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How to make money being a researcher

MoneyMagpie team 4th Dec 2019 3 Comments

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Want to know how to make money being a researcher? There are all sorts of organisations, individuals and writers who need research done for them. Best of all, the work can often be carried out from home. Read on to find out how to make money being a researcher.


What’s involved?

Earning as a university researcher

Writers, TV programme makers (aka producers) and filmmakers are always looking for people to do research for them – essentially, gathering factual information or useful contacts, and checking that information is correct and up to date.

So, what kind of background do you need to become a researcher? And what skills should you put forward when trying to find work?

Firstly, experience of working in an academic or media environment will be a bonus for anyone looking to get into this area. If you have an academic or enquiring mind this can be a fascinating occupation. The vast majority of research can now be carried out on the internet or over the phone so much of your work can be done at your desk. Research roles lend themselves to remote working too, meaning that you can slot tasks around your other commitments.

Of course, getting your name and services out there early is important. One of the best places to advertise your services include the Society of Authors’ quarterly journal ‘The Author’, in which researchers can advertise their services to writers. Also, check writers’ forums like WritersServices. Some authors might ask for ‘collaborators’ rather than paid researchers so remember this is a business to you – you need to discuss your fees upfront, and be prepared to walk away if a potential collaborator doesn’t want to pay you what you’re worth.

If you’re in a university setting, checking the departmental notice boards for ads placed by academics and writers is a way to find already-advertised work. If you can get access, there may be ads on the academic intranets – the local computer networks for staff and students. Look in the Times Higher Education and general trade magazines for jobs advertised. The Guardian’s Jobs section often has research vacancies. Check out job boards such as Indeed, CV Library and Reed, too.

You should also look out for roles advertised through social media. There are various Facebook groups in which opportunities are regularly posted, including Freelance Heroes, No.1 Freelance Media Women (if you’re female) and TV Jobs UK (if you want research work in television).

On Twitter, check out Mediargh and The Media Mentor for media-based opportunities.

Temporary research work can also be found by checking job websites like Gumtree, but your best bet for short-term research spots might be upwork.com, People Per Hour, Fiverr or freelancer.com, where jobs are advertised and you must ‘bid’ for the work – that is, name your price. Be aware, though, it can be competitive – and it’s not always the lowest bid that wins the work, so focus on your skills and don’t undersell yourself!


How much can I make?

Group of researchers

Researchers can generally expect to be paid from minimum wage (£8.21 for those aged over 25, with differing rates for different age bands) to £20+ an hour, depending on their expertise and knowledge base.

According to londonfreelance.org, a rate of £350 for 1000 words of intense research, along with utilisation of existing technical knowledge and writing should be used as a guideline. If you’re not writing, this fee will obviously be lower.

TV researchers are paid on average £31,000 per day according to Glassdoor, which translates as around £14.90 hourly.

You should be aware that contracts for television research are usually short – normally up to three months – and they can involve long hours.

Other areas, such as political research, research for NGOs or academic research, can be much more lucrative, but require at least a Master’s degree and evidence of some kind of expertise.

You must remember that only you know what your expertise is, and how you should translate that into an hourly rate. Work out what the hourly rate would be based on your desired yearly income, and use that as a guideline (but be prepared to be flexible, especially in the beginning.)



Earning as a researcher

Your costs may include:

  • Phone calls
  • Travel (possibly)
  • Reliable internet access
  • A laptop

Your travelling expenses will depend where you live, and whether you need to travel into town or to other cities to meet clients or pitch for work.

The majority of your day to day work is likely to be done remotely, though. A good phone and internet deal is essential, and shouldn’t cost the earth – make sure you’re on the cheapest possible package by using our comparison service. It’s very likely that you’ll have this in place already.


Training and qualifications

Ideally you need to be educated at least to degree level in your research subject or something similar, although work experience in a related field is also a big advantage.


Getting started


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3 years ago

Very interesting! Something that I’ll investigate. Thanks.

Skint in the City
Skint in the City
10 years ago

I also really like the Takepartinresearch service – getting paid for giving opinions sounds like my cup of tea and the rates are good too.

Pilar Martin
Pilar Martin
12 years ago

Please, let me know if you need anyone to do some research in Wolverhampton area where I live.

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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