What Is Data Entry? Your Questions Answered

As a job seeker, particularly if you’re seeking freelance gigs or side hustles, you’ve likely come across plenty of job listings for data entry clerks. They sometimes come under different names: data entry operators, data entry workers, data entry processors … the list goes on.

Industries that hire data entry clerks are wide and varied. Anything from healthcare to retail to accounting and research. Depending on the project, some data entry jobs are long-term — with new data received regularly that need to be entered into computer systems — while other companies, such as those moving towards digitization, will hire data entry clerks for a set time.

Data entry is about moving a vast amount of information online, but just why are there so many positions out there, are they even legit, and are they worth your time? Find out below.


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What Is Data Entry Work?

As we gradually become more reliant on computers and the internet, there’s a huge push for companies to transfer hard copy information into digital formats. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, top industries who hire data entry keyers include medical and diagnostic labs, accounting services, and local governments. Data entry clerks are hired to enter data that previously only existed in hard copy into a computer, usually using a specific software program.

Data entry clerks are also known as:

  • Word Processor
  • Data Processor
  • Typist
  • Data Entry Keyer
  • Electronic Data Processor
  • Keypunch Technician
  • Transcriber

But don’t think hard copy information exist simply in the written format — in numbers or words. Data entry workers are also frequently needed to transcribe voice recordings. Data entry work also isn’t simply about entering information into a computer without thinking. Good data processing also involves ensuring that any existing data is accurate before it’s entered.

Data entry clerks typically work a 35 – 40 hour week although part-time work and temporary contracts are often available. The majority of data entry clerks are office-based but there are various remote data entry opportunities which allow employees to work from home. Depending on the nature of the company, data entry clerks may be the only person responsible for inputting and maintaining data in a company or they may work as part of a data entry team.

Data entry clerks typically work at a computer workstation within a busy open-plan office. They spend long periods of time in front of a computer so it is vital that they are aware of health and safety issues. Their job is very similar from day to day and inputting and retrieving data all day long can be tedious.

Typing fast for long periods of time can also cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or other related injuries but most employers have policies in place to reduce risk and make conditions as manageable as possible. It may also be necessary to contend with office noises such as photocopiers, printers and fax machines.

With experience data entry clerks will be given tasks that require higher levels of skill and accuracy. Within the field of data entry there may also be the opportunity to progress to a supervisory or team leader role which involves training, supervising and recruiting other members of a data entry team. Outside data entry the job provides a good basis for progressing to secretarial, administrative work or more skilled computer-related roles.

Responsibilities

Typical responsibilities assigned to data entry clerks include:

  • Inputting customer details
  • Typing up manuscripts
  • Transcribing documents
  • Transferring market-research results
  • Inputting data (printed, coded or statistical)
  • Proofreading data
  • Answering phone calls
  • Updating medical records
  • Dealing with customer and staff queries
  • Processing sales invoices
  • Entering advertisements into newspapers
  • Filing, photocopying and other clerical or administrative duties
  • Working to deadlines
  • Preparing reports, letters and labels for mail-outs
  • Operating office equipment including computers, printers and photocopiers
  • Adhering to confidentiality regulations

Why You Should Apply for Data Entry Positions

There are two main reasons why data entry jobs are appealing as a full-time role, a side hustle for anyone looking to earn some extra money, or for those without any prior work experience.

1. They’re Flexible

There are different types of data entry jobs: Full-time, part-time, on-site, or work-from-home. So no matter your schedule, you’d probably be able to find a data entry position to suit your requirements.

Online data entry jobs that allow you to work at home are mostly performed by independent contractors, which is perfect for those who prefer to be their own boss. Typically, clients who offer home data entry jobs simply want you to get the job done by a specified time. This means you can set your own hours, which gives you the flexibility to fulfil any other responsibilities you have.

If you’re applying for a full-time or on-site data entry position, take a close look at the job description or get some clarification from human resources — you may be expected to perform administrative assistant duties as well.

2. There’s No Experience Needed

Data entry is a very popular no experience, entry-level job. Most of the time, you don’t need any prior data entry experience to become a data entry specialist.

Some employers may require you to have a high school diploma, but really, they’re more interested in whether you have word processing and typing skills, as well as your typing speed. Companies are, after all, essentially looking for a typist.

There may be some specific skills you need to get into data entry (which we’ll talk about next), but previous job experience is not strictly necessary. What you’ll need to demonstrate, however, is reliability and a strong work ethic. This is especially true for remote data entry jobs since your employer can’t physically be there to monitor what you do.


Skills and Qualifications for Data Entry Jobs

We’ve mentioned that you don’t necessarily need job experience or a bachelor’s degree to apply for data entry jobs. However, there are still some very specific skills that employers are looking for.

  • Proficient typing skills
  • Computer skills and a knowledge of relevant software packages
  • Basic literacy and numeracy skills
  • Organisational abilities
  • Administrative skills
  • Good communication skills, both written and verbal
  • A polite phone manner
  • Good customer service skills
  • Self-motivation
  • The ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • A conscientious and responsible working attitude
  • Accuracy and good attention to detail
  • The ability to do the same task for long periods of time
  • The ability to work under pressure and to tight deadlines
  • Good spelling, punctuation and grammar
  • A positive approach in a busy working environment
  • A knowledge of health and safety policies
  • A good understanding of data confidentiality issues

Direct experience of data entry is not always necessary but experience of spreadsheets, databases and word processing packages will be beneficial, as will experience of working within an office environment.

Most employers offer on-the- job training of their computer systems at the beginning of an employment so experience of specialist software is not usually a requirement. It may also be possible to gain experience through a formal apprenticeship scheme.

1. Computer Knowledge

While you don’t have to be an IT specialist, you’d need to at least be comfortable with computers in order to succeed in data entry jobs. You’ll be spending the bulk of your time using computers, so familiarity with computer systems, especially anything from the Microsoft Office suite, such as Microsoft Word or Excel, will be advantageous. Some companies prefer online collaboration tools like Google Docs, Sheets, or Drive, so familiarity with them, together with a Google account, can help.

As we mentioned, the most important thing is that you’re able to type quickly and accurately. Companies want jobs done quickly, so being a fast typist will increase your chances of getting the job. Some companies also pay by the number of jobs completed, not by the hour, so the faster you can type, the more you can earn.

2. Attention to Detail

This is really crucial for data entry jobs since you need to accurately transfer hard copy information into digital formats. Entering data can sometimes be laborious work and is often repetitive. You’ll be processing copious amounts of text or listening to long sound files. And while things may start to blur, as a data entry specialist, you’ll need to still be able to produce quality work with minimal mistakes.

Being able to focus on the details may also mean you’ll be able to pick up any potential discrepancies, which if pointed out, will be received with gratitude.

3. Organizational Skills

You’ll likely be provided with a large amount of data, both in hard copy and in digital formats. You’ll need to file them in a way that makes sense so that the correct information can be retrieved in the shortest amount of time. If you’re working with multiple clients, you certainly don’t want to mix up their data or send the wrong file to the wrong client.

At the same time, it’s not only about being organized with physical things that you need to focus on. Because online data entry is great for its flexible hours, if you’re not organized or diligent, you may struggle to finish the job in a timely manner, resulting in missed deadlines and lost income.


Equipment You Need for Data Entry Jobs

If you’re doing online data entry, you’ll likely be expected to provide your own computer and internet connection. So make sure you have a reliable computer and a high-speed internet connection.

If you’re working long hours in data entry, you may want to consider using dual monitors, especially if you’re trying to transfer information from one document to another.

It’s also important to look at the ergonomics of your home office. You’ll be spending a significant chunk of your time in front of the computer, possibly repeating the same motions again and again. To perform your task well, you need a comfortable set up with at least a good quality table and chair.


How Much You Can Earn Working in Data Entry

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that in-office data entry workers earn around $16 an hour or an annual wage of $33,000. If you live in Washington, D.C., you’re in luck, as it’s the top paying region at $20 an hour (and $43,000 annually).

But how much online data entry workers earn is less clear, as these jobs tend to be paid by the job rather than by the hour. This means a fast typist will earn more than a slow one.


Where to Find Data Entry Jobs

What is data entry: The FlexJobs homepage

Inputting and retrieving data is required by a wide variety of organisations and professions including universities, charities, local authorities, support services, corporate bodies and small businesses. Web-based companies may also require data entry clerks including work from home data entry opportunities – however, it is important to be aware that there are a number of web-based scam companies out there who demand payment to start working, so it is important to be vigilant when researching jobs.

Finding data entry jobs can be easy, so long as you don’t end up falling for a scam (more on that later). Where you should look for data entry jobs depends on the type you’re looking for and whether you’d like to work on-site or remotely.

Looking for On-Site Data Entry Jobs

Many of your favorite job sites will list data entry job vacancies, including:

You can also focus your job search on the top industries that hire data entry clerks, as listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Looking for Online Data Entry Jobs

Here are our top 12 picks for places to go for online data entry jobs:


Avoid Data Entry Scams

There’s a dark side to almost everything, and data entry jobs aren’t the exception. Some less-than-scrupulous individuals will list their jobs as high-paying data entry jobs, when in reality, they’re nothing more than scams.

Common scams include affiliate marketing schemes that are close to impossible to make an earning from, and ones that require you to outlay some cash before you’re even paid.

Here are four rules to adhere to.

  1. If It Sounds Too Good to Be True: The old adage is worth heeding. Anything that’s too good to be true is generally untrue.
  2. Get Rich Fast: Data entry work pays, but it’s not particularly lucrative. If you’re promised riches or the ability to earn hundreds or even thousands a week, run. Run fast.
  3. Upfront Payment: If you’re applying for online data entry work via a freelance job board, some may require you to pay a membership fee. That’s normal. However, if you’re asked to pay for some sort of membership, software, or training for a specific data entry job that you’ve applied for, there’s a very high chance the “company” is simply trying to make a fast buck off you.
  4. Contracts: Make sure you have a subcontractor agreement that clearly states your job scope and responsibilities, what you’re expected to deliver, and what your benefits and pay are. This should be signed by yourself and the company, and if you’re ever in doubt, have a chat with an employment lawyer about it.

What’s it really like?

Sarah Harding is 22 years old and has worked as a data entry clerk for seven months. She gives us the inside story

Before starting work as a data entry clerk I worked as a dental receptionist and a retail sales adviser. A typical day at work involves typing handwritten information into a computer system to allow the charities that my company work for easy access to the information given.

One of the positive aspects of my job is that it is pretty easy so I don’t have to take it home with me at the end of the night. I work 9 – 5, I can wear whatever I want and I receive a weekly pay package. On the downside, it is a very boring and repetitive job and I have to work to targets which can be difficult as your mind is inclined to wander due to a lack of stimulation.

To anyone thinking of doing this job I would advise buying an MP3 player or a radio to keep you sane! Try to improve typing speed and accuracy using one of the Word per minute tests online and make sure you take breaks away from your computer to prevent typing related injuries. I don’t really see working in data entry as a career in itself but it is a good way to get a step on the ladder in a company you would like to work for. It can be tedious but try not to let it get you down.

In terms of career progression I expect I will go on to work within admin related roles which require typing skills or great attention to detail. Working as a data entry clerk is good training in typing information quickly and accurately.

Working as a data entry clerk will never offer high wages but on the plus side I get paid on a weekly basis. I work for an agency so I’m not paid by the company itself but after tax I earn £186 a week (it’s roughly £11000 per annum)


Start Your Data Entry Job Now

What is data entry: A woman works from a coffee shop

Data entry jobs likely won’t ever make you rich, and the work can be repetitive. However, their popularity persists because many offer flexible hours and don’t require much other than the ability to type.

So if you’re looking for a second job to earn some extra money or if you’re looking to gain some work experience, data entry jobs are a good place to start. Adding your data entry experience to your resume can tell future employers that you are organized, pay attention to detail, and have computer skills — all of which are traits that are easily transferable to a new job, no matter what that job may be.

One of the best things about data entry jobs is that they’re consistent, reliable, and can certainly help you pay the bills.

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