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Thoughts on being a freelance GIS analyst / cartographer?

jacciz

Member
Messages
19
Points
1
I'm working in a very entry level position and considering freelance work to beef up my skills and to challenge myself. I'm still pretty early in my career - Master's in Planning, Bachelor's in GIS and have an intermediate understanding of GIS after having done a few projects in grad school. I also studied Python for 100+ hours as to learn to write scripts. I'm not hurting financially, but GIS is definitely a field I am passionate about so am willing to do pro bono work.

Fellow planners, any tips or insight? Would your company / municipality consider hiring a freelancer. If so, what for? Any thoughts of getting my foot in the door?
 

Michele Zone

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7,657
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28
I'm not actually a planner. I'm still a Wannabe Planner. ;)

But I have done freelance work for a number of years. Some months back, I offered to do one time clean up of some websites for a local nonprofit and I did that and ultimately was hired as their very part-time webmaster and that is slowly opening doors for me to other website work.

I made it clear upfront that I believed in what they were doing and they had some good pieces, like good content, but the websites needed some technical and SEO help and I could provide that. I also made it clear I had no plans to maintain the sites on an ongoing basis for free. I didn't know at the time they were intending to hire a webmaster.

Work on putting together a portfolio and work on your value position.
 

arcplans

As Featured in "High Times"
Messages
6,446
Points
26
A mutual friend of my GF's family does this. Him and I hang out and I have solicited a proposal from him to do some clean up work for us as I am too busy to get our GIS off the ground. He does well for himself as a consultant, but than again he has many connections in the industry.

The real issue is publishing maps to the public, not necessarily creating data for municipalities. ESRI has actually done a decent job where you don't need a middle man to get maps to go live. Also have you considered marketing your skills to dark side teams? This industry is all about connections. When you start out, it is hard to make those connections so networking is key.
 

jacciz

Member
Messages
19
Points
1
I agree, it totally helps being excited about the potential client. I put together a tiny website showcasing my portfolio. I am using Illustrator since I believe the quality of my maps can greatly improve so I plan on uploading those. I do see a lot of bad maps out there and want to change that.

Raf - can I ask what type of GIS work this friend is doing? Database management, cartography, updating data, writing scripts? QGIS or ArcMap? I do have a few close connections in the public sector. Also a few acquaintances in the private sector I met from grad school and (failed?) interviews but I think the dark side is where I want to go. I haven't talked to anyone yet about my secret plans. I'm not happy with my current job situation and want to change that and I really love good maps.
 

Michele Zone

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7,657
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I haven't talked to anyone yet about my secret plans. I'm not happy with my current job situation and want to change that and I really love good maps.
I read that and I hear someone making this into a dirty secret and creating drama unnecessarily. I would not talk about secret plans or being unhappy with the job. I would talk about loving good maps and wanting to fill a niche in the market and that you are looking to supplement your income.

Then if it takes off so much that you can afford quit your job, cool, but don't burn bridges here or dish dirt. You can want to do a side gig without being unhappy with your job.

It's fine to frame it as "trying to make my peace with the gig economy and the fact that no one has job security anymore." Lots of people have multiple small streams of income to try to get by because of stuff going on out in the larger world.
 

jacciz

Member
Messages
19
Points
1
I read that and I hear someone making this into a dirty secret and creating drama unnecessarily. I would not talk about secret plans or being unhappy with the job. I would talk about loving good maps and wanting to fill a niche in the market and that you are looking to supplement your income.

Then if it takes off so much that you can afford quit your job, cool, but don't burn bridges here or dish dirt. You can want to do a side gig without being unhappy with your job.

It's fine to frame it as "trying to make my peace with the gig economy and the fact that no one has job security anymore." Lots of people have multiple small streams of income to try to get by because of stuff going on out in the larger world.
Sorry, I should have worded it differently. I don't at all want to burn bridges. I guess by secret plans, I meant I haven't had a discussion with my former supervisor to ask for advice. I agree, make it a small side business for now. I really do appreciate your advice.
 

arcplans

As Featured in "High Times"
Messages
6,446
Points
26
Raf - can I ask what type of GIS work this friend is doing? Database management, cartography, updating data, writing scripts? QGIS or ArcMap?
He is doing database management and updating data for a few municipalities that are short staff and lack fundamental understanding of GIS. When i started my new position for my new muni, they didn't have any GIS, so have started from the ground up, which has its ups and downs.
 
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