5 Tips for Novice Freelance Data Scientists

If you want to launch your data science skills into freelance work, then check out these important tips to help you kick start your next adventure in data.

By Brandon Jarman, Freelance Writer.

Are you a data scientist looking to kickstart your freelance career? Whether you’re a seasoned data scientist looking to take on side projects or a newly-minted data scientist forging into the world of freelance, we’ll break down the best way to market yourself and get clients.

We’ll also touch on which tools and websites you should use, the best practices for visualizing data, and how to handle transactions with clients.

There is plenty of uncertainty when you strike out on your own, but the following 5 tips will help you get started the right way:

  1. Market yourself
  2. Get on the right platform
  3. Research how others do it
  4. Determine your worth
  5. Establish a work station


1. Market yourself

When you first start as a freelance data scientist, be aggressive in your efforts to find work. Updating your LinkedIn or Indeed, then waiting for leads to pour in won’t cut it. Don’t assume work will come to you—you’ll need to find it.

First things first, create a personal website that showcases a variety of your work. Make sure your website is easy-to-navigate, clean, and up-to-date. Potential clients will want to see an updated portfolio of your work, so make sure to refresh it constantly.

Second, don’t be afraid to network. Engage in chat forums and in-person meet-ups, ask about available work, ask about clients seeking freelancers. Even if no clients have projects for you currently, that doesn’t mean they won’t call you once they do.


2. Get on the right platform

Get involved with freelance sites like Upwork or Toptal. Both are free to use and user-friendly, and creating an account is intuitive. There are multiple websites you can turn to if you want to increase your odds of getting a gig or dabble in a variety of work.

Data Science Stack Exchange is another excellent resource. It’s a Q&A chat forum for data scientists to ask questions, share best practices, and swap codes. It’s also worth checking out Kaggle, another popular online chat forum. Kaggle hosts data science competitions with high-priced payouts for winners.


3. Research how others do it

Study successful freelance data scientists that get hired. Understand what rockstar data scientists are doing to land jobs and do them right.

For example, most data scientists are highly educated and have postgraduate degrees. In order to hone the bevy of skills required to be data scientists, you should be well-versed in at least Computer Science, Mathematics, Statistics, Physical Sciences, or Social Sciences.

In freelance work, specifically, the more work experience you have, the better. And the more experience and education you have under your belt, the higher the rate you can set.


4. Determine your rate

Some clients will charge $150–$200 per hour while others charge only $45-$100 per hour.

Before you begin any project, determine your net worth.

When you’re deciding your rate, never lowball yourself out of desperation to get a job. There’s high demand for data scientists, so there’s a slew of work available—and a host of employers willing to pay big.

If you have a postgraduate diploma, you shouldn’t ever freelance for less than $80 a job. Most experienced freelancers charge anywhere between $100 and $250, depending on the project.

Here are some high-paying tools that can up your rate:

It’s essential to build up your arsenal of skills. For instance, knowing how to speak Scala can add $15,000 to your salary. Having this skill as a feather in your cap is a sure-fire way to increase your rate.

Steer away from proprietary source tools and focus on open source tools. If you can, try to have 15+ tools under your belt (vs. 10 or 12). It also doesn’t hurt to get familiar with cloud computing and Python.

Last but not least, don’t be afraid to negotiate. Your skills are in high demand, and if a company makes $300,000 from your project, then be confident and ask for what you deserve—no matter how long you spent on the project.


5. Establish a work station

Find a quiet workplace that will allow you to be as productive as possible. If this means working at a coffee shop, budget for the $5 you’ll spend on coffee each day. As you’re starting, it may make sense to save money and work from home—especially if freelancing is your only source of income.

If you’re working from home, dedicate a working-only space. That way, you can be as productive as possible and separate your work life from your home life.

Above all, before you begin freelancing, check that you have reliable internet speed. Your business hinges on your ability to be online. Make sure you have an internet connection that won’t slow you down. Plus, when you’re freelancing, you can’t call on IT to clear your cache or reboot your Wi-Fi.

Bio: Brandon Jarman (@BrandonJarman4) is a freelance data analyst and writer based out of Salt Lake City, UT. When he’s not working (which is rare), he enjoys spending time in the great outdoors.