How to hire freelance Data Engineers in 2024

Updated on May 21, 2024
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Kelly Wilson
Written by Kelly Wilson

Strategist and entrepreneur, with experience in hiring developers across various industries. Kelly has established herself as a trusted expert in identifying and recruiting top tech talent. She shares advanced tips on how to identify the right talent, create hiring strategies, develop your tech teams and much more.

Expertise: IT Recruiting, Tech, Marketing

Transforming raw data into valuable insights requires skilled data engineers. Our comprehensive hiring guide equips you with the knowledge and strategies to find talented data engineers. Discover expert insights, practical tips, and a step-by-step approach to evaluate candidates and build a top-notch data engineering team. With insights into assessing technical proficiency, exploring project experience, and utilizing top talent platforms, our guide empowers you to create robust data solutions.

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Here are the top 5 sites to hire freelance Data Engineers

Growing your business is a great thing, but it comes with new challenges that need to be met. As your company collects and stores more data, it may become necessary to hire data engineers. How do you find the right talent? Make the process fast and easy with these sites that connect you to qualified professionals.

*Based on facts publicly available as of 01.01.2024

1. Toptal

Toptal is one of the fastest-growing talent marketplaces and has served major Fortune 500 clients. Known for its extensive vetting process, Toptal has an acceptance rate of only 3 percent. Developers seeking to gain entry into the Toptal community are put through technical tests before working with clients.

Key points:

  • Enjoy a risk-free trial for up to 5 days.
  • Completed over 60,000 projects for 25K+ satisfied clients.
  • Trustpilot rating of 4.8 out of 5.

2. Upwork

Upwork is one of the largest freelance marketplaces, with millions of registered freelancers. Upwork connects clients with remote freelancers, from content writers to JSON experts. With the help of sorting algorithms, Upwork facilitates the match between the job poster and freelancers that see your job post, to ensure potential matches see your post. Upwork Pro offers freelancers a chance to participate in exclusive opportunities not available to every job seeker. Finding an Upwork Pro freelancer may provide you with a better skillset than only a general freelancer on Upwork.

Key points:

  • Upwork only vets top-performing talent, awarding those engineers with Expert-Vetted status.
  • Your money is safe with Upwork’s secure payment portal and fixed-price protection.
  • Upwork offers free and paid resources to narrow your search.

3. Freelancer

Freelancer is an online marketplace for freelancers with millions of registered users. To hire a freelancer, post a job, set a price, and wait for freelancers to bid on your project. Freelancer doesn't specialize in tech, and has a wide range of services that may help your team.

Key points:

  • If searching profiles doesn’t appeal, use optional talent matching.
  • Find Freelancer engineers at all skill levels by posting jobs or
  • contests.
  • Hire AI engineers for projects of any length and complexity.

4. Guru

Guru is a freelance marketplace with millions of registered users. Their marketplace is suited for projects of all sizes, offering a variety of services, including designers and developers. It's a great site to find multiple options for you to compare.

Key points:

  • Guru’s client satisfaction rate is an incredible 99%.
  • Job posting options include free and paid listings, providing variable benefits.
  • Screening and vetting Guru engineers is your obligation.

5. PeoplePerHour

PeoplePerHour is a freelance marketplace. Just like most marketplaces, you can post your project at an hourly or fixed-rate. Interestingly, freelancers post jobs, called hourlies, to attract work they want to do on an hourly basis. PeoplePerHour offers a variety of skilled positions, including designers, developers, and marketers.

Key points:

  • Quickly receive a candidate shortlist with AI-powered talent matching.
  • Request project proposals from engineers who have the desired qualifications.
  • Use PPH project streams to consolidate and organize project data.

Guide to hiring great freelance Data Engineers

Hiring data engineers

According to LinkedIn, data engineering jobs are on the rise at around 50% YoY and for good reason. As companies rely on data more than ever before, they need data engineers to manage and process it effectively. This trend is expected to continue as more devices and applications become connected and generate more data.

Despite the growth of the field, businesses face significant challenges when it comes to recruiting top-notch data engineers. There is a shortage of data engineers with the right combination of technical and soft skills. With the role in high demand, businesses often compete with other companies to hire the best candidates.

Using some of the top sites to hire can eliminate these problems for you. For instance, when you work with Toptal, everyone has been vetted before you ever log on. There is no work for you to do to find the next member of your team.

Working with freelancers and remote workers offers a lot of perks. A freelance data engineer can be more cost-effective than hiring a full-time employee, especially for short-term projects. It's also easy to find and hire a data engineer who has a very special skill set.

What Does a Data Engineer Do?

What does a data engineer do, and why is it even necessary to hire data engineers? It really depends on where your business is when it comes to growth. Once you have several data scientists and analysts generating information, it's time to bring in a data engineer to support them. Data engineers can take care of many things, including:

  • Designing and implementing a robust data architecture that can support your business's data needs, including building data pipelines, data warehouses, and data lakes that can store and process data effectively
  • Integrating data from various sources, including databases, APIs and third-party services, into a single system
  • Building efficient ETL (extract, transform, and load) processes that can transform data from raw format to a format that is easy to work with
  • Ensuring that the data your business works with is of high quality by implementing data validation and cleansing processes
  • Designing a scalable data infrastructure that can grow with your business's needs
  • Implementing analytics and reporting tools that allow businesses to make data-driven decisions

Each of these processes will enable your business to operate more efficiently and put you in a better position for growth in the future.

Data Engineering for Businesses
What is data engineering used for?With today’s technology, the amount of available data increases exponentially every day. Businesses can harness the power of that data to glean vital information such as customer behaviors and predictive analytics. This knowledge enables informed decision making and operational improvements. Data engineers build scalable, secure architectures to store, integrate, and process data.
Advantages:1. Data engineers can automate data-related duties, releasing employees to perform other tasks. 2. Efficient data analysis, enabled by data engineers, lets business owners make better decisions. 3. Data engineers provide facts gathered through data analysis to help companies relate better with customers through marketing and interactions. 4. Data engineers improve data quality, which can reduce costs and increase operational efficiency.
Disadvantages:1. The exorbitant rate of data may lead to poor system and server performance. 2. Older technologies and data overloads may hinder your access to vital data. 3. Without a thorough and effective data governance plan, data isn’t always accurate; bad data is often costly.
Related programming languages:Python, SQL, Java, PostgreSQL, R language
Freelance average hourly rate:$62 per hour
Where to hire?Toptal, Upwork, Freelancer, and the other top sites in this guide.

Hiring a Freelance Data Engineer

If you need to add one or more data engineers to your team, you must decide if you’ll use part-time, full-time, or freelance engineers. Each has advantages, but freelancers are often your best bet. Why?

“Companies now recognize the value in hiring data engineers to design, build and maintain the architecture they need to make data science and analytics successful.”

by Joleen Bothma, Data Science Consultant and writer at Statistically Relevant

  • You won’t have additional expenses such as overhead costs, payroll taxes, and benefits.
  • Some skill sets are rare and difficult to source from local talent pools. With a broader search area, such as Toptal’s global platform, there’s a much greater chance of finding engineers with those skills quickly.
  • When you utilize freelancers, you agree to by-the-hour or other project-based pricing and hiring structures. When the project is finished, so is your contract with the freelancer. Hiring employees is a more permanent, committed step; if you terminate them when your project is completed, you’ll likely pay unemployment and a severance package.
  • Many freelance sites offer risk-free trial periods that allow you to assess an engineer’s performance and fit.
  • You can often hire qualified freelancers in days, as opposed to weeks or months with employees.

Hiring freelancers provides cost savings and invaluable flexibility.

Top 3 Freelance Talent Platforms
Freelance platformTrustpilot ScoreKey PointVettingGuaranteeFree to post projectsalent statusRate & Share
1Toptal4.8High-profile clientsTop 3% Talent. Rigorous VettingPay only if satisfied$500 as a credit for the first projectFreelancersYes
2Upwork3.9Large freelancer marketplaceAdditional Expert-Vetted programPayment protection (escrow)None, client pays commissionFreelancersYes
3Freelancer4.4Employer control throughoutWith the Preferred Freelancer ProgramMilestone PaymentNoneFreelancersYes

What Skills Should You Look For in a Data Engineer?

To hire data engineers that will help you succeed, you need to know what skills to look for. These professionals need both technical qualifications and soft skills to succeed.

Here are the top technical attributes:

  • Data modeling to support complex data processing and analytics
  • Managing databases, including database design, installation, configuration, and maintenance
  • ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) processes that can transform and load data from multiple sources
  • Familiarity with big data technologies, such as Hadoop, Spark and Kafka, to manage large volumes of data
  • Experience in cloud-based data technologies, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform
  • Programming languages: Data engineers should have expertise in one or more programming languages such as Python, Java, R, and SQL
  • In addition to these programming languages, data engineers may also have experience with other languages and tools such as Scala, NoSQL databases and Apache Spark.

    Soft skills are critical as well and should include:

    • Excellent communication skills to collaborate with other teams and stakeholders
    • Strong problem-solving skills to identify and solve complex data-related problems
    • Analytical thinking skills to analyze data and identify trends and insights

      Your ideal candidate should be able to use all of these attributes together to support the goals of your company.

      How Much Does It Cost To Hire a Data Engineer?

      Part-time or full-time data engineer employees earn an average of $128,704 annually or $62 per hour. Yearly earnings range from $49,500 to $178,500; an engineer’s skill sets, years of experience, and location are determining factors.

      Tips for Writing a Data Engineer Job Description

      Your first step in the hiring process is to define your project parameters:

      • Budget
      • Desired start time and project duration
      • Detailed project description, specifying its nature and scope
      • The number and types of hires you’ll make

        You need to describe your position in an appealing way. Highlight your company’s successes and culture, along with how you envision the data project helping your company. Include role-specific details such as duties, qualifications, and requirements.

        Before you begin interviewing applicants, compose a standard set of questions and create a consistent scoring model. That way, your results are inclusive and unbiased.

        Common Interview Questions To Ask When You Are Looking To Hire a Data Engineer

        Applicants who make it to your interviewing step have technical skills that qualify them as top candidates. Data engineers have more responsibilities than most, so you should require each one to complete identical technical projects to:

        • Learn how they approach and resolve problems
        • Gauge how well they work under pressure
        • See how quickly they complete the project
        • Identify the steps they take to ensure accuracy

          Having impressive qualifications got them to the interview, but seeing each candidate in action and comparing your observations is priceless.

          Interviews are your chance to gauge soft skills. Develop a situational scenario, but omit some pertinent details. A good engineer will ask for additional information before answering the question. You’ll gain invaluable insights into the candidate’s thought processes and communication skills.

          Other interview questions should include:

          • How did you contribute to past projects and what did it achieve? You’ll obtain data about problem solving, competence, quantifiable results, and the engineer’s level of confidence.
          • Do you work well with teams? or How would you manage a team? Depending on the role, you’ll learn about work habits, collaboration abilities, and leadership skills.

            It’s often difficult to decide between top candidates. When you hire a freelance data engineer through sites like Toptal, you have the opportunity to see if you made the right choice during a risk-free trial period.

            Why You Need To Find and Hire Data Engineers

            When you take the time to find data engineers for your team, you're investing in a better way of doing things at your company. They can help you put your data to better use so your company makes smarter decisions.

            To get the right talent, embrace high-quality freelance sites that screen data scientists and deliver the best to you. From Toptal's curated matches to Gun.io's flexible practices, you can find a site that fits your budget and timeframe while delivering a data engineer who will do a great job.

            Use the information and top hiring sites we provide in this guide to source and hire the best data engineers for your project, then prepare yourself to count the operational improvements you’ll realize.

            Hiring Data Engineers - FAQs

            Are Data Engineers In Demand?

            New uses for datasets emerge almost daily, and these uses depend on a solid database infrastructure. The role of a data engineer is one of the most in-demand jobs, with an expected occupational growth rate of 36% by 2031.

            Where can I find Data Engineers for hire?
            • Toptal
            • Upwork
            • Freelancer
            • Arc
            • PeoplePerHour

            Explore more sites in our comprehensive list of top companies.

            How do you hire a data engineer?

            You’ll likely want to find a data engineer whose completed projects are similar to yours. Before you start looking, determine your project’s budget, goals, timeline and exact nature. You may prefer to search for engineers who are familiar with your industry and have:

            • Experience with big data and cloud-based technologies
            • Extensive database, data analytics and data processing knowledge
            • Analytical thinking and problem-solving skills
            • Expertise in specific programming languages
            • Project management skills

            Use top sites to find one or more part-time, full-time or freelance data engineers. You can post your positions, browse engineer profiles and portfolios or utilize talent-matching services.

            How Much Does It Cost To Hire a Data Engineer?

            The U.S. national average salary for data engineers is $128,704 per year or $62 per hour. Annual salaries are between $49,500 and $178,500 depending on location, years of experience and skill levels. Hiring freelancers eliminates the need to pay overhead or related payroll expenses.

            Why should you hire a data engineer?

            The world’s reliance on data is increasing as more applications and devices utilize databases. Database engineers have many responsibilities, such as:

            • Assessing your database requirements
            • Developing, implementing and maintaining a database architecture (data pipelines, lakes and warehouses) that meets your needs
            • Gathering and processing large quantities of raw data
            • Ensuring that your data is secure and high-quality
            • Implementing tools to assist with data-driven decision making

            Hiring a data engineer to streamline your data processes can give you a competitive edge and save resources, time and money.

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