hands holding graphs filled with data

Is your ecommerce site seeing a drop in sales and you’re not sure what’s to blame? Or maybe your app’s user engagement is tapering off after a recent update. Or perhaps you’re considering some new gated content to drive conversions or looking to optimize an onboarding experience. A data analyst can help with all of these and more.

Think of analysts as translators for your data. They can tap into your CRM, Google Analytics, or other known data, filter through all the complexity and the noise, and uncover significant patterns and correlations. Those become actionable insights you can turn around and use, whether it’s to answer burning questions, solve a problem, or optimize next quarter’s marketing efforts.

In this article, learn a bit more about the role of a data analyst and get started hiring the perfect one with the included job post example.

What Does a Data Analyst Do?

A data analyst’s role is to answer your questions by uncovering fresh insights from your data. If you have issues or problems that need solving, a data analyst will act as a detective, using your data to uncover solutions.

Analysts can help with

  • Identifying audiences or markets to target for new products or lines of business
  • Creating reports and visualizations to secure funding, get key stakeholder buy-in, or present to investors
  • Providing key insights before big decisions to do with budget or product launches
  • Optimizing marketing efforts

They do this by listening to your goals and questions, then putting your data through a process that involves:

  • Cleaning your data. Before data can yield insights, it usually has to be cleaned and prepped—something that typically takes up a bulk of a data analyst’s time. Automation, algorithms, and libraries have helped make this a bit less time-consuming.
  • Refining your data. Once data is cleaned, it gets refined through filtering and bucketing to prep and sort it for deeper analysis, usually with Excel or SQL. For example, an ecommerce business might pull sales data and filter transactions by date to get a better idea of which customers are buying more during different times of the year.
  • Uncovering actionable insights. An analyst performs exploratory analysis to mine your data for patterns, anomalies, aberrations, and relationships that lead to key insights.
  • Picking and choosing the right insights to go after. Too many insights can overwhelm your decision making and cause “analysis paralysis,” where you’re not sure which insights to pay more attention to. A good data analyst will help you zero in on the insights that matter based on your business and your goals.
  • Using data visualizations and dashboards to present insights. The final output is more often than not a visualization of your data—the easiest way to help non-data scientists make sense of complex data. For this, analysts need excellent communication skills and a creative eye to bring insights to life, whether it’s with an interactive dashboard or a visualization created with software such as Tableau.


The first thing you should do before writing a project description is nail down what you need the data analyst to do. Be as specific as possible about the questions you have, goals for your data, and where your data is coming from. Start by answering the following questions to help you add context and scope:

  • Where is your data coming from?
  • What questions are you hoping to answer?
  • What are your strategic plans for your data?
  • What processes are you hoping to improve with data-driven insights?
  • How will the analysis be used? What teams will be accessing the insights?
  • What kind of reports do you need?
  • Do you need visualizations or dashboards?


Now that you’ve narrowed down your scope and your project deliverables, it’s time to write your project description. The description will determine the quality of analysts you’ll attract, so be sure to include as much context as possible and any related expertise they should have, such as SQL, Excel, or Tableau.

Sample Project Overview

Below is a sample of how a project description might look. Keep in mind that many people use the term “job description,” but a full job description is needed only for employees. When engaging a freelancer as an independent contractor, you typically need just a statement of work, job post, or any other document that describes the work.

Title: Data Analyst Needed to Create Assets and Visualizations for Small Private College

Description: We need a data analyst to help us create assets for our strategic planning sessions and annual report. We’re hoping to learn some new things from our enrollment data and financial records to guide our marketing as well. We also want to create reports to deliver to our board and alumni about the health of the school. This project is estimated to require approximately 20-25 hours per week for the next few months. Experience with higher education a plus.

Project Scope & Deliverables:

  • Deliverables in Excel, SQL, and Tableau
  • Mine our enrollment, financial, student, and alumni survey data and deliver a thorough report of findings we can use in the upcoming year
  • This data will be used in our annual report, quarterly alumni magazine, and strategic planning sessions this spring
  • Create a financial report including trends related to tuition, revenue, spending, and any notable growth or loss
  • Create visualization of our past and current student body we can analyze by date and population characteristics
  • Create visualization of 2017 donations and enrollment, along with projected fund growth to help with fundraising goal setting

About Us: We’re XX University, a small college in Anytown, USA.