Are you bored and tired of working hard for others and not rewarded as you deserved? If you are considering a career as a freelance engineer, but you are unsure of how to get started and succeed as a freelance engineer, read on.
Engineers work hard and have a stressful routine jobs with strict deadlines set by their employers. In order to decide and take the calculated risk of starting a new career as a freelance engineer, you have to understand freelancing, how freelancing works, its benefits, drawbacks, and finally how you can become a successful freelance engineer.
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COMPLETE GUIDE TO BECOME A SUCCESSFUL FREELANCE ENGINEER
What is a freelance engineer?
“A freelance engineer is an independent engineering professional who is self-employed and does not work permanently with any organization as an employee”. A freelance engineer does not receive a monthly salary, instead, he or she works as a freelancer and is paid on a per-project basis.
Engineers working as independent contractors or consultants are also freelance engineers. Since they are technically contractors, they must pay taxes on their income from self-employment. They also do not have any additional benefits like coverage and access to gratuity retirement plans and health insurance in comparison to full-time employees.
What does a freelance engineer do?
“Depending on the engineering works to be performed, freelance engineers provide professional services and skills to the clients on an hourly or contract basis”. A freelance engineer provides engineering skills and services directly to the client or to main and subcontractors to do specific parts of the project.
A freelance engineer can also work as a consultant or contractor to perform and manage engineering tasks for small and large-scale projects. They usually work on a per-project contract basis. They set their own working hours, timelines, and work from any location at flexible hours.
How do freelance engineers make money?
“Freelance engineers typically make money from the contracts they work for. They sign the contract with the employer, perform the required task, and in return receive the agreed contract price”.
It depends on the type of contract, how and on what basis they will be paid. They can charge on an hourly work basis or on the basis of task completion.
How much can you make as a freelance engineer?
Freelance engineers can earn from 1K to 1 Million, or maybe more. It all depends on their skills and the work they can handle. They can take as many contracts as they can manage and deliver on time.
Their workload, income, career, and growth are on their own control and there are no hard caps on the income they can generate per month from freelance work.
Before you decide to become a freelance engineer
You have to do some analysis and answer a few questions before you decide to take on the new challenge of becoming a freelance engineer.
First, you need to decide if you want to be a full-time or part-time freelance engineer? Both options have different approaches and career paths. It depends on your current situation, skill level, experience, and needs that determine your freelancing path as a freelancer.
Part-time freelancing is easier than full-time freelancing. You can make some extra income from doing small freelance work in your spare time or free hours. Part-time freelancing can also be done as a side hustle to make money online by working on freelance platforms.
But it has its limitations as well. Sometimes it’s difficult and impossible to manage extra work due to employment commitments and workload and may spoil your reputation if you are not able to deliver the work on time.
Full-time freelancing requires some tough decisions, like quitting your existing job and starting a new career without having a monthly salary and employment benefits like health insurance and retirement plans.
You have to start from scratch and build a foundation to start a new career as a self-employed owner of your freelance business. Ask yourself the same question, whether are you ready to become a full-time freelance engineer or not?
You should be aware of the pros and cons of becoming a full-time freelance engineer and take a measured risk of what you may gain and lose if you decided to become a freelancer.
Benefits of being a freelance engineer
The following are some benefits of becoming a freelance engineer;
- Instead of working for others, you work for yourself
- Opportunity to start a business
- A lot of freedom
- Flexible working hours
- Remote working opportunities
- No earning caps on income
- Higher rewards
- New learning opportunities
- Improved working skills
- Develops management capabilities
Drawbacks of being a freelance engineer
The following are some drawbacks of becoming a freelance engineer;
- Requires discipline
- Needs patience
- Demands hard work
- You need to learn new skills
- You need to come out of your comfort zone
- Sometimes requires long working hours
- It is riskier than employment
- No fixed recurring monthly income
- Sometimes you don’t have work
- It takes time to establish and become successful
How can I become a freelance engineer?
If you have finally decided to become a freelance engineer, the numbers say that you have taken the right decision. The encouraging news is that many organizations across the world have a significant requirement for freelance engineers.
To reduce the cost, many engineering organizations prefer to outsource some engineering tasks, especially after COVID-19, the demand for remote workers is on a rise, and you may find freelance work easily these days.
Now you need to take some more important decisions and steps to proceed further. First, you have to determine what you offer as a freelance service and then how you start your freelance career and establish yourself as a successful freelance engineer.
Get started as a freelance engineer
Welcome to the world of freelancing! Let’s start the wonderful journey of becoming a freelance engineer. Take the below step-by-step approach to start your freelance career and become a successful freelancer.
1- What do you offer as a freelance engineer?
The first step before you jump into freelancing is to determine what services and products you can offer as a freelance engineer.
In order to determine what possible services you can offer, analyze your skill sets. Your field of engineering studies and experience will help you determine the services that you can offer as a freelancer.
Since there are many engineering disciplines and areas of expertise, therefore it is not possible to discuss all types of services within the engineering field in this article. But following are the most common areas of services in all the engineering disciplines that you can offer to the client as a freelance engineer.
Freelance Engineering Services
- Engineering Design Services
- Engineering Drawing Services
- Procurement Services
- Staff Sourcing Services
- Project Management Services
- Project Monitoring
- Project Controls
- Software Installations
- Networking Solutions
- Security Solutions
After determining and selecting the possible services you can offer as a freelancer, start listing them in an order of your strengths and skills to finally shortlist your final list of freelance services.
2- Start as a part-time freelancer
Don’t quit your existing job in a rush if you have full-time employment. Instead, try part-time freelancing first and manage some freelance work with a full-time job until you find enough work to manage monthly expenses and can start a full-time freelancing career.
Steps for part-time freelancing
Consider the following steps and important points for part-time freelancing:
- Build your Profile
- Determine your Work rates
- Find Freelance Engineering Work
- Build your Portfolio
- Establish a Reputation
- Expand your Connections
To find freelance work, start with your connections first. Inform your immediate family members, relatives, and friends regarding your freelancing services. You can easily manage to find some work within your connections to start with.
Meanwhile, also try to find freelance work on online freelancing platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, and professional social media platforms like LinkedIn. You may find some jobs from these platforms to understand the basics of freelancing and freelance works.
3- Start full-time freelancing
After working for a while as a part-time freelancer, you must learn the basics of freelancing, and you will be in a position to start a new career as a full-time freelance engineer. Full-time freelancing is the same as doing and managing a full-time business.
You need to build a solid foundation and strategy to work as a full-time freelance engineer.
Steps for Full-time Freelancing
Consider the following steps to start your full-time self-employed engineering freelance business:
- Establish a Legal Entity
- Find and register a proper workplace
- Develop services, prices, and packages for engineering works
- Develop a website
- Design Letterheads and Visiting cards
- Prepare document templates of proposals, invoices, and other company documents
- Produce Catalogs and Brochures
- Start Marketing of your services and products
- Find Work
- Build a reputation of quality works and timely deliveries
- Provide exceptional after-sales support
- Expand your services and business
4- Become a successful freelance engineer
Once you finally achieve a peak of freelance success and have made enough money, start converting it into a business organization. Hire a full team and staff and convert your freelance business into a business organization.
Continue your journey as a businessman, start investing in other business ideas as an Entrepreneur and start building brands to further advance in your successful career.
Qualities and Strengths to become a successful freelance engineer
If you want to become a successful freelance engineer, then you should develop at least these strengths and qualities, which are:
- Be prepared for challenges
- Work hard
- Keep patience
- Develop positive mindset
- Adapt quickly to changes
- Think like a businessman
- Develop communication skills
- Develop the analytical abilities to forecast
- Understand numbers
Final Thoughts and my personal experience as a freelance engineer
I have started my professional engineering career in the year 2000 after completing my civil engineering degree from NED University, Karachi. I worked for some multinationals as a project engineer and finally in the year 2008 after serving my last employer as a National Manager – Projects and Development, I had decided to quit my job and start my freelance career.
From there for a few years, worked as a freelance engineer successfully and earned enough money to turn my freelance business into a business organization, and founded many organizations as an entrepreneur since then.
I have seen many ups and downs during my journey of more than 22 years as an employee, freelance engineer, businessman, and entrepreneur. But the best learning period for me was the period when I was working as a freelance engineer. I learned a lot of new things, developed many skills, and gained diverse experience that I could not possibly have if I had continued to work as a full-time employee.