So, being an AI freelancer sounds pretty good. You’ve got the skills and the passion, and you want to break out on your own to show what you can do on your terms.
Working for another party can be stultifying. Sure, it’s steady, it gives holiday and sick pay, and your pension payments get boosted, but being your own boss offers the intoxicating prospect of freedom.
But, hold on there, cowboy. AI freelancing can work out well, but it isn’t for everyone. Some people are better fits than others. So, before you take the plunge, it’s wise to cast your eye about a little to see if those sunlit expanses you have in your mind are anything like what tends actually to be the case with most AI freelancer positions.
What Is an AI Freelancer?
Freelancing in AI is not all that common, as it turns out. Here’s the situation as of last year.
The overwhelming majority of freelancers (82%) in the US are writers. It makes intuitive sense. It certainly chimes with the classic archetype of the freelancer churning out (hopefully) inspired (but sometimes not-so-inspired) copy from the comfort of their spare bedroom, for the benefit of a roster of clients.
An AI freelancer is a different breed altogether. They are not on the list of popular freelancing positions because their skills are rare, so, in the big picture, they form quite a minority of professions. This is what makes them in demand and what makes the work so interesting.
One thing’s for sure, the AI sector is on the cusp of some pretty impressive growth – from $387.45 billion in 2022 to $1394.3 billion by 2030 – so now is a great time to get on board.
Let’s look at some of the work that can come up.
Types of AI freelancer jobs
These are the professionals who do big data processing. In other words, they collect and analyze large sets of structured and unstructured data. More than this, they use technical skills and other areas such as social science to set their data analyses into contexts.
Fundamentally, this is an AI specialist position that has a lot in common with regular computer programming, so the individual will naturally have experience in languages such as Spark and Natural Language Processing (NLP).
Collaborative skills will also be helpful here so that group tasks can be accomplished by probably remote freelancers working independently.
This is a means by which vast amounts of data are mined to discern hidden trends and topics. One technique for this is Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA), an algorithm that assists in uncovering the sought-for topics. The goal is to extract good-quality subjects that are clear, meaningful, and segregated.
Python is a hugely powerful assistance tool here, so expertise in this area will likely be a prerequisite for this position.
When a company wants to develop a website, it’s to the Full Stack Developer that they will invariably turn. What do they do? Firstly, they have to have expertise in writing code so that the website’s nuts and bolts are put together in an efficient and well-structured fashion.
Then, Full Stack Developers have to have a good awareness of database construction and operation, system engineering, design, and how to handle client demands. They have to be able to stay on top of all these areas and understand how they all interplay in producing the finished website.
AI Project Manager
It seems a little unusual for a manager also to be a freelancer. However, project management focuses on a specific goal, or package of goals, that usually has some finite lifespan. From this perspective, freelancing and management are very compatible bedfellows.
There’s at least one advantage over a manager who’s on the payroll: a freelance manager is divorced from office machinations and hence is better able to concentrate on the mission without being embroiled in workplace politics.
The priority of an AI Project Manager is usually to implement AI and machine learning onto platforms. Beyond this, their role is one of supporting teams with their operational needs. Skills they need include a deep knowledge of machine learning, automation, and natural language processing.
Often, many of the above jobs can be loosely termed ‘AI Engineer.’ It’s also the case that an AI freelancer can be involved in a mix of some or all of the above positions, concentrating on different areas for different clients, from PySpark databricks to pandas DataFrame.
If we want a general idea of what AI engineering boils down to, think like this. Anywhere AI is used, it’s been created, maintained, repaired, and developed by an AI Engineer. Using neural networks and machine learning, they keep the AI networks in tip-top shape wherever they’re being used.
A core objective for an AI Engineer is to replace human activity with automation while retaining the critical decision-making capacity. This is intended to free up human attention to focus on fewer uniform areas.
To properly inject AI into an organization’s bloodstream, an AI Engineer has to be able to work alongside a wide variety of other professionals, including electrical engineers, robotics specialists, and software developers.
They also have to retain an awareness of the effect of an AI implementation on the customer, so liaison with customer-facing elements is required too. Regardless of which area of AI freelance work you feel is for you, there are specific steps that you should most definitely bear in mind.
7 Steps to Become an AI Freelancer
Get that degree, then get another
It seems like such a traditional requirement for such an avant-garde area, but it’s still the first step for an aspiring AI freelancer to get a bachelor’s degree. In the eyes of the career market, this is what separates the suitable candidate from the amateur enthusiast.
What sort of degree works here? Well, surprisingly, it doesn’t have to be restricted to computing. It can be, by all means, computer science, but it can also be mathematics, statistics, or even economics.
Next, you should get a postgraduate qualification in something more on-target, like programming languages or machine learning. It is of tremendous help because it demonstrates that you have specialist knowledge of the subject.
This is a requirement often forgotten about by hopeful freelancers. You have to have a skill you can sell. It has to be a skill that the buyer doesn’t have, or doesn’t have in the same quantity, or doesn’t have the opportunity to deploy themselves. So, you need to highlight what makes you enough of a commodity worth paying.
You’re not just getting an average paycheck and clocking in, doing an average day at work, then going home. You’re special with a particular talent. Show that up front with a nice bit of card embossed with an educational establishment’s coat of arms. It works.
You can polish your profile by attending an AI engineering bootcamp. Topics these might focus on include machine learning, data science, or coding, and the potential in terms of skills and expertise gathering is enormous.
They usually take less than a year to complete and, in a pretty concentrated fashion, deliver enormous benefits not just in expertise but in industry contacts too. You’ll come into contact with leading figures in the industry, and the connections you make with others like you will likely stay with you throughout your subsequent steps into freelancing.
It’s important not to forget the opportunities for learning represented by the self-study internet packages that proliferate. It’s a massively popular sector and becoming more so.
Python, Java, C++, Prolog, Lisp, Julia, R, and a host of other languages, and the answers to questions such as “what is scalable machine learning?” are yours for the learning and just a click away.
Decide on Field
With the ever-increasing incursion of AI into several aspects of life, it’s necessary to decide which area of industrial application you’d like to concentrate on. It could be manufacturing, transport, and healthcare, focusing on areas like security or robotics. It’s important to establish a specialty if you want people to see what you’re selling as worth the fee.
Take advantage of any little opportunities that come your way to add experience to that portfolio. It might be worth taking on the odd bit of unpaid work if it’ll benefit your prospects. For this reason, it can be worth taking on an internship.
If you’re an untested commodity, you want to show what you can do with no risk to the user. It’s a bit like a free version of a package.
Depending on the organization hosting the internship, it can be a fabulous way of making contacts, acquiring skills, and helping make that decision on exactly where you want to apply yourself.
There are several certifications that you can study for, including the US Artificial Intelligence Institute Certified Artificial Intelligence Engineer qualification, as well as others such as Google’s Professional Machine Learning Engineer status.
It has to be said that these are by no means a necessity, but they do bestow a certain cache on the bearer. Nothing says expert like the letters of a professional body proudly on display after a name.
Get Your Resume Together
Your resume is still your best sales technique. Some online job vacancy boards have resumes listed as mandatory for up to 95% of positions advertised.
The role of resumes is indeed changing, in that it’s now the case that employers want to be pointed by the resume towards the candidate’s digital profile, especially LinkedIn. When it comes to rules for resumes, there are certain must-haves. Think punchy. Think of achievements. And think about getting the best points about you across to the reader in minimal time.
Then, once you have the perfect resume, you can use it again and again (with updates, of course) for all the many and varied freelancer positions that will float your way. But if they don’t come to you, where do you go to get to them?
Where to Find AI Freelancer Jobs
So, the great news is that artificial intelligence was listed by LinkedIn as the highest emerging job area in the US, showing 74% growth between 2016 and 2020. It’s a significant element in the total growth in digital jobs, as can see here.
So, now’s a great time to become an AI freelancer. But you need to know what to do to track down the work.
As expected, there are websites geared to the needs of the freelancer. Yes, there are fees to be paid, but these sites often work on the premise that you only have to pay them once you’ve secured a paying client. This seems fair. Before that point, you get to create a winning profile and search for work.
Examples of freelancer job sites include the following.
Flexjobs has been offering freelance gigs since 2007, so way before most of us had even considered remote working could be our thing. There’s a fee, but you get high-quality leads and great support material to keep jobseekers buoyant and ever-on-the-hunt.
A very popular site, and you’ll need to be on the ball when a job comes up. Get your pitch in with no delay, then when you’re awarded the work, get the job done, and finally, don’t forget to ask for reviews to enhance your profile.
You can upgrade to Freelancer Plus, which means more of an outlay, but in return, you get more of a prominent profile and information on what your competitors are bidding on a contested job. Sometimes it’s worth investing.
This is a site that’s restricted for use by coders with a certain level of skill. Applicants are screened, and only the top coders get access to the platform. This results in high pay rates being very much the site’s defining characteristic. In other words, don’t think about applying if you’re more of an ‘OK skill, rock-bottom price’ merchant.
The coding jobs available vary, but the site concentrates most on WordPress projects. Codeable prides itself on giving new freelancers a significant level of support, and in times of friction, the site will tend to side with its freelancers rather than invariably with a possibly difficult client.
This is another site aiming for excellence rather than a more mass appeal approach. Toptotal seeks to have the top 3% of freelancers on its books and tries to ensure this through stringent interviewing of all its applicants. The reward for an AI freelancer who makes the Toptotal grade is a wealth of interesting, varied, and high-paid work.
Sensibly sporting a name that feeds the AI freelancer’s gunslinger self-image, Gun.io is favored by many for two reasons.
Firstly, clients are pre-screened, so you won’t come into contact with a customer who’s not strictly legit or not up to speed on market rates. Secondly, suitable jobs are sent straight to you, rather than accessing the site and trawling through the general mass. There are other sites out there well worth a look, so start your voyage to interesting and rewarding work here.
Freelance Your Way to AI Success!
So, now you know what you have to do to launch yourself into a new exciting life as an AI freelancer. It certainly can be exhilarating to be your own boss, and there are benefits in terms of flexibility and achieving a more advantageous work-life balance.
Do bear in mind this caveat. Many of those who go into freelancing fail to take on board in the first place just how unstable it can feel not to have the sure reliability of a steady paycheck every month. To be a successful freelancer, AI or otherwise, takes a personality type that can deal with ups and downs equally well.
As Kipling had it, you need to be able to ‘meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.’ In truth, this isn’t a gift shared by all, yet this advice is lacking in many freelancing guides. So, please digest this nugget and stop to ask yourself some searching questions before you proceed.
However, If you’re confident you’ve what it takes, then rich rewards can be yours. Get ready to cast off, and good luck.