I want to be a data cruncher - kinda
September 30, 2014 12:14 PM   Subscribe

They say that if you love what you do, it's not like working at all, so here's the deal.

Here's the thing. I like manipulating data. Before my body quit on me, I worked as a database manager. I taught myself Access and Excel. I don't not SQL (I could probably take the time to learn it I suppose) or coding when it comes to databases, but I was a good end user before I couldn't work full time in an office anymore.

Nowadays, whenever I get bored, I go into ebooks and fix the HTML or CSS because having the header of the chapters and the page number in the middle of the page in my ereader annoys the hell out of me. Again, I'm self taught. You can find almost every answer online. Doesn't make me an expert, but I can muddle through a lot. Even before ereaders, I'd download documents and go through them to take out the codes (for example change & back into &). I enjoy doing it, it's fun for me.

I'm pretty good at proofreading too. What with that whole MA in English and all. It doesn't show in my posts here, but when I've gotta, I know a hawk from a handsaw. But (and I know this is weird) I absolutely love to go through scanned documents and find those weird little mistake like when /w/ will come out a /ui/ and the spell checker won't catch it because it still makes a word (can't think of an example, but it happens). Whenever I'm bored, I go through scanned books on my computer and check those too.

I also like creating and formatting reports from raw data. Access, Excel, any kind of report creator. I can toss data in there and create reports. Format them the way someone likes them and send them out. I don't have to understand them, someone just hast to tell me what they're looking for the report to say and look like, and I'm on it.

Anyway, from what I understand, I'm a little odd in that I like doing these tedious tasks, and I thought that perhaps I could contract myself out as a data monkey and perhaps work from home. But I have no idea where to begin or how to market these paltry skills. So, I thought I'd ask here: Is there a way to market myself as someone who will do these tasks for companies so they're not paying their $20 an hour coders/writers/programmers/Admin Assistants to do them?
posted by patheral to Work & Money (10 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
In my limited experience: publishing jobs are pretty hard to come by right now. Programming jobs are more plentiful and pay better. So I would focus on that subset of your skills.

Having said that, one thing that you might like based on what you've written is dealing with OCR documents. They are old books that have been scanned into files to make ebooks but there are tons of errors where words were misread or kerning made click look like dick or whatever. OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition. You might be able to find piece work from a smaller press that is converting a group/series/etc of books from traditional format into ebooks.
posted by kate blank at 12:20 PM on September 30, 2014

Best answer: Have you looked at oDesk? They offer lots of short- and long-term jobs just like those you described.
posted by davcoo at 1:12 PM on September 30, 2014

Try getting in touch with non-profits who need their grants evaluated. NFPs never have the resources for doing it themselves and hire external consultants. Perhaps you could help them with their data crunching.
posted by rebent at 1:42 PM on September 30, 2014

Best answer: Your profile indicates you have a somewhat nomadic lifestyle. I will second considering some kind of online service. But I will also toss out the idea of starting a website to list the kinds of services you do and then learn to market yourself as a freelancer. Since you have a pretty clear idea of what kinds of tasks you want to do, you should be able to write up a business plan and make a go of it independently.

Doing it independently will likely take more time to get traction, so it might not hurt to do a little of each (find a service you like and also start setting up a website of your own).
posted by Michele in California at 3:11 PM on September 30, 2014

Best answer: I'd say market yourself out to people self-publishing e-books. I have a friend who just spent multiple weekends fixing someone's ebook. It was a true act of friendship because it was pure drudgery.

You could advertise on Goodreads, or Task Rabbit, or places like that.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:23 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Try getting in touch with non-profits who need their grants evaluated. NFPs never have the resources for doing it themselves and hire external consultants. Perhaps you could help them with their data crunching.

No offense, but this wouldn't work at any of the small or mid-sized groups I've worked for. Grants are managed by someone focused on fundraising (e.g., who builds relationships with the foundation program officer) in collaboration with someone focused on the program work (e.g., the person who led the educational workshops they got funded to host). They don't need someone in the middle telling the workshop leader "hey, remember to pass around a sign-in sheet" and then counting the number of attendees for them. I say this as an NGO staff member who has worked for several NGOs and created our grant deliverables tracking system. There are two to three people, generally someone who knows the work they're funded to do, and someone who does everything else and knows fundraising. We do pay consultants occasionally, but the people who help us measure our outcomes are more like strategic planning consultants. Those people are closer to management gurus and group facilitators than people who like data cleaning, because the real task is teasing out "what would success look like? Okay now, how would you measure that?"

Now, if you wanted to learn a few contact management systems and manage or build member/contact databases, you might be able to do that as a consultant.
posted by slidell at 6:17 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

You need to take a databases class.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:23 PM on September 30, 2014

Best answer: Put up a profile and apply for ebook formatting gigs on Bibliocrunch http://bibliocrunch.com.
posted by libraryhead at 6:38 PM on September 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

In my understanding, your career goal of being an independent work at home contractor doesn't sound realistic BUT I don't know a lot. But there are a lot of jobs that are centered around this in general, and you'd probably earn more that way anyway. I would consider going deeper into data analysis and maybe learning how to use things like STATA and R and take further excel classes and maybe some stats classes if you like this sort of thing, and then look for jobs that need those.
posted by hejrat at 8:04 PM on September 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone for the links. I've signed up for oDesk and I'll certainly look into the rest of them tomorrow (it's too late to think tonight).

Understand that I'm not looking for a career here. I need right now kind of money until I meet some financial obligations. I have quite a few physical difficulties that make working full time not an option. Too many doctor's appointments. Too many days like today when I'm just not feeling well enough to leave the house. However, if I can work from home and do things I like doing, and have a variety of stuff to do, I'm pretty sure I can keep myself occupied and meet my financial obligations. Hence, this question.

I have another, bigger, dream that goes beyond the right now money I can get with these skills. That dream just has to wait until we have the wherewithal to get there.
posted by patheral at 8:41 PM on September 30, 2014

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