Working as a freelance engineering consultant has many advantages for people who have the right skills. Some of these include the ability to choose projects and clients as well as have greater control over their time. On the flip side, freelancing in this field can be stressful when there’s no guarantee of a next paycheck. However, independent engineering consultants can reduce much of their risk by incorporating the tips discussed below.
Make Industry Connections
The thing about being a freelancer is that business doesn’t just present itself. The new small business owner or solo entrepreneur will need to continually pursue leads to ensure a steady supply of clients. That’s why it’s a good idea to start networking in the engineering community long before putting in a two-week notice with the current employer.
One of the best places to meet fellow entrepreneurs and future clients is at formal engineering meet-ups. The future business owner should be certain to follow up with contacts to keep these people on a list of current connections. Having an active presence on LinkedIn and joining online engineering groups can also be useful.
Entrepreneurs Will Need Their Own Equipment
Working with clients in this industry typically means helping them come up with ideas, designing and modeling their products, and creating a working prototype. At a minimum, this requires access to a 3D printer and a modeling program. Since it can be costly to invest in this equipment, the entrepreneur may need to consider creative solutions such as renting tools or joining a co-working space. It’s important to determine how to obtain necessary equipment and make connections with wholesalers and suppliers before leaving full-time employment.
Manage Projects with Cloud-Based Applications
Just because an engineer decides to become a freelance consultant doesn’t mean that he or she will always work alone. They will often collaborate with other engineers working on their own or with a small firm to complete projects for a customer.
Rather than spending time calling and emailing business partners, entrepreneurs should consider communicating all project details through a cloud-based application. For example, the consultant can schedule tasks for his or her business partner and receive notification when the partner has marked them as complete. The ability for all parties involved to see the project unfold in real time eliminates guessing and unnecessary rework as well.
With a shoestring budget, freelance engineering consultants must save money anywhere they can. They can schedule meetings via Skype rather than travel to the client’s location as well as use applications such as instant messaging and video conferencing.
Start with Low Overhead
Working at home and meeting with prospective clients in local coffee shops or via teleconferencing will save a lot of money rather than leasing office space right away. A good rule of thumb is to only invest in necessities when first starting out and to buy used whenever possible. It will take several years of focused effort to grow the business, but it will be possible to upgrade to better surroundings and equipment when that day does come.