How to become freelance data scientist while studying?

Ilyes Talbi
5 min readJan 16, 2022
How to become freelance data scientist while studying?

During my last year of studies I had the chance to be freelance-student-data-scientist. This unusual experience was an amazing opportunity for me. In this article I’ll present why and how to start while you are still student.

What are the advantages of starting as a student?

When you are a student you don’t have much to lose, that was my case. Freelancing can only be beneficial (if you manage things properly). Apart from the impact that such an experience can have on your CV, the benefits are numerous.

Increase your skills

In data science, nothing is more formative than working on concrete projects. School projects will allow you to understand the tools used but give a biased vision of what the work of a data scientist in a company is. As a freelance data scientist, you will have to find ways to answer your client’s wishes and adapt your way of working.

For example, I used to work only on Python, once my code was written I would run it on an IDE I knew how to use. Obviously when you are a freelancer you have to offer a complete tool to the client, codes are not enough. It was an opportunity for me to work on the deployment of models and to get interested in data architecture.

Beyond the technical aspect, you learn a lot about project management in general. As a freelancer you are in charge of everything:

  • Finding missions
  • Convincing clients
  • Writing quotes
  • Doing the job the client asks
  • Presenting your work
  • Write the invoice and manage the accounting

It’s a huge job that you shouldn’t neglect but that allowed me to learn a lot.

Meet interesting people and make contacts

A successful mission is the best way to make contacts who trust you. Whatever path you take after your studies, contacts are important. What I really like about freelancing is that you meet great people from different backgrounds every day. And at each meeting, even if it doesn’t lead to a collaboration, you learn a lot.

Financing your studies

Even if my approach was mainly motivated by the desire to learn, I quickly realized that economically no student job could compete with being a freelancer. As a beginner you can charge up to 500$ per day. Considering the work it requires, this salary is well deserved.

How to find your first jobs?

Once you are convinced that this experience can only be beneficial to you, you must find your first projects.

The first assignments are the most difficult to find. Personally, I was a bit lucky. As soon as I announced on LinkedIn that I was going freelance, I was contacted by several people and I was able to start my first assignments.

You should look for your first jobs in your own network, that’s the best way to start.

You can also go through networking platforms like Malt. I found two projects on this platform and each time everything went well.

On Malt you have to wait until a client finds your profile and sends you a request for a quote. If you prefer to choose your missions you can use UpWork. Clients post an assignment and if the assignment interests you you can apply. With UpWork it will be much harder to get 500$/day, there is a lot of concurrents from all the countries in the world, which decreases what you can expect.

Once you have made contact with a potential client you have to convince them to move forward with you. This step is a bit more complicated, be convincing! If you are interested I can provide you with examples of business proposals that helped me to convince.

This part will also help you to train for job interviews.

3 tips to succeed

I’ve only been a freelancer since June 2020 but I already have some tips to get you started.

Don’t be afraid

One of the fears I had when I started out was the fear of missing a project.

What if the client is not happy? What if he doesn’t pay me? What if I make a mistake?

This is the case for any freelancer at the beginning and this fear is bigger when you are student.

This fear is natural but it should not hold you back. The risk of missing a job is real but if it happens you must be able to find a solution with the client (I hope it won’t happen to me or to you 🙂 ; you don’t have to fail to learn but at worst, let’s say that failure allows you to learn).

Don’t cut your prices because you are a student

To find assignments you must be self confident. The price is a guarantee of quality and self-confidence for the client. Paradoxically, a price that is too low may be too suspicious. And even if you are studying, you will deliver a quality work and deserve to be paid the right price.

Be organized

As a student freelancer, you have to combine your professional life with your student life. It is important to be organized so that you don’t compromise your studies.

To get organized I kept an updated checklist of what I had to do, it helps not to lose track and get overwhelmed. For that I use Notion, a great tool to get organized.

I also synchronized my class schedule with my Google calendar, to have everything I had to do in the same place and avoid making while choosing a slot with a client.

Apart from organizing your time, you have to manage the emotional aspect. When I started freelance assignments, I had less and less motivation to work on my studies projects. Keep in mind that your studies must remain your central preoccupation.

That was my personal experience, I don’t guarantee that it’ll be a good idea for you too, but I’m sure that the life of a student freelance data scientist can be amazing!



Ilyes Talbi

HEY! I am Ilyes. Freelance computer vision engineer and french bloger. I will help you to discover the world of AI :)