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|For those of you considering Information
Brokering (IB) as a new career, you will need to do some research about the field before
deciding whether to begin an IB business. Starting an IB business requires investing time
and dollars for business development. For example, many IBs sign on to various online
database vendors and commit to online database training, collections of documentation, and
a substantial learning curve.
Or, you may decide to pursue seminars or educational programs to learn how to become an information broker. Some prospective IBs decide that going to graduate school to obtain a masters degree in library and information science or a field of specialization is important. Becoming an IB can also mean investing in new hardware and software. You may also decide to launch a sophisticated marketing program, which often involves significant up-front costs.
To facilitate some of your research efforts, Amelia Kassel, experienced information broker, author, and teacher answers some frequently asked questions about the field of information brokering. Amelia recently developed an electronic mentoring program which she talks about here.
Q. WHAT IS THE MARKET FOR INFORMATION BROKERS?
Information brokering is a popular new field that is experiencing attention. Although a few information brokers began their businesses some 20 twenty years ago, only during the past 10 years or so did the information explosion occur, creating the growth in online databases, personal computers and a telecommunications technology with high speed modems that has evolved to a point where all kinds of information can be brought right into your own office and most importantly into your home office. In addition to the increasing popularity for information brokering as a career, there is a growing market for information brokers. Information is now an essential commodity. Major trends in both society and the economy are paving the way for the information brokering profession.
As a result of the recent and continuing information explosion, for example, many individuals in business find themselves affected by "information overload." They require the help of information brokers who find and filter needed data quickly. Other trends demonstrate the market for information brokering: in corporate downsizing, for example, many people who have lost jobs are the same people who will wind up being hired to provide consulting or other services such as information brokering to the very corporation who let them go.
Nevertheless, the market is still a missionary market in most cases. That means you must identify clients and educate them. You need to tell prospective clients, through skillful marketing, what services you have to offer and how the client will benefit from these services. You need to market and sell.
Q. WHAT TYPES OF PERSONALITY TRAITS DO I NEED?
1. The ability to define and implement goals. Being an "idea" person is not enough. You must be able to follow-through.
2. An inclination to take risks, at least calculated risks.
3. An outgoing personality is beneficial.
4. You must be open to new ideas and potential business relationships. The trait of "being open" can bring you many business opportunities.
5. You must be creative in business development ideas to grow your business.
6. The four D's - Determination, Discipline, Dedication, Drive.
Q. WHAT TYPES OF SKILLS ARE NEEDED?
Information Brokering requires having or learning how to do some of the following:
1. Operate a small business
2. Market and sell your services
3. Develop skills in research so you will know where and how to find information.
4. Be able to assist your clients in finding solutions through the use of information.
Liking research and being good at it, being comfortable with computers, even being fairly good at spelling and typing are important skills. The key, to success in information brokering, however, centers on an ability to market your business and develop a client base.
Q. WHAT IF I DON'T HAVE ALL THESE SKILLS?
If one lacks some of the needed skills, there are ways to compensate. For example, you can team up or form strategic alliances with others, or hire or subcontract parts of your work to those with applicable skills.
Q. WHAT KINDS OF SERVICES DO IBS TYPICALLY OFFER?
There are many possibilities with regard to services you can offer. Some specialize in patent, chemical, legal or public records research. Others know about specific industries such as telecommunications or aviation. Some information professionals do library consulting, document delivery, indexing, or database design. Some IBs combine information brokering with other services they offer. For example, some of my students who have existing freelance businesses in computer or other types of consulting, technical writing, journalism, or translation services have expanded their services by offering information brokering services to existing clients.
Many IBs are generalists and provide all kinds of information. Being a generalist is fine but remember you cannot market generally You must target particular markets.
Q. CAN I DO INFORMATION BROKERING PART TIME?
Many people begin as part-timers and build their client base slowly, sometimes taking a couple of years or more before they are ready to go at it full time.
Some people start by moonlighting. Most of your time in the beginning focuses on marketing and business development. You can build the business slowly while generating income from other sources and in some situations even subsidize your IB business development.
At some point, however, most IBs find that it is logistically difficult to operate part-time. Clients demand that an IB be available throughout the day; it may be stressful to split yourself between different environments. How you choose to develop and operate your business can depend on your ability to adapt yourself to circumstances.
Q. MUST I LEARN HOW TO DO ONLINE RESEARCH?
An IB working from home can do online research as a key method for developing a home business. You can either learn how to do online research or you can subcontract jobs to other information brokers. Some information brokers decide that they are not interested in doing their own online searching and instead become "marketeers" for their business by bringing in new clients. Other information brokers take classes in basic online training and develop a passion for online research. There is a considerable learning curve for using online databases efficiently and cost-effectively . Online searching is both an acquired technical skill and an art. Prospective information brokers will need to factor in the learning curve time as part of an investment in his/her business.
Another aspect of the learning curve has to do with pricing your services and estimating prices for online databases in particular. Estimating online costs is a skill you develop over time as you learn how to do online research. Pricing is addressed in detail during the mentoring program.
Q. HOW MUCH MONEY CAN I MAKE?
Since the market is wide open, the possibilities and opportunities are great. In reality, it takes time to build a client base. IBs will gross anywhere from $15,000 to $100,000 or more for a one-person business, once established.
How well you do depends on how much time you spend, whether you are capable of building a business profitably and your long-term commitment to your business. A profitable business depends on you and your business skills. The larger incomes are a result of a long-term investment in your business.
Q. WHAT REWARDS ARE THERE?
Personal satisfactions include the opportunity to make a good living and new and exciting daily challenges. For those who love the idea of working at home, information brokering offers a way to reach out to clients and colleagues throughout the world while maintaining a home-based business.
Q. HOW FAST CAN I CREATE AN IB BUSINESS?
How fast you create an IB business depends on several factors including:
1. How much time and/or money you put into the process.
2. Whether you perceive and identify potential sales opportunities and then follow-through on such opportunities.
Q. HOW CAN I LEARN MORE ABOUT INFORMATION BROKERING?
A mentoring program has been established by Amelia Kassel to electronically train new information brokers. This program is delivered via e-mail. The program covers many topics including market planning, marketing strategies, pricing and more.
Each program is tailored to an individual's particular interests, strengths and weaknesses on a one-to-one basis through electronic communications, assignments, review of assignments, etc.
Q. HOW WILL THE IB MENTOR PROGRAM HELP ME?
Those who take the complete mentoring program will benefit by being taught by someone who has been in the information field for nearly 30 years and who has carved out a successful information brokering businesses during the past 15 years. Learning from a mentor's experience and broad-based knowledge will enhance chances for succeeding more quickly. Your success, is, however, also strongly dependent on your efforts and talents in the development of a small entrepreneurial business.
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