Is data visualization an option for freelancing?
February 2, 2019 3:59 PM   Subscribe

After a lot of thought and a good bit of therapy, I'm starting the move from a standard office developer to a more freelance software career. This is a prospect I view with not a little trepidation, but it feels right. I've got at least a year (and maybe more) of building a portfolio, picking up side gigs, and starting to build a business.

I'd like to pick a niche to focus on, and I've really loved the data visualization stuff I've done in the past (in that, "wait, it's 2am already?" way). What can I do to find out more about the market for visualization, and where I might fit in it?

My particular concern is that a data visualization position might really be more about data science or UX, with a side of occasional visualization. Not a problem, but I'd like to have some idea of the skills needed before I focus too closely.

Short details on my background: science and comp sci degrees, 20-ish years of software, hardware, QA, currently doing full stack web software development. So, I'm up to date on tech, but I'm short on business and networking skills. I'll be working those up along the way as well, though I'm feeling a bit lost right now.
posted by cowcowgrasstree to Work & Money (4 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Our company used to hire a freelancer to make infographics for marketing purposes, though we supplied the data. Is that the sort of thing you're thinking of? That's more a graphic design job than a data job.
posted by brainmouse at 4:55 PM on February 2, 2019

Response by poster: You can get a feel for the work at Ghostweather, scroll down to The Kinds of Data Vis Work Out There
posted by cowcowgrasstree at 5:27 PM on February 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Andy Kirk has compiled a a Twitter list of visualization freelancers that currently includes 131 people. He has also posted a number of interviews with prominent visualization designers, in which the first question asks how they got into the field.

Maarten Lambrechts wrote a blog post about his first year as a freelancer.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 7:07 AM on February 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

80% of a data project is data preparation. Visualization only is a tough sell as a freelancer.

You can get away with less data preparation if you specialize in say Google Analytics or marketing analytics since your value-add is knowing the data structure and being an expert at the questions a client is more likely to ask.

It’s better if you do have some data scientist background or some data preparation background so you can handle an end-to-end project for a smaller shop.

Contact local recruiters posting ads for jobs that are appealing, set a coffee meeting, ask them to check out your resume and tell you what skills are hot in your market (and the price paid). Local user groups and meetups are also a good source of information. You can decide your direction from there. Good luck!
posted by crazycanuck at 11:19 AM on February 3, 2019 [3 favorites]

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