I don't gamble, am not a risk taker, and can't remember the last time I
took a dare. However, after a year of talking about leaving my job my
husband Bob finally said, "If your going to do it, just do it!"
So I did. After all, he had already made the transition from employee to
self-employed several years ago.
Becoming a self-employed research consultant was a scary step for me to
take. After twenty years working for a fairly stable employer like the
County I was afraid to leave that safety net of a steady salary, good
benefits and relative job security to jump straight into the unknown world
of being an independent researcher. I never had to go out and find my
clients; they always came to find me. The choice of becoming an
independent researcher was obvious since the thing I enjoyed most about my
job was the research and working with individual patrons in helping them
find solutions to their problems. It was also obvious to me that I was
tired of supervision along with the headaches of running a branch library
and being in middle management. What was a fun place to work had turned
into a day-to-day drudgery. As I said earlier I had been contemplating a
career change for quit some time. Several months before I took "the
plunge" I was reading the book Opening New Doors: Alternative Careers
for Librarians, edited by Ellis Mount, SLA, 1993. Several chapters
discussed becoming an Information Broker working alone or by creating a
company. I do not remember now who wrote which chapter but I am sure since
I also found a reference to the AIIP (Association of Independent
Information Professionals) web site that one or more of the contributors
were most likely AIIP members at the time. After I gave my two-month
notice to the library system I joined AIIP and subscribed subscribe to the
AIIP discussion list. For support as well as help on the do's and don'ts
of being an independent researcher you cannot go wrong in lurking on the
list to learn as much as possible and/ or asking for help in solving a
problem. About this time my husband purchased a copy of Information
Brokers Handbook by Sue Rugge and Alfred Glossbrenner, which I read from
cover to cover.
Using suggestions from the book and with help from Bob, I set up a web
site and began the process of establishing contacts and advertising my
services to potential clients. I also recommend using Information
Brokering: A How-To-Do-It Manual by Florence M. Mason and Chris Dobson,
Neal-Schuman, 1998. And Mary Ellen Bates' excellent Getting Your First
Five Clients, AIIP Professional Paper No. 98-1 (Rev.01/99).
And, be sure to plan to attend an AIIP Conference. I have had the
pleasure of attending one just after I started my business and hope to
attend others in the future. To get my name "out there" I also
began writing web review columns for Library Journal and Reference
Reviews. Although I had used web sites for quick reference work at the
library, writing web columns enhanced my ability to weed out sites of less
than reliable content.
As with any beginning entrepreneur I have shifted focus and reworked my
game plan many times over the past three years. In order to be successful
at the independent services game it is important to grow and change
directions, as client needs or the market itself dictates.
I am very glad I took the risk. From talking with fellow AIIP members
and other friends who are entrepreneurs I was warned to give it at least
three years. I am now fully into my third year and although still
struggling with finding my niche and having steady clients, I do not
regret the step I took.
This article appeared in the Spring Issue of the AIIP
newsletter Connections. Volume 16, Number1. page 10.
Updated: May 03, 2003