Freelance Data Entry: What Is It and Why Do You Need One
What is freelancing?
A situation in which an individual works for himself or herself instead of being committed to one employer is known as freelancing. The engagement is for a specific job or, on occasion, period of time. The employer does not have any long-term responsibility towards the individual except abiding by the terms of the agreement.
Freelancing is sometimes also known as contracting though there could be some nuanced differences. For the present, we will treat them as interchangeable terms.
A person who does freelancing is known as a freelancer. That should be simple to follow.
In general usage, freelancing is used to refer to individuals, though a wider usage of the term also includes agencies or businesses that do freelancing work.
That creates some confusion, because that is what all businesses do; work for themselves without being committed to a single client, with responsibilities on either side being limited to the delivery of that specific contract or agreement. Agencies that operate as a collection of freelancers in a certain defined area, such as website development, or nature photography, could be considered as freelance agencies or businesses as their only intent is to facilitate the process of getting engagements for their members, with the gains, if any, being redistributed to the members as well. Unlike a company, it does not have an existence separate from the members collectively.
What is data entry?
Though the term would be familiar to people connected with the BPO industry, for which it is one of the main lines of work, data entry is the process of transferring information, or data, that is currently on non-digital media, mainly paper, on to digital media, like a software program, so that it becomes available for usage to the digital world and its many applications.
Once data entry has been done, the information becomes readable by computers and software programs, and can hence be used as input for myriad applications. And the data becomes a part of the digital world forever after.
Bringing the two parts of the term together, data entry done by freelancers is known as freelance data entry.
Data entry services offered by freelancers are popular around the world, as many organizations prefer to either outsource or employ freelance specialists for handling their data entry requirements.
A variety of data entry services are offered by oWorkers, a leading BPO company with three global centers in three different countries across two continents.
What does freelance data entry do
The question should ideally be, “what does it not do?”
The repertoire is so vast that there cannot be a laundry list that encapsulates their entire set of activities. The following should only be considered as an indicative list:
- Online and offline data entry
- Text and image data entry
- Transcription services
- Forms and Invoices data entry
- Insurance claims
- Climate records
- Property records
- Ecommerce catalogs
- Email mining
- Applicant tracking system
- Translation services
- Target customer list
- Document indexing
- Patient and medical records
- Mailing lists
- Business cards
- Birth records
So, in essence, anything and everything.
Of course, as we go farther down the digitized pathways of the modern world, efforts are made that information is digitized at the point of creation so that a subsequent step of manual data entry can be obviated. However, for information that cannot be directly digitized, like a doctor’s prescription perhaps, or legacy records that only exist in manual forms, there is no other way out at this point. Though there have been advances in automation like Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) based technologies, a manual step of authorization or validation is still required.
oWorkers has been identified as one of the three best providers of BPO data services in the world. Data entry is an important component of the data services that we provide. Our data entry services are provided from three conveniently located geographies with a team capable of offering these services in 22 languages. We are GDPR compliant and ISO (27001:2013 & 9001:2015) certified.
Skills for data entry
There are many openings for freelance data entry positions. Some common requirements that one might find in most of them are:
- Good understanding of standard application software like Microsoft Word and Excel
- Good typing speed along with accuracy
- Reasonable language proficiency to understand phrases and sentences that are either not clear or not correctly constructed
- Ability to work under pressure of timelines and numbers
- Ability to understand instructions and follow them
- Good communication skills, both oral and written
- Eye for detail, as well as for identifying obvious errors
If we scan these requirements, it becomes clear that most of these are basic or hygiene skills which every individual who aspires to work in the white-collar world is expected to possess. Stated differently, the job does not ask for either advanced educational qualifications or deep experience in data entry, for people to be considered for these roles.
What that means is that resources for data entry jobs are likely to be abundantly available when required and the price at which they will be available is likely to be low since it does not require advanced degrees or experience.
It might, at first glance, seem like exploitation, that people with lower capability levels are being used for jobs that offer low pay. Look deeper and you realize that that is the way a free market operates. In addition, it creates job opportunities for many people who are not in a position to qualify for most other jobs.
Such is the ability of BPO data entry jobs to create employment that governments often seek out providers to set up facilities in communities that are lower on the development index.
oWorkers are a contributing member of every community we operate in, which makes us a preferred employer for the local population. It not only provides us with a steady stream of walk-in applicants from whom we select our staff, it also enables us to hire for short periods of time and provide the benefit to clients for handling their seasonal or other peaks, instead of retaining staff round the year at peak levels. Our staff have consistently ranked us about 4.6 on a scale of 5 on Glassdoor.
Why freelance data entry makes sense
Data entry is a means to an end.
Feedback provided on feedback forms by patrons of a restaurant needs to be data entered into a computer system so that it can be stored and analysed to understand views and patrons and identify trends.
School admission application forms filled by parents need to be data entered so that they stay in the records of the school and the information can be used when required. For example, if they wish to celebrate the birthday of each child, they can get this information from these forms. For identifying birthdays occurring next week, each time the entire set, if manual, will need to be scanned. Once data entered, the computer will throw out a report arranged in order of birthday.
In both the examples, of the restaurant as well as the school, the purpose of their existence is their own business activity, offering a dining experience in one case and moulding and shaping young minds in the other. Data entry of information is a process that contributes to it and will perhaps create value at some point of time, but it has no impact on their core activities. Even if the comment cards are not analyzed or data entered by the restaurant has no bearing on their restaurant activities. Same for the school. At the same time, it is an activity that has a purpose and can be expected to add value. Hence, it is better if it is done.
In addition, the following could be considered as the reasons why dependence on freelancers or outsourcing providers for data entry services makes sense for most organizations:
Core activities stay on course
As one can perhaps deduce from the above arguments, freelance data entry enables the core business activities to continue unhindered. The core operators do not need to be distracted by the activities that they are not familiar with and could actually distract them from their work. The restaurant will lose a good cook and get a bad data entry operator. That cannot be a good bargain. Freelancers release the business from this constraint.
Quality of output is better
Both the restaurant and the school will hire resources good in the line of work they are in. Perhaps cooks and waiters in the restaurant and teachers in the school. They will hire people who have interest in those lines of work, have opted for them, and invested in getting education and experience in them. They would like to be engaged in careers that further their prospects in these areas. Once again, as cooks or perhaps servers in the restaurant and as teachers in the school. Doing data entry in neither an area of interest nor skill for these people. Time spent away from their core functions might be seen as wasted time, even though sometimes non-core activities also need to be performed by employees. Moreover, a task where they do not have interest can be expected to produce output of suspect quality.
Against this scenario, data entry done by resources whose primary task is to do data entry, whose work objectives are linked to how well they do the task, can be expected to produce output of a better quality.
Learning curve is lower and productivity higher
While internal resources are well trained and experienced, their training and experience is in their area of preferred work, and not of data entry. If they have to do data entry, it means they need to climb another learning curve. This one will be a double whammy. While on the one hand their productivity on the new task they are learning will be low, they will be sacrificing the high productivity at their regular task at which they are adept.
If this is compared with the productivity of trained and seasoned resources who have already climbed this particular learning curve, freelance data entry seems like a no brainer.
Resources are experience in data entry
The restaurant in our example offers a dining experience to patrons. Many other restaurants also do the same. Likewise, the school shapes and moulds impressionable young minds, which is also done by many other schools.
Different organizations in an industry or line of work tend to operate in many similar ways. They also have industry associations that leverage their commonalities. It is likely that many schools have a similar process where information collected on application forms needs to be data entered into a software application for future use.
By doing data entry for one school, a resource becomes equipped to handle similar requirements for all other schools as well. The data entry work to be done by many different schools are perhaps more closely aligned than one particular school’s data entry work with their other activities. The expertise created for one comes in handy for all others.
Most organizations will not have a role called ‘Data entry’ in their organization. This is because it is not part of the core deliverables of that organization. Asking the business specialists to do data entry, if required, would be a lose-lose, as we have seen in other examples earlier.
Freelance data entry is a useful service for such organizations and also delivers a cost advantage. This is because freelancers price their services according to their skill-set and the demand and supply, as is normal in a free market. Considering that data entry services have limited educational and experience requirements, they usually are at the lower end of the cost scale. This cost differential is a cost saving for the organization, without any loss on productivity.
Freelancers working in a group, or an outsourced supplier, specializing in the area of data entry, are able to make investments in the process that individual client organizations are not able to. They are able to justify their investments and realize ROI from them on the basis of larger, aggregated volumes that individual companies may not be able to. This pushes them into a virtuous cycle of improvement. Through better technology they deliver better output and quality. Volumes rise further. They have more capacity for investment. And so on.
In a nutshell
Data entry is a need in the modern world that freelancers have plugged into and serve. While data entry is likely to be an ongoing requirement, the tasks may keep changing and evolving.
As a BPO that focuses on data service, oWorkers serves hundreds of clients from around the world, including unicorn platforms and many technology companies. Our leadership team comes with over twenty years of hands-on experience. Clients from Western Europe and the US say that they save almost 80% when they outsource data entry to oWorkers.