I am currently employed full-time as a SAS programmer/Statistician/ data analyst, etc. and am looking to branch out and start doing some work "on the side" so to speak. I have been doing some research via the web and was wondering if anyone had any advice on how to get those first customers and opportunities.
Thanks in advance.
From my experience, you don't find them. They find you. It's usually someone that you have worked for in the past that wants you to do something quickly for them or something that you are the only one they know that can do it. Or it's word of mouth. It would be extremely difficult to find consulting work with complete strangers. It's usually a part-time thing that you do at night or on weekends. There are lots of reasons why this is the case, but you probably can guess.
These opportunities are rare in my experience for the past 6 years when I have been operating my web site (www.sconsig.com) and assisting other SAS professionals in finding new employment or contract assignments.
I would say I get about 3 calls per week for SAS consulting for all over the USA. So that is about 150 per year. Out of that, I may receive about 1 or 2 calls per year where I can work from home or after business hours from any new clients.
I have a unique situation where I have developed several SAS products ("Fuzzy Match" and "E-Scrub") which I can apply them to almost any industry and do it from my own environment without having to travel to client site. Once the client sends me a sample file(s) and I in turn return the results, the client can make a decision to buy my services.
Otherwise, 100% of the clients I work with require some time in their environments to build a "trust" relationship before offsite work can be discussed. However, I am sure there will always be an exception but rarely in this case.
As a possibility, you might consider creating your own web site with the services that you can provide. Or, if you want, you could place your resume with many career sites, including my own (www.sconsig.com).
Wish you well. I suspect most of your work will come from clients you have worked with before or with professional colleagues who know you and can refer some projects your way (networking!).
Others have already given you some good advice, but I would like to add some of my own.
One way you can get yourself "out there" as a potential consultant is to start giving presentations at local and regional SAS users groups. Most groups are very receptive to "first timers" giving presentations, and you will meet many potential clients (or leads to potential clients) at these meetings. When you go, however, make sure you don't run afoul of any "no recruiters/recruitment" policies in force at the meetings.
Before you go out looking for work, spend a few minutes/hours thinking very carefully about what services or products you can offer a client. Using a product like MS Publisher or My Brochures to make up a flyer describing your services is not only, I think, a good marketing tool but the process of writing it will help you figure out what you can offer clients.
Another useful intellectual and marketing exercise would be to develop a project list that describes, one paragraph per project, the types of things you've worked on.
Among the places where you might find opportunties for at-home, part time consulting are with physicians at university medical centers who need data analysis performed, professors and other researchers, and graduate students who need programming and data analysis support.
I hope this helps!
I have had many opportunities like this.
I work in a hospital, with researchers. most of them cannot hire a statistician full time all year long. So they just hire people on short contract. Many people do it on night/week-ends.
Most researchers do not like to work this way, but skilled SAS programmer/statisticians are rare in Montreal. So they do not have choice to work this way.
As others said, opportunies are quite rare in the industrial world, apart form that sector. As it is academic, it does not pay that much (most studies are not very well organized in term of data, as they do not have permanent skilled people , so most scientists will underestimate time). But with some experience, you can spot the best contracts.
So I would check with academic, research center, hospital, ... Medicine/epidemiology is a big field, one can get a nice sideline from it. But, be careful, some contracts can be messy, and those people do not have unlimited funds. Not easy sometime, but better say no.
I would like to add a few thoughts of my own.