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New Mechanical Design Business - Update

New Mechanical Design Business - Update

New Mechanical Design Business - Update


I've posted a few times in the past and got a great response, so here we go again. Last time I posted I mentioned that I had started a mechanical design business - for more info please visit [http://www.d3s.co.za]. The CC "D3 Engineering Solutions" has been running for a year now and is slowly lifting off, meaning I can actually eat some real food instead of 2 minute noodles and canned meatballs. I am slowly building a steady client base and am now able to pay off my expenses each month from my steady clients. I would love to grow the business but it is very difficult to do in this economic climate. For now, I am concentrating on building up a solid client list, producing quality solutions and building up funds for new ventures or growing the business.

All that said, my key reason for posting here is to let anyone who is considering starting an engineering business know that it is hard-work and full of anxiety and stress but is nothing most people can't handle if you're truly commited. If you're just starting, spend every minute of every day marketing, e-mailing, meeting people etc..... It is the core of the business, the actual mechanical work only becomes important once you've secured a job. Try sites like guru.com and elance.com for your first few jobs and build a reputation from there.

Another key point that cannot be stressed enough is TO HAVE AT LEAST A YEARS WORTH OF FUNDS AVAILABLE to cover your monthly expenses, trust me. I started with about 4 months worth of funds and all it resulted in is major stress from having to secure new jobs each week. So anyway, good luck and be prepared for the most rewarding job in the world, entrepreneurship.


W. Mann - Aspiring Business owner/engineer/marketer/sales consultant/entrepreneur/secretary/hr manager/ etc... haha... you get the idea

RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update

Congratulations on your first year in business, to still be surviving from a start up in this current economic climate is a major achievement in itself.

I would have thought 4 months money would have been more than enough to get you started, I wonder why no one warned you otherwise. winky smile

RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update

Congrats. Good luck keeping it going for years to come!


RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update

Glad to hear it's working for you.  Congratulations on one more piece of the backbone of the economy.

RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update

I was faced unexpectedly with a major career decision: move or start my own (all other choices had been used up).

I calculated our living expenses (family of 6, mortgage, health insurance etc.) thru the next school year and told my wife we could make it that long and I would consider the job offer as we neared the end of that year.  Having the funds in place and allocated for living in advance took a huge load off my mind, though we still worried too much.

That was over 10 years ago, we continue to keep plugging along.  

RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update

i am really encourage by this. I am also considering this.  

RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update

D3design Engineer,

i am really impressed how you have managed this in horrific economic times. I also am considering starting a business. I'll bet you do an incredible amount of sitting.

have a wonderful day. 90's here in illinois and my truck's air just went out.       

RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update


I'm 25 and single, renting my townhouse and keep expenses to the minimum. I work 12 hours a day and love every second of it, always marketing online, face-to-face and sending e-mails. If it were not for keeping my overheads as low as possible and eating 2 minute noodles, I would not not have been able to go out on my own. Bottom line, if you're considering going on your own, have lots of additional funds and don't spend your money as soon as it comes through, save it up, you will need it!. A family of six, a house and all the other expenses is a fair amount of expense but it can be done, just don't stop marketing.

The most rewarding thing is that my business is like a baby and I love watching it grow up and develop. Year one has been tough but things are getting better now that I have steady clients and so on... . My business is still developing everyday and the potential is endless, just gotta make sure I don't lose focus and get into a "comfort rut", always be a little greedy is my motto.

Over and out, sorry for the disjoint message, just writing as it comes to me.

RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update

thank you gents

RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update

D3...way to go.  Been there, done that...still doing that.  
Wouldn't have it any other way!

Go brother.

RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update

One more post, why not. All of a sudden after countless months spent marketing, it is really paying off. Have received 6 new quotation requests in the last few days. It proves that marketing and creating a brand for someone to think about is extremely helpful. They may be sitting at their desk one day and need design work, if your company is fresh in their mind, chances are you'll get a phone call. Anyways, got to get back to work...

RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update


just wondering you have the word engineer in your company name. Are a PE by any chance. I have been wondering if i should use my last name with engineering or just uses Deans Mechanical Designs.  I am concerned that somebody will bug me someday and say hey your not a PE hhmm how does court sound to you ?????

thank you...got my air fixed in my truck and it was coverage by insurance...feels good now i can apply that to my printer !!!!

RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update

sixftsix....if you are not a P.E. and you use the term engineering in your company name, you are violating the law in most states.  Further, if you use the term engineer, engineering, etc. in your name, most states require that you register your company with the state's Board of Engineers.  If you're not a P.E., you can't register your company as such, so then you might be charged with violating several provisions of your state's engineering laws.

RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update

thats too bad. I am a degreed mechanical engineer from an accredited college but the opportunity did not present itself. i am sure some people wont hire me because of this. But a lot of other peope will.

anyways ron thank you for your input. I admire honesty to the fullest. And not to many people are.  


RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update

Quick response to sixftsix, I am currently in the process for registering as a P.E. Here in South Africa, as far as I know, you may have the word Engineer in your company name without being a P.E but I am registering just in case. I'm having a few problems because I'm a little low on experience and I need a mentor who is a P.E himself. Also note, I do not sign off my designs, they become property of my clients as soon as they are handed over so if any problems result, it is the clients responsibility. I do provide support calculations to validate my designs, but it is up to the client to get it signed by a P.E. As soon as I'm registered as a P.E I will start signing off designs myself.  

RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update

maybe i could design paper plates then maybe i'll get away with it.  

RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update

who knows maybe then i will hire a PE  

RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update

D3DesignEngineer...the ownership of the design has little or nothing to do with your liability and responsibility as a Professional Engineer.  I don't know the laws of South Africa, but in most locations where licensing is required, it is the act of presenting your work product to your client that constitutes the engagement of engineering services, so that's one place that the laws come into play.  The other place is the practice of engineering which is the substance of your work product.  You can't really separate the two of them, which is what you are proposing to limit your liability.  Since you are not an employee of your client, you can't hide behind their ownership of the design.


RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update

Off topic but related I've been trying to freelance drafting, design 3D modeling for few years with little success.  You mention guru and elance which I have used and have had a few jobs from.  I was wondering if you have used mfg.com? I would like to try it but it's such a high cost up front something like a few hundred bucks per month (I'd love to make that much freelancing each month).  

I think my down fall has been marketing.  I need to stop for a few months a create a better portfolio and a website so I look legit.

Sorry this turned out to be more a ramble...

Congrats and good luck on the future.  Also If you need any CAD work let me know....

Certified SolidWorks Associate
SW2009 X64 SP 1.0
Dell Precision T5400
Nvidia Quadro FX 5600
Xeon 2.5GHz Quad Core, 4GB RAM
XP Pro X64 SP2.0

RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update

Congratulations D3.  

I've been in business 2-1/2 years, and one lesson that I have learned the hard way is to set your rates high enough to account for ALL your overhead, and the number of billable hours you can realistically achieve. You may find that you need to spend a lot of time doing non-billable work; writing proposals, accounting, taxes, marketing, etc.

When I started, I projected my best guess at overhead and billable hours.  I kept my rate at that number for two years and finally concluded that billable hours are not what I expected, even though I work way more hours than I ever did as an employee.  I had to raise my rates significantly to continue.  I only wish I had figured that out much earlier. It would have saved me a lot of stress and money.


RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update


I used mfg.com both as a supplier and as a buyer.  

It works great for me as a BUYER of machine shop parts.  

However, as a SUPPLIERr of engineering services, it was wasted money.  There are VERY few serious engineering projects posted.  

The system is not suited well for engineering project bidding.  It may be ok if you are looking for small CAD projects such reverse engineering a single part.  If you're looking for large engineered projects, I only saw one posted for the year I used it, and the company posting did not really have the funds budgeted to do much of anything.

I highly recommend it for gettting parts manufactured though.  

RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update

The technique that worked for me was to plan on covering all costs at 1/2 time (about 20 hours/week).  I set my hourly rate at that value 6 years ago (next Tuesday) and it is still holding.  Up until the last few months I've averaged 55 hours/week of billable time, but even in this tough economy the business is still covering costs.  I think that planning on billing more than half time is a recipe for failure (even more than pricing yourself out of the market).  

When I started, my rates were the highest around.  Now 8-year guys are charging more than me and other 30 year guys are 70% higher than my rate.  The only reason that I would raise my rates is to pull back out of the heard (would you buy Chivas Regal if it had a Ripple price tag?).


RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update


This is a general message to all. Completely agree when setting 20hrs/week to cover overheads. With regards to pricing of services, one must look at the client themselves. By all means have a standard rate but investigate the clients buying power as well. If it is a private customer, take of 30% just to get the job even if it means running at a little loss for a week. The references you will get from him\her are priceless. Keep your pricing relevant to the quality of your services, if your only capable of providing medium quality drawings and designs then charge a middle of the range price, its easy to judge how good you are by years of expereince and other peoples drawings. People do realise they get what they pay for, end of story. To Grunt58: Marketing a service is always tough, my advice is go to your potential clients face-to-face and be well presented and polite, you'll be surprised how well this works, the potential client will judge you on the way you are presented (you can be 400lbs and present yourself well BTW) and on the image you put forward through your style of business. These subtle things will get you more jobs and will build up your professional rep. I've been invited to many high profile engineering events by my clients because I make sure my work ethics, personal presentation and everything else is top notch, this is a form of marketing, specially when you don't have a tangible asset to sell. Talk about ranting, I'm the pro.

O BTW, just signed my first employee, he's a graduate industrial designer and is great, saving me a lot of stress.


W. Mann
D3 Engineering Solutions

RE: New Mechanical Design Business - Update

D3...you make some good points about start-ups.  I have been in business a long time.  One of my partners is 5'-8" and about 300lbs. When he's on a jobsite, he asserts himself with knowledge....he does his homework and when he goes into a client meeting, he probably knows as much about the project as the project manager, owner, or anyone else on the team. He doesn't take crap from anyone.

Another of my partners is 6'-4" and carries himself like a nice dad who would be nice to kindergarteners.  He's also the more intelligent of us and arms himself with ....information.  Don't take him on in a project meeting.  He's good.

My other partner is a curly haired 5'-10" skinny guy who looks like he should still be in college.  He holds a Master's degree in structural engineering and has 10 years of experience.  When he opens his mouth on a jobsite, the curly haired kid image goes away.  He knows his stuff.

If you've counted, I have 3 partners in my business. We all know the importance of preparation and knowledge of the subject.  We don't go into a client meeting without being armed to the hilt with information.  If it's important to you client, it had better be important to you.

The best marketing you'll ever get is repeat business and referrals.  If you don't back those up with confident competence, go work for someone else.

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