How to start as a freelance data & analytics consultant – part 2 – How to find your niche

How important is a niche in freelancing and how do you find the one for you. I explain how I found my different niches.

I had a fixed date until I needed to make a decision. My parental leave would end by the end of September. So after that, I needed to find a way that will pay my rent.

That left me with basically two months to figure out what I could do. I always thought about freelancing, but what should I offer?

I was working in product for seven years now. So product consulting would be the most obvious choice. But I was a skeptic. Doing some brainstorming sessions, I would not come up with offers that would spark. For the struggles I know you usually have in product, I didn’t come up with good consulting ideas. So I put that aside.

The next area would be agile consulting. I introduced agile methods several times before. And I attended product owner training and read a lot about the role. But the idea of coaching backlog creation, writing user stories did not spark joy. But still, there was a market for it. So I kept it as a fallback in my head (it would never come to it).

I always had an enormous affection for numbers and data in general. During my apprenticeship at Continental, I asked for departments where I could crunch numbers. I strived in controlling. Please give me an excel file, and I am a happy person.

Therefore it was no big surprise that my take on product management was always heavy on data. I wanted to see if our efforts will have effects on the user’s performance. So I spent plenty of time setting up tracking, analyzing segments, doing a/b tests, and crunch data in databases. Is it a passion? Not really, but it is safe to call it significant interest.

This data thing was always tickling me for a long time already. So, no surprise that it appeared now. “Wouldn’t it be great to work on data setups, crunching numbers all day”? I knew plenty of companies that would love to do more with data from my recent job but haven’t had the resources.

The idea grew stronger, and I decided to pursue the idea and look for the first data gigs.

So I found my initial niche. And I still started pretty broadly. I looked for companies (mostly startups) who wanted to do something with data but couldn’t find the time or the right solutions. I basically would do anything to get my hands on data setups.

Over time my niche got more special. I love technically challenging setups, setups that needed a way to scale, setups that are messed up and needed a cleanup. These are still my favorite ones. They are my core niche—the ones I can do with closed eyes. And I love to do them, even after six years.

But I always look into other niches. Setting up a useful marketing dashboard, doing product analytics workshops, make a concept for a big modern BI stack. These are challenging because they are something new or make me uncomfortable (workshops..). But they help me to find new niches. Building up modern BI data stacks came from one of these adventures, and it became a regular part of my projects.

Based on my learnings, a good niche is when a significant interest, some experience (sometimes just a little), and a market opportunity meet. It does not have to be your role you are currently working in, but it sure can. And always look for the parts where you are doing remarkable things. Maybe you are a killer in ad account structure. Perhaps you are the best at structuring projects. Maybe you can churn away high-quality wireframes. Put these specials in front of you, so the right offers find you.

In the next part, I will tell you how I cheated in the beginning and why it’s cool to have a solid plan b.

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