Q: I would like to learn how to do indexing and abstracting. How do I get started?

Q: I am interested in becoming an information specialist, preferably working out of my home. I have several years of experience in searching medical databases, the Internet, and some legal databases, and would like to learn how to do indexing and abstracting. I have contacted the AIIP (Association of Independent Information Professionals) and joined as a student, and will take some classes this fall but have not decided on which ones. I am already enrolled in a Certificate in Translation program, but it will take me a while to complete since I will be going part-time over the next few years. Any advice or direction would be most appreciated. Thank you.

SM: It sounds like you know exactly what you want and are already on the right track to achieving your professional goals. An information specialist’s job can be quite diverse, challenging, and exciting; like many other roles within the information industry, it is changing all the time. A white paper put out by the AIIP discusses the history of the independent information professional, from its roots in the 1960s, to listing examples of how these professionals can serve business and industry today. “Independent information professionals provide information services to organizations of all sizes and types, either in conjunction with existing staff or by contract. Although document retrieval and delivery, literature surveys, and data-gathering are still the mainstay of some information brokerages’ work, other companies gather data, analyze it, and provide comprehensive, high-quality substantive reports that play a key role in their clients’ decision-making process.”

As an independent information professional, you will need to be very proficient with technology and also be able to keep current with new resources and programs that may help you in your work. Not only are you finding and gathering information, you may also have to manipulate it, analyze it, and present or package it in different ways.

If there is one piece of advice I can give you, it is network, network, network! You will depend a lot on the guidance, experience, and recommendations of others in your field. You should try to contact (or network with) independent information professionals in your area or online and see what kind of advice they can give you. Another option, while you are still taking classes, is to see if you can do an internship with an information specialist. Talk to your school’s career advisor and see if he or she can help you find information specialists that would be willing to work with you.

Information Today is publishing a book called Information Services Market Place: The World Directory of Independent Information Professionals (ISMP): a “comprehensive directory of individuals working in this segment of the information industry, ISMP is the authoritative source for companies looking to hire or outsource work and for professionals seeking other qualified professionals for subcontracting projects and networking.” It is scheduled to be out, in print and online, later this year; you can submit your information for a free listing.

Another way to network is to attend conferences and meetings, if this is financially feasible for you. Taking classes in indexing and abstracting is an excellent idea, and getting a certificate in translation will certainly help you market yourself to potential clients. The more skills you acquire, the more marketable you will be.

Whether you intend to be a freelancer, work as an independent contractor, or start up your own home-based business, working for yourself can be extremely rewarding and exceptionally intimidating at the same time, especially when you are first starting out. You really need to know what you’re doing and be able to market yourself as well as your skills and services. In other words: exude confidence. I have listed some sites and resources below that may help you as you learn more about becoming an “independent information specialist.” Best of luck!

Additional Resources:

American Society for Information Science and Technology

American Society of Indexers

Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP)

NFAIS (National Federation of Abstracting and Indexing Services)

Potts, Kevin. “Starting a Business: Advice from the Trenches.

The Riley Guide – Steps in Starting Your Own Business

SLA

United States Small Business Administration

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