I Spent $675.92 Speaking to Prime Knowledge Scientists on Upwork — Right here’s what I realized | by Shawhin Talebi | Jun, 2023

One of the hanging observations from these calls is that no two knowledge science freelancer journeys had been the identical. Simply to provide a way of this, listed below are the tutorial backgrounds of the ten freelancers I spoke with Biomedical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Biostatistics, Electrical Engineering, Laptop Science, Finance, Physics, Knowledge Science, Advertising and marketing, AI, Economics, Math, MBA, and DS Bootcamp.

Discover there are extra backgrounds right here than interviews, that is for 2 causes.

  1. Most had coaching past a bachelor’s diploma, and
  2. No 2 out of the ten freelancers had the identical precise coaching

The latter level is one in every of my favourite elements of information science. It’s a area that attracts a variety of views and experiences, which makes for very attention-grabbing dialog and collaboration.

That is essential to bear in mind when studying this text. The variety in backgrounds extends to how freelancers function and the place they’re headed. Put merely, totally different is the norm right here.

Whereas every freelancer’s begin was distinctive, there was a typical beginning technique that got here up just a few occasions. Within the early days, many freelancers tended to have a sturdy give attention to studying and status constructing.

There’s extra to knowledge science freelancing than simply the “hands-on-keyboard” work. Not solely do you might want to do knowledge science, however you additionally have to promote your self, juggle shoppers, handle your financials, and many others.

A standard means freelancers navigated this was to tackle a (comparatively) excessive quantity of small initiatives within the early days. Not solely does this present a number of repetitions to study from, however having an extended listing of efficiently accomplished initiatives (with testimonials) creates credibility and makes it simpler to get new shoppers.

Whereas this “small-and-wide” technique was nice for getting began, it didn’t appear to be a typical (or good) long-term technique.

Consistent with the “totally different is the norm” theme, there was a large mixture of how these freelancers at the moment labored and obtained paid. Listed here are just a few examples to provide you an thought of this.

  • Freelancing full-time
  • Freelancing part-time whereas pursuing a facet enterprise
  • Working full-time function whereas freelancing on the facet
  • Full-time contract function (1099)
  • Transitioning out of freelance right into a full-time function (W2)

This highlights the pliability of freelancing. It permits professionals to tailor their work to what works greatest for them.

For many who weren’t in search of full-time work, it was frequent to restrict the weekly time dedication for every shopper. 10 hr/week per shopper appeared to be a candy spot, with a typical variation between 5–20 hr/week. With this time allotment, freelancers would sometimes have 2–3 shoppers at a time.

There have been 3 frequent methods the freelancers obtained new shoppers. The first and commonest means was making use of for contracts on Upwork or different websites.

The second means was through inbound leads (i.e. shoppers discovered them) on Upwork or different platforms. This occurred most frequently for these with an amazing status, an inventory of testimonials, or a robust presence on social media.

Lastly, the third means (which was frequent for probably the most profitable freelancers) was getting work from referrals alone. This appeared to occur when there was rather more demand from shoppers than the freelance might provide (which additionally naturally drove up costs.)

Every freelancer had a singular imaginative and prescient for his or her future. Nevertheless, to make this extra digestible, right here I partition the long-term targets into 3 buckets.

Maintain Freelancing & Scale Up Consulting Enterprise

The primary bucket consists of those that may see themselves freelancing ceaselessly. They take pleasure in it, and it provides them a pleasant life. They work when they need, on what they need, with who they need, and the place they need.

Additionally, on this bucket, I put those who wish to scale up their consulting enterprise. This tends to occur organically for individuals who have an excessive amount of work than they will do alone and who take pleasure in venture administration. For a lot of, this is so simple as having subcontractors that they work with ceaselessly and even full-time staff.

Generate Passive Earnings & Construct a Product-Oriented Firm

Though freelancing offers great freedom and could be profitable, it nonetheless primarily consists of buying and selling time for cash e.g. I pay you an hourly price to do a job. Whereas this isn’t so unhealthy, most would quite commerce somewhat time for some huge cash e.g. you construct a product as soon as and promote it many occasions.

That is the second long-term aim bucket which lumps collectively producing passive earnings with constructing a product-oriented enterprise. Whereas these are technically totally different, they each can serve the identical objective: producing extra worth in much less time.

Some freelancers deliberate to do that by creating on-line programs or different digital merchandise. A handful of freelancers had been actively constructing buying and selling bots or different buying and selling instruments for private use.

Others thought of constructing software program options tailor-made to mid-size corporations or particular industries by leveraging their freelance expertise and clientele. Whereas I haven’t but personally seen a profitable realization of this latter thought, I’m optimistic about it.

Transition to a Full-time Function

Whereas freelancing provides flexibility and independence, some freelancers could finally transition into full-time roles. Some even persistently cycle out and in of full-time roles. A couple of causes for this from people who I interviewed had been: you may make a much bigger influence at an enterprise, extra social interplay and collaboration, extra certainty and earnings stability, better alternatives for profession development, and a shopper turns into an employer.

These calls fulfilled the promise of mentorship that I used to be in search of in that they helped speed up progress towards my targets. Whereas it’s onerous to say how issues will end up, I’ve a sense this can be among the best investments I made in my entrepreneurship journey. I’m wanting ahead to placing these learnings into follow and persevering with to construct relationships with others on this area.

To wrap issues up, listed below are the 4 key takeaways that I’ll preserve high of thoughts for future freelancing endeavors.

  1. Do good work so you may function on status and referrals. If folks come to you, you’ve gotten better leverage and optionality to assist make sure the work and shoppers you tackle are aligned together with your targets.
  2. Discover a area of interest. Selecting a distinct segment can assist make you an enormous fish in a small pond. Listed here are some niches that got here up in my interviews: finance, crypto, power, OCR, LLM purposes, and knowledge technique.
  3. Kind alliances throughout the tech stack. Knowledge science work alone could be restricted in its enterprise influence and worth era. Because of this forming relationships with different specialists (e.g. SWE, net dev, UX/UI, and many others.) can assist you present better worth to your shoppers.
  4. Develop a private model. Having a robust model presence on social media platforms could make it simpler to land freelance contracts by supplying you with credibility. Moreover, sharing beneficial content material and showcasing your experience can assist very best shoppers discover you (versus you having to seek out them).

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