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Data Analytics Freelancing: 5 Simple Steps To Get You Started (Based On My Own Experience)

Today I’m sharing my five top tips for getting started in data analytics freelancing.

I’ve been freelancing for years. It’s a great way to get some additional income to pay off debt or add to your savings. And it’s something you can do in your spare time rather than watch Netflix or surf Instagram.

The hardest part is getting started.

But once you get the ball rolling, things get a lot easier because of referrals. Once you do a good job for your first few clients, they will refer you to other people that they know.

The tips I’m sharing today are how I got started.

Over the years, I’ve earned more than $100k in freelancing doing web development, general IT support, and most recently data analytics work. I’ve created custom Tableau dashboards for clients, large-scale data warehouses, and automated processes using APIs.

Unfortunately, most data analysts won’t take action.

Impostor syndrome is the freelancing career killer

Getting started with freelancing as a data analyst can be daunting.

  • Feeling overwhelmed by all the details
  • Fear of failure and not being successful
  • Lack of confidence in marketing your skills
  • Comfort with a “steady job” and not worth the risk

But I’m sharing everything you need to get started in your data analytics career.

Let’s dive in:

Step 1: Make Sure You Have The Skills

You have to be 100% real with yourself here.

Do you have the technical skills needed? If you’re not sure, think back on the past 2-3 months of your life. Has anyone you know reached out for technical help?

If not, you might not be ready for freelancing.

That’s okay. You can improve your skills and come back when you’re ready. I wrote more about the skills that employers want to see here.

Here’s a short list of skills that you can 100% make money freelancing with:

The Modern Data Analysts Skill Stack

  1. SQL: analytics, optimization, automation
  2. Tableau: dashboards, reports, analysis
  3. Excel: budgets, organization, automation
  4. Python: automation, workflows, APIs
  5. Writing: communication, collaboration, critical thinking

Mastering the fundamentals in any one of these is good enough to get started.

Master two or three of these skills and you’re a walking six-figure business.

Where to start

I recommend starting with SQL.

It’s required for all data work, including machine learning and artificial intelligence. It’s the best way to understand how data works. And If you want a shortcut to understanding how to solve real-world problems with SQL (and increase your earning potential) you should join the Solving with SQL waitlist.

The best way to know that you have the skills is if someone else is already paying you to solve these problems. But I know it’s tough to get started from scratch when nobody is paying you yet.

So use this step as a guide to differentiate yourself.

Step 2: Develop Your Niche

You don’t have to be better. You have to be different.

There are a zillion data freelancers on Upwork right now. But it’s a race to the bottom. You don’t want to compete with the lowballers that are charging $10 for data entry work. In fact, I suggest you ditch Upwork completely. I’ve tried it before and it’s never worked for me.

Instead, you want to set yourself apart.

This is done over time as you gain experience. You don’t have to know EXACTLY what niche you want to get into when you are starting. But you want to keep it in mind as you look for new clients.

2 Easy Ways to Differentiate Yourself

  1. By tech: pick SQL, Tableau, Excel, or Python
  2. By industry: medical device sales, side-hustlers, small business owners

Now just mix and match those ways to come up with your niche:

Example 1: I help side hustlers with their Excel work so they can focus on their business and not have to mess around with data

Example 2: I help small business owners automate their tedious digital marketing workflows using SQL

You get the idea.

And don’t worry: developing your niche isn’t a “marriage decision”. You can change it at any time. But you have to pick one to get started. Just think about the type of person you want to help first.

That’s your niche! Now let’s talk about getting paid.

Step 3: Set Your Rates

When you are just getting started, this is pretty easy.

For small jobs that will take less than 1 day: just pick a dollar amount that is worth your time. For example, if your buddy is selling shoes as a side hustle, offer to help him with a basic financial analysis for $50. You’re saving him time and getting yourself started.

As you gain experience, you can increase that “per-job” rate to $75, $150, and $500.

This is the power of developing your niche from the previous step.

The approach that most people take is per hour. I don’t recommend this but it is easier to get gigs. Pick an hourly rate that is well worth it for you. You are saving the business owner TONS of time and headaches.

So charge what you’re worth.

Typically, this would be 2-3 times your current hourly rate at your full-time job.

Protip: it’s okay to set an hourly rate when you are getting started but move to per-job pricing as soon as you possibly can.

Step 4: Get Paid

Invoicing can be a nerve-wracking experience.

You might feel like you are begging for money at first. This is because it’s a new experience for you. Typical jobs with typical bosses are just “show up, get paid”.

But freelancing is different.

It’s more valuable and comes with a different way of getting paid.

I recommend starting with a basic invoicing template. Nothing fancy. Then fill it out with the project details, rate, and contact information.

Send out your invoices like clockwork.

For example, send invoices out on the first of every month with 10-day payment terms. If you have a client that doesn’t pay on time, fire them as soon as you possibly can. This is all part of developing good business processes that develop over time.

Step 5: Build Your Referral Network

Referrals from previous clients are your lifeblood.

When you do a good job for your clients, they recommend you to their friends and business partners. For example, you might know a small business owner and offer to do some basic tax prep work for them (tallying up revenue and expenses in Excel) for $50. But if you do a good job, by following up and following through, they will refer you to others they know with similar needs.

And that’s where you increase your rate.

Client #1: $50 per job

Client #2: $75 per job

Client #3: $125 per job

You get the idea. It starts small, but snowballs quickly.

And you have to overdeliver as you are just starting out. It’s okay if you earn a low amount of money with your first client. As you can see, it’s easy to increase that rate once you get started.

Data Analytics Freelancing Rookie Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Don’t solve generic problems: get specific to differentiate yourself
  2. Don’t undersell yourself: Set a rate that matches your experience and expertise
  3. Don’t spread yourself too thin: be picky and fire clients that are hard to work with
  4. Don’t neglect the business side of things: marketing, invoicing, and project management
  5. Don’t be afraid to market yourself: network with business owners, ask for referrals, and follow-up after

By following these 5 steps, you’ll be well on your way to launching a successful data analytics freelancing career.

  • Earn money on the side to pay off debt or increase savings
  • Develop skills and get paid at the same time
  • Build a business you can be proud of

Remember, it takes patience and dedication to build a thriving business. But with the right approach and mindset, you can reach your goals and enjoy the freedom and flexibility that freelancing offers.

The 5 Steps to Kickstart Your Data Analytics Freelancing Career

  • Step 1: Make Sure You Have The Skills
  • Step 2: Develop Your Niche
  • Step 3: Set Your Rates
  • Step 4: Get Paid
  • Step 5: Build Your Referral Network

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