The construction industry is increasingly embracing a per-project or service-based approach. This creates a wealth of opportunities for design professionals who would like to ply their trade on a freelance basis. There are many benefits associated with starting your own freelance business:
Keep in mind that starting your own freelance company requires a tremendous amount of time and work. If you’re committed to putting in the time and energy to build and maintain relationships along with doing the work on the projects you accept, you should be able to set yourself up for success in this new endeavor. In addition, it’s crucial that you always strive to be the best at what you do. Engineering professionals who achieve this level of excellence will always have work.
It’s also important to understand that there is a lot more involved in working as a freelance engineer than simply completing the job. Make sure you consider the following factors when deciding whether this path is right for you.
As a self-employed freelancer, you’ll be responsible for many tasks outside the scope of your role if you were to work for an engineering firm. Larger companies will have one or more people handling these tasks, but as a freelancer, you’ll be doing all of them yourself. This includes:
In addition, you may be responsible for supporting the existing management teams at the companies contracting for your service. In this capacity, you may be asked to lead special teams, assist with budgets and cost projections, and develop capex proposals.
Your ability to thrive as a freelancer will be significantly greater if you have a robust skillset. This will make you more versatile and give you a competitive edge when competing for jobs.
The following skills will increase your value as a freelancer:
You should consider purchasing a license to CAD software. Many small companies and startups don’t have a license to this software due to cost considerations, and you may find that having access to one of these programs will help you secure certain jobs.
While there are free CAD software packages available, it’s generally better to pay for a license. When you use a free software package, everything you design will be available as public domain on the software provider’s site. Many companies will find this undesirable since it may compromise their intellectual property and give others access to the prints for their parts.
If you’re unable to afford a software license outright, consider sharing one with another freelance engineer.
Developing strong writing skills will significantly increase your ability to get jobs and in many instances, these skills can potentially help you leverage short-term jobs into steady work. Strong writing skills will not only help improve your ability to communicate with clients, but can help you land jobs with a heavy writing component, such as when detailed proposals must be created.
Holding certifications relevant to a specific job may increase the likelihood that you’re hired. Earning a PE license can help distinguish you from many other engineers competing with you for jobs.
In addition, the following skills are often highly valued companies:
Building a strong network will be crucial to your success as a freelance engineer. Becoming active in several prominent engineering communities will help you start building your network. Writing and publishing articles on LinkedIn and engineering-specific sites can help establish your reputation as a thought leader, which can potentially help as you search for work.
DesignerHub provides a wealth of networking opportunities for freelance engineers. Our community will help you build and nurture relationships with firms searching for your skills as well as companies in need of freelance services. When you join our community, it will help you start building the robust network necessary to thrive as a freelancer.
When you’re freelancing, you’ll need to do much more than perform the job you’re tasked with. You will also need to act as a project manager in many instances. As part of this role, you’ll need to:
Keep in mind that many companies will often make price a primary factor when deciding which freelancer to hire. Therefore, it’s important to find a balance that will allow you to remain competitive without losing money on jobs. In certain instances, you may need to learn new skills or brush up on others that haven’t been used recently. While it may be tempting to build the time required for this learning into your bid, you may want to consider this time a sunk cost that you don’t pass on to your clients.
Remember, you’re building a network and establishing relationships with companies who may potentially serve as repeat business in the future. By establishing that you’ll always do what is necessary to amass the skills required for a job, you can position yourself as a reliable partner who delivers the quality work your clients desire. Absorbing the time-cost associated with developing these skills may help strengthen these relationships as you’re starting out as a freelancer.
At first, you may find that you’re forced to take some offers that are lower than you’d like. However, these jobs can help you build your resume, demonstrate your skills and show companies that you have the ability to manage a project on a tight budget while delivering great results. Over time, this can lead to the more lucrative jobs you desire.
There are certain important steps that you’ll need to take to protect yourself and your company from financial hardship:
One of the greatest challenges you’ll experience as a new freelance engineer is the ability to build a network. Without this network, it will be difficult to get noticed by potential clients in need of your services. DesignerHub can help you break down the barriers that many new freelancers face when building their network.
Our community consists of professionals in the following sectors of the in-building systems design industry:
You’ll be able to leverage our resource boards to connect with the industry professionals who can help you grow your business:
When you become a member of the DesignerHub community, you’ll have access to important resources necessary to thrive as a freelancer.
DesignerHub is here to help you grow your fledgling freelance business. Please join our community today to leverage our network of resources.Our Community