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Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website
8

Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

(OP)
Does one pick up much business via setting up a Website?

Or is there another way to start picking up small projects on the side that would work better?

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

2
That's an interesting question.  I found with my website that it has not brought in business from anyone that I not already contacted.  My site was designed by my daughter who does websites professionally, and she warned me not to expect that much from a website alone.  I have however received a good response to mailings and other contacts, and I think my website as an additional resource has helped get work.

If you want to spend the time I recommend you put up a website.  Use it to describe your experience and the type of work you are looking for.  I also suggest you take the time to browse websites of similar consultants to get an idea of what they look like.

Regards,
-Mike

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

Slugger926 - Like mrMikee, I have given a lot of thought to doing this. However decided to take a middle road - a very basic website that only offers engineering information not available elsewhere, for free. The only "advertising" that I do is the link below.

The results have been astounding. Website "hits" have increased steadily each month. I have received one consulting opportunity, but it has turned into an important one. Mostly I receive a small amount of email from a wide variety of interesting, and sometimes noted individuals who have found one item or another useful. The experince of leaning how to develope and maintain a website has been rewarding. My step-daughter (professional website developer) gave me one 30 minute lesson.

An interesting thing about the web is how it "gets the word out" about web traffic, automatically. As an example, Google on "Slugger926" and see what you get.

Based on these experiences, suggest that a site offering both worthwhile, free content (to increase traffic to your site) and a description of your business services might work. One potential problem for many engineers is that they may be limited to work in states where they are licensed. Perhaps your Bioengineering field does not have those limitations. And of course, there is no way to predict what other opportunities may come along. Web hosting & domain name purchase is inexpensive, suggest that you try it.

Best Wishes

www.SlideRuleEra.net

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

Slugger926,

If you decide to do a website and don't have a preference for software, or don't have someone to do this for you, I would suggest SiteSpinner by Virtual Mechanics.  It worked well for me and I hadn't done a website before.  Cost is only $49.  

Just thought I'd bring that up.  I really don't want to create a distraction to the original post with software things.  I too would like to hear from others about their websites.

http://virtualmechanics.com

Reviews at
http://www.download.com/SiteSpinner/3640-2048_4-10293701.html

-Mike

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

Most jobs come through three types of referrals. You might know the Architect, geotechnical or Civil who has seen your name around or your work and gives your name out to the client. Another referral source is a contractor that has worked with you who throws your name in as well. The most credible though is a former client whom you did similar projects succesfully in the past and is a pleased client.

If you're new you will have to talk with others in your locale and see the best way to network.  Limited advertizing will work in some cases.  

Websites are great for savvy clients who are ready to buy but in 4 years have yet to get a client-only requests for propsals or free site visit requests.

To learn more marketing as a consultant, I recommend  www.summitconsulting.com   

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

What kind of engineering business?

In 13 years running my own business I have never gotten any significant work from someone who I did not know before they gave me the job.

Most of getting engineering work is referrals and contacts. Web sites and other forms of advertising should only be seen as a method of developing these contacts and not getting any work directly.

BTW Why start on the side? If you really think that you can make a go of it why not quit your day job and do the work. As someone operating a one man firm I have a real problem with someone with a day job who can use his companies resources and time (even if all you are doing is bouncing ideas around at coffee time) competing against me.

If you want to be a business person and compete with me on a level playing field then welcome to the fun and games, however if you are using your employer’s resources to compete against me be prepared for a formal complaint to the local association for unethical practices.


Rick Kitson MBA P.Eng

Construction Project Management
From conception to completion
www.kitsonengineering.com

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

(OP)
Rick -

Why to start a business on the side -  price of diapers, increased price of gas, food, utility bills, and my current job is covering those costs even though they haven't given anyone in this city a raise in 5 years.  We are all making less now due to inflation than when we graduated college.  They also tend to lay us off here to replace us in the city where management resides at double the pay.

On top of that, they tend to layoff those with P.E licenses before others at each round of layoffs.

Our work flow here here is also very boom to bust in cycles due to the quartley cycles of AFE's being approved.  We get swamped with jobs, they go to install, then we have a dead per until equipment starts showing up on site.  We are then swamped supporting install teams.  We are as effecient as the management system allows.  We used to do about 20 times the amount of work under better business processes 8 years ago.  :)

Most everyone in this office are working on their parchutes for when they shut our office down.  Don't worry, we aren't competing against you, but trying to learn as much as possible in our development time.  If we weather the storm, we will probably be better off here over the long haul depending on what management and the company that is buying us decides.

There is no way I would take on any work requiring construction management, because that would require the same time that my employer requires.  The type of stuff I could imagine designing are small projects or machines that can be handed off to the client for their own management and/or a construction manager/engineer.  Maybe I could even helping out local engineering firms that can't hire the extra manpower on small simple jobs.  I also can do flood plain evaluations for houses that are in mis-identified FEMA flood plains.

I am trying figure out a way to step out on my own when the inevitable office closure happens here.  This is a small world.  The more research I do, the more I find out that the big two engineering firms have most of the work locked up in this state (although they do subcontract some of it out to individual engineers after chopping it up).

Someday I may require your services or vice/versa.

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

Slugger926,

Does your employer know that you want to go into business part time?  Do they or would they approve?  If not how do you think they would react?  The attitude of companies towards moonlighting may have changed over the years but it used to be against the unwritten rules.  Just something to think about.

-Mike

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

If your side business is in any way in competition or you use your employer’s resources to compete then you are outside the ethical boundary.

By using company resources I mean things as simple as looking something up in a company reference book, even after hours.

I have to earn the money to buy that book to look up an answer; if you get it for free from your employer then you are in effect stealing it from him if you do so without his permission and unfairly competing against me even with his permission.

Same goes for internet and other computer services. I have to bill enough hours to pay for these, you are unfairly getting it for free.

If you are in any way competing against your employer and that includes offering similar services to clients not presently served by your employer. (i.e. design services to homeowners when your employer offers these same services to the non residential sector) then you are stealing business or potential business form your employer.

If you spend coffee breaks discussing outside work related issues with your co-workers then you are stealing their services from your employer.

Bottom line if you compete against me and use your employer’s resources to do so I will (and have) reported you to the local association for unethical conduit.

How fast will your job last in the next round of layoffs if you are no longer a PE or P.Eng, if even for a short period of time?

How can you compete part time and afford the insurance necessary to fulfill your ethical obligation to protect the public?

If you want to be a consultant then become one. Quit your day job and compete against me openly and fairly.

If you do not want to take that major step, then put up with what your work place offers and the conditions of being an employee in the place you picked to live. It may mean not affording the things that you want and reducing your lifestyle to what salaried employment offers but you will at least still be ethical and professional.

Rick Kitson MBA P.Eng

Construction Project Management
From conception to completion
www.kitsonengineering.com

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

RDK,

You are suggesting that it is unethical to work part time.  However, you seem to base this on a lot of assumptions.  If you have some suggestions then make them, but I think you should do so in a less threatening manner.  While I have never worked part time I have for many years had a better computer and a more complete library at home than was available at work.  My point is that you should be careful what you assume.

Regards,
-Mike

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

(OP)
Everyone in our department including the management is setting up their parachutes and working part time at something.

How fast will your job last in the next round of layoffs if you are no longer a PE or P.Eng, if even for a short period of time?  It will probably last at least 2 years longer.  The two guys that got their PE's before me were let go 6 months to a year before I obtained my PE.  A lot of corporations are getting rid of PE's these days according to my college classmates.  Go figure you get punished for trying to do something right.

Moonlighting with a PE is a common practice around here as long as there is no competition between jobs.  It is different for those working in engineering firms rather than corporations or universities though.  The main reason I have survived 100's of layoffs is that I am that I am the few ethical ones around in the company.

All of my engineering resources, books, and programs are at home.  What I have to work with at work is very outdated and rediculous to use (created by upper management to slow workers down so they retain headcount (unethical)).

How can you compete part time and afford the insurance necessary to fulfill your ethical obligation to protect the public? I am trying to learn the hidden business side to engineering firms.  Some niche areas won't require insurance either.

Right now, it looks like my self field trained Golden Retriever will make me more $$$ than my P.E. license ever will.  She also took tons of work to compete at the levels where she will make $$$.

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

(OP)
RDK -  Looking at your website, your firm would really help out a lot of part time engineering projects.

Say I have a friend with land that needed to be developed for a housing addition.  I could do the design work for him, and your firm could take over the construction management.  There is no way a engineer doing a project here and there on the side could keep up with all the questions and project management that will come up when construction starts.

I almost always moonlighted after HS from working brush crews with the electric company, warehouse work, to officiating baseball games.  There is nothing wrong with a lil hard work as long as a person isn't undercutting the competition.

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

Yes I make a lot of assumptions. It all comes down to the fact that I do not believe that you can serve two masters. Either you are an employee with the “security” of having someone else responsible for finding enough work to pay your salary and you do not use his resources to compete against him or any one else or you strike out on your own and start your own full time business.

Your first ethical obligation is to protect the public. Part of protecting the public is to have sufficient errors and omissions insurance to make things right. How can you afford this on a part time basis?

You have an obligation to your employer. How can you fulfill this obligation if you are looking at doing work in competition to him? Or using his resources to put money in your own pocket?

You have an obligation to only compete fairly with your fellow engineers. How can you do this while undercutting him on fees  because you do not have to spend money on the resources that you obtain from your employer or save by not having E&O insurance.

Bottom line is if you want to be an independent consultant then show your commitment to that path by quitting your day job and becoming an independent consultant.

If you are not willing to do that then keep the security of having someone else responsible for generating enough business to pay your salary..

Rick Kitson MBA P.Eng

Construction Project Management
From conception to completion
www.kitsonengineering.com

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

(OP)
No one said anything about not having insurance or undercutting competition.  Insurnance is required by customers, and undercutting other engineers is illegal here.

You also falsely assume that there is security in working for someone else.  In a right to work state like this one, the employer can walk a person out the door for no reason.  Likewise the employee can walk out as well.  If you seen how engineers and employees have been treated, you would understand that the engineers are basically working for themselves at a fixed annual rate.

You seem to assume that others get free rides too.  Engineers here are libel for their work whether they are working for a corporation or as a consultant.

I am sure you have worked for more than one client at a time, and put in more than a standard 8 hour day doing so.

Also, those that work outside the ethical boundries will lose their jobs with their main employer and/or get fined by their licensing board.

This thread has gotten way off topic.  I am leaning towards designing stuff for myself, having it contract built by local machinists, and selling the merchandise on E-Bay.  That kind of stuff could have been done without a P.E.

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

RDK,

I agree that there are ethical issues that need to be addressed when working a full time position and also working on the side.  These concern responsibilities you have to your full time employer, the type of work you intend to do, and responsibilities to your customers.  I believe that under certain circumstances it is possible to do this in an ethical and professional manner, but I don't know the details of the situation we are discussing here and will not jump to conclusions and ridicule someone who is thinking about it.

There’s plenty of good information that we could be discussing about setting up a business, working with your current employer, getting new clients, advertising, websites, and so on.  It seems to me that focusing on whose books, computers, and internet connections are used, and who discusses what at coffee breaks, is a waste of bandwidth.

Regards,
-Mike


RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

RDK,

You sound like you have been burned one too many times.  Why the hostility?  Are you telling me that your company can not compete with someone working part time with no insurance?

Slugger926,

As for your website, make it simple and they will come. I use my site to "center" my advertising. Flyers, calls, emails, my card, etc. funnel people to my website for contact info and the types of services I provide. I have gotten calls/jobs/etc. from my website, but mostly it is for information purposes. Nowadays, the first thing people want to do is read about what they are going to buy on the net....whether it be a car or engineering services.

As for finding work....networking is the key. Call or email ten people a week to touch base and see if they need some help. This list of people starts with the people you know (family, friends, etc.) and evolves into people you meet, sat next to on the airplane, etc.  Good luck and don't let RDK scare you off.  Many businesses are started part time and evolve to where they can support your family and you can go "full time".

ZCP
www.phoenix-engineer.com

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

RDK - I have two questions:

1. I am a part-time "retiree", and a part-time consultant (including your field, project management). Since retirement income could be looked at as a partial subsidy to my consulting business, would you consider this unfair competition?

2. For most of my "full time" career, I was employed by an electric utility. On occasion I had opportunities to perform outside engineering work. During these opportunities, I neither generated, nor contributed to the generation of, even one watt of electric power. Was I in competition with my employer?

www.SlideRuleEra.net

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

2
I recently tired of getting laid off every 3-5 years.  I'm not really what you consider "corporate management" material - in other words, I don't play well with others when there is ass kissing and politics involved.  So, I started my own firm.

Here is my advice, uncut, and uncensored.

1) New businesses take a year to get a good name established, and start making money. If you can't spare a year of your life without income, don't bother.

2) You should NEVER think of engineering as a "side" business.  If you do, you won't last long.  This is a business that's all about doing good work, and meeting deadlines.  If you don't put in the time, you won't get repeat business.  And I can assure you, for new businesses who are FULL time, there are many late nights in the office...

3) Following along with #2 - Most tasks that you get are menial.  People who want good work, don't usually give new guys a chance.  You have to work HARD for it.

4) Websites will never get more exposure than you make for yourself in person.  However, you MUST have a website in this day and age.  It's become the unwritten rule. (almost like having a cell phone, or an answering machine)

5) A website WILL bring you business, but you have to be seen.  If you do it yourself, you must master another profession - SEO (search engine optimization) or pay big money for optimization and link building, or even more for sponsored listings.  If nobody sees your site, you have wasted your time.  It should be something that ACTUALLY registers for a given search.  Not easy to do. (a listing in dmoz.org is vital, as it is tied to Google, and not many sites with popular or competitive themes get air without a dmoz listing - an a listing cannot be bought or guaranteed)


I can go on and on, but these are some of the most prominent points...




**************
Check out CATBlog!

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

(OP)
Rick was right about one thing.  A person cannot serve two masters.  A person cannot serve God and Man.  You gotta keep things in perspective.

It is very common for people to handle multiple jobs, and consultants to consult to multiple clients.  Greedy people tend don't like their employees to do anything but spend every waking moment working for them while they wonder why they keep losing employees.

If it weren't for people moonlighting, some of our industries would be totally controlled by large corportations such as the Beef industry for one example.  We would all be paying much higher prices for things at the store.

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

Moonlighting seldom works.  It doesn't take most customers very long to figure out that your "side" business is just that.

Unfortunately, most people in business don't respect the part-time business owner - and rightfully so.  You must ask yourself a fundamental question: if this were MY product, and I was asking someone to give creative input, would I want their full attention?  Would I want to be given priority, as a paying customer?  Would I want to ensure that I could trust them to deliver the product on time, and be able to communicate with them through any step of the process, during NORMAL hours? Are these people neglecting other areas of their lives - such as sleep and family - for the sake of part-time work? (these questions are righteous)

I'm not suggesting that it cannot work - I am confidently stating that it SELDOM does.  This is my informed advice, as I have worked with several "part-timers," and had many discussions with others who employed free-lance part-timers.  It is OUR general concensus that part-timers are a big NO-NO.  They are a boon to us (we regularly hire free-lancers) and our customers.  And, we know from being business owners, that part time is just a myth, if you have any serious aspirations for your business.  

If you invest the money to buy equimpent, get licensed in your state and locality, and then put in the time and effort to advertise, you pretty much need to be full-time to make ends meet.  If you bootleg software, and work under the table, you'll be known soon enough.  Some people might use those kind for awhile - but they're usually no more trustworthy than one another, and it doesn't make for a healthy business relationship.

Finally - I would like to speak to your point about big businesses.  Regardless of their ethics, they didn't get big by accident.  You can choose to be idealistic, and play the resentment game, or you can do like so many other entrepeneurs - you can let them make YOU rich.  Big, greedy, dirty companies, whether we like it or not, are the backbone of our economy.  They answer to their own autorities, and I answer to mine - that is, ME.  I don't worry about internal politics, or shareholders.  I do, however, use all the tools at my disposal - including an SDB 8(a) status, to get their business.  It is good for both of us.  And, in doing so, I maintain my independence from them, and ensure that my potential to maximize growth and capital is directly tied to my own ambition and quality of work, which in turn, is tied to the pride that I have in the work that I do.  I get all of the job satisfaction that I've ever wanted, and I work for the big companies, PLUS, I get the salary that they never paid me.  

So, the moral is: be a sourpuss if you like, or realize that this is the way things are.  You might as well make the situation work for you.  Greedy people will always exist, and they will always hold the purse strings.  You only need to put everything in proper perspective.  Whether you like it or not, you end up working for them.  Will it be on your terms, or theirs?




**************
Check out CATBlog!

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

Slugger 926 said "We used to do 20 times the amount of work under better buisness processes 8 years ago"

Until you're invited into the heads of those making the decisions, you just don't know why these things are done. They may very well have dropped that other large chunk of business because it wasn't worth the trouble, or a hundred other possible reasons unknown to you. The decisionmakers are constantly questioned by those without sufficient info to judge the decisions made.

Those that view RDK's comments as "hostile" most likely haven't owned a succesfull business. It can be a very harsh world, that's where the phrase "nothing personal, it's business" came from, usually uttered right before delivering a crippling blow :)
Established buisness in an area will tolerate small start ups only while they scramble about picking up the undesirable crumbs, when you start to take a bite out of their pie, they will do what they can to (even the good honest ones)crush your enterprise (the good honest ones will do everything legally and morally within their power, the crooked ones will do whatever they think they can get away with). That's competition and at times it can be brutal.
The comments about a real or percieved advantage (using company resources) invoke a perticularly hard resonce from established business.
RDK is giving you real world advise about the proverbial "dog eat dog" aspect, that's ever present even whan people are acting very civilized in outward appearance.
I would never hire an engineer that we couldn't contact during normal hours, or had to contact at his place of employment. Our situation is probably way different than the work you are contmplating, but we regularly have spur of the moment issues that require the engineer to address/document thruought the week.
I own a field welding outfit and my website is used as a brochure for those who have already found us, but as a side note a few people have found us via a search, tho that was never the intent.

JTMcC, happily swimming with the sharks for about 13 years now.

www.firstratefabricators.com

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

(OP)
First off - This thread has gotten way off base.

JTMcC - "Slugger 926 said "We used to do 20 times the amount of work under better buisness processes 8 years ago"

Until you're invited into the heads of those making the decisions, you just don't know why these things are done. They may very well have dropped that other large chunk of business because it wasn't worth the trouble, or a hundred other possible reasons unknown to you. The decisionmakers are constantly questioned by those without sufficient info to judge the decisions made. "

We totally understand those decisions.  As you said, it is a dog eat dog world.  It is self perservation of both the execs and their manpower.  The headcount issue keeps both the employees #'s and the exec's job since each exec needs a certain # of headcount.  These are people that lost everything as the market crumbled, and would have to start at well below their current sallaries anywhere else.  Most of them probably don't care about the company these days but the people under them and their own jobs.  It is a very unique situation.  Also those of us that survived the slaughter did so by treating themselves as their own company and not as a normal employee.  In this world, the person you think of as your friend may be trying to get you fired at the same time.
-------------------------------------------------

It is no different than playing on a collegiate baseball team.  Those that best position themselves will most likely succeed.  It is a balancing act.

Anyways, I just got some niche work from a friend at a fabrication shop.  They don't have enough revenue to hire anyone full time.  They do need someone to help design new products as they start a new line every six months to a year.  It is also nothing to make a living off of since it is crumbs.

I wrote a computer program that has been in use for 10 years now at an Environmental Firm in another part of the state for flood evaluations.  I can use it in this part of the state to pick up more crumbs.  The real work on these has to do with the licensed surveyors, and there are no qualified engineers in this area to sign off on the calculations.  This will provide a needed service to area homeowners and businesses without biting into anyone's business.

I am trying to fact find as much as possible before the collapse of our engineering department here.

It is looking more and more like I will be developing my own products, and having them fabricated at local shops.  All of the fabrication shops are swamped right now due to the ramp up in the oil industry which will be a problem.

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

Slugger 926 says "We totally understand those decisions".

No, you really don't. Like 90% of employees worldwide you BELIEVE you do. It's the American way I guess. If I had kept every wrong/uninformed comment made to me on "what you need to do is.....(fill in the blank)" by people who have no idea why we make the decisions we make I'd have to build a large barn to hold the cd's.

I've watched a lot of people start a business on the side and I consider it a bad move, prone to failure due to lack of motivation and energy. When the part timer begins his day working for himself he has already (we hope) put in a good days work for his employer. I start my work day with 100% of my time and energy devoted to my business.
The part time owner will never have the notivation that a full time owner has. If I fail to hustle up a sufficient amount of work, my kids will go hungry. Literally hungry. I have nothing to fall back on. You can't buy motivation like that, and I love it.

But, good luck to you if you do it. Then you'll be able to  really understand why decisions are made the way they are and the large number of influences (like the many tax concerns, lifestyle decisions, ect, ect.) most don't understand much less take into account.

JTMcC.

www.firstratefabricators.com

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

And to think this thread started out with a guy who just wanted to get some part time work on the side.  I've seen it done in the past and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  I would have liked to see a little more positive approach given to this topic instead of the egos and resentment that have crept in.  Most of us who stay in this business long enough will see both good times and bad times.  

Is a little help to someone who asks really too much to expect?

-Mike

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

(OP)
I know it can be done.  If people told my friend at this website he couldn't give 100% working at night at what turned out to be his career after a full day of chopping cotton or working peanut fields, he would have just laughed at them:  WWW.johnnybench.com

 
A
 is the ATTITUDE you have every day  
E
 Is your EFFORT for Excellence
I
 is being the best INDIVIDUAL and a accepting your responsibilities
O
 is taking advantage of the OPPORTUNITIES that come your way
U
 is USING the knowledge and information available to you from technology and your peers

Quote: "A slump is like a soft bed, easy to get in to, but hard to get out of! Persevere."

All things are possible, you just can't give up because others try to get in your way.  There is just less to lose starting part time versus jumping out with no resources.  Not everyone has a rich relative to spot them like the Paris sisters.  :)

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

mrMikee says "Is a little help to someone who asks really too much to expect?"

I think he got quite a lot of help. Help is not always "rah rah, you can do it!" Sometimes the best help you will recieve is a heads up on some of the pitfalls that await. The statistics on business start ups that fail within 5 years are eye opening.
The best "help" I recieved before starting my business was several of the points I commented on above, given to me by an experienced contractor who had seen these things up close. When I got a chance to experience similar events I recognized what was happening and responded accordingly. Now THATS help.


JTMcC, being helpfull.

www.firstratefabricators.com

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

JTMcC,

Ok, you made it.  We get that.

Regards,
-Mike

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

mrMikee:  I don't agree with everything that is being said - but one thing that I DO agree with, is that whether the advice is POSITIVE or NEGATIVE, at least it's been given.  Not everyone has that luxury, or the good sense to weigh it.  But access to other opinions and life experiences is worth as much as gold - as it could make or break a person.

Like all things in life, there are extremes.  The truth always exists somewhere in-between.  A wise man realizes this, and finds it.

Good luck, Slugger926.




**************
Check out CATBlog!

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

(OP)
This whole thread could have been broken up into three threads.  There is a lot of confusing stuff in regards to starting an engineering business off right.  The engineering is the easy and fun part.  The insurance portion is confusing with quotes ranging from a few hundred $$ to those reaching to a few hundred thousand $$.  The cheaper ones do concider they are quoting for a part time business.  Then there are those inusrance that will do policies on a per project basis.

I have a blank slate in front of me, and trying to figure out which way will be best to go when it is time.  I also understand the cutthroat world that some of you try to warn those entering the market on their own about.  I learned to protect myself in that environment in college baseball, then again through some of the biggest company colapses in history.  I could write a book on corporate survival, and the whole thing will be totally ethical (the unethical always get punished somewhere down the road).

Anyways, thanks for all the posts.  I just wish that there was more education on this board about starting a new engineering business.  There is plenty of advise for existing businesses.

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

Slugger926 - you've gotten some great advice. (ignore everything that I have said - there has been great advice from others)

Here is my final thought(s) before considering  this subject exhausted.

1) Start a website - you'll need it for credibility - but don't rely on it to bring you business. (at least not for a very long time)

2) Make lots of NEW contacts.  Look for them in unlikely places.  But whatever you do, just look.  Forget about people that you know.  Pretend they don't exist - they belong to someone else.  If possible, expand your sights, and look all over the nation. My business is internet based, and I solicit by actually visiting websites that I SEARCH for, or for business who don't have a site, they may be listed in supplier directories.  Then, I personally write an email that shows proof of having thoughtfully considered their business, and having acquainted myself with their daily operations.  It's VERY hard work, but until you have a customer base, and they start to recommend you, it's one very good way.  (it definitely shows that you're serious)

3) Ignore the politics, and your personal opinions.  Concentrate on making money.  Remember, it's your business, you get to run it the way that you want, and you bear full responsibility for your successes and mistakes.  For new businesses, it's suggested that you talk to an accountant or tax attorney before you do ANYTHING else.  Even if you think you know what to do, you might be suprised at what they say - I certainly was. (they know the LOCAL regulations, not just the state and federal, and that's VERY important)

4) Talk to somebody in your area who ALREADY does what you are seeking to do. (preferrably someone on the verge of retirement)  I've gotten some of my best advice from people who do EXACTLY what I do, where I do it.  You don't have to be shy or uncomfortable around them.  You are new, and they are old.  They have nothing to fear from you, and believe me, they don't.  You can't get the advice that you are looking for on a forum.

5) Insurance is subjective.  It depends on your state/country, and locale, as well as the type of engineering that you perform.  I, personally, make the customer pay the insurance, on a per/project basis, when I have to work/travel on site to their facility.  For liability insurance pertaining to your work, I can't help you there, as I'm in a different field, and this issue (liability) doesn't affect me.  Your mileage will vary, so talk to those in the know.

6) Your business start-up, should, as a matter or principle, have an exit strategy.  It should be prepared to deal with either success or catastrophe, but with an extra emphasis on catastrophe. (the more likely scenario)

7)  I also found an investor for my business, when I started.  Someone who believed in me, and my potential to start a business, based on something that I loved.  If you can secure funds, even if you don't spend them, that's a great thing to do.  I can't tell you that you'll be able to do it - but if you think it's even a possibility, it's worth doing.

Again, best of luck to you.  I hope that these points give you more of what you were searching for...




**************
Check out CATBlog!

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

Rick Kitson wrote:

"If you are in any way competing against your employer and that includes offering similar services to clients not presently served by your employer. (i.e. design services to homeowners when your employer offers these same services to the non residential sector) then you are stealing business or potential business form your employer."

Although the motivation may be different, it sounds like Rick has the right management attitude to make the transition from one man operation to manager of hundreds of drones at Widget Co.

Rob Campbell, PE
Finite Monkeys - www.livejournal.com/users/robcampbell

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

My reply was sarcastic and not very constructive. But I don't think many would agree with Rick's idea that starting a business in a field that your employer might someday compete in, even if you are moonlighting, is unethical. So many successful tech companies got their start that way that it's become a cliche, and I'm sure a few buggy whip companies did the same in their day. I would hate to think what the US economy would be like if they hadn't.

The part of Rick's reply that I quoted reads like standard non-compete boiler plate that is unenforceable in the states I'm familiar with, because the courts recognize a person's right to make a living.

Rob Campbell, PE
Finite Monkeys - www.livejournal.com/users/robcampbell

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

Slugger 926,

I lost track with all of the back and forth.
I've often considered doing side work myself.
I haven't because me day job is entirely too demanding and I can't give the side work the attention it needs.
The other reason, and I haven't spent much time really researching this, but I believe the Professional Engineer's Act lays down some guidelines for doing "sidework".  I believe it revolves around the rates you charge and certain conflicts of interest that must be avoided.  I believe the gist of their rules is to protect the independents from price gouging from those being supported by full time jobs and infrastructure.  You may want to check out the Engineers Act for more info.

Hope this helps

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

I am a young(er) engineer who is getting sick of the typical 8-6 grind and I have also been considering trying to develop a business 'on the side' to eventually become a full-time gig.  Although it went way off topic, this thread has been very helpful to me in that it let me see and hear a few things I hadn't considered.

I lost track of who said it along the way, but it is true that some of the best help you get might not be of the "Rah! Rah!" variety.  A lot of people in here laid out the not-so-nice side of starting a business and some of the inevitable pitfalls and obstacles that will await you.  Hearing about those and thinking about if I have the desire, energy, and overall need to overcome those will help me in my decision making process.

So, Slugger - good luck.  I feel your pain and know exactly where you're at.  Good luck in whatever you choose.

To those of you who have relayed your experiences - thank you!  There's a lot to be learned from people who have 'been there, done that.'

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

Slugger926 I like the name but why the 926?

My two bobs worth from down under:

Websites Love em or hate em. I dont have one and I dont advertise. Have worked independently for over 30 years. Work in Australia and SE Asia, Middle East and Europe. Most of my work comes from word of mouth references. In fact I dont like working for anyone I dont know or who doesnt know someone I can rely upon to give a good reference. As a one man business I havent had a bad debt  or claim in over thirty years. I get work via Standards Committees, my Software porvider, young guys I mentored many years previously (now are business leaders), lectures and technical papers published, networks. Dont be frightened to share you knowledge and educate others. then you become more respected in the engineering village.

Competition with your employer. Ethics are one thing and I guess you shouldnt compete unless you are the specialist and you are doing the employer a favour by being there. Personally I worked as a contractor for the first part of my career. Therefore legally and ethically I ran my own business. My clinets got good service from me although I worked for others. The first contract went for 6 years so someone was happy. Most contracts I had went for a while and then they tried to entice me to be employed. I declined because I like my independence.

Check copywright of your design. If you are an employee you may find that legally your employer owns the copywright even if you do the design in your own time. Conversely if you are a Contractor and you design something in an office of your 'employer" you own the design. This may be very important if you invent something of worth. Also provides a headache for the employer.

As for competition , if you cant stand the heat get out of the kitchen. Getting jobs isnt about undercutting. If a client gets a job done on price alone he is fool. Personally I dont charge the low price and I am flat out like a lizard drinking.

Last thing nothing is "on the side". Get out of that mindset. New ventures are a parallel operation as equally as important, if not more important, as any other endeavour. By using the term "on the side" you immediately put the activitity down in your mind whereas you need to elevate it to get it off the ground. Aim to be the best in your field and dont worry about competition, let them worry about you.. Good Luck

By the way I publish papers on a website for all to learn www.pipingdesigners.com (Risks of Surge in Pipeline Systems). Why have a website when you can contribute to and benefit from such a well respected offering.

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

I too have a web site but I am hard pressed to evaluate how much benefit I get fom it directly.

The main problem is to be "found" by the search engines and there are a lot better (affordable) ways to be found than paying for some expensive company who will "guarantee" you hits.

Even using the free registering with Google and Yahho doesn't do much to get you on the first page, they too now want to be paid.

Option one: look for those web sites that allow free listings;
Option two: "blogging".

If I do a keyword search for my business, top of the list usually comes my postings here and it is from postings here that I have co-incidentally received some good opportunities.

Do a keyword search on your own busines and see which gets nearest to the top of the search; your website or your posts.

Off course, once you are generating enough income to divert some to "marketting" you can sign up with the expensive websites.


JMW
www.ViscoAnalyser.com

RE: Starting a Business on the Side - Using a Website

Yes, that's right - it does take some work to get a website to produce good results - just like anything else in business.

Your website needs to rank well to be of value.  To do that, you WILL have to spend SOME money.  Maybe more for some than others, but money IS a factor, especially in the major search engines.

Google rankings are hard to get. First, there is the notorious "sandbox" effect.  I won't get into that, but my website spent nine months there, before miraculously appearing at the top of the rankings, only to start slipping.  I still haven't figured out how to stay up. (at least, not within easy grasp)

To really get good Google rankings, it is IMPERATIVE that you have a listing at dmoz.org, which in and of itself, is a hard thing.  There are no guaranteed listings, and it can be up to 3 years of waiting, and even then, some sites don't get listed.  (although some may be listed in days)  Sites that have a dmoz listing, with their keywords in the title, tend to "stick" at the top of the Google rankings.  In essence, a dmoz ranking is almost a guaranteed Google ranking.

However, for good web results, you have to do the same thing that you would do for anything - diversify.  Don't put all of your eggs in one basket.  You need word of mouth, the yellow pages, pay per click campaigns, business cards, and much, much more.  Driving traffic to the internet is much like inviting people to an open house.  The sign in the front yard is usually the LEAST effective method.

Blogging, also, is good, but it's NOT a cure-all, nor a magic bullet. (see previous comment)  The one thing that may be of most use to a new website, however, is Pay per click advertising.  It may be expensive at first, but that's how I got most of my new customers. (offset the cost with an on-page ad campaign, such as Google Adsense)

The best strategy is a diversified one.  I, personally, chose to learn the ins and outs of the whole process.  Others may choose to hire.  In either case, I will assure anyone, that you can make TONS of money from a website.  But it isn't magic.  Remember the famous movie line - "if you build it, they will come."  Like most everything else in Hollywood, that is crap!

Bottom line - it TAKES money to MAKE money!!!   I've spent almost a year getting my "online" business setup, and I'm just starting to make money at it.  Concentrate FIRST on your base, and pay your dues while you wait for the website to pay off.  It will be worth it in the end!

Quote (jmw):


I too have a web site but I am hard pressed to evaluate how much benefit I get fom it directly.

This is the easiest part!  Evaluating the benefit is the most valuable way to ensure it!  

You MUST, MUST, MUST, have a statistics program, like Awstats, to analyze your web traffic.  Most service providers will offer such a program with a hosting plan.  This program is INVALUABLE for determining:

A) Where your traffic comes from
B) How much traffic you are receiving
C) How long your customers stick around
D) How they found your page (by link, ad campaign, direct URL, etc)
E) How often they come back
F) If the search engines are spidering your site
G) WHICH search engines are sending you traffic
H) What time - month, hour, etc - that you get "peak" traffic
 
And on, and on it goes...

If you learn to use that, you'll find how to "tweak" your page.  I am currently being found by over 110 different keywords or keyword phrases.  I use this information to optimize new pages that I add to my site, and to improve existing content.  It tells me what my customers are looking for when they find me!

This is pure data mining gold!  If you are really in touch with your business, you MUST embrace this sort of information.  If you don't know how, find someone who does, or LEARN.  If you are already making so much money, that it doesn't seem worth your time, it's probably just a matter of time before someone else starts cutting into your business. (maybe even me!)

Good luck!




**************
Check out CATBlog!

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