By Lillian Pierson, P.E., Mentor to World-Class Data Leaders and Entrepreneurs, CEO of Data-Mania
When many of us start freelancing, we couldn’t feel more excited. It feels amazing to work from anywhere, choose your clients and only take on projects you love.
But after a while, you may start to feel burnt out. As a data freelancer, there are only so many clients you can serve and projects you can take on. Your income is heavily dependent on how many hours you put in.
This article is a guide for all data freelancers to blow the cap off their income and build a data business that is truly scalable. Even if you’re an experienced data freelancer, these tips will help you pinpoint some of the missing pieces that are holding you back from being as profitable as you could be.
And if you’re wondering, who am I to tell you anything about data freelancing, anyway? Well, I’m Lillian Pierson, and I started out as a data science freelancer way back in 2012, right after they coined the term ‘data scientist’. From there, I started my business Data-Mania, and since then, we’ve supported over 10% of Fortune 100 companies with strategic data plans.
Not just that, but back in 2018, I started coaching other data professionals to start their six-figure data businesses and to date, over 10% of my mentorship clients have landed six-figure contracts within the first seven months of signing up with me.
So if you’ve got data skills you’ve been offering on a freelance or contract basis, and are ready to truly leverage your skills into an uber-profitable data business, let’s get into the exact steps you need to take.
First things first: what’s the difference between a data freelancer and a data entrepreneur?
Let’s start off by defining data freelancers and data entrepreneurs.
When I say data freelancers, I’m referring to data professionals who offer data services in a freelance capacity. They sell their data skills on the open market – whether those are skills in data science, data analytics, data visualization, or any other data specialty.
In some cases, data freelancers may be operating with a team, whether that means they have admin and business support or fellow data professionals helping them to carry out the data services they provide. The work they carry out is always service-based work.
In contrast, as a data entrepreneur, you’re showing up as the CEO and visionary behind your business. When it comes to the delivery of the work, particularly with services, you are most commonly delegating all, if not at least significant portions of that to your team.
How to scale your business as a data freelancer
Before transitioning from a data freelancer to a data entrepreneur you’ll need to examine your options to scale.
If you’re a data service provider, there are a few ways you can scale your business model.
- You could turn it into an agency
- You could turn it into a software as a service (SAAS) company
- Lastly, you could transition your business model into coaching and advising.
For the sake of this article, let’s assume that you’re a data service provider and you want to transform that model into either an agency or software as a service.
Step 1: Document Your Processes
The very first step once you’ve decided to go from solo data freelancer to powerhouse data team is to document your processes.
Document EVERYTHING you do in your business, such as:
- Client Interactions
- Client Intake
- Service Delivery
- Customer Satisfaction
- Customer Retention
Create clear SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) and guidelines for every aspect of your business so you can move on to step two.
Step 2: Begin to Automate and Delegate
Once you’ve clearly documented your processes, you can begin to optimize those processes through automation and delegation.
Here are just some examples of how you can save time and BOOST profitability through automation.
- Booking Client Sales Calls
You DEFINITELY don’t need to be spending your precious time getting prospects booked onto your calendar. You also don’t need to be spending time vetting them, going back and forth to see if they might be a good fit.
You can handle all of this through your prospective client call processes.
- Customer Service and Client Interactions
For most customer support and client interactions, you can delegate this work to an administrative assistant. There is no need for you to answer every single email that comes into your inbox!
In order to make this happen, however, you DO need to have clear policies and procedures laid out for your assistant to follow.
- Client Intake
You can automate your client intake process in a snap using a variety of tech tools. At Data-Mania, we use Zapier, Google Forms & ConvertKit to onboard new clients.
- Service Delivery
Yes, really! You can even delegate the delivery of your service, too. Once you’ve built processes around the service you provide and you’ve documented every step that needs to be taken, you can actually find virtual assistants or fellow data experts to come in and follow the instructions and do the work on your behalf!
This would place you in the QA (Quality Assurance) role. Ultimately, you are responsible for the work your business produces. Even if you’re not DOING the work yourself, you have the liability for it – so make sure that it meets your standards.
- Customer Retention and Satisfaction
Create an automated process to follow up with your customers as they’re receiving your service. For example, you could check in with them at the 30% mark, 60% mark, and then check in with them, say 15 days after your product has been or your service has been delivered.
The email process during delivery should essentially check in to make sure that their expectations are not only met but exceeded! Figure out ways to make their client experience as yummy as possible.
Create a streamlined, automated process for collecting feedback from current or even past clients. At Data-Mania, we use Google Forms because it’s free and easy!
Once you’ve done all of this, congratulations! It’s time to move on to step number three.
Step 3: Update Your Messaging
Now that you’ve successfully graduated from data freelancer to data entrepreneur, it’s time to upgrade your messaging.
Make sure your marketing and business documents clearly reflect your new business structure. You want prospective clients to know that you have a team, that you’re a real business and that you are committed to getting results for your customers.
You’ll want to go ahead and update your messaging in places like:
- Website/sales pages
- Social channels
- Contracts and agreements
- Any brand or marketing collateral
While all of this may sound like a LOT of work, by taking the time to document and optimize your processes, you’ll be able to create a business that’s bigger than just YOU. You’ll be able to offer data solutions of a much, much larger scale – because you’re no longer stuck in the weeds of implementation in your business. The more you can automate and delegate, the more you’ll have time to focus on becoming the best data CEO you can be.
Want more support with automations and workflows in your business? Download the Free Data Entrepreneur’s Toolkit – it contains 32 free and low-cost tools to grow your data business. These are the tools I use on a daily basis at Data-Mania that have helped us scale to the multi 6-figure mark.
Bio: Lillian Pierson, P.E. helps data professionals transform into world-class data leaders and entrepreneurs. To date she’s educated over 1 Million data professionals on AI. She’s also been delivering strategic plans since 2008, for organizations as large as the US Navy, National Geographic, and Saudi Aramco.