Hanling Wang
Data Scientist
July 18, 2018

Interview with Hanling, a data scientist that works remotely on machine learning

Hanling started working remotely as a student and now does freelance machine learning and data analysis for clients all around the world.

How did you get started with remote work?

I think the experience I get started with remote work is a bit magical.

I started my remote work in the summer of 2014, when I was a sophomore student. At that time, we have a quite long summer, no homework, no intern, etc. Most of my friends are traveling around the country for sightseeing or doing part-time jobs like being a home tutor which is quite popular among us.

I don't have that much money for traveling such a long time nor I want to do the boring teaching thing, so I was wondering to do something that can train my skills, broaden my horizon and earn some tuition in the best case.

I came out of an idea that there should be a remote work site to utilize people's free time and skills around the globe. And if there isn't such one, I will try to build one myself! Then I tried to search it on Google. Suddenly I found Upwork.

I saw there are lots of opportunities on Upwork for me.

So I registered an account, do the verification, figure out how the sites work and then I got my first job on Upwork which is a ghostwriter.

After that, I got many other jobs on the platform including virtual assistant, translator between English and Chinese and so on.

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What are you working on?

I'm specialized in data science. Most projects I'm currently working on are about machine learning, data mining and computer vision. And they are all programming using Python, R or MATLAB.

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What's your typical work routine?

Since at the moment I'm a master student, I can work remotely only part-time.

Most of my contracts are short-time (completed within one week). So I have to keep on finding new jobs (recently I'm quite free).

I would review the new job posts on Upwork frequently and apply using my fragment time. Typically I'll do the work in the evenings of my timezone (if it is not urgent) and also two whole days in weekends (if I'm free).

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Do you have a dedicated space to work?

No, I can work as long as there's computer and network. Usually I work in the laboratory, library or my dormitory. I even worked in the airport when waiting my friends.

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How do you manage having too much or not enough work?

It's not possible for having too much work. If I don't have any more time to do other jobs, I wouldn't apply for new positions and I'll decline invitations if there are any.

The more common problem is having not enough work, which means there's some problem with your personal profile, your rate or your cover letter/job proposal.

In this case, I'll look for what my problem lies in and take corresponding actions and then apply for more new jobs. Actually for me, when I can't get enough work, I'll apply for any work I can do and decrease my rate to appeal to clients.

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How do you decide which clients to take?

Selecting good clients is important for freelancers.

The first thing I'll look at when viewing a job on Upwork is the client's feedback and how much he/she spent on the platform. If the client had completed many jobs on Upwork with good feedback and spent much, then very likely this is a good clients.

Good clients always have a clear description for the job, clear goal to achieve, timely communication and show respects.

I've met clients who ask modifications again and again but wouldn't pay a penny, as well as clients who pay once the work is delivered and reviewed and pay bonus for my excellent work.

If the client is new to the Upwork, then we need to be a bit more cautious. Besides, I also pay attention to the district clients from. For example, I've met many clients who give unreasonable low price for large workload, so now I don't apply for those kinds of jobs.

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What tools do you use to stay productive?

Since I primarily work on Upwork, the tool I use most often is the Upwork time tracker.

But we often use Skype to chat and make video calls with clients. Also I've used Trello to organize workflow for one of my contracts.

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How do you stay on task?

The most important thing is to keep in touch with the client.

We need to first figure out the goal the client want to achieve. Then during the working process, if we have any progress or have any problem difficult to solve, we'd better inform the client of it as soon as possible in stead of wasting a lot of time.

For improving productivity, I would suggest finding a silent place which makes you feel comfortable to work, and use a continuous period of time to tackle one hard problem in the work instead of using fragmented time.

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What do you like about remote work?

The thing I like the most about remote work is that I can learn about the market easily (what is popular in the market and what market needs).

Then according to the market, I would be able to improve my skill sets and set a clearer goal for my future career.

Also due to the emergence of remote work, I would be able to utilize some of my fragmented free time to train my skills as well as making some pocket money, which makes me feel fulfilled.

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What do you not like about remote work?

If we have a long-term remote job to dedicate in, that's absolutely ideal. But the more cases freelancers experience are that they have to keep on looking for new jobs.

We have to waste a lot of time viewing and applying for jobs. And we may spend a lot of time analyzing the problem clients proposed, chatting with clients to know details and making bids but to find they have a surprising low budget or short time frame, or they are just consulting multiple people without the aim to pay.

These make me feel distressed.

So what remote work frustrates me most is not having steady work to do and wasting time looking for new jobs.

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What contributes to being a successful freelancer?

I'm an Upwork freelancer with the Top Rated badge for a while in the past.

But last month, two of my contracts were ended by the client because I found I'm unable to deliver the work within given time frame (I've just started them and didn't get any payments) and I told them.

Then my job success rate dropped hence no top rated badge. This is a painful lesson for me.

So if you want to be a successful freelancer, be sure to do the job you can definitely complete.

Otherwise, don't waste time applying them. You won't get (full) payment for failed projects and that might ruin your freelance career.

So now before starting a contract, I need to figure out everything including what the clients' expectation are, what is the deadline, etc. These are very very important in order to satisfy the clients.

For important thing to my work/productivity, like what I said, we should keep in touch with the clients. That's the best way to make the job successful.

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What did we forget to ask Hanling Wang?

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Hanling Wang

Hanling is a remote worker that works on topics machine learning, computer vision, data analysis and has worked on Amazon Price Analysis, Medical Image Processing projects. To find out more visit his Upwork profile or send an email.

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