How to Become a Freelance UX Researcher

Original presentation by Imani Nichols in New York City on July 8, 2021, simultaneously live streamed via Zoom.

View the recording or a copy of Imani’s presentation.

Imani Nichols began her UX research journey at the University of Virginia. After a stint with WeWork, she decided the heavy quantitative aspect of market research was not her favorite. She next worked for Octane where she created a research program from scratch and got back to working with users. Next, to fulfill the dream of one day working for herself, she formed Yzzi Research where she works as a freelance UX Researcher, produces Yzzi Research Podcast, and coaches other user experience researchers. Nichols’ presentation and journey to freelance UX Research emphasized the many different paths to UX Research that we see in the market today.

Defining UX Research At a high level, UX researchers talk directly to end-users of products to understand their experience and pain points. The resulting data is used for creating or enhancing the product, so users have an improved experience.

Defining Freelance Freelancers are self-employed individuals who can work jobs (or contracts) that vary in length for a few weeks or up to a year. Freelancers are not tied to one company, but rather can work for many different entities. Ultimately freelance UX Researchers do much the same job as regularly employed UX Researchers: they plan and execute research projects and then share the results with the stakeholders.

Who makes a good UX Researcher? There is no one personality type that dominates the field of UX Research. However, there are some common skills needed to be successful. First, research skills like conducting interviews, focus groups, usability testing, surveys, etc. Second, communication skills. This involves both talking and listening. Third, patience for people and technology. And fourth, the ability to handle the variety that freelancing brings.

A typical day-in-the-life for Nichols can include writing research plans, recruiting participants, conducting research, analyzing research notes, sharing insights with her team, and looking for new work. Every day is different.

How to become a UX Research freelancer? The first requirement to become a UX Research freelancer is to get experience. Perhaps you are already working full-time as a UX Researcher in a regular position. If not, you can consider volunteering for groups like US Digital Response and UX Rescue. Next, put your experience into an online portfolio that showcases your skills and knowledge.

Being a successful freelancer requires support from a community. Join Slack communities like UX Master, User Research Academy, and Hexagon UX. Join LinkedIn groups like Insights Assoc, Design+ Research Ops, and UX Professionals Network. Another option is to cold contact people on LinkedIn.

Consider fortifying your freelance business with other professionals. Hire a website designer. Get an accountant. Set up a legal business.

Knowing yourself and your skills is a must. Do a two-column self-audit. In the first column list “My skills” and in the second decide “Does this apply to UX research?”

Finally, find some clients. Setting up job alerts that feature key works like “freelance” and “contract” on sites like LinkedIn, SimplyHired, and Indeed will give you immediate access to companies looking to hire freelancers. Word of mouth amongst your network and promoting yourself on social media can also yield clients.

Thank you Imani for a very informative and engaging discussion.

By Amy D.D. Simpson

Past Events

How to Make Your Life as a Freelancer the Best it Can Be, August 12, 2021, via Zoom
UX Research Freelance Work-Life Balance

UXr Guild is Meeting UX Researchers in New York City, July 8, 2021, New York City
– How to Become a Freelance UX Researcher