I Spent $675.92 Speaking to High Information Scientists on Upwork — Right here’s what I discovered | by Shawhin Talebi | Jun, 2023



One of the placing observations from these calls is that no two knowledge science freelancer journeys have been the identical. Simply to provide a way of this, listed below are the academic backgrounds of the ten freelancers I spoke with Biomedical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Biostatistics, Electrical Engineering, Pc Science, Finance, Physics, Information 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 actual coaching

The latter level is certainly one of my favourite facets of information science. It’s a subject that pulls a variety of views and experiences, which makes for very fascinating dialog and collaboration.

That is essential to remember when studying this text. The range 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 standard beginning technique that got here up a couple of instances. Within the early days, many freelancers tended to have a robust give attention to studying and repute constructing.

There may be extra to knowledge science freelancing than simply the “hands-on-keyboard” work. Not solely do you have to do knowledge science, however you additionally have to promote your self, juggle shoppers, handle your financials, and so on.

A standard method 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 standard (or good) long-term technique.

Consistent with the “totally different is the norm” theme, there was a large mixture of how these freelancers at present labored and bought paid. Listed here are a couple of examples to provide you an concept of this.

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

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

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

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

The second method was by way of inbound leads (i.e. shoppers discovered them) on Upwork or different platforms. This occurred most frequently for these with a terrific repute, a listing of testimonials, or a powerful presence on social media.

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

Every freelancer had a novel imaginative and prescient for his or her future. Nonetheless, 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 contains those that may see themselves freelancing ceaselessly. They take pleasure in it, and it offers 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’ll do alone and who take pleasure in venture administration. For a lot of, this is so simple as having subcontractors that they work with continuously and even full-time workers.

Generate Passive Earnings & Construct a Product-Oriented Firm

Though freelancing gives great freedom and will be profitable, it nonetheless primarily consists of buying and selling time for cash e.g. I pay you an hourly charge to do a job. Whereas this isn’t so dangerous, most would somewhat commerce a little bit time for some huge cash e.g. you construct a product as soon as and promote it many instances.

That is the second long-term purpose 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 function: 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 have been actively constructing buying and selling bots or different buying and selling instruments for private use.

Others thought-about 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 concept, I’m optimistic about it.

Transition to a Full-time Position

Whereas freelancing presents flexibility and independence, some freelancers might ultimately transition into full-time roles. Some even persistently cycle out and in of full-time roles. A number of causes for this from people who I interviewed have been: you may make a much bigger affect 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 searching for 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 the most effective investments I made in my entrepreneurship journey. I’m wanting ahead to placing these learnings into apply 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 hold high of thoughts for future freelancing endeavors.

  1. Do good work so you’ll be able to function on repute and referrals. If individuals come to you, you have got better leverage and optionality to assist make sure the work and shoppers you tackle are aligned along with your targets.
  2. Discover a area of interest. Selecting a distinct segment might help make you an enormous fish in a small pond. Listed here are some niches that got here up in my interviews: finance, crypto, vitality, OCR, LLM functions, and knowledge technique.
  3. Type alliances throughout the tech stack. Information science work alone will be restricted in its enterprise affect and worth technology. For this reason forming relationships with different specialists (e.g. SWE, internet dev, UX/UI, and so on.) might help you present better worth to your shoppers.
  4. Develop a private model. Having a powerful model presence on social media platforms could make it simpler to land freelance contracts by providing you with credibility. Moreover, sharing invaluable content material and showcasing your experience might help best shoppers discover you (versus you having to search out them).