7 Tips to Be Successful as a Freelance Data Annotator

In the wake of the COVID pandemic, society’s work environments have started to change. Many workers are gravitating toward work they can do from home, which provides an extra layer of comfort and safety in uncertain times.

One way people support themselves while working from home is becoming a freelance data annotator. A freelancer is similar to a gig worker for rideshare or meal delivery companies. As a freelancer, you may do just one job but you can do it for more than one employer. You’re in charge of your own hours, set your own schedule, and get paid only for the time you work.

Becoming a freelance data annotator can provide you with the flexibility to work when you want and from wherever you are. However, you’ll need a few key skills to become a data annotator.

What a Data Annotator Does

A data annotator labels data points used to train a machine-learning model or AI algorithm. Training data is critical to the success of the machine-learning model, which can’t produce accurate results without high-quality training data.

There are a few different kinds of data annotation or labeling. As a data annotator you might:

  • Put a box around a specific object in an image file
  • Look for and mark specific items in a video
  • Transcribe words from an audio file
  • Translate audio files from one language to another
  • Copy text into handwritten words

All data annotation tasks are done from your mobile phone or computer, meaning you can work from home whenever it’s convenient for you. Not to mention, you’ll be helping to push forward some of the most advanced technologies in the world!

Flexibility and Work/Life Balance

If you’re interested in becoming a data annotator, one of the perks is having flexibility between work and day-to-day life. As a freelance data annotator, you get to set your hours and work from wherever is convenient and comfortable for you. Because of this flexibility, your day and schedule can really look like whatever you want. However, this is the workflow many data annotators follow:

  • Apply for a data annotation project that interests you
  • Learn about project goals and annotation needed
  • Open your web browser or the Appen mobile app
  • Annotate, annotate, annotate
  • After finishing a set of annotations or labels, submit your work
  • Watch your inbox for feedback from the quality assurance team (accuracy checks)
  • File any feedback away for future projects and make necessary corrections
  • Get paid

Your job as a freelance data annotator is simple: label data. You can work as many hours as are available or as few as fits your schedule. It’s really up to you and provides a lot of flexibility. All you need is a computer or mobile phone and an internet connection.

Freelance Vs. Employed Data Annotator

If you’re interested in working as a freelance or contract data annotator, it’s important to understand the basic differences between being an employee and a freelancer.

A freelancer or contractor is an individual who earns money on a per-project or per-task basis. A freelancer gets to set their own hours, work when and from where they want. Freelancers don’t receive employee benefits such as paid time off, health insurance, or withheld taxes.


The amount you’re paid as a data annotator is specific to the company that you’re contracting with and the job you’re doing. As a freelance data annotator, you will likely be compensated at a specific amount for each data point you label and submit. Different projects may have different pay levels.

Then, at the end of two weeks or a month, you’ll receive a direct deposit or check for the data points that you’ve already labeled. Because you’re compensated by the number of data points that you’ve labeled, efficiency is key. At the same time, you’ll want to ensure that you’re labeling your data points accurately so that you can continue working as a data annotator. Accuracy is incredibly important, so the more accurate you are, the more likely you are to continue getting data annotation work.

Your earning potential as a data annotator is tied to your ability to efficiently and accurately label each data point.

7 Skills to Be a Successful Freelance Data Annotator

If you’re interested in becoming a freelance data annotator, there are a few skills critical to your success.

1. Comfort Working on Computers and Online

While you don’t need to be an expert in computers, familiarity with operating a web browser, reviewing images, and manipulating a mouse are all regular parts of a data annotator’s day and job.

2. Attention to Detail

As a data annotator, your jobs will be highly detail-oriented. For example, you may be shown images and asked to draw a box around the car. While this sounds simple, it can become tiresome after reviewing 100 images.

Your ability to focus on the details, identify objects, and correctly label the data, each and every time, will make you successful. Accuracy is critical when it comes to data annotation, and your ability to focus on details can help you stand out.

3. Ability to Self-Manage

If you’re planning to be a freelance data annotator, you’re going to be working as your own boss. This means there’s no one to tell you what time to clock in or clock out. While this might sound amazing, it can sometimes be more challenging than having to show up in person when a manager tells you to.

Your ability to self-manage will make the difference between making a living as a freelance data annotator and simply bringing in a little extra each month. As a freelancer, you only get paid when you work. The ability to motivate yourself will help you to be a successful freelance data annotator.

4. Time for Quiet Focus

As a data annotator, you’ll be performing work that requires your full attention and ability to concentrate on small details. This type of work is best done in a quiet environment where you can focus solely on what you’re doing.

While that may not always be possible, depending on other factors in your life, it’s important to understand the intricacy of this work to know if you’ll have enough quiet, focused time to do it.

5. Ability to Meet Deadlines

While you get to be your own boss and set your own hours as a freelance data annotator, you’ll still need to meet deadlines. Luckily, you’ll generally have a say in setting those deadlines.

When you apply to work on a data annotation project, the expectations and deadline will be communicated upfront. If you don’t think you’ll be able to meet the deadline, simply don’t apply for that job. Look for other annotation work that better fits your schedule.

Your ability to submit your work on time and meet deadlines will ensure that you continue to find work as a freelance data annotator.

6. Know Your Strengths

As a data annotator, you get to choose what types of projects you work on. There are a number of different types of annotation projects, such as:

  • Translation
  • Audio transcription
  • Video labeling
  • Image labeling

Try out a few different projects when you first start to find out what you enjoy working on and where your strongest skills are. As a freelance data annotator, it’s important to work towards your strengths.

7. Organizational Thinking

Another great skill that will help you to be a successful freelance data annotator is to be able to think in categories and organize things in your mind. Your organization skills will be able to help you more accurately label data and place it into the correct categories.

Your ability to organize will also help you to structure your life so that you find enough time to work as a freelance data annotator and get paid for your time.

Can you see yourself working from home as a data annotator? If so, download our mobile app today and join our team of over a million contributors around the world. After you download our mobile app, simply apply for the projects that interest you and get to work!


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