Eli Holder shows how he split his freelance time across various projects and categories. With visualization work, a lot of your time is spent doing non-visualization things:
As expected, at 16 percent, data wrangling and analysis takes a significant chunk of total time. This includes data prep, which I’ve categorized as fairly mindless data engineering or spreadsheet maneuvering (nine percent) or data pulls (three percent). More interesting data work was more fragmented: ~two percent of the time was exploratory analysis (e.g., for storytelling), ~one percent of the time was spent designing metrics (e.g., exploring different calculations that might best tell a given story) and another one percent was creating mock datasets (e.g., to compensate for data security constraints or clients who are slow to provide real data).
I don’t track my time with FlowingData, but if I were to guess, I spend at least half my time on analysis and wrangling. If you consider the many potential visualization projects that I scrapped because nothing panned out in analysis, that analysis/wrangling percentage goes up a lot more.
Sometimes you gotta dig a lot before you find anything worth showing.