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#009: 4 Ways to Make Money Working in Data

Jul 31, 2022

Money isn't everything. But we also don't work for free. 

The data world is a massive marketplace full of opportunities both traditional and nontraditional.

And there has never been a better time to capitalize on all of the possibilities. 

Today I want to share with you 4 to make money working in data.

All of which I have personally done.

Let's dive in.


#1: Be a full-time employee

This is the most common and straightforward path to earning income through data engineering.

In this scenario you receive a salary (+ benefits) from one company in exchange for your services.

This is how I worked for the first 9 years of my career.

This is what most of us will go for and usually looks like one of the following roles:

  • Internal Data Team - Work for one company and help them build & maintain their internal data architecture
  • Consultant - Work for a consulting company that sells services to other companies (ex. PWC, EY, KPMG, Deloitte, Accenture, etc.) and get staffed on projects.
  • Analyst - Work internally at a company but outside of the core engineering team. You’ll work with data (ex. SQL and reporting), although likely not as much on the more complex integrations

There is a huge demand for companies looking to hire full time data engineers. 

And you can have a wildly successful and lucrative career as an employee.

You’ll also have the opportunity to work more long-term with the same people which gives you the added benefit of creating lasting personal relationships.


#2: Go independent

Perhaps the full-time employee route isn't for you. 

Maybe you aren’t willing to commit to one company for the long-term or want to try to build your own brand.

Regardless, many people also choose to try the independent path.

This requires much more planning, has higher risk but also a potentially higher reward. 

This is how I’ve been operating since early 2021.

It’s been a crazy (but fun) journey. 

Here are common approaches to going independent:

  • Independent Consultant - Similar roles as an employee but you will charge the business (your client) an hourly/daily rate rather than paid an annualized salary. 
  • Contract through an Agency - Partner with third party agencies that act as a middleman. Rather than getting paid directly from the client, the client will pay the agency, who will take a cut and then pay you.
  • Start a Company - Establish your own agency/consulting company and hire other people to staff on your behalf. Allows for more scale but adds much more responsibility.

To be successful here, you’ll need a strategy for how you plan to get clients, be able to manage expenses and overall be extremely organized. 


#3: Be an investor

Disclaimer: This is not financial advice and make sure to talk to your accountant or advisor before investing. 

Did you know that many of the tools we use as engineers are publicly traded companies?

If you truly believe in a product and have hands-on experience, there is an opportunity to use that knowledge to invest for a potential return.

Some of the larger companies like Microsoft, Google and Amazon are typically part of larger index funds. 

Which means you may already be doing this!

But here are some examples of publicly available companies: 


Specific Tools

These are individual tools focused primarily in the data/analytics space.

This is a small list intended just as examples and I’m sure there are many others.

  • Snowflake (SNOW)
  • MongoDB (MDB)
  • Splunk (SPLK)
  • Datadog (DDOG)

*Note: I do not invest in individual stocks and this list should be viewed as examples of what type of things are out there, not investing advice*

Cloud Providers 

These companies do much more than just data, but it plays a major role in their businesses. They are typically also part of larger index funds.

  • Microsoft (MSFT)
  • Amazon (AMZN)
  • Google (GOOGL)
  • IBM (IBM)
  • Oracle (ORCL)


If you’re really savvy, you can find ways to invest in individual startups in the hopes of a much bigger return.

I have not personally done this as of today but there are always small companies looking for financial help to help build their product.


#4: Create online content

A newer option, and one that I have been pursuing more since 2019, is to create online content.

Believe it or not, we all have unique skills and perspectives that others would find helpful.

This is definitely a long-term play but one that can pay dividends just like any investment.


The key here is consistency over a sustained period of time. 

There is little to no barrier to get started and can open many new opportunities for you.

The biggest hurdle in this area is getting out of your own way.

And I can tell you from experience that this is a constant battle - but one that is worth it. 

As your online brand grows, here are some of the most common ways to monetize it:

  • Ad Revenue - Get paid for advertisement spots on your videos/posts/etc. A common example here is GoogleAds on YouTube videos that share a portion of the ad revenue with creators. 
  • Sponsored Videos / Affiliates - Partner with companies to promote their products through your content. You’ll often be paid per sponsored content and/or receive an affiliate commission for leads you generate.
  • Digital Products - Once you have established an audience and proven your expertise, there are opportunities to offer more advanced paid content such as digital courses or membership sites directly to your audience. 

It takes a long time (years) to build an audience online.

But it has tremendous potential for turning your personal experience and knowledge into additional revenue. 


That’s all for today. 

Hopefully this has inspired you to consider some new ways to turn your valuable data knowledge into money.



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