Blog post

Becoming an entrepreneur in the data industry

By Iiris Lahti
blog image
The ways of working are going through a shift, and freelancing has become an appealing alternative for increasingly many people. The benefits of self-employment are numerous and undisputed: According to an MBO study, 82 % of freelancers are happier working independently. The advantages of freelancing involve factors like an increased sense of freedom, earning potential, and decreased dependency on one company. Working for yourself can be described as the generation’s way of working. The Great Resignation refers to the phenomenon in which masses of employees left their jobs during Covid-19 pandemic. Now many are working as freelancers, and it seems like this development is here to stay.

In the data and software industries freelancing is a particularly interesting option for both employees and organizations. Companies constantly struggle to find the best talents to develop their data and machine learning solutions, and for employees this introduces new working possibilities. Freelancer networks help to match the talents and the companies. Change acceleration further boosts the freelancer revolution. Companies must resource projects at a fast pace and need access to skills outside of the organization.

In part due to the labor market situation in the tech field Juha-Matti Santero, who works as a Senior Data Engineer in the AI Roots network, decided to pursue the path of entrepreneurship. “It wasn’t something I initially considered for myself. However, I was already somewhere between being a consultant and a freelancer and wanted to go all in.”

Santero (in the middle of the picture) has gained experience and expertise from working in large IT consulting companies. Before AI Roots he worked in a network of data consultants, which functioned well for him as the more independent way of working allowed him to see the value of his work more concretely. Eventually, Santero wanted to experience the full range of entrepreneurship and joined the AI Roots network in 2022. “The current labor situation in the data and software industries is so good now, so if you want to give freelancing a shot, the risk is rather low”, Santero describes.

Plan before giving it a go

The shift to entrepreneurship can came across as an overwhelming process in the early steps. To dispel worries, Santero recommends taking time for planning and doing research. He read blogs of other freelancers and looked for other helpful content online. After deciding to become self-employed, he needed to choose the most suitable company form. Eventually, Ltd (Oy) was the best option, as it allows to separate personal and company assets. The majority of AI Roots freelancers work via an Ltd. Santero found establishing an Ltd a straightforward process that required registrations to the Patent and Registration Office and the Finnish Trade Register. Once the business is established, Santero recommends creating a functional work schedule and investing in an accountant. “You might think you save money when doing everything yourself, but eventually you will have more time to do the actual customer work.”
Tips for starting as a freelancer

  • Take time for planning: before starting your business, take time to do research and find out about your mandatory responsibilities, such as the pension insurance for entrepreneurs (YEL)
  • Outsource: don’t be afraid to delegate administrative tasks and invest in an accountant. You will have more time to concentrate on the core tasks and customer work.
  • Join a network: a network connects you to customers, helps to tackle bureaucracy, and enables you to network with colleagues
  • Schedule your work: optimize your use of time and leave a slot for the administrative tasks. If needed, synchronize your working hours with the customer

Expert networks as a starting point

Expert networks are becoming more and more common throughout various industries including technology. As the networks model consolidates its position, its potential no longer lies only in short-term projects, but allows the formation of more established customer relationships. For freelancers, professional networks make it easier to tackle some of the main concerns self-employment may involve; networking with customers and tackling paperwork and bureaucracy.

Due to these reasons, Santero highly recommends joining a network. For him, AI Roots has been a working option. ”Customer acquisition and contract-related issues are perhaps the biggest things to consider. When you become part of a network such as AI Roots, you no longer need to worry about these issues, which is great. The contract bases are already there, and all legal issues are taken care of. For me AI Roots was the stepping stone in becoming a freelancer.”

There is a wide range of different kind of data entrepreneurs with longer background working as a freelancer in the AI Roots network. "Pete Tahvanainen has been a valued expert to our customers who need a seasoned full-stack data engineer and BI analyst. Working in the industry for more that 20 years, he also is showing example and giving encouraging support to new entrepreneurs in our network. It can be hard to be alone in this industry as a freelancer but working with others makes it easier and you can learn a lot.", says Iiris Lahti from AI Roots. 

"I've been an entrepreneur for quite some while, since 2007. AI Roots is one of the best networks I've participated. There are many renown professionals in the network that I've worked during the years and new acquittances who have just started their entrepreneurial path. People in the network are highly professional and amiable. Working in projects with professionals in the network is thus very enjoyable. AI Roots network value is high, bringing new exiting and interesting data business opportunities which do realise to actual projects." says Pete Tahvanainen.

How to become a member of the network

1. Contact us: Book a 30min introduction meeting with Iiris or Max or send a contact request using the contact form. Send your CV in advance to our partner.
2. Introduction: in the first meeting with AI Roots we will get to know you and you will learn more about what kind of services and assignments we can offer you
3. Create profile and CV: AI Roots is using Cinode for creating a profile and CV for all new and existing freelancers. Creating a profile and CV to our portal doesn’t obligate anything but it helps AI Roots to find potential customers and assignment that match your skills and availability. 
4. Case found: Once a suitable assignment is found that interests the freelancer, AI Roots will help you to meet the customer. If everything goes well, we will help you with the contract negotiations and make your move to freelancing as smooth as possible. We have all the needed contract forms ready and optimized for freelancer projects.
5. Welcome to AI Roots: You can join our network at any time, also before signing the contract. We have a joint Slack channel, networking events and active knowledge sharing with other entrepreneurs. By joining our network you can make sure to be the first one hearing about interesting new projects when needing one.

Learn more about AI Roots and how we support entrepreneurs in data industry:

Did the article spark some thoughts? We'd love to hear!