How To Build a Career as a Freelance Cybersecurity Analyst — From Scratch
With each passing year, the cybersecurity threat landscape continues to worsen. That reality makes cybersecurity analysts some of the most sought-after technology professionals in the world. And there are nowhere near enough of them to meet the demand. At last count, there were over 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs worldwide — and that number is still growing.
The situation means that it’s a great time to become a cybersecurity analyst. What’s more, the skyrocketing demand means it’s possible to start a lucrative freelance career in the field and take complete control over your professional future. Here’s a start-to-finish guide on how to do exactly that.
Start With the Right Training
The first step on the path to becoming a freelance cybersecurity analyst is to acquire the necessary skills. For those without an existing technology background, the best place to start is with a cybersecurity bootcamp. They’re designed to get newcomers up to speed with basic cybersecurity concepts and skills in the shortest possible time.
A great place to start your search for the right course is Bootcamps.org. They maintain an active directory of both free and paid bootcamp programs in a variety of technology fields, including cybersecurity. Depending on your preexisting familiarity with computing concepts, you may also wish to enroll in a more generalized computing bootcamp to get started.
Your goal is to emerge from these programs with a working knowledge of the following concepts:
- Networking architecture and design
- Networking, routing and switching hardware and systems
- Firewalls and packet sniffing systems
- Threat detection and analysis methods
- Common network and software vulnerability types
Earn One or More Cybersecurity Certifications
The next thing you’ll need to do is to earn one or more cybersecurity certifications to demonstrate your abilities to would-be employers. The best approach is to begin with a general cybersecurity certification. You can always earn a more specialized certification later in your career after you gain experience and figure out which aspects of the job you excel at. The most popular general cybersecurity certifications include:
Earning any one of the above certifications will give you the credentials you need to qualify for thousands of already-existing open positions. At the time of this writing, there are over 200,000 active job listings for holders of the above certifications on LinkedIn, Indeed, and Simply Hired alone. In other words — you’ll be ready to join the ranks of professional cybersecurity analysts the moment you’ve earned one of them.
Gameplan to Gain Experience
Even though it’s possible to get some cybersecurity analyst jobs with nothing but the right certifications and an artfully-worded resume — that will only get you so far. Although it’s reasonable to take on an entry-level cybersecurity position to gain some experience at this stage, there are also some other strategies you can use to speed up the process.
One of them is to explore resources like TryHackMe.com. It’s a site with real-world hacking simulations that you can use to get some hands-on experience with the kinds of situations you’ll face as a cybersecurity analyst. It’s an excellent way to build some experience without any risk.
Another strategy you should consider is to attend as many hackathons as you can. Those will give you a front-row seat to see how the best of the best in cybersecurity approach their work. And, they make for excellent networking opportunities that you’ll need to prepare yourself to go freelance later.
At this stage, you should also set yourself up with accounts on all of the major cloud providers like Google, Amazon AWS, and Microsoft Azure. This will allow you to build technology stacks on each platform and familiarize yourself with their settings and features. The majority of businesses in the world today have at least some exposure to one or more of those platforms. Understanding them from a cybersecurity perspective will improve your marketability as a freelance cybersecurity analyst.
Take On Small Paid Jobs
When you feel comfortable enough in your skill set and experience level to consider transitioning into freelance roles, you should start small. This means taking on some paid cybersecurity jobs through sites like Fiverr and Upwork. You should begin by offering your services in specific areas that your existing experience supports. So, if you feel comfortable conducting penetration testing of a particular app or platform, start there.
The idea is for you to establish yourself as a reliable service provider on those sites. Although it may not seem like you’re getting far — after all, freelance sites aren’t where the real money is — you’ll be building up a reputation for quality work. When you’ve done that, you can parlay that reputation into more lucrative work.
Prepare Your Freelance Business
Once you’ve got enough experience and have a solid resume of small freelance cybersecurity jobs under your belt, you’ll be ready to turn your hard work into a standalone freelance business. The first step toward doing that is to think up a business name. You’ll want a name that’s not already in use, with an available domain name to match. When you have one, reserve the domain name and register for a tax ID with the relevant authorities where you’re planning to work.
Next, you’ll want to design a website to serve as a calling card for your business. Since you’ll be marketing your skills and reputation as a cybersecurity analyst, the site doesn’t need to be anything more than a professional-looking portal with your business name, basic information, and contact details. You can choose a ready-made template if you don’t have the design skills to do the job yourself.
Then, you’ll want to set up your home office with everything you’ll need to work full-time. This means having a dedicated comfortable space with a desk and computer, and all of the relevant office supplies. It’s also a good idea to sign up for a business phone app so you’ll have a professional communications system for your customers to contact you.
Turn To Your Professional Network
At this point, you’re ready to begin soliciting work as a freelance cybersecurity analyst. This is the time when all of the networking you’ve done through hackathons and other events, as well as through your freelance portal jobs, will pay off. You should begin by crafting an announcement of your new business to send out to all of the contacts you’ve collected.
As you do this, be sure to let everyone know exactly what types of cybersecurity jobs you’re equipped to handle. You should also make it clear how potential clients can contact you and request quotes for your services. If you’ve done everything right, you should start to get inquiries in short order. From there, all you have to do is your best work — and it won’t be long until you have enough steady customers that you can quit your day job and go freelance for good.
The simple fact is, the sheer volume of open cybersecurity jobs — and the countless more that will appear in the next few years — make your odds of success as a freelance cybersecurity analyst quite high. As long as you’re competent, confident, and willing to continue to learn your trade as you work, you’ll never run out of opportunities. Your reward for all of that is a well-paid career with a schedule that you control — and doesn’t that sound like a dream come true?