Data entry isn't a new field; it's been around about as long as the computer. But with more and more companies outsourcing clerical work and the rise of the gig economy, data entry—also known as keylogging—is seeing a resurgence in popularity.
Before you dive into a data entry job, get familiar with what to expect. If you'll be working remotely, the pay is not great and you're not likely to see regular salary increases. Data entry is not the same as data mining, and for the most part, you're not going to be dealing with the data that people talk about when they complain about Facebook's privacy practices. Data entry is a lot less complicated than all that.
What Is Data Entry?
Data entry is actually a broad term that encompasses a number of occupations. People who perform data entry include electronic data processors, typists, word processors, transcribers, coders, and clerks. While any of these jobs may be done from a remote location, data entry jobs from home can be quite different from those done in an office.
Regardless of where they're based, data entry jobs don't have a high barrier to entry, and the training process is usually not very stringent. If you have typing skills and a high school diploma, and you can read and write English (if you're in the U.S.), you'll qualify for most data entry jobs.
In essence, data entry means to operate equipment (often a keyboard) to input alphabetic, numeric, or symbolic data into a company’s system. The data entry operator may be required to verify or edit data as it is entered, or another person might do this work. The data may come from hand-written forms or audio files.
The way home-based or online data entry jobs are performed may vary considerably from office jobs. Data entry operators working for micro-labor offices that use crowdsourcing techniques may simply do small bits of work for small fees. This model is growing more common.
Some data entry workers work for more traditional data entry companies, which are often business process outsourcing firms. These people might be paid an hourly or per-word rate for a whole project.
How the Jobs Work
While many of the data entry positions mentioned above fall under the data entry umbrella, positions advertised as “data entry jobs” (as opposed to "transcription work") usually require the least skill and in turn pay the least.
In general, the method that data entry jobs might pay could be an hourly wage (rare for online data work); per piece; keystrokes per hour; or keystrokes per minute, per audio minute, or per word. Most of these methods make your rate of pay highly dependent on your speed at data entry.
Even among general transcription jobs, there are many different types of transcription; some may take more experience and speed than the typical data entry job. These kinds of data entry positions could also require special equipment.
Data Entry From Home
Though many companies only allow those who have been trained in-house to work offsite, data entry can often be done from home, especially as remote workers are more easily managed, thanks to better technology.
Keep in mind, though, that because data entry from home is almost always done by independent contractors—who are not subject to minimum wage laws and who are in competition with a global workforce—the pay is typically lower for home-based workers than for those who work in offices. You're also less likely to receive merit increases, bonuses, or other perks or benefits than you would in a traditional office setting.
Be Wary of Online Scams
Unfortunately, many online ads for work-at-home data entry jobs could very well be work-at-home scams. Any data entry position that promises high pay is most likely not what it seems and should be avoided, or at the very least vetted carefully.
Don't give out any personal information, especially not your bank account information, before verifying that you're dealing with a legitimate company.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, local government, elementary and secondary schools, and accounting firms are among the top employers of office-based data entry clerks. They're most likely to be doing office administrative services, bookkeeping, and payroll services, or, for more highly trained clerks, medical and diagnostic data entry work.
Data entry isn't the most challenging job, but if you're looking for steady work to pay the bills, industry trends show this field will be robust. Spread across numerous sectors, work should always be available.