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Early Career Freelancing/Independent Consulting?


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#1
Brian25

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Hi y’all,

Does anyone here have any experience working as a freelancer or independent consultant in the GIS or planning field, or something that blends the two, especially as an early-career professional? Here’s why I ask.

I currently have a full-time contract job with a regional-level planning agency doing specialized GIS work (started last August, running through the end of December 2010 - I can explain later what exactly it is if it helps), but am unsure as to whether or not I will be extended. Thus, I feel it is necessary, even as I stand still 5 and a half months from the end of it, to get myself in gear for the future.

The main problem I have now is that I have utterly no clue where to start, as I never even had the expectations of doing something like this while I was still in school, when the economy was in good shape.

To give you an idea of the background I come from, I have degrees in geography (Bachelor’s - 2006) and urban planning (Master’s - 2008), with a particular interest in something linking transportation and GIS, but am willing to take almost anything that fits. As you may expect from my posting here, I am looking for something GIS-heavy, as I used it frequently while completing both my degrees.

Does anyone have any tips on what I can do to get this rolling, to help keep myself afloat? Any help that you could give would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Brian

#2
Hans van der Maarel

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I've moved this thread since "Business Opportunities" is more for actual business deals. Also, there's various threads here in this section that deal with starting as a freelancer.
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
Red Geographics
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#3
ProMapper

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Well, I would say freelancing is a tough proposition in the Mapping and GIS field. The generic cartography projects are very few or almost non existent, as you can see from the freelancing websites. Niche GIS projects again will land in your lap if the organisation trusts you with their data as it is quite obvious. So I would recommend you browse the freelancing website to see which all mapping related projects are in demand and then develop those skills or start networking with established mapping and GIS companies to get some projects, but overall it is a tough getting along as a freelancer in mapping and GIS field.

All the very best and if you do get it going please do share your secret with us.

#4
Charles Syrett

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I suggest that you start freelancing now. Don't wait another day. And don't quit your day job!

That's what I did when I started many years ago -- I was working at the government by day and moonlighting by night. The moonlighting came from contacts in my day job, and by the time I left, I was able to hit the ground running. Even the work my company does now can be traced back to that. One connection leads to another, and so on.

So -- today: Start bringing up, in conversations at work, the subject of freelancing. Find out where the boundaries are, the dos and donts in your industry. Don't get off on the wrong foot! Use the warm connections that are available to you now. Keep at it, make the connections, and before you know it, something will come out of the blue.

Doing a "standing start" is much more difficult -- almost impossible, unless you have thousands tucked away to float you while you thrash it out.

Good luck!

Charles Syrett
Map Graphics
http://www.mapgraphics.com

#5
James Hines

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Also, there's various threads here in this section that deal with starting as a freelancer.

The more threads on freelancing the better it is for all involved. Not only is the subject interesting but it does make it much easier for the user rather then doing a tedious search to read the thread. ;)

I suggest that you start freelancing now. Don't wait another day. And don't quit your day job!

And unless you went into your job with your employers knowing that you are a freelancer & agree to let you continue to do so do not let them know about your venture.

"There is much beauty that we fail to see through our own eyes teeming with life forms that give us that perception of our reality.  Leaves on the trees blowing gently in the wind, or scarily, the waves pounding through high surf, or lightly on a warm summer’s day; that opportunity to sit or swim in the water on a white beach.   That comfort to shout, “The universal conscious do you hear me?  I am alive, guide me dear logos towards the path of rightnesses.”  Earned what has been kept, no longer to be absorbed into a life filled with cold damn winds and  that stubborn fog clouding  my vision with nothing but darkness."


#6
Charles Syrett

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I suggest that you start freelancing now. Don't wait another day. And don't quit your day job!

And unless you went into your job with your employers knowing that you are a freelancer & agree to let you continue to do so do not let them know about your venture.


Yes -- you have to tread softly here. Sometimes the only conversation you can safely have is about your employer outsourcing to you after you leave. You have the advantage of being already familiar with the work and the people.

Charles Syrett
Map Graphics
http://www.mapgraphics.com

#7
François Goulet

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Yes -- you have to tread softly here. Sometimes the only conversation you can safely have is about your employer outsourcing to you after you leave. You have the advantage of being already familiar with the work and the people.

Charles Syrett


That's true... My employer knew I was freelancing when they hire me two years ago and I learned they expected - without telling me - that I'd stop once I start working for them.

I'm a GIS Specialist by day and cartographer by night and I limit my freelancing to "pure" cartography (like historic book maps) with no GIS analysis because I don't want to be a competitor to my bosses but once they told me "We don't know who you are working for anymore" because one time they saw a hand drawn map I made for a fantasy novel which they would never, never have made themselves. I found it a little over-dramatic.

Charles is right. Start today, and you may talk to it to your employer if they are open (after all, if they gave you a contract, they know you'll probably not work there forever unless they extended it) but personally, I'd keep it low profile.

#8
Brian25

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Thanks for all the help everybody; I really appreciate your assistance. Got a couple quick questions I want to ask:

First, to Hans:
Would you be ok sending me the links to the various freelancing threads posted in this forum concerning starting out as such? That would be a major help.

Also, to ProMapper - could you post me the link to the freelancing site?

Thanks again guys.

#9
Hans van der Maarel

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First, to Hans:
Would you be ok sending me the links to the various freelancing threads posted in this forum concerning starting out as such? That would be a major help.


This one would be a good place to start, but if you read through this entire Business of Cartography section you'll find a lot more information.
Hans van der Maarel - Cartotalk Editor
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#10
rudy

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I agree with Charles' earlier comment: Start freelancing now if you are at serious about wanting to get into it full time at a later date. The freelance job postings on the Internet may be scarce but I have found that it is the personal onnections you make that matter the most. One job/client has led me to another. Many time people don't know where to look for a cartographer so if they already know someone they are happy with the'll stick with them and recommend them to others. It takes many years to build up a substantial client base in this way so start early.

And if you are moonlighting, be discrete with your day job.

#11
Adam Wilbert

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Many time people don't know where to look for a cartographer so if they already know someone they are happy with the'll stick with them and recommend them to others.


Rather than just look to connect with business already looking for cartographers, I've found most of my success by approaching businesses that didn't even know they needed one. I've recently started doing work for a regional magazine just by seeing their press release, and put together a proposal to help enhance their articles with small "signature-style" inset maps. Every piece of junk mail that has a cruddy screen grab from Google Maps on it goes into a "prospects" folder that I keep, and that helps sell my services to people who didn't even know to ask in the first place.

Adam Wilbert

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#12
Brian25

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First, to Hans:
Would you be ok sending me the links to the various freelancing threads posted in this forum concerning starting out as such? That would be a major help.


This one would be a good place to start, but if you read through this entire Business of Cartography section you'll find a lot more information.


Thanks man.

#13
Brian25

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Many time people don't know where to look for a cartographer so if they already know someone they are happy with the'll stick with them and recommend them to others.


Rather than just look to connect with business already looking for cartographers, I've found most of my success by approaching businesses that didn't even know they needed one. I've recently started doing work for a regional magazine just by seeing their press release, and put together a proposal to help enhance their articles with small "signature-style" inset maps. Every piece of junk mail that has a cruddy screen grab from Google Maps on it goes into a "prospects" folder that I keep, and that helps sell my services to people who didn't even know to ask in the first place.


Cool, thanks Adam. Never would have thought of that, I'll have to look into this.




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