Excel Jobs

I get a fair number of emails asking about Excel-related jobs. I’m so far out of the corporate loop that I have absolutely no idea how an Excel freak would find a job.

There’s a job site called Indeed, where you can search for jobs using keywords. For example, here’s a link to their Excel jobs sorted by relevance. I’m sure there are dozens of other job search sites. I found Indeed by accident.

How about some suggestions on how an Excel wiz would find a job? More generally, what’s the job market like for Excel gurus?

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40 thoughts on “Excel Jobs

  1. One of the problems with doing a job search for Excel is that it is part of the word ‘excellent’ and I’m sure we’re all familiar with the recruitment phrase ‘excellent opportunity for….’. From a UK point of view I alternate between Excel and Access work and frequently merge the two together. The main drawback is the difference between companies where they really just want someone to write code to their design, which may be a bit iffy, or they genuinely want someone to look at a business problem with in depth technical knowledge and a different point of view.

  2. In my part of the world no one gets employed due to their knowledge & skillness with Excel. Excel may be an important platform for many companies but not a critical business platform.

    As a consultant You need to have knowhow and some skillness with databases (DAO/ADO/SQL) and also with VB/VB.NET/C/C# and the Web-world.

    The most critical aspect is not the technical skillness with Excel and other developing tools it’s to understand the underlying processes and business aspect which the applications intend to support. The more You understand the more value is added to the companies via the supplied applications. Hence, the higher payoff can be retrieved by the companies.

    From my point of view many companies would be benefiting from either employ Excel-developers or hire Excel-consultants for creating professional information structures, the organization of reportflows and increase the productivity as well as the efficiency in their use of Excel in all decision processes.

    However, this was indeed valid during the 90’s while today focus is set on businesssystems and a general opinion that employees know well enough how to leverage Excel in their daily work.

    One recent trend among large corporates is that Excel is used as a “Pilot-tool”.

    A typical scenario is to quickly develop a pilot in Excel, roll it out within the company for tests and discussions. Finally create and implement a solution based on the outcome of the pilot project into their businesssystems.

    I believe that I’m a product of the above development.

    Kind regards,
    Dennis

  3. Hi John,

    This is indeed an interesting question.
    As far as my limited experience goes, I discern two types of customers:

    1. Corporate
    2. Small businesses

    The first group (at least over here in the Netherlands) is more or less fenced off, because these work with preferred vendor lists, to which they tend NOT to add self-employed consultants, unless they have a longstanding relationshop with them already.
    To get a project at such a company, we mostly need to subscribe to IT buros that hire freelancers to hire out to the companies that are on those corporate preferred vendor lists and are temporarily in need of a certain expertise.
    I guess it is obvious what this does to your hourly rate, having two intermediates skimming the milk :-(
    Still, those are interesting projects, because they tend to be much larger than the average ones I get directly.

    The second group is the one that is most likely to grant projects to self-employed Excel experts, but of course then you need to find a way to reach the ones that actually have a need.

    How many will just go on and wrestle their way through their monthly reporting job using Excel, not even knowing investing a couple of dollars might save them days worth of work each month.

    Advertising has proven useless to me: putting an ad up in some computer magazine (even if it targets the audience you expect to be relevant) has yielded zero (!) repsonses for me the last time I did it. And I was placed on an excellent position in the magazine, not tucked away somewhere between a zillion others!

    Most customers that found their way to me themselves contacted me because they knew me from posts on newsgroups and fora.

    Writing technical articles in magazines has delivered a couple too.

  4. Hi Dennis,

    Quote:

    > and a general opinion that employees know well
    > enough how to leverage Excel in their daily work.

    But how untrue this often is!

  5. I’ll echo what Jan has just said and to add that there are many places where the ‘managers’ perception of the understanding of Excel by their staff is hopelessly out of balance with the actual understanding. C’est la vie. It doesn’t only apply to Excel knowledge but we all know that don’t we. That is after all how some of us manage to get work or have our stay in some places extended.

  6. Hi J-K,

    Indeed!

    But it’s so ….. hard to convince them of the opposite.

    Any tips on how to approach this subject is highly appreciated.

    Kind regards,
    Dennis

  7. Dennis –

    It’s extremely difficult to convince the managers from outside. The better way is to get the employees themselves to convince their own managers, and even that is a steep climb. And often the employee feels powerless to ask for a few dollars to save a few hours a week. For most companies, a bean in the hand is worth two in the bush; they prefer not outsourcing if they can assign a body to it interanlly, regardless of competency.

    Jan Karel –

    “Most customers that found their way to me themselves contacted me because they knew me from posts on newsgroups and fora.

    “Writing technical articles in magazines has delivered a couple too.”

    I get about 95% of my work from my web site and other web articles I’ve written. People find the web site and articles through Google and through the newsgroups. I think I can justify that my hour daily in the newsgroups is marketing.

    – Jon

  8. Hi Guys,

    I am currently working as a Project manager for a forecasting / reporting Project.
    We are using literally 10 different sytems to pass on data from one department to the other … from marketing sales prediction volumes (excel), to sales (excel +local outdated system), to volume planning (excel + local system 2), to stock-management (), to financial planning (),…

    not knowing whether the data has been transferred in a proper way,
    … this leads to gigantic waste hours of checking-re-checking, work and re-work … in: low-level excel! (VBAa-aaah what? Pivot?)

    My opinion is to get the intermediate (crap) systems out and replace it with a “controllable” Excel-application.

    Reluctance to tackle: “You cannot make an Application in Excel right? That’s something for SAP or the-like-systems …”everyone knows Excel” “
    Naah, not for the “data” transfer or reporting we need here!

    -Anyone interested to dedicate his time in the coming(!!!) months? Sorry for the short-notice.
    -Location: Brussels
    -Can provide after-service as well
    Feel free to contact me.

    You asked for work …???
    Sige

  9. In the UK there are a number of reasonably paid jobs in the Quant Finance/Trading/Banking sector, mainly in London. You would need Excel/VBA/C++ skills and finance knowledge. Ability to code derivative solutions pays well.

    These can be permanent or contract positions.

    There is also some demand for Excel training, but it does not pay so well (personally I do not have the patience to be a good trainer).

    My own work comes from 2 main sources:
    – word of mouth or repeat business from existing corporate clients. These are often moderate size projects (5 to 50 days)
    – smaller jobs (typically 1 to 5 days) that come direct from my website.

    Then of course there is also sales of Excel-related software …

  10. Yes… but these are for the most part Programming out right jobs. Another area where excel skills are keenly sort are often in planning and data analyst type roles

  11. Sige: Please contact me (best through my site, I’d rather not post my email address here, too much crawlers trying to catch addresses on these blogs).

    I live in the South of Holland, so Brussels is just an hour and a half away.

  12. Jon:

    “The better way is to get the employees themselves to convince their own managers, and even that is a steep climb. And often the employee feels powerless to ask for a few dollars to save a few hours a week.”

    Quite so. Often it is the “poor” employee that has the need, but hasn’t got the decision power. And those that do control the purse (IT dept) couldn’t care less, because their first (only?) priority appears to be to keep tehir mail servers up and running.

    “I think I can justify that my hour daily in the newsgroups is marketing”

    Quite so. So are the hours I’ve invested in my site.

    BTW: The project that is about to change my self-employed life (still not final though!) reached me through the Microsoft MVP site!

  13. In my experience, Excel prowess carries most value when it’s used together with some other base marketable skill. In any kind of ‘analyical’ profession, excel helps multiply the value of your professional skills, because after a while your appreciation of what can be done analytically expands with your knowledge of Excel’s capabilities and limits. This is way more powerful than an analyst and a programmer working in partnership. I think of the latter as a sum and the former as a product.

    My advice to those thinking of making a career out of Excel is first to develop a career in something with highly valued specialist skills, then bring the excel in to really make you shine.

    Right, Dick?

  14. Graham –

    “My advice to those thinking of making a career out of Excel is first to develop a career in something with highly valued specialist skills, then bring the excel in to really make you shine.”

    This is partly true in my case. I worked many years in metallurgy R&D, and that field has pretty well dried up. But my marketable skill is what I learned about data analysis and presentation, and what I taught myself about automation because I easily get bored with repetitious tasks. Nobody would pay me a nickel to do metallurgy-related Excel work, but the automation and charting pays the mortgage. In fact, many projects start out with charting, and when the client learns what else I can make Excel do, I can sell lots of hours.

    I met with a new client today, to discuss plotting of their survey results. And they asked, “So, can we copy this chart from Excel and paste it into Word?” I replied, “I could program Excel to paste it into a Word template.” And they asked “What about this table? It has to be formatted just so.” And I replied, “Sure.” Then they asked about PowerPoint, to which I replied, “That’s even easier than Word.” What started as a day or two of charting has turned into two weeks of programming an automatic report generating tool, as they learned the power of Excel.

  15. Get a job on a trading desk as a VBA developer. All you need are VBA skills and the Quants will guide you through the mathematical models that price bonds, options and other financial products. You also need to have some social skills and be able to adapt to the trading desk culture. It pays really well…But will these jobs be replaced with the .Net programmers?

  16. Interesting to learn that the same conditions seems to be valid around the globe.

    Graham –
    “My advice to those thinking of making a career out of Excel is first to develop a career in something with highly valued specialist skills, then bring the excel in to really make you shine.”

    Also true in my case as I worked before with management (cost) accounting and cost-analysis.

    Jon –
    Yes, the scenario You decribe with managers and co-workers are too familiar. If it was upto to the co-workers then we propably would be running companies with at least 50 employees!

    J-K,
    “BTW: The project that is about to change my self-employed life (still not final though!) reached me through the Microsoft MVP site!”

    Since You mention it on a public blog I may ask what the project is about?

    Kind regards,
    Dennis

  17. For me here in Central Europe (Czech Republic) there are several assumptions to be on my own by offering Excel’s experience.
    1) Promotion – I maintain my web site dedicated to Excel matters, issue semi-regularly magazine about Excel, which is circulated free, answer questions sent to my mailbox and participate in newsgroups

    2) Selling – offer advanced version of my free magazine, which is quite cheep for individuals, but expensive for corporations (price depends on copies of Excel)

    3) Developing solutions – I have 2 long time corporate customer. When they have some problem or project concerning Excel, I start immediately do my job for them. They are my VIP. I know, I have certain level of secure job, they know I am prepared do my best as fast as possible. Sometimes I am asked through my website to cooperate with somebody else.

    4) Training – I lecture advanced parts of Excel (pivottables, advanced filters, functions, Query…) for corporates employees and special groups (auditors etc.) Sometimes I am asked then to develop a solution for them and for their departments.

  18. “My advice to those thinking of making a career out of Excel is first to develop a career in something with highly valued specialist skills, then bring the excel in to really make you shine.”

    Well put.

    From what I’ve seen, VBA and advanced Excel skills can greatly improve someone’s employability, and may be the tie-breaker when hiring say a business analyst or M&A specialist. But it’s far easier and time efficient for a finance bod to pick up VBA than vice versa.

    So is there a *decent* living to be made from Excel skills alone? The people who have posted in this thread to-date are amongst those best placed to comment, what do you think guys?

  19. It sure is beginning to look like it, yes. But like any business you start out in, it takes time to get started and build up a decent client base.

    I do think however, that it takes something special to be succesful just as an Excel/vba developer. Getting the MVP award can be one of those things that can greatly help.

  20. Dave –

    Based on my own experience as well as other friends to me I would say it take about 3 years to build up a business.

    Longer then that and You should consider to do something else instead ;)

    One “smooth” way is to start the business in part time and see how it develop.

    Running Your own company is not primarily to become “rich” in terms of money. There exist other values that are the drivers for it.

    Kind regards,
    Dennis

  21. I started out programming just for myself, to help me in my job. On the side I started building a web site and visiting online forums.

    At some point I began programming part time, 10 hours a week. I learned several important things. One, it’s harder to program for other people than for yourself. Two, I liked the work.

    When I began programming full time, I already had a few clients, and I was able to accept the larger project that I’d declined when it was my second job. The MVP award was very helpful, because it confers some credibility and name recognition. The website was also important, because it attracts many visitors (a great many through the search engines), and they see what I’m good at and learn a little bit about my style.

    If I count the time I was programming part time, it’s been around three years, but only about 1.5 years full time. I’m about 90% established, I think, and I need to form some better habits about running a business. But I think technically I’m doing well, and my family is not starving.

    As Dennis says, it’s not just the money, either. Even more important are other aspects of working for yourself, such as liking what you do, not having to deal with “Corporate”, having time any time for a family member (I saw my daughter’s cross country meet last week, which I never could have done when I had a “real” job).

    – Jon

  22. I don’t consider myself an Excel guru, but I’ve already done my share of Excel developing/programming over here in Belgium… First as an employee, from January of this year on as self-employed consultant.

    I guess we all agree on the following: the average Excel user uses perhaps 2% of Excel’s power.JK and XL-Dennis already commented on that. The worst case I’ve encountered myself in one company: a person who needed to put the total of the numbers in column A and B in column C… and used his calculator to do the math and then entered his calculator’s result in column C!

    So, there is a market for Excel developers, but I see a distinction between the globally well known Excel developers and “local”, unknown ones. I guess that MVP’s for example have a huge advantage because they’re globally recognized. I can imagine that for them, their website and their ranking in search engines is very important.

    For smaller unknown Excel developers like me, word of mouth aka “networking” seems very important… Go to Microsoft meetings, go to other IT meetings, go to courses and “spread” your name cards around. Get to know people and get them to know you, so that they’ll remember you when they have some sort of Excel project…

    Bart

  23. Dave
    Here is a marketing truism – there is always someone who is willing to buy your product or service, whatever it is. The challenge is finding (enough of) them.
    Can you make a living out of Excel alone? – yes probably. If you combine it with enthusiasm for learning your clients business, and understanding their needs, and continual personal development (technical and/or business skills), you should be able to make a good living (financial and quality of life wise).
    Obviously the more attractive your offering the more potential customers you will have. Often experience is one way your offering becomes more attractive, as potential clients can contact references before committing, cost can also be a factor. Also as Jon says a decent on-line presence lets people scope out your skills and style before contacting you.
    You don’t need to be that good to start, just honest about your ability and limits, and clear on your target audience, and of course know where to ask for help (eg excel-l/g, ms.public newsgroups etc).
    cheers
    Simon

  24. Thanks for the thoughts and feedback there guys

    I posed the question more out of curiosity than intent, I’m very unlikely to ever go down the Excel consultant route myself, but it is interesting to hear some comments from those on top of the Excel zigganaut

    I work for a large company (in the top 50 by market cap) and I’ve been surprised at how little we use developers – actually I can only recall one instance in five years. But as above, its mainly a lack of awareness coupled with the fact that finance people often have enough VBA to get by. But I did manage to purchase 50 copies of JWalk’s pup add-in so I have raised awareness a little ….

    Nice call too Dennis and Jon on the family angle, couldn’t agree more

    Happy coding guys.

    Cheers

    Dave

  25. Jon:

    >>If I count the time I was programming part time, it’s been around three years, but only about 1.5 years full time. I’m about 90% established, I think, and I need to form some better habits about running a business. But I think technically I’m doing well, and my family is not starving.

    As Dennis says, it’s not just the money, either. Even more important are other aspects of working for yourself, such as liking what you do, not having to deal with “Corporate”, having time any time for a family member (I saw my daughter’s cross country meet last week, which I never could have done when I had a “real” job).

  26. Don’t quite know what happened; my comment got truncated. I wanted to say: I couldn’t agree more and I would never go back to working for someone else.

  27. I’d have to agree with Jon, in that having a specialized job in a different field and applying your excel skills is the better bet. Excel/VBA is like a second language really, in that it has little perceived value (although to the skilled poet, the intrinsic value of knowing a language perfectly, is apparent). It is also a software package that allows easy access, so everyone think they know how to use it… though the depth and breadth of their knowledge can be very small indeed, and that doesn’t help when you are trying to introduce it as your main skill in a job interview.

    I have an electrical engineering background, and have been working in the oil industry, and video game industries, and in each of those fields my knowledge of excel/vba has opened huge opportunities in reporting, charting, data access, and lately, prototyping gaming systems and analyzing player-base statistics and graphics optimization for our game engine.

    In my experience a game system designer, e.g., without a knowledge of excel, an an excel pro without an understanding of how game systems interact make for a bad team, but a game system designer with rave excel skills can prototype systems in excel within a day that would otherwise take weeks to prototype in c++.

  28. I’ve been curious about this question too. The answers all make sense to me, but are somewhat disappointing. Excel (all by its lonesome, without any accompanying “anchor” skill), is and should be enough to get great employment, as its use for automation of ALL forms as well as actual data processing.

    The only reason it’s not is as you guys mentioned, because the people that don’t know a lot about Excel don’t know they don’t know.

    And this isn’t just Excel, it’s any programmable Office software.

    It’s easy to value someone who says “I know Java”, because generally speaking people either have knowledge of Java coding, or they’ve never come near it in their life.

    However, employers find it difficult (if they even want to try in the 1st place) if not impossible to distinguish between the employees who say “Sure, I know Excel” versus the employees who say “No seriously….I will VBA the manual processes and chaos in your business into oblivion and you will think you’ve paid developers for years of work to do so”……

    Since most people aren’t even aware that the difference exists, most people wont’ look for it.

    Since working at my company, a fortune 500 and one of the biggest financial companies in the world, I’ve noticed a huge gap: On the one hand, groups just limping along wrestling with data and processes and not doing anything about it. On the other hand, when things get so bad they’re ready to scream, they submit a business case and get approval for the IT dept to do a really big project out of it – involving 20+ PM’s, BSC’s, and umpteen developers. A year later, they have a product that’s extremely hard and beaurocratic to change and cost a ton to implement.

    Between those two extremes are people like me who want to fill the gap with tons of well-thought out, easily modifiable VBA programs that do things none of the users realized was possible.

    However, if people like me don’t have the best presentation and sales skills in the world….We’re severely limited in what we can implement, to whatever slaps management in the face with irrefutable value.

    My guess is that in the long term, being “just an Excel developer” (and I’d like to lump Access in here too, because if you are a skilled Excel vba’er, you ought to be able to turn out plenty of decent stuff in Access too, not even using as much VBA, just using built in access concepts with tables, bound forms, and simple queries)………..anyway, if you are “just” a VBA developer, most business don’t even KNOW to look for you.

    It’s either that slick-looking web or java program, or nothing at all. Sad but true!

  29. I just finished my first year as a data analyst for a good-sized urban school district, where I was hired to a great extent for my Excel/VBA skills. I also had job offers from a large teaching hospital and Freightliner, both also chiefly for Excel/VBA. My previous experience was as a housing developer and IT guy. So I just wanted to add a perspective of somebody who was able to parlay Excel/VBA skills into a very good job. As I was looking for work, I was surprised at the number of Excel/VBA positions advertised – not a huge amount, but they popped up on a regular basis.

  30. Hi all

    Have stumbled across this thread by mistake, but has turned out to be really interesting! I’m in the same boat as a lot of you, trying to make it on my own as an Excel/VBA designer. I’m in that category that XL-Dennis describes – doing it part-time at the moment trying to build it up. And I completely agree with various people saying that one of the biggest problems is that potential clients just simply don’t know to ask!

    I am encouraged (and you should be too) that there are people making a success of it and from a marketing point of view I think we’re a bit of a rare breed!

    I’m also wondering (where you haven’t stated above) where in the world we all are? Is there more opportunity in the US, or is this simply because the US is vastly bigger (than here in the UK for example) so of course there’s more opportunity?!

    Cheers guys
    Robin

  31. Hi Robin thanks for your post. I am glad you are starting to make a go of it. If you’ve had luck drumming up ANY appreciable amount of business – even a small amount that one might call a “nice side money”….Then you’re either more skilled in VBA or else a better salesperson than I. I can do a lot in VBA, but to be able to take a phone call and explain that skill with confidence to a stranger, PLUS come up with an estimate – high enough to make me money, but low enough to be attractive to the customer-I find that real hard.

    The other day I got a response to one of my adverts , the guy already had an Access DB, but he wanted a button that would run some SQL statements to basically output a query and then send about 20 emails to customers, based on an email table he had set up already. I was planning to use Excel, Access, and Outlook for this – all in Access VBA.

    I thought $75 USD was reasonable, but after I quoted him this, he never responded again.

    Just a random example. I am thinking of trying to advertise more, though, and set up a nicer website for it. Another thing I find difficult is balancing my time between ‘free’ forums, where I ask ?’s 70% of the time and answer them about 30% of the time……..Because I feel I must continue to participate in those forums which taught me almost everything I know…On the other hand, need to still make money.

    And I refuse to be one of those obnoxious people in the free forums whose auto signature is 8 paragraphs long and brags about their titles, accolades, websites, books published, links available, wiki’s, etc. etc. ad nauseum.

    LOL. Take care.

  32. Back in the mid to late nineties I contracted for a while and found it relatively simple to get VBA work but then a lot of it was conversion work from Lotus. Nowadays I find that companies don’t tend to realise the potential value of someone that can automate many of the day to day tasks and free up valuable time. The financial world seems to be somewhat of a closed shop but I have managed to get my foot in at the moment so hopefully onwards and upwards.

  33. Since we all seem to have the same problem (people not knowing how much time and money we can save them!) I wonder if there’s anything we can do about it? Collectively?

    Robin

  34. My first thought we be to set up a ‘central’ webpage. We could all have links on it and try to increase the amount of web flow through it. Though at the same time my thought is that yet another unknown website won’t actually help much. Hmmm maybe not so good after all.

    Your own webpage is boosted in Google’s search ranking by having other people have your link on their website, however, it disregards these links if they are simply linked the other way too, known as ‘backlinks’. We could all link 2 others on our websites and if we work it in a circle everyone should have 2 links on other people’s sites but with no backlinks. Ideally, we want to link to others who are not our patch! What do you think? Obviously needs at least 3 people for it to work.

    R


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