While you do not typically need to hold a license or any particular credentials in order to become a freelance researcher, you will need to establish the legitimacy and accuracy of your research by demonstrating to potential clients that you are both competent and knowledgeable. This may require you to obtain training and education credentials in the areas in which you wish to offer your research services. You should also complete training courses in the various types of search tools that you plan to use as a freelance researcher. Finally, consider joining one or more academic associations that operate in the fields in which you plan to do your research as well as a professional association organized to support freelance researchers.
When you decide to become a freelance researcher, you may wish to contact a professional association that represents the interests of independent research professionals, sometimes also known as information brokers. These organizations can provide you with information on how to become a freelance researcher and point you toward educational and other resources that may come in handy as you begin to develop your practice. Belonging to one of these organizations and adhering to its code of ethics can also help establish your legitimacy in the field and may even allow you to participate in a client referral program that can bring you new business.
Many potential clients will want to see that you have some educational credentials that will enable you to produce accurate research findings. You may wish to complete an educational degree or degrees in the areas that you plan to research. Another educational option that can help you become a freelance researcher is to complete a degree in library science. Librarians are well-trained in performing research and evaluating reference sources. In addition, taking classes in writing can be of great assistance as you will be expected to write up your research findings in clear and understandable language.
When you become a freelance researcher, you will need to rely on research tools to assist you in your work. If you use proprietary databases and software, the businesses that own these products may provide you free or low-cost training in their use. This training can assist you in establishing credibility as a freelance researcher and will also help you produce accurate research results for your clients.
Like any freelancer, you can expect to do a lot of work initially in developing your client base. You may wish to offer your services for free to a nonprofit organization in exchange for their willingness to provide you with a letter of recommendation or good reference to other potential clients. Contact members of your own social and professional network and ask them to refer you to others. You may also wish to advertise in publications, both online and print, that are commonly read by individuals and businesses in the fields for which you provide your research services.