Freelance Economist for Rent

From the mail:

Hi there,

I am a recent graduate of an economics Ph.D. program. I had what I thought was a successful trip through the adventure that is the economics job market and chose the risky but exciting option of working for a small start-up. Unfortunately, it turns out that it was more risky than exciting and the company doesn’t have work for me after all. So, I will be going back on the job market next year, but in the meantime I have extra time on my hands and bills to pay. I don’t want a permanent position and I don’t necessarily need much work, just enough to keep the lights on and food on the table.

My brother-in-law is a graphic designer and does some freelance work on the side which made me wonder if there could be such a thing as a freelance economist. There must be many small companies or organizations who cannot afford staff economists or expensive consultants, but have data they don’t know what to do with or questions about how their business runs that they don’t know how to answer. Freakonomics readers know that economics shows up all over the place.

Some potential projects I can think of:

  • A local mom & pop restaurant wants to know if the Groupon/LivingSocial deal they offered last month is having a long-term effect on sales
  • A small non-profit is trying to compare the effectiveness of several different fundraising drives
  • A large firm would like an answer to a small question that they don’t wish to ask their usual economics consultants

I’m a regular follower of the Freakonomics blog and thought that your readers might find this idea interesting, and can probably think of many more applications than I have. And if any readers think they might have need of a freelance economist, I can be reached at

I’m an empirical microeconomist, so my expertise is in data analysis. I love working with data. It is why I became an economist. I graduated from a program that is consistently ranked in the top 30 economics Ph.D. programs. The professors at my school emphasized not just answering interesting questions, but answering interesting questions well. I am happy to provide my CV, links to my research papers, and other information in private, but I prefer to stay anonymous on this public forum.

If anything interesting comes of it, I will report back in a couple weeks.

Freelance Economist

I hope this works. And: should we have a job-market section on the Freakonomics blog?


Good Luck!

As for the job market section. Does the freakonomics blog have a comparative advantage in it? What can freakanomics offer that any other economic job market site cant/doesnt offer?

Thinking compared to something like ect.


Thanks to your particularly strong brand, you'd get plenty of traffic to a job-posting page, regardless of competitive advantage (unless it totally sucked).


I have a masters degree in economics at teach principles at a two year college, but would really dig the opportunity to do some economics work: data crunching, analysis, etc.... It think a market for free-lance economists could exist. Please, start a job-market section.


This reminds me of the folks over at:

Freelance Economist

That's an awesome organization. I was looking for volunteer opportunities as well. Thank you for the link.


I can relate to this for sure. We have analytics on steroids today and it's hard. I just go back to the old coding and math and smarter people than me have said who ever controls the code controls the world. I mention this as I wrote a blog post about it with a video that is not new, but basically am recycling it. The video is called "The Quants, the alchemists of Wall Street. The reason I mention this is that in the video you hear where the "quant" teacher talks about economists, probably in a light that is not encouraging for sure but basically states they are "guessing" and they do not have laws. It kind of makes me thing that more quants and economists should collaborate? This is just me speaking out loud but when you hear it from the folks who do the math and code for business models you kind of say hmmmm...

I call some of this the Attack of the Killer Algorithms...we need honest code and queries and should maybe take a look at what has been written for "desired" results that may not be accurate?

I feel for this person as when you have entities of code and math working in another direction, where does an economist go today and what information is reliable? It's kind of scary as their performance is judged on how they perform. Kudos for putting this letter out here for sure.



I wish Freelance Economist luck, but I see one major stumbling block in the plan, embodied in the words "recent graduate". While I'm not familiar with the economics market, in my own field (software), I had to put in years of salaried work before I had enough of a reputation to sustain a freelance career.


Good luck to you. I'm almost in the same position, although I have an MA, not a PhD. It's rough out there!


I could think of a few business ventures we could create together with some brainstorming and entrepreneurial spirit. As far as your credentials go, I fear getting an advanced degree will only leave me a slave to creditors. I wish you the best in your career travels and hope you embrace the construction of a small business, or at least tout a beer with me on a plausible endeavor.


To the OP - a few tips from someone who has been there in the freelance market and gotten clients and projects.

There is definitely a market for freelance projects in data crunching and analysis; the difference may be in what they are called. Think of it this way - the owner of the mom-and-pop store in your example is not going to wake up one morning and think, "I need an economist to solve my Groupon problem". They will think, "I need to find a small business consultant to tell me why my Groupon issue isn't working". The non-profit trying to compare fund-raising drives will think of hiring a CPA, or a financial analyst, not an economist - even though they really might need an economist's skills and perspective.

It is not about the skills (which you certainly have and then some), but some re-branding may be necessary depending on who you are approaching. All three are different markets that require different approaches. I think there is a lot of potential for freelance projects in data crunching and I could discuss this endlessly because it is a passion of mine, but in the interest of brevity, I would recommend narrowing down your focus before you proceed.



You say you wouldn't be a Consultant...but that's essentially what you are proposing, right?

Avinash D'Souza

This is pretty much the coolest thing I've read all week...I hope he finds something interesting, I really do! The very idea of having a Man-Friday economist is so much win...

Dr. Constantinos Charalambous

I tried doing something similar in my country with some success I might add. I would say that there is some demand out there but you have to be able to stand out from the crowd. In the beginning I offered my services for free. My blog was also of help.

Impossibly Stupid

Please require an *economic* component to any job/services section you might add to the site. Just as your anonymous freelancer fails to list their bill rate, I'm tired of wading through job listings that give absolutely *no* indication what they're paying for the work they want done (and are all-too-anonymous as well). What incentive does any business have to go with some unknown newbie expecting a blank check?


I know a freelance economist, so that type of position exists. However, the guy works on macro and development economics, not the type of topics you described.

The type of work you describe falls into management consulting. Several of the topics you listed require good quantitative skills, but not necesarily specific training as a microeconomist. And they would also require skills that not every academic economist owns, including navigating a corporation to gain access to data and people.


Try - they have both a job board & projects you can attempt to win. They call it data science but basically the same thing

Gareth Amon

Worry no more. Supply and Demand of Economists have finally met at Every company needs an Economist, so we made it as easy as possible to hire one. You can count on a Freelance Economist to crunch your data to perfection.