Year after year, the cybersecurity threat landscape continues to worsen. This reality makes cybersecurity analysts one of the most sought-after technology professionals in the world. And there aren’t enough to meet the demand. At last count, there were more than 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs globally – and that number continues to rise.
The situation means that now is the perfect time to become a cybersecurity analyst. Plus, skyrocketing demand means it’s possible to start a lucrative freelance career in the field and take full control of your professional future. Here’s a start-to-finish guide on how to do just that.
Start with the right training
The first step to becoming a freelance cybersecurity analyst is to acquire the necessary skills. For those without an existing tech background, the best place to start is a cybersecurity bootcamp. They are 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 free and paid bootcamp programs in a variety of technology areas, including cybersecurity. Depending on your pre-existing knowledge of computing concepts, you may also want 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:
- Network architecture and design
- Networking, Routing, and Switching Hardware and Systems
- Firewalls and packet sniffing systems
- Threat detection and analysis methods
- Common types of network and software vulnerabilities
Obtain one or more cybersecurity certifications
The next thing you will need to do is obtain one or more cybersecurity certifications to demonstrate your abilities to potential employers. The best approach is to start with a general cybersecurity certification. You can always earn a more specialized certification later in your career after gaining experience and determining what aspects of the job you excel at. The most popular general cybersecurity certifications include:
Obtaining any of the above certifications will give you the credentials you need to qualify for thousands of open positions that already exist. As of this writing, there are over 200,000 active job postings for those with 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 as soon as you earn one.
Game plan to gain experience
While it’s possible to get cybersecurity analyst jobs with nothing but the right certifications and a cleverly crafted resume, it’ll only get you so far. While it’s reasonable to take an entry-level cybersecurity position to gain experience at this stage, there are also other strategies you can use to speed up the process.
One of them is to explore resources like TryHackMe.com. This is a site with real-world hacking simulations that you can use to get hands-on experience with the types of situations you’ll face as a cybersecurity analyst. It’s a great way to accumulate experience without any risk.
Another strategy to consider is to participate in as many hackathons as possible. These will give you a front row seat to see how the best of the best in cybersecurity approach their jobs. Plus, they’re great networking opportunities that you’ll need to prepare for becoming a freelancer later on.
At this point, you should also set up with accounts on all major cloud providers like Google, Amazon AWS, and Microsoft Azure. This will allow you to create tech stacks on each platform and familiarize yourself with their settings and features. The majority of businesses around the world today have at least some exposure to one or more of these platforms. Understanding them from a cybersecurity perspective will improve your marketability as a freelance cybersecurity analyst.
Accept small paid jobs
When you feel comfortable enough with your skills and level of experience to consider moving into freelance roles, you should start small. That means accepting paid cybersecurity jobs through sites like Fiverr and Upwork. You should start by offering your services in specific areas that your current experience supports. So if you feel comfortable performing penetration testing of a particular app or platform, start there.
The idea is that you establish yourself as a reliable service provider on these sites. While it may seem like you’re not getting far – after all, freelance sites aren’t where the real money is – you’ll build a reputation for quality work. When you’ve done that, you can turn that reputation into more lucrative work.
Prepare your freelance business
Once you have 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 an independent freelance business. The first step to achieving this is to think of a business name. You will need a name that is not already in use, with a corresponding available domain name. When you have one, reserve the domain name and register for a tax identification number with the relevant authorities where you plan to work.
Next, you’ll want to design a website that will act as a business 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 company name, background information, and your contact details. You can choose a ready-made template if you don’t have the design skills to do the job yourself.
Next, you’ll want to set up your home office with everything you’ll need to work full time. This means having a comfortable dedicated space with a desk and computer, and all necessary office supplies. It’s also a good idea to sign up for a business phone app so your customers can contact you through a business communication system.
Turn to your professional network
At this point, you’re ready to start applying for work as a freelance cybersecurity analyst. This is when all the networking you’ve done through hackathons and other events, as well as through your freelance portal jobs, will pay off. You should start by writing an announcement of your new business to send to all the contacts you have collected.
While doing so, be sure to let everyone know exactly what kinds of cybersecurity jobs you’re equipped to handle. You should also clearly state how potential clients can contact you and request quotes for your services. If you did everything right, you should start receiving inquiries quickly. From there, all you have to do is do your best work – and it won’t be long before you have enough repeat customers that you can quit your day job and become freelance for good.
The simple fact is that the sheer volume of open cybersecurity jobs – and the countless more that will pop up in the next few years – make your chances of success as a freelance cybersecurity analyst quite high. As long as you’re skilled, confident, and willing to keep learning your craft while you work, you’ll never run out of opportunities. Your reward for all of this is a well-paying career with a schedule you control – and doesn’t that sound like a dream come true?