Do you like scavenger hunts and getting to the bottom of a mystery? Are you good at Googling? Can you tell the difference between a reputable source and the fringe websites your aunt forwards emails from?
You might make a good researcher. Better yet, you might be able to get paid for that insatiable curiosity.
Ask and You Shall Receive
Wonder invites anyone with a tough question — whether that’s a journalist writing about foreign policy or a salesperson preparing for a big presentation — to submit a query through the site. Then, for a flat fee ($19-$39, depending on how quickly they want the answer), they receive an in-depth, synthesized response to their question.
“We provide a fast and simple way for anyone – from individuals up to Fortune 500’s – to access knowledge when they need it most,” says Rachael Granby, director of research at Wonder.
To do that, Wonder pays a network of freelance researchers around the world to dig up and distill the answers to people’s pressing questions.
Wonder researchers, who have access to an internal dashboard with all the open requests, can choose when they work, and which requests they want to work on.
“We pay researchers on a sliding scale, based on several factors, including the client’s requested turnaround time and the complexity of the request,” Granby says. “Researchers choose which requests they want to work on, and at which price points, and can choose a quick and easy request for, say, $8, or a more challenging one for $35 or more.”
Top researchers can earn up to $20-$30 per hour, Granby says, and get paid through PayPal every two weeks.
The Big Questions
Now, Wonder’s researchers don’t just Google a simple search query, Ctrl-C the answer, and call it a day. These are typically difficult or time-consuming questions, often with competing or at least nuanced answers. Researchers are required to write up a brief report, citing numerous, credible sources to support their findings.
Here’s an example: A Wonder client requested a list of the most interesting facts about the pharmaceutical industry, perhaps for some kind of presentation. The researcher put together for the client (shocking fact No. 8: We throw away $3 billion in cancer drugs every year). Note all the source links at the bottom.
Asked what separates Wonder from, you know, Google, Granby said the service presents a few advantages to clients. One is that it can simply save time. Imagine someone planning a trip to Barcelona who wants to know the must-see sites in the city. “That information is definitely freely available online, but a client might choose to save himself a few hours by asking Wonder to do the legwork instead.”
In other instances, Granby says, “The information doesn’t exist, and someone (i.e. a Wonder researcher) is going to have to scour the corners of the internet and come up with a way to back into the right numbers. An example would be: ‘How many electrical generators broke down in Sub-Saharan Africa last year?’ That answer is definitely not available via a Google search, but a good researcher will be able to find the right statistics and sources to triangulate an answer to the client’s request.”
Are You Research-Ready?
Thinking of applying to be a Wonder researcher? Here’s what to expect.
Applicants are asked to complete a piece of mock research to test their writing and research skills, Granby says, but there are no formal credentials required. However, good writing skills and a sense of curiosity go a long way.
“We look for people who are strong English writers and are comfortable performing web research. We also look for people who are curious, and want the intellectual challenge of learning about new topics on a regular basis,” she says. Indeed, one of the key fringe benefits is getting paid to learn about new topics.
It’s a particularly good side gig for librarians, Granby says — remember, the public library was the original Google — as well as research-savvy grad students and business majors.
“We do have a soft spot for librarians, as many of our researchers are LIS professionals or students. We also have quite a strong student population,” Granby says. “Other researchers include stay-at-home parents, military spouses, English-speaking expats, digital nomads, freelance writers, business journalists, and more.”
New researchers have to learn a few ropes when they get started, and that includes a 15-minute crash course. “It includes details on which kinds of sources are acceptable, formatting guidelines, and how our platform works,” Granby says.
There’s also a resource center stocked with detailed guidelines, information about which databases have proven valuable for which topics, and tips on how to approach different kinds of requests. Researchers are also encouraged to communicate with each other via online messaging platform Slack when they hit a roadblock – or just for camaraderie.
There’s also a review process that affords a layer of quality control – and allows veteran researchers the opportunity to earn extra money.
“Each piece of research is sent for review before it goes out to a client,” Granby says. Someone on the review team — comprised of other pre-approved researchers — “checks whether the research is ready to go, and then either sends it on to the clients or sends it back to the original researcher with feedback.” Reviewers are paid $1 for each research response they check.
Take it from someone who reads other people’s writing for a living: That’s not a ton of money. You’d have to review and potentially critique a response every six minutes just to earn a scant $10/hour, and how much time and work that entails would really depend on whether your fellow researchers are doing a good job.
Still, take it from someone who works from home: There’s nothing like earning money at your own pace, on your own terms, in your own home (or wherever else). If you’re a deft internet researcher and a quick writer with a laptop and some downtime, you could certainly make Wonder work for you.
Think you’ve got the research chops to make this side gig worth your while? You can l. Have you tried Wonder? Let us know in the comments.