One of the most exciting and silent phenomenon I have seen developing during the last years/months in data visualization is the growing number of people who are transitioning or already succeeded to make a living by being a data visualization freelancer.
Who is a data visualization freelancer? Basically a self-employed person who sells data visualization services to companies and institutions. What kind of services? I don’t know … the sky is the limits.
There are people like Jan Willem Tulp, who designs pleasurable and accurate visualizations and is just turning into a full-time information visualizer. There is Andy Kirk, who writes the notable blog visualisingdata.com and teaches visualization in 1-day workshops. There is of course a veteran like Stephen Few who consults big BI companies like Tableau Software and writes among the best books in the field. And people like David McCandless who designs insanely popular (and discussed) beautiful visualizations.
Finally, there is Moritz Stefaner who works from home and seems to have the pretty rare ability to conjugate aesthetics with function and make everyone happy; as with the lately acclaimed OECD Better Life Index.
The brief story of me and Moritz at the airport.
And it’s exactly by discussing with Moritz that I came up with the idea of digging deeper into this fantastic world. The thing went more or less like that: I met Moritz at the airport, when we were both invited for a panel at Visualizing Europe, and during a casual chat he told me something along these lines: “You know Enrico … academia and research are cool but at some point I wanted to make real stuff for real people“. Yeah sure I understand. “… I always had small consultancy jobs during my studies so I had some experience … at some point I decided to become a data visualization freelancer“. Cool! “… so you know what? I work from home, I can plan the time myself and make sure I play with my kids and talk with my wife” Uh!? “… and of course I am being successful and I am invited here and there so I am travelling a bit around the world and meeting interesting people“.
Ok, are you salivating already or what? I must admit it, despite I really love my academic job, I felt a bit jealous.
Send your questions! I will interview Moritz next week.
Ok so … I will be interviewing Moritz next week about data visualization freelancing. I started collecting a number of questions for him but I need your help! What would you like to ask to Moritz? What are you curious about? Is there a nasty question no one has the courage to ask? I think it would be much much better if you guys tell me what *you* want to know. So, don’t miss this opportunity. You could realize that being a data visualization freelancer is not a dream. It’s definitely possible! And Moritz can tell you how or at least provide some indications.
(On a side note, I will be experimenting with skype-based video interviews for the first time. I am totally excited by this new format and I’d love to have your feedback once it is done. The only video I currently host here is my interview with JD Fekete on Jacques Bertin, but the quality is really bad. I did some initial tests and the results look amazing. I really hope you will like it.)
Few additional reflections.
1st – Freelancing and working from home is not exclusive to data visualization, it is part of a bigger trend and it’s in my opinion absolutely awesome. The web is full of bloggers and small entrepreneurs that make a living by writing their blogs and giving their services by working from home. If you want to know more give a read to the super-successful 4-hour workweek. Note: some people love it and some people absolutely detest it, but no one can deny it captures a strong trend in our society. You can decide to ignore it or to read it and take the risk to have your life changed. You decide.
2nd – Being a professor used to be one of the best jobs in the world for the amount of freedom professors have (and still has a large degree of benefits in my opinion) but being a freelancer and working from home is a good competitor. Academia has its glow of knowledge and a little bit of mystery on its side but this whole segmentation of professions is going to disappear anyway. I see academia and freelancing somewhat similar as they both feature really special amounts of freedom. Academia maybe gives more opportunities to really do whatever comes to your mind but freelancing, as far as I can understand, has a considerable reduction in the amount of bureaucracy you have to bear with.
3rd – Most importantly, I believe freelancing is just a perfect fit for data visualization. I am not a big fan of generalist visualization because I think people get the best out of it when it meets the specific needs of a project. And this happens when you have a competent person able to listen, understand, and offer a tailored solution. For this reason I am a strong proponent of data visualization freelancing. It pisses me off that nobody is talking about it because it’s really a great trend. Plus, the more competent visualization designers we will have around, the more we will be able to show people great examples to take inspiration from.
Again: send your questions!
Ok, let me repeat it again. I will be interviewing Moritz some time next week. This means the interview will appear here no sooner than about 10 days. I will be able to take your questions into account only if they come during the next few days. Don’t miss this opportunity, send your questions or ideas to me and Moritz. The easiest way is to add a comment here below. Otherwise you can contact us on twitter @FILWD and @moritz_stefaner or send me a private message.
Take care, have fun. We are waiting for your input!