What Do You Provide?

This post is another inspired by the Freelancing Course taught by Seth Godin on Udemy. In it I’ll share how what it is I offer freelancing clients. Spoiler alert, it might not be what you expect from a data visualization freelancer.

As you read my responses to the question I want you to think about how you would answer these questions for yourself… and then… gasp… answer them yourself.

What do people buy when they buy something from you?

On the surface, those who work with me are paying for a Tableau expert.

The promise of this expert would be their ability to leverage Tableau to communicate the insights of another's data in a visual form that feels intuitive and enjoyable to the target audience.

However, it often feels like those I work with are simply looking for someone who can help them based on a track record of successfully helping others resolve similar problems in past. Yep, classic chicken and egg problem.

Leave out the easy, generic stuff… What are you doing that’s difficult?

Relationship building. Counseling. Consoling. Hand holding.

Taking the time to understand the context of the problems those I work with are facing well enough to provide a valuable solution can be trying. Not only for me but also those I work with. I am often arriving on a scene that needs to drastically change. In these tense scenarios, it is important to tread lightly, listen closely, and be extremely thoughtful in the suggestions made.

Doing this work well requires a lot of questions to be answered:

  • What’s your business?

  • Who is the audience?

  • What data are we working with and how did it come to be?

  • What are your expectations for this project?

  • What are you or your audiences points of interest?

  • Do you have set styles or a preference?

  • What are your concerns? What keeps you up at night?

  • What are the concerns of your audience and/or stakeholders?

  • and on… and on...

This way my team and I deeply understand the context of the visualizations developed before we commit. Without this deep understanding, we risk losing our clients’ trust, respect and we won’t enjoy the work nearly as much. Lose enough trust and enjoyment of the work you do and you’re sure to ruin your business.

Throughout this interrogation process, we might find that a dashboard isn’t where the focus should be. In fact, often I find that we need to invest more time into cleaning up the data before moving forward with designs. This isn’t a bad thing and it’s very common.

Sure, it might mean I don’t get hired, but I also saved both myself and the client from an unfruitful experience. Pressing pause at the appropriate time, I have found is a major respected builder. If the client wants to work with me on the design, they’ll circle back after the other pieces of the puzzle are put in place.

Another discovery that delays design work is finding out the client doesn’t understand their audience well enough.

A dashboard with resonance can’t be developed if we don’t deeply understand those meant to receive the message.

This point is even harder to push than the point about their data. First off, making this point is a bit more subjective than, it’s also much more personal.

I’m basically telling the client they don’t understand their stakeholders well enough.

Imagine going into a store to buy a gift for someone and the clerk tells you that you don’t understand the person your gifting well enough. Come back after you get to know them better. Not exactly winning points with anyone, huh?

However, if we don’t push through these difficult questions we may end up with even worse surprises. Our aim is to close the conversation feeling that we both deeply understand why we are doing what we’re are doing. We also acknowledge the assumptions made that could trip us up along the way.

In Closing

I know this post was a bit rambly, but I’d love to hear about the challenges you face as a freelancer.

It’s definitely an interesting topic; one we likely don’t talk about enough.