How to Become a Freelance Engineer – Complete Guide

If you have decided to call it quits as an employee and want to know how to become a freelance engineer, read on.

The constant growth of the gig economy has proven that freelancing is at its peak. And with the many advantages and perks of freelancing, people are shifting from being employed to joining the global gig industry.

If you are wondering if a person with a professional degree in engineering can do freelancing, the answer is yes. Of course! In fact, engineers have been transitioning to freelance status because of the many benefits and freedom it presents.

Benefits of Freelancing

man holding engineer documents on table

A freelancer provides contracted work without being bound to any company or corporation. Freelancing is a business in itself, with the freelancer acting as the owner or self-employed worker. Usually hired for temporary and short-term projects, a freelancer may deliver an entire project or a fraction of it. It all depends on the job requirements presented to them by their client.

  • Autonomy. As a freelancer, you have the freedom to direct your own business. In other words, you are the boss. So you get to decide on what projects you will work on and which ones you will decline. You will design your own systems. Basically, you are self-governing and self-directing your business. No more office politics and toxic superiors!
  • Flexibility. Because you own the business, you get total control of your time. Say goodbye to your 8-5 office hours! Everybody’s body clock is different. Some work best in the early mornings, while some are more productive in the afternoon. Now, you get to pick the best working schedule and say hello to a healthy work-life balance!
  • Workplace. You do not necessarily need to rent out an office space or studio to do your work. Given that you are going solo, you can work wherever you want as long as it is convenient for your business. You can choose to work from home or in a coffee shop. You can even work while on vacation!
  • Workload. And finally, because you have the autonomy to decide for your entire business, you get control over the amount of work you are willing and able to do. You can have multiple projects going on simultaneously or focus on a single client at a given time. It is now all up to you.

How to Become a Freelance Engineer

So, you have decided that you want to become a freelance engineer? Great! It is time to set you up for success. Your technical skills as an engineer should go hand-in-hand with good business management skills. Begin with the basics of starting up a business and work your way up to your launch. Start right and strong.

Keep Your Finances in Check

Understand that it may take some time before you can have a good revolving business fund. You may not see your profit right after the first month. So, before starting your business, check your finances. Do you have appropriate funding for your business?

While you may not be shelling out money for office rentals and employee salaries, you still have to consider your operational expenses. Estimate your daily or monthly expenses. As an engineer, you probably need subscriptions to certain software or an ample amount of office supplies, right? You will also need to set aside a transportation budget because you may need to visit sites and meet clients to present your reports and updates.

It is always, always wise to ensure your financial stability, especially in the first few months while you are still building your business.

Credentials Are Important

resume and charts printed on paper with laptop

Having your degree as an engineer will absolutely define your skill set and which industry you will focus on. However, do not underestimate the importance of having the appropriate certifications and licenses you need for your practice. To meet the standards and have proof of competence, you can check the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying website. Licenses may vary depending on the city, state, or country you are residing in and will work on. Remember this when accepting jobs outside your city of residence. There may be different requirements and regulations you need to know in that location before you can start working.

Define the Industry

One good thing about being an engineer is that you already have a specific skill set that defines your industry. You may be a mechanical, agricultural, or data engineer. The industry is already a given. All you have to do now is dig deep and understand how the business side of it works.

In establishing how to become a freelance engineer, you must understand that you will no longer be dictated by a superior on what, when, and how to do your job. Everything now will be up to you. So understand everything there is to know about the latest trends, an entry of a new big player in the market, or any shift in industry-standard policies or rates. Always be updated with what is happening.

Get Your Systems Ready

Before you start selling your business in the market, make sure that you are properly settled. This relates to all aspects of your business. Simply put, ensure you are a well-oiled machine before you start the ignition.

1. Office and Supplies

You do not need an actual office to run your business. You can work at home, in your garage, or room. It all depends on much space you would need to comfortably and efficiently work. Some engineers need a large flat table for their blueprints, while some won’t need one. But, again, it depends on your specialization. But whatever it may be, make sure that you are in a safe and distraction-free workspace.

Make a list of the supplies you need and see to it that you have enough materials for at least two projects. You do not want to stop mid-way through finishing a project because you ran out of ink. Surely, you can anticipate the supplies you will need, so be smart and make sure you have enough stocks.

2. Equipment

man working on engineering design

For sure, you will need a high-functioning computer and printer to do your job efficiently. Maybe, you will need some hard disk drives to save large files to. Find out which equipment is best for your practice. Do not buy the most expensive or the newest one just yet! While it is good that technology is continuously advancing, some of these new computers and equipment may not be suitable for you. You’ll just be wasting money. Research and determine the most fitting equipment for you.

3. Legal Documents

Verify with your local government unit if you will need any permits or licenses. These requirements vary depending on the location of your business, so to be on the safe side, know the legal requirements in your city and state.

Knowing how to become a freelance engineer includes being aware of the legalities involved in your business. Aside from the city requirements, know your tax obligations too. Take note of the schedule on when you should renew, if needed, any license or permit, may it be for your business or as a licensed professional. Do the same with the schedule of when you should pay your taxes.

4. Design Your Workflow

As an engineer, this will be an easy task for you. Create your process map. Having a workflow ensures that you are not mismanaging your project. This will determine how many projects you can accept at any given time, especially if you know how long each task will take to finish. Your workflow will also help you see if you would need any other resources aside from what you already have.

5. Software

In addition to your primary software like word processing and spreadsheet programs, you obviously need engineering software and apps. Familiarize yourself with the software that you will be using before you start doing projects. This will see to it that there are minimal errors as you do your work.

Empower your business by using productivity software too. If you carefully study your workflow, you will notice that there will be phases in a project lifespan where administrative tasks are required. These include drafting proposals and contracts, invoicing and billing, and payment management. Do not panic. Project management tools are available online to help you with these tasks.

A complete project management platform like Kosmo has features that not only offer these document creations but also track and manage the entire project. From client directory creation to time tracking to payment management, productivity tools guarantee that you manage your business efficiently.

Kosmo joining page

6. Pricing Scheme

Bear in mind that one of the first questions your clients will ask you is how much you charge for your work. Now, do not get caught not knowing the answer to that!

Part of getting your systems ready is determining your rates. You will have to decide whether you will be charging on a project fee or hourly rate basis. Understand the difference between these two and decide on which scheme you will go for. You may also provide rates based on a retainer agreement, especially for clients who wish to hire you for multiple projects.

Have an Effective Marketing Strategy

To create a buzz about you and your business, you need a good and effective marketing strategy. Remember, you are not the only freelance engineer in the market. So how can you stand out? Here are a few tips:

  • Create an amazing portfolio. Showcase your work. Highlight your strengths, skills, and specialties. Choose the best projects you have done and put a spotlight on those.
  • Have a website. As an engineer, you do need a good website. A professional website is a testament to your skills as well, for it will vouch for your keen attention to design and details.
  • Be on social media. The world somehow revolves around what’s new and in on social media platforms. Everybody uses their social media accounts not only for connecting with people but also for business purposes. Create a professional profile and regularly update your pages.
  • Use job boards. There are many job boards and freelance management systems online where you can post your availability. But expect that many other freelancers post their profiles on these sites, so make sure you have a scroll-stopping, eye-catching profile.
  • Explore partnerships. There are instances when an opportunity for collaboration is possible. Why not explore this option? You can gain more clients through your partner as well.
  • Know your network. You may know some people who can refer you to potential clients. Or, you may have developed a positive relationship with previous clients. Let them know that you are now accepting projects as a freelance engineer. You can also join clubs or organizations like the National Society of Professional Engineers. Who knows, maybe your next partner or client is sitting right next to you!

Continuous Learning

Never stop improving. As a freelancer, one of your worst nightmares would be lagging far behind the rest of your colleagues. You can take some courses to improve your craft. You can also know the latest news and trends through various online groups and get additional references through forums and discussions.

As an engineer, you know your work should always be exceptional. To be able to deliver top-notch work, you should always keep on improving yourself. This is, after all, for the success of your business too.

Hello There, Freelancer

engineer PPEs

It is time to launch your business! You are now ready to be a freelance engineer. It will take a lot of dedication and time, but with the right conviction of the heart, you can definitely do it. And you know what? Learning how to become a freelance engineer is easy; with the right mindset and tools, you definitely are ready.

Get Organized & Win More Clients

Kosmo has everything you need to run your freelancing business.

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