Is there a business (living) in being a freelance performance analyst?
This is a question I get asked very often so I thought it would be a good idea to put some thoughts down on paper. The answer is; it depends on what type of living you want. Like starting any business it can be difficult. Making good contacts, coaches and teams trusting you and funding all the necessary tools are all barriers you will have to overcome. I certainly wouldn’t advise anybody to jump head first, give up the day job and just go for it. It is definitely the type of business you can be building part-time until you feel you have enough contacts and experience to make the giant leap.
So here are some thoughts for you to consider:
At a minimum you will need a decent laptop. It can be difficult to distinguish between all the different specs & makes but probably the most important thing is the speed of the processor. The memory and the RAM are important but these can be solved easier than if the computers processor just isn’t up to the job. If you are unsure how to check – Wikipedia is a great place to find out what the latest chip is and how it compares to others.
I will do a blog post specifically about laptops but ‘Gaming’ laptops usually have the best hardware.
You really don’t need to start expensive here. I would be looking to spend around £300/€400. It is a good idea to think of some of the extra’s you might need. For example it’s a good idea to have a wide angle lens and a long lasting battery.
If you have the budget it is not a bad idea to invest in decent camera’s, I’m just not sure its something you have to spend loads of money on straight away.
Again nothing fancy here, a bog standard projector will do the job just fine. You don’t want to be relying on people supplying them for you, trust me on this, they can be temperamental pieces of equipment. Having the piece of mind that you have a guaranteed solution is well worth the investment. Don’t forget a power extension cord.
Projector cables are notoriously short!
I know I have said many times that you can do basic analysis with ‘free’ software like i-Movie and Windows Movie Maker but if you are considering it as a job you will need to purchase specialist software. I am not going to recommend a software here but it is worth shopping around. Find out if the software can be rented on an annual basis, if cost is a real issue at the start this can be a great way to dip your toe in the water without investing fully. This will allow you fund the venture at a smaller level and see how the business goes.
Lastly, future proof your purchase; You may start out with a simple idea of the service you offer but think about what you might need in 2/3 years time. For example you might think you only want to analyse team sports now but further down the line athletics might become a possibility.The last thing you want to do is find you need to buy more software in the future.
Further Reading: What Goes in a Video Analysts Kit Bag
Next you are going to need to decide what type of services you will offer. I would probably break this down into 2 categories; Hands Off, and Hands On. In any pricing structure I think it would be a good idea to have some sort of idea of what you would charge for each level.
Hands Off; This level of service requires little commitment from either you or the
team. For example a team sends you a DVD of their last match, you analyse it to their specifications you make a highlights DVD and send that back to the manager for them to go through with their team. As a guide I charge €150 for this type of service and it can work very well especially where travel distances are too great.
A couple of things to be wary of; it can be difficult to build a rapport with the manager or team as you are mainly communicating via DVD, it is a good idea to try and sit down with the manager every now and again and see if there is more you can offer. Make sure you get paid in advance with this method, sometimes teams don’t like what they see on the tape and some how it is the analysis that is the problem.
Hands On; This level of service requires the highest level of commitment. I would consider this as basically an outsourced Performance Analyst. It might still be on a part-time basis but you might cover some or all of the following;
- Video/analyse training sessions,
- Go to team meetings with players and management and
- Even do some live coding or videoing on match days.
The advantage of this method is you become part of the backroom staff and this will give you the best opportunity to show off the full gambit of your skills. What to charge? This is more difficult as you will have to factor in the level the team play, their likely budget and the various travel times involved. But if you take the base figure for analysing a game at around €150 you can always work from there.
One thing also worth considering here is enhancing your reputation. If the team or athlete is high profile it might well be worth taking the job on to cover costs at the start and trying to make more money from the other – lesser known teams, but don’t be taken advantage of, if your skills are good enough make sure you charge an appropriate amount.
Can you offer more than being just a video analyst? Many teams, especially outside the major pro teams, see the value in performance analysis and sports science but one of the major reasons they often don’t use it is because they don’t have the expertise on staff.
It is well worth considering if you could potentially offer other ‘sports science’ services as part of the overall package. Fitness testing, heart-rate monitoring and general performance monitoring are all areas that contribute to performance and involve technology.
Although this technology will cost you money it is about sitting down and mapping out not just what your business might look like this year but what it might look like over the next 3 – 5 years. The use of technology in sport is only going to grow so why not be involved in as much of it as you can.
I definitely think this is they type of business you can do in stages. A standard laptop, camera and projector will allow you start the process without investing huge sums of money at the start. They are always something you can upgrade as you make money. Video analysis software will probably constitute your biggest investment so make sure if does a little more than what you need it to, it has to be something you can grow into over time.
My final piece of advice is to talk to people who are in the industry either as employed or freelance analysts. As the old Chinese proverb says: “To know the road ahead, ask those coming back”
My Advice – by Blake Sporne – A recent addition to the world of Freelance Analysts.
A ton of my initial work was doing demo’s and case studies for free, in fact the early market research was educating potential clients what video analysis is and how it can benefit them. Prepare for a lot of scepticism, especially from ‘established’ coaches, and groups who dismiss it out of hand because it has flashing lights all over it ’this costs loads of money’!
I did as much research into equipment as possible especially the laptop and cameras. I came up with several ways to do this, there were cheaper ways, but you end up replacing things quickly and the need to update hardware is constant, go overboard and have equipment that is too expensive for what I need it for.
I ended hitting the middle ground with a good spec laptop (Dell Vostro 3700 with 6Gig of RAM and i5 processor) , a Sony HC9 and HC1 camcorders, both with long life batteries. For match filming I use a 7″ monitor to follow the action better. Just important is a stable platform to film from, I use a trolley (Tuf Trux) with an attached monopod, monitor and printer so I don’t have to walk around adjusting things. A Diginest laptop tripod, for ‘light work’ and a couple of Velbon 700 fluid head tripods, there sturdy and affordable. I have ended up with more cables than BT but when I don’t know where I am going to work you can’t have too many.
Get your terms and conditions sorted so the client knows what they have to have ready,including payment. Have a CRB certificate and I don’t archive footage of minors without permission, I delete in on site with a witness. The communication between the coach and I is crucial, I’m not there to replace the coach or teacher but to enhance the feedback they give. A practice/lesson plan where people get equal time getting something from it is very important. Handy items include a Power Gorilla for emergency power, rain covers for the camcorders and compushade for the laptop.
Lastly, I’m not a postgrad with a sports science background, I’m hoping to do a PA part time course at UWIC to give me an academic base for my business. I’m 39 with a wide and varied sports and activity background including ten years as a film and TV stunt performer where I became qualified in martial arts, fencing, trampoline, sky diving, sub aqua, swimming, horse riding, motor sports and have experience in firearms (Royal Marines) and theatre as well as being a RFU Level 2 coach. Being freelance allows me to be versatile, flexible and adaptable. I don’t restrict the service to sports analysis as I use the software for behaviour analysis and remedial. Clients can include schools support and training, organisations, Police and MOD.
I use Dartfish Teampro with plans to learn Sportscode and other systems.
If you want to talk to Blake you contact him be email.