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Hackernoon logo5 Simple Ways to Kickstart Your Freelance Data Science Career by@charlie-custer

5 Simple Ways to Kickstart Your Freelance Data Science Career

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@charlie-custerCharlie Custer

Charlie Custer is a marketer and marketing analyst with experience from everything from After Effect

If you’ve been itching to get your feet wet in the field, these steps will provide you with lots of valuable ideas and suggestions to kickstart your career.

Delving into the world of freelancing can certainly be daunting. At first, you may feel a sense of euphoria as the shackles binding you to your office chair are ripped away. However, those restraints also brought a calming sense of security and a steady paycheck. 

Some people thrive on the risk that comes from a lack of a safety net, while others struggle a bit. Regardless of which type of person you are, here are five steps to help you find your footing when life gets slippery.

Learn to be good with people

If you’re like me, then you may have chosen the data science field because you don’t consider yourself a people person. I get it - math and science are predictable, while people aren’t.

It is vital that all freelancers be able to interact with others. It’s especially important when you’re trying to convince a prospective client to work with you, but it’s also imperative throughout the entire contract.

I suggest reading How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The book is about 85 years old, but the principles are timeless and it's still heavily recommended by seasoned salesmen.

Also, get comfortable with small talk. Make it a daily goal to talk to at least one person you’ve never met whether it’s at a grocery store, the gas station, or while you’re buying your morning cup of joe. Give someone a sincere compliment. Ask a stranger where they got a particular item of clothing or how their day is going. 

Having short conversations with random people every day will boost your social skills very quickly.

Write good copy

For some strange reason, there’s this expectation in the corporate world that all written communication must sound “professionally robotic.”

Let me give you an example.

Let’s say you’ve just finished a project for a client and you send them an email to let them know it’s complete. Too many people sound like this:

“Hello [Name],

Per your request, I have completed the duties outlined in our agreement. If you have any further questions, please be sure to contact me as I want to ensure quality.

Additionally, I’ve included a proprietary script that will aid in the deployment of subsequent projects by detecting anomalies in the calculations.

Sincerely,

[Name]”

Really? Nobody talks like this! If you can’t imagine yourself speaking the words you’re writing, then don’t write it that way.

Here’s a better way to write this email:

“Hi [Name],

All done. Let me know if you have any questions!

P.S. I went ahead and created a script that’ll prevent those calculation bugs from happening again. It should come in handy for our next project.

Best, 

[Name]”

The same information was communicated, but one sounded like a human, while the other sounded like a robot. 

This isn’t an excuse to be unprofessional, but it’s important that you sound human to earn trust.

Also, having good copy is one of the core components of being a good salesman. 

Know your worth

Here’s something that not a lot of people know...

Clients rarely choose based on price. Meaning, don’t assume that your quote needs to be ridiculously cheap to look more desirable to prospects.

There’s this stereotype that’s been perpetuated in the freelance world that you first must accept pennies on the dollar in order to establish credibility on sites like Upwork or Freelancer and then slowly adjust your price as you gain more ratings.

This is bologna. 

As long as people see lots of value in your proposal and in you, most clients are willing to pay a premium if it means they’ll get quality.

However, everything else held equal, clients WILL choose based on price.

And this is the perfect segue into the next section.

Stand out

When you’re freelancing, one of the things you realize very quickly is how incredibly competitive it is. Whether you’re seeking out prospective clients on sites like Freelancer or you’re pitching people via email, there are usually dozens and dozens (and dozens) of other people gunning for the same contract.

One of the most important things you can do is stand out.

The good news is, strictly following steps one and two will help you differentiate yourself quite a bit already.

However, there’s much more you can do.

When I was freelancing, I made an effort to do more research than any of the other candidates. Often times, it was over an hour of research that I would compile in a concise PDF that I would send them. Doing this was beneficial for a variety of reasons:

It demonstrated my knowledge of the subject.

It built trust. “If he’ll do all this work without the guarantee of a payment, imagine what he’ll do if we start working together.”

It showed the client that I was unique and an out-of-the-box thinker.

It revealed that I was extremely valuable.

The reason why this helps you stand out is because nobody else does it. A majority of the proposals employers receive on freelancing sites are all templates. And the remaining are usually customized, but short and lackluster.

When you send a thought out, thoroughly researched proposal that is completely customized to the prospect, you immediately go to the front of the line.

Another thing I used to do, especially on freelance sites, is email the person instead of sending them a proposal through the website.

It’s not something you can always do, but when you can, it usually generates a lot of positive feedback.

Again, it’s something nobody ever does, so when it happens, prospects tend to pay more attention to you than the other candidates.

Continue to educate yourself

When freelancers really start to get in the swing of things, they often neglect personal development. 

They think that the knowledge they gain on the job is enough. Freelancing becomes more fulfilling when you can charge high rates because you have the background and expertise that nobody else has.

Additionally, the data science field is extremely volatile. New technology gets released every day and programming languages are frequently updated.

Staying on top of all these changes, and even anticipating changes based on industry trends, will make you more valuable.

Consider attending a conference in your specific field. A good example is the Spark + AI Summit.

You can consider building projects on the side to strengthen your portfolio. I recommend various python project ideas to get you started. Some other good ideas include: bootcamps, MOOCs, and certifications.

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@charlie-custerCharlie Custer

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Charlie Custer is a marketer and marketing analyst with experience from everything from After Effect

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