Is it possible to have a freelance/independent consulting career as a Data Scientist? If yes, what are some examples examples? 

Question raised by Munmun Nath.

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I've been working as a data-scientist for years without ever hearing it labelled as such. Working as a programmer with a love of R&D I've been able to imagineer data-science strategies to find the solution to most of the challenges involved in decisions/strategy/identified problems. I've engaged in freelance arrangements with marketing companies and agencies for years because I developed my own tools to do data-mining quickly years before it was even common practice to involve in small business. I've been working as primarily a developer of software and websites. Being around such businesses that generate lots of data in a digital market over 16 years, case study examples I can initially think of would include:

  • generating marketing databases
  • monitoring competitor product price changes
  • providing tracking information on the search engine rankings on target keywords for companies and their competitors (along with using actual search engine user histories to inform on low-competitor keywords and popularity etc) - the usual seo thing everyone is doing now.
  • tacking organised crime gangs buying high-value goods with stolen identities and credit cards - the card operators forcing a charge-back to the retailer who have to take the loss of the stock. After complaining to government channels about how retailers are taking the cost of the weaknesses of a credit card product and not seeing police help - I R&D better ways for my retail clients to automatically have a new layer of risk-assessment in their ordering systems to flag suspicious looking orders (you'd be surprised what the best metric I've found for this)
  • building customer profiles from their behaviour patterns and past purchases to customise promotional e-mails - each customer getting a unique email. In the case of a fashion retailer - they got  the promotion timed just after their payday when they are usually spending disposable income, pushing colours and brands and styles they like, in the price range they like, seasonal/weather sensitivity of product selections and only stock available in their size.
  • profiling the survivability of the current and potential clients for a business to business provider of an IT software solution. This included pulling in public accounting records to get profit performances, crossing this with the targets local population for their own local market size buying their products, distance to competitors, likely age group of their customers. This goes towards identifying the VIP or low-hanging clients to strategically target amongst agressive competition focusing on the same small market of clients in an industry set to shrink to a point not sustainable for all competing suppliers - helping to identify which are the right customers to end up holding.
  • product design - even just graphic design has been a big R&D/analytical area for data-science skills - conversion rate improvement.
  • alot of research goes into offering an evidence-driven marketing strategy - good research guarantees good results, I do more than necessary - but you are only as good as your last project right?

I do not have great stage-skills or sales abilities so 90% of the time these data-science ideas and concepts were not understood by the non-technical clients and it was entertained purely on trust I'd established customers from previous work. I might have originally only helped tweak a pay-per-click campaign -  It's amazing how much interesting work I've found from a relationship that started taking on some short, low paid very dull work. I've always bumped into clients challenges and problems where I can use data-science approaches by accident. Usually from over-hearing staff chatter or asking why a client doesn't sound as happy as they usually are - I sleep on it and then start firing solutions and ideas to help. Rarely have I been contacted by anyone looking for data-science approaches, skills or solutions to their problems. Now I'm actively re-starting my own freelance business to fund my studies to focus my future in medical research tools - my biggest challenge is figuring out how non-technical people who have never heard of these strategies would actually describe it if they were seeking such assistance? None of the freelancer market places have entertained my request to buy search data from them on the freelancer searches they see, or which searches do not find any matches - these are the gold nuggets we both need!

I hope that helps with your request for examples! feel free to PM me, I am always looking for freelancers to collaborate on ideas with potential.


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