I have interacted with over 150+ companies and individuals over the last one year regarding their data and the analytics services/products they needed help with and actually worked with 15-20 of them on short and long term projects. In fact, I also just wrote a detailed post on my Top 10 learnings after one year of full-time freelancing.
In this post, I want to show you how you can get started into the world of freelance in data analytics by directly getting & doing the work. You will be reverse engineering the whole path and will identify the problems of Top businesses and then go about solving them. The learning curve is best if you are actually doing the work also compared to when you are just sitting and taking a course or planning to learn etc.
Freelancing is actually a great way of testing and experimentation. It is the most effective way (time, money, resources etc) to get your foot in the door for analytics. You will know exactly what you like, what you don't like and much more about the job roles. Whether you want to run this as a side business or explore analytics field or completely move to analytics or start your own business, this should be highly tactical and beneficial for you.
1. Analytics for Medium sized growing businesses
While data analytics and data science is very much needed at a large scale for big businesses, for the Fortune 500, the Inc 5000 and there are a number of companies that provide analytics services to these giants. Mu Sigma Inc is one of them where I worked and spent a great three years.
What I realized is that almost everyone is going after the big fishes, but very few companies are targeting the SMBs, the medium sized growing businesses, who have a good amount of data, but don't know what to do with it. They don't want to hire full-time people in analytics as such as their main focus is always marketing, leads, growth of the business etc. However, these businesses face a lot of problems. Some of the examples that we found in our research and by talking to clients was not knowing which metrics to track, data being scattered in multiple sources etc. We even defined and figured out a whole set of problems they face and then went about solving the same in the market.
You can literally go in as individual freelancers or as small service-provider companies and add massive value to this market by just identifying their top problems and going about solving them
Now, finding these problems is not a prerequisite, this will come to you as and when you are working with various companies live. The initial focus should just be on some work that you can do and some basic problem you already are aware of.
2. Start with Prospecting Stage
"Go fishing where the fish are"
The above is a very simple yet profound theory in fishing. If you fish where the fish are, you’re more likely to catch them. Fish where they’re not and your odds go down dramatically. Sounds simple? This exact theory is used in Sales, any type of sales and this is what we will use to get you started here!
The fastest way to start freelancing is at the Prospecting Stage. Prospecting basically means responding to jobs or requirements or anything that a certain company/client/business needs done. Going where the root and quick requirements are, going where clients are actually looking for people to solve their problems - that is the fastest, easiest and least expensive way to get your first few freelancing gigs.
3. Choosing Your Platform & Your Research
You can choose any of the platforms. At the end, your research & skills matter more than the platform. You can just start off with any one of the below that suits your needs
(Recommended platform: Upwork & a few images below will be from upwork only)
- Upwork (variety of analytics/data science jobs)
- Experfy (analytics & data science customized platform)
- Toptal (data science & heavily programming related)
- Sage legion (new analytics platform)
- Other Freelance platforms (Peopleperhour, Freelancer, Fiverr etc)
Now, that you have chosen your platform, you need to start with the research phase that would be crucial in getting your first freelance job in an effective manner.
To help you with your research, here's a quick diagram and process you can follow to find your sweet spot.
1. Find the Demand in Marketplace: What are the sections, sub-sections, categories of jobs/work that clients are posting? What is the type of work mentioned in job postings?
2. Find your Expertise: What are my skillsets & experience in analytics? Using my skillsets, which demands and work can I do justice to?
3. Define your Ideal Future Work What are some skills, experience and work that I would want to learn and get projects on based on market research?
4. Mix and Match and go after the most relevant work possible to get your first gig. Gradually, move towards the ideal future work you would want to get.
4. Positioning Yourself, Your Profile & Your Portfolio
You should not spend a lot of time on your profile but focus on a few important things to add value to your target customer. You must completely separate yourself out of the masses.
Stop talking about “Me, Myself and I” – Talk about Your customer
Customer is king.
Yes, especially on these marketplace platforms too!
98% of freelancing profiles and their websites are all about themselves, their services, degrees and educational qualifications. All these are quite important for the initial context and quick view but the client really only cares about solving his problem and NOT about you.
In your profile – talk as less as possible about yourself and more about your target customer, their problems, their pain points and how you would go about solving them.
At the start, it’s fine if you do not know what is your target market. You should constantly test and refine, as you evolve.
Focus on following points & questions while writing your profile:
- Know your target market and talk about them - What type of companies/businesses have enough amounts of data?
- Few big problems of your target market - What are the problems these companies/businesses face in terms of data, reporting, insights, BI etc?
- How you will solve their problem by your service in best possible way
- Lastly, Your list of services
You can also search for freelancers on upwork with your profile and analyze all existing profile. Look at the ones in your field and find the biggest mistakes that they are making. Avoid those mistakes, make your profile stand out.
In portfolio, you can add a few samples of any old work that you have done. Do not worry about adding a lot of stuff. At the start, you can just use some quick methods, like screenshots and links of small help you have provided. Your portfolio should be very relevant to the work you are aiming for. Once clients can see the relevant samples in your portfolio – they would love to talk to you. Here's a great guide to making your portfolio in one single afternoon that digs much more deeper.
5. Getting Your first Analytics Job
Getting your first customer dependents on your ability to show the client that you can complete the work within time without compromising the quality, with very clear communication and within timelines.
The proven system:
- Send extremely relevant and high quality proposals for 30-60 days. Make sure you spend enough quality time on each and every proposal. The aim of a proposal is not to get the job, it is only to get a response or take an action.
- After the response, the conversation and the experience of a client talking to you should be as professional as possible. Ask very relevant business questions before taking up any job to fully understand business requirements and so that you can do great work
- Never do a hard sell – main focus has to be on adding value irrespective of whether you get the job or not. There can be exceptions in cases of sequential follow ups
- Propose to do a 1-2 week pilot project wherein you will showcase your skills and do such amazing work that the client is blown away and you can then continue working for them on a long – term basis
- The old saying – “Follow up is where the money is” – just keep asking if they have any questions for you or if they need any help in as professional manner as possible.
- Note: The goal of follow ups and conversation is to get the job. The proposal is only to get the response and conversation started
Here’s an example of a high quality proposal that got me multiple responses and even job offers eventually. Notice the clear points and the flow where I'm defining what they want, how I can deliver it by talking and showing relevant work and lastly ending with a call to action for them to schedule a call with me.
Here are some more examples and mistakes you must avoid while sending proposals/pitches on any platform.
Once you have actually received the job, make sure the project execution is done very well in the first two weeks (pilot project stage) and you have over-delivered in every aspect possible. This will help you in getting recurring work from the same client, positive feedbacks, testimonials and much more future work eventually.
These were some basic steps and research work to get your first analytics freelance job. Feel free to ask more questions in the comments and let us know of any other steps that have helped you in your journey.
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Pravin runs his freelancing & consulting business with a remote team and offers his services on Website analytics & data visualizations. After working for 3 years at Mu sigma Inc, he quit his job to run his own freelancing business and venture out on more scalable online business.