These are good places to start but do not limit your search. The more resources the better.
For more online database options, check out this comprehensive list from Scribendi.
4. Subscribe to Online Databases Related to Your Research
Once you have found the online databases that are most relevant to your research specialty, subscribe to a few of them. Most of them will charge before allowing you access.
While this might look like a bit of a downside, just remember that these databases are a massive source of valid information that can only improve your research project.
Moreover, if you are worried about the cost, remember that once you start building a clientele list, the cost of the databases won’t be as major.
For tips on quick database research, check out this video.
5. Supplement Your Research by Talking to People in the Industry
In addition to making sure your research is well-informed by multiple resources, you want to ensure that it is also up to date.
In other words, you do not want to give information that is old or regurgitated to your clientele even if that information is well-researched.
One of the things that can make you stand out to clients is your ability to share something new and meaningful.
As such, it is important to keep up a strong professional network.
Not only do you want to stay in contact with people who know the industry or your specific subject matter very well, but those connections may introduce more viable clientele to you and expand your business.
If you have yet to build that professional network, now is the time to step up and make those connections. It may take some time, especially as a freelancer.
However, given time, you will have built up that trust that will have people coming back to you for information.
One great place to start is LinkedIn. This social media app is ripe with more than enough opportunities to connect with people.
According to Kinsta, 122 million people received an interview through LinkedIn. 35. 5 million were hired via LinkedIn. Now, imagine your luck with creating your professional network if you get on LinkedIn.
For more tips on business networking, check out this video by Andrew LaCivita.
6. Time to Market Yourself
Now that you have established your information sources, it is time to market yourself. Like any great business, the crux of a successful business is a persistent marketing effort.
In particular, that effort should be directed towards establishing a strong, consistent client base.
You might offer a free seminar or webinar to the organization members. You may even gain access to their client list simply by being connected to the organization in the first place.
Try to attend local networking events and connect with key figures in your industry.
Additionally, try to improve your industry reputation by sharing your knowledge in other forms. Try writing articles for the local newspapers or even try to guest write a blog post for famous blogger who specializes in your subject.
Another marketing effort you can make is to create your own website. This is an effective way to detail your services and provide contact information.
Also, with the permission of your clients, you can share their success stories or things you discovered through your projects with them. Additionally, fill your website with consistent branding and fun visuals.
According to Forbes, 38% of users will leave a website if the layout is unattractive.
This will show your positive following and start building up your reputation.
You can also gather clients using freelance websites or platforms, like Upwork.
Additionally, freelance platforms do all the searching for you so all you have to do is connect with them and offer your services.
One thing you should not do in an effort to market yourself is trying to ask for a favor or a job offer in exchange for your work.
Even if you are interested in a job outside of information brokerage, you do not want to share that with potential clients.
This downplays the quality of your work to your client, making them perceive your research just as an in to get a job. It also suggests you do not fully stand behind your work.
For more tips on how to market yourself, check out this video by Roberto Blake.
7. Provide High-Quality Service
Great, you have a list of clients at the ready.
So, what’s next? Now, it is time to put your skills to work. You might have a good client list, but delivering quality work and top notch customer service is what will keep them coming back for more.
As such, that should be your goal: delivering the best quality work you possibly can. Focus on delivering good work at a competitive price.
In addition, if you can deliver your work in a timely manner, your clients will be more inclined to share your work with other people.
8. Expand with More Personnel
Ideally, the more quality work you do as a self-employed information broker, you are likely to see your client list grows.
However, there may come a moment when the client list is too big for you to handle on your own.
This is where hiring personnel can be a great idea for multiple reasons.
First, the most obvious reason is that you do not have to spread yourself too thin.
As much as we all would like to say that we can multitask and take on many projects, we can’t. Having those extra hands can ensure you can take on more projects without sacrificing quality work.
Secondly, hiring more personnel means you can diversify your specialties.
Say you work primarily on marketing research, but you have some clients who are asking about financial research.
Instead of turning them away because that is not your specialty, you can find a member of your personnel who specialized in finances to work on the project.
That way you can service more people than before.
Lastly, if you do not intend to expand your subject specialty, hiring more personnel means you gain more insight to a subject.
Remember, you do not know everything about a subject.
Having those extra eyes on projects can provide more insight than if you worked on the projects alone.
Before you hire more employees, check out this list of things you should consider first.
9. Use a Journal or Network Management System to Stay on Track
In addition to hiring more personnel, you have to make an effort to keep all your on-going and future projects organized. To do that, you should keep a journal or a network management system to track projects.
This way, it is much easier for you to stay on track with multiple projects happening at once. Additionally, it can serve as a reminder for your research project if you should get off course or off schedule.
Moreover, having all your information written down somewhere can spare you the embarrassment of either getting research or client information wrong.
Check out this list of the most popular network management systems.
10. Be Cautious When Sharing Private or Proprietary Information
Lastly, one of the most important things you have to be mindful of as an information broker are privacy concerns when it comes to handling data.
Just as you must pay close attention to delivering quality results, you must also understand the legal and ethical obligations you have when handling personal information.
As such, you must exercise extreme caution when handling private or proprietary information.
You can receive information that was attained in a legal manner but was used in an illegal way. You could easily get roped into a violation of privacy rules and regulations.
It is also important to understand that despite how small the information broker industry is, it is not an invisible industry.
As the world becomes more concerned with privacy, information brokers are only moving closer to the spotlight.
That being said, take the time to learn about the legalities behind information brokerage before you sign on to anything.
Once you sign onto projects, be sure to pay attention to developments in privacy concerns by attending professional development courses or just keeping up with the news.
Not paying attention to your legal and ethical obligations could easily put you in the doghouse with many of your clients. It won’t matter that you do high-quality work if they do not believe there is integrity behind your work.
For more about managing privacy concerns between brokers and businesses, check out this article.
THE ADVANTAGES OF BEING AN INFORMATION BROKER
One great advantage of being an information broker is that you do not need any special education. There is no official degree to be an IB.
Although, there are many IBs who received a bachelor’s degree in business to get a better grasp of business and marketing strategies, since the business is the biggest market for IBs.
On the other hand, if you do want a bit of training, professional associations like the AIIP offer basic training courses to get you started on the information broker path.
Otherwise, most IBs enter medical research, PR firms, or law firms and others simply because they answer the need for a research specialist.
Secondly, starting an information broker business typically has low-startup costs. You can start up your business for as low as $5,000 or as high as $20,000, depending on your services and equipment costs.
Typically, the initial costs are usually basic office supplies, especially if you are working from home.
At the start of your information brokerage business, you are likely spending your money on your computer, printers, scanners, internet connection and general office furniture.
If you are an on-the-go business, you might also consider investing in tablets, which are easier to tote around than a laptop.
Majority of your startup costs will go towards database subscriptions, which are a major source of valuable information when it comes to research.
Many subscriptions can be yearly or monthly, but there are some that are on an hourly basis. In the latter case, you have to be efficient at using the database to find the information you need so the cost is low.
Otherwise, if you really look at it, the startup cost remains quite low. If anything, when it comes to the office supply expenses, keep an eye out for deals. Also, limit your spending at the start and purchase equipment as you go.
The ability to be self-employed is also a great advantage for an information broker. As a self-employed information broker, you can have control over your paycheck, meaning you have more control over your financial stability.
As a matter of fact, according to Slash Workers, 77% of freelancers discovered they were more financially stable after going freelance.
You can determine your base pay and change it as you see fit as you gain more skills over time. If you are not sure how to figure out your pricing, we can help you!
You can decide your own hours, including vacations and sick days.
Moreover, self-employment means you are your own boss. In this way, you can also control your workload and number of clients.
THE DISADVANTAGES OF BEING AN INFORMATION BROKER
While there are many advantages to being a self-employed information broker, there are also some disadvantages to take into consideration.
First, freelance work comes with calculated risks. As a self-employed worker, you are not always guaranteed success.
It is likely that you will struggle with receiving enough income while you build your client list. As such, if you are not comfortable with handling the uncertainty of freelance work, this might not be for you.
Secondly, as a self-employed information broker, you are in charge of purchasing your own health insurance.
In general, you won’t have the benefits of working for an organization, like bonuses or paid leaves.
Third, you will find that your work-life balance might be unsteady. With freelance, time is money.
The fear of missing out on opportunities to earn more money can drive you to focus only on work.
As such, before you start in as an independent information broker or freelancer, establish rules with yourself to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
For more tips on how to spend your time away from your work, check out this article by us.
From the surface, being an information broker is quite simple. In some ways, you can compare it to being back at university, trying to do research for a term paper.
However, the reality is being an information broker is no small feat.
With multiple businesses and clients relying on you and the general risks of freelancing, being an information broker is probably not for everyone.
However, for those with the will power and the desire to grow an independent business and learn, becoming an information broker is a perfect way to turn your passion into a career.
In particular, as the world seems to move more and more toward being a world full of freelancers, being an information broker presents a wide variety of opportunities for a wide variety of interests.
Remember, while businesses seem to thrive the most off of information brokers, information can be precious resource to everybody. It is just a matter of finding your niche, getting connected and putting your skills to good use.
Hopefully, this article was helpful in showing you the different facets of being an information broker and how it can be a viable career choice. What do you think about information brokers?
Do you have a niche interest that could be made into an information brokerage business?
Tell us what you think!