How to be self-employed in the Geospatial Industry? - P2
Kurt Menke is the founder of Birds Eye View GIS, a full-service GIS shop. Like most self-employed people, he wears a lot of hats to manage his business. He’s also an author and a teacher. He shares with us how he has survived the last two decades doing what he loves and how aspiring GIS consultants can do the same.
What projects or clients do you avoid?
Since we all know in geospatial that it all comes down to data, I’ll make that my main criteria when selecting a new client or project.
Some people or organizations are just bad at managing data. They’d call a PDF with coordinates a data set. It can be, but it just adds to the level of effort. Can you really afford to get into that? I’m always careful to find out about what people have for data so that I know where they’re coming from. If I see any red flags about technical capability or the shape of the data, I might make a recommendation that they find someone else to work with.
Do they need an Esri solution? I’m an open-source person, so I probably decline. Maintaining the Esri license requires extra resources for a small business. It can be difficult to manage.
I tend to go for projects that are aligned with my interests and not just my skills. Admittedly, it’s a luxury you’ll have when you have a steady flow of work for several years.
Is the topic interesting? Do I have a good rapport with the client? Can I be their guiding post? Do I know enough about the subject to be their guiding post?
Can you just say yes to anything to get started?
It could work. But I would say you’ll probably find it overwhelming. You want to be in a position where you’ll deliver the deliverable on time and a quality everyone’s happy with, and it’s going to work. So yes, say yes to things as long as you can handle it. If it’s unmanageable, your work and the client relationship will suffer. It’s not worth it.
Would you take on any project that’s open source? or is there still a lack of tools in that area?
There are open source solutions for everything now—web, analysis, cartography, data collection, or database. You’ve got tools.
Can you do everything remotely these days?
Absolutely. I haven’t visited a client’s office for many years. These days, it’s remote work only. All my work is out of state and international. If you enjoy visiting businesses and online support is your niche, go for it. I’ve done it in the past.
Where do GIS communities usually hang out?
There’s a vibrant geospatial community there, always willing to help.
GIS Stack Exchange for defining solutions to things.
Twitter and Reddit. Depending on what you know and where in the geospatial realm you are, you’ll always find people to talk to and get ideas from.
Any downsides to being a consultant?
When you work by yourself from home or you rent an office, you’ll be on your own most of the day. Are you comfortable with that? Some people need to be surrounded by co-workers and a dynamic environment. I have some contracts where I have a team of people collaborating remotely together, and it’s not as lonely as it sounds. You can talk to your peers regularly, run ideas by them, even if it’s just on Twitter. You’ll never be short on feedback or collaboration.
Are you a self-motivated individual? No one’s going to be cracking the whip in the morning for you to get to work. You’ll have to do that on your own. But then maybe paying your mortgage on time every month is a motivator. I know it was for me.
Be an excellent service provider. Don’t hustle for money, and it will be a pleasant place to be. It’s always satisfying to see a project through from the beginning stages of the first contact to developing a proposal to delivering the project on time. Submit that invoice at the end to a happy client.
Source: Geospatial World