How to make it as an web analytics freelancer

. Posted in: Inspiration
Tags: Career

One full year as a freelance digital consultant just flew by. Yeah, I began the year calling myself an analytics freelancer. But I ended up doing much more than that. I know. I’ve been there. I even saved enough money before quitting my job to go six months unpaid.

So far, I’ve been working on so many interesting things. Like data strategy as a whole. Ecommerce strategy. Customer Data Platforms. Teaching and speaking. Omnichannel analytics (fancy words for online and offline measurement). And much more.

Now, since it’s Christmas soon, and since I’ve been at it for a year, it’s time to take a good look in the mirror. To reflect. And one thing I’ve always loved, is to share my thoughts and experiences. So why not share something about going freelance?

How to go freelance?

I often talk to people who would like to go freelance, but are really reluctant to make the jump. After all, having a job is safe. And it can be scary as h**l to quit that.

Now, there are lots of ways to start a freelance career in this ol’ analytics business. Some are harder, some are easier. Probably. But one thing is for sure: No two journeys are alike (just as in digital purchase journeys - if a client ever asks you to find the top three journeys, run).

So, in the interest of helping others, I’ll share some of the learnings I’ve made. At least in retrospect.

Network is everything

Right now, you’re thinking “Oh, I’ve heard this one before”. But I’m serious. Not once have I had to think about selling. You know, that thing people do when they do marketing, social media posts, call people or write people to sell their services.

Yes, not once have I done that. Except for on my first day as a freelancer. I posted a message on LinkedIn. Also, for a few months before leaving my old job, I discreetly told anyone I know about my plans.

And what happened? Clients came to me. Sometimes directly from people I know, but most often through recommendations.

I won’t talk too much about how to build your network. But don’t do it by connecting with everyone on LinkedIn. I built my network over +10 years by meeting people, knowing my s**t, being nice and by learning. My network is earned, not acquired.

Be an expert

Well, okay. I know freelancers who just appear to be experts. So it’s possible to make it even though you’re not. I wouldn’t recommend it though. If you don’t deliver, it’ll be much harder to get repeat business and recommendations.

Becoming an expert at what you do is hard. It requires passion and desire to learn and to experiment. In analytics, that has to mean that you have to have an affection for things like javascript, Excel, data visualisation and more.

Also, becoming an expert takes time. Some say it takes 10,000 hours to become really good at something. And that’s only if you combine it with enough passion, that your time spent learning actually teaches you something.

Think about that. If you take five weeks of vacation in a year, and work 8 hours a day the rest of the year (assuming you don’t get sick), and you don’t spend your working hours doing anything else, that is five years. Five years. Just to become an expert in one field.

How long would it take to become an expert web analyst who must master (pick any four just for the fun of it) Google/Adobe Analytics, Google/Adobe Tag Manager, Javascript, HTML/CSS, Restful APIs, SQL, R, Python, presentations, statistics and… You know where I’m getting at.

Know your limits

Just as important as being an expert, it’s equally important to know your limits. This applies to time as well as skills. Don’t be afraid to say no. Or to say that you don’t know. When you’re a freelancer, it’s just you.

So you can’t do impossible amounts of work. You only have so many hours to do it. So don’t overpromise and don’t take more projects in than you can handle. And it’s hard to say no. But it’s necessary if you want to avoid disappointing yourself and your clients.

Likewise, you need to say no to projects that are outside of your skillset. Yeah, maybe you did setup a Facebook campaign for a friend once. But just because an analytics client of yours asks you to it, don’t just accept it. Say it’s not your expertise.

Have fun

But most importantly. Have fun. That - in my view - should be the purpose of everything you do. If you’re in it for anything else, it’ll be hard. So my philosophy is pretty much to work with things I enjoy.