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Doing part time work on the side?

Doing part time work on the side?

Doing part time work on the side?

Has anyone ever done part time engineering work on the side?  I won't be getting my PE until fall of '10, but I've already been approached by builders in the small town where I grew up.  It's a very small town and I knew everyone when I lived there - my dad's known everyone forever.  I've already made it clear that I can't sign or seal anything yet, but that I'll be in touch when I can.  It's a fairly uncomfortable situation, because they really are friends of the family, but I don't want to do anything to jeopardize my employement.  I didn't even ask what they've done before now - I guess I'll do that if I get approached again.  Anyway, the point of the post was to find out if anyone else has done small work on the side if you were 100% that it wouldn't be competing with your current employer and you didn't do any of that work on company time or with company resources.  

RE: Doing part time work on the side?


I have a little part-time side work for my old employer.  It works out great since my full-time job is 100% structural work (buildings, rigging beams, etc.) and my old job was in safety.  In my old job, I mostly worked on tie off anchorages and high end fall protection products, but it required a structural background.  

Since my old boss is a P.E., there is no need for me to stamp anything, just engineer and draw it for him.  I usually work approx. 10 hours a month for him, so it is not a lot of money compared to my full-time job.  

All of the higher ups at my full-time job know what I am doing.  Our employee manual actually covers "moonlighting" activities, use of their resources and the employer's E&O insurance limitations.

My best pieces of advice for you, are:
1) Depending on your state's laws, set up an L.L.C.  It is $150 or so (in WI) and makes your taxes simpler, in my opinion.
2) Get an EIN from the IRS.  Again, makes taxes easier in my opinion.
3) Set up a business bank account.  Helps keep the money organized and separated.
4) Don't spend a ton of money on QuickBooks.  They have a free version online.  It works for me, but your mileage may vary.

My situation is different since I also have a "held harmless" clause in my side work contract, so I don't carry E&O insurance.

Just wondering, is the work mostly timber construction or is it heavy industrial?  Again just curious.

Joel Berg

RE: Doing part time work on the side?

It's mostly stick framed structures in a a hole-in-the-wall town in central PA. The firm I work for does high end work for top tier architects with mostly institutional clients (60% of our work is at ivy league universities), so I know there is no way I would be taking work away from them.  Again, though, it is a little over a year away before I could even consider it.   

RE: Doing part time work on the side?

There is nothing wrong with doing the work as long as your employer knows and you keep everything separate.  But as someone else from a close knit rural/small town background, I think it could get to be a bit uncomfortable.  When the time comes, you can always beg off because you are "too busy".  

RE: Doing part time work on the side?

SEIT....agree with hokie66.  Just let your employer know.

Also, don't depend on an indemnification clause (with or without a "hold harmless" mention) to protect you from professional liability.  That's only one small aspect of your risk management. jberg...you might want to re-think that approach.

I did side work for over 15 years while working for large firms. They were aware of it and in one case I made it a condition of employment.

You'll have to be careful to keep things separate...not just the work, since you won't likely be competing against your firm, but more so the time commitment.  You employer comes first...if not in your eyes...certainly in his.  Make sure you have no liability chain to connect the two or they (your employer) will be pissed and could sue you if problems came up.  Conversely, if you get Professional Liability coverage for yourself, don't let that get pulled into any claim that is against your employer.  Make sure they will continue to indemnify you on their behalf for their projects.  (jberg...note that employer indemnification is often more powerful than contractual project indemnification)

RE: Doing part time work on the side?

Thanks guys, I appreciate the input.

RE: Doing part time work on the side?

On the side, from your home, after work hours ... No problem as long as the employer knows and there is no market conflict.  

However, problems during construction that need immediate attention DO occur creating the situation where you may have to deal with that at work.  THAT SITUATION CANNOT HAPPEN.  If the contractor can be made to understand (which is highly doubtful) the fact that you cannot and will not take calls at work, whatever the problem, then, OK.  Otherwise, it WILL be grounds for you being fired.  Count on it.  I've personally seen this happen.

Under these circumstances, for now, it would be a more secure career move to bring the work into your company.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

RE: Doing part time work on the side?

There's no way the guys I'm talking about are going to pay the fees that my company would charge - not in a million years!  This isn't even really a possibility for another year and a half (or so), I just wanted to get an idea of what others have done.

RE: Doing part time work on the side?

Then you will have to trust the client that he will not call.  HE will have the call on your professional future.

If you can live with that, good luck.  Personally, I would stay clear.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

RE: Doing part time work on the side?

I wouldn't touch the work until I was a PE even if it did not require a stamp.  I assume that you will be asked to make structural designs and if things go wrong, do you really believe that you won't get pulled into the problem.

And, if these guys would not want to pay you a fair value for the work you would do for them, why would you want to do it.  Let me see, do you normally pick high risk, low yield adventures?  I tend to be drawn to low risk, high yield work.

RE: Doing part time work on the side?

When I was still working for a company, I never fully comprehended why the firm has a "no moonlighting" clause in our employee manual. The reasons given to us, I thought then we're just a bunch of bs to keep us loyal to the company. Now that I have my own consulting company, I realized and understood why. First and foremost is exposing your employer to additional liability risks that they cannot control and the employer will take a hit on their E&O liability insurance premium. Insurance companies specifically asks about this and no company in its right mind would be willing to pay the extra premium so their employees can moonlight.  


RE: Doing part time work on the side?

Sounds like you have a great chance to get started on working towards doing your own thing.  Be careful, once you get a taste of working for yourself it gets harder to stay working for the big company.

Its all about developing contacts that you can use down the road.  Seems like you have the right thought process working already.

RE: Doing part time work on the side?

Since your client won't pay your employers hourly rates you will do it for less.  This is a major problem in our profession.  Single man shops and moon lighters that give away work.  I understand that you make more per hour doing this than you do at work but at the same time you lower the fees for everyone.  One day if you start your own firm and you have to go up against the "under cutters" you will understand.  How can we expect clients to respect our profession when we don't?

To answer your question, if you are not a PE yet you will probably be violating your State laws.  I would wait until you get your PE before you offer Engineering services.

RE: Doing part time work on the side?

I think I'm getting a little unnecessary flack here.

Let me make a couple things clear:

1.)  I would NOT do any personal work on company time or with company resources.

2.)  I am not attempting to undercut anyone.  When I said that they wouldn't pay the fees that my company would charge, I say that because my company works with top tier architects and charges exorbitant fees.  I don't believe that my company would even accept the work.  

3.)  I already made clear that I wouldn't even consider doing this until I passed the PE.

I'm not trying to undercut anyone.  A homebuilder would not even contact our office for engineering services.  This was a situation of a couple guys who knew I was an engineer and asked me the question.  I posted here simply to see what others have done.  I would not give away my services - if you note in many of my posts in other threads, I express the same concern about our profession and fees as you do.  That being said, however, I know what my charge out rate is and it is over 3.5x my hourly rate.  Additionally, the area I'm talking about is a very rural area that doesn't even require drawings/calcs be submitted.   

RE: Doing part time work on the side?

"I'm not trying to undercut anyone. "

Whether you are 'trying to' or not is irrelevant. You are proposing to undercut your own firm, which you justify by saying that they charge exorbitant fees.

When in a hole, stop digging.



Greg Locock

SIG:Please see FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies for tips on how to make the best use of Eng-Tips.

RE: Doing part time work on the side?

If you dont have permission from your firm just be prepared to be fired if they find out.  

What is the standard rate in your area and what would you charge?


RE: Doing part time work on the side?

As far as I can see StructuralEIT is not saying he/or she will do anything wrong.

For many companies undercutting the opposition is how work is won and whilst it might not affect their current employer people moonlighting are taking the food from someone's table, almost certainly not a large organisation but a small local company maybe.

As long as you do nothing illegal there is nothing wrong with this, however as you already have a job and will almost certainly have lower overheads you can compete on uneven terms and by doing so will drive down the benchmark price, this soon will filter into the system and will have an impact on medium and larger companies if the recession continues.

As long as nothing illegal is done anyone is entitled to do this, but it will have a negative affect on other companies, as long as you are happy to do this go ahead but be prepared that it might come back to bite you on the rear.

RE: Doing part time work on the side?


I agree with you.  The flack is unnecessary.  You have just posed a question, not indicated your intentions.

The only argument I would have with your posts is "my company works with top tier architects and charges exorbitant fees."  I read this "my company works with very difficult architects and has to charge accordingly."

RE: Doing part time work on the side?

I'm only undercutting my own firm if they had a chance at the work in the first place.  That's not true, so I disagree with you.

Part of my question is how would you handle it to make sure it doesn't pose a problem for your current employment.  I don't think the standard rate in MY area is as relevant as the standard rate in the area of the builders.  I have no idea what I would charge, but it certainly wouldn't be undercutting anyone.  As I said before, I have the same concerns about our profession and fees, and I'm certainly not going to contribute to the problem.

That was the major point of my post - to find out any pitfalls, issues, what others have done, etc.  

RE: Doing part time work on the side?

Look man, you're in some GOLD there, your dad was known forever you say, take advantage of that lifetime of contacts, and get in them NOW, before your old man passes away or retires.
You have connections where it matters (the builders) who control the architects, they can impose YOU as the structural Engineer.

Try to think even faster and farther, get into the design/build business ASAP, your contacts and Dad will set you up. As a structural Engineer, you will see that there's nothing to it.

Go do what you got to do to pave the road the road to YOUR driveway, forget about your boss, he started out by moolighting.

RE: Doing part time work on the side?

cry22...with all due respect, you sound clueless.  Design-build is one of the higher litigation areas of both design and construction.  Many professional liability carriers won't touch them.  Why would a young, very sharp and promising structural engineer such as SEIT with limited experience outside a firm want to delve into such?  And you can't "forget about your boss"...it's a little obstacle called ethics.

Further, I don't know what world you live in, but generally Architects are not controlled by contractors.

There's nothing wrong with SEIT filling a void as a sideline that his firm does not do. Many larger firms have no issue with that as long as you don't use their resources, compete for their clients or spend "their" time on other business.  My sense is that SEIT would do none of those.

When he gets his P.E. license, he will likely do some sideline work.  Doing so before his licensing could jeopardize his potential for getting a license if there is a claim or complaint, valid or not.

RE: Doing part time work on the side?

A bit off topic, but the professional moonlighters who have it the best are the college professors. They use their company resources and do it on company time. This is called minimal overhead.

RE: Doing part time work on the side?

I agree with Ron's last statement totally.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

RE: Doing part time work on the side?

Struct eit

Disagree with Ron (respectfully RON) on the dangers of D/B, the trend is going to the D.B nowadays. If a high school graduate contractor can do it, so can you. Without the PE. You just need a GC license.
Contractors do control architects, they feed them work.

I do agree that it makes things easier if you had your PE. My point was that time is not on your side to cash in on your father's contacts, the sooner you get in, the better off you are.

And yes, I do stand by what I said: don't worry about your boss, he started by moonlighting himself. He is only getting the change for his coin.

RE: Doing part time work on the side?

cry22...again, not sure where you work, but in my state, a general contractor must have a degree...doesn't necessarily increase their capability, but it helps.  As for D/B, it is clearly a contentious and liability prone area....read any of the bulletins and memos from the professional liability carriers.  My specialty is forensics so I see it first hand as well.

The design/build you seem to be promoting is a rather low level of design/build, presumably residential.  That's on a different plane as most residential does not require engineering design, though some states are now requiring it (my home state requires structural design of residential structures by a licensed engineer).

Again, about the only architects who are fed work by contractors are those doing residential work.  It generally does not apply for multi-family or commercial, so to make a blanket statement as such is inaccurate.

As for your boss...I reiterate...you have an ethical obligation, usually supported by state law, to make your employer aware of "moonlighting".  In some states, it is a violation of the board rules to not tell your employer.  This makes you susceptible to reprimand and even fines for violation of such.

RE: Doing part time work on the side?

I think you would have to add portal frame sheds and big box (tilt/precast panel) construction to the D & C List. Generally you would be dealing with a building designer not an architect for these types of buildings.

I would recommend however if you don't have thick skin (when I say thick I meant rhino skin) to stay away for these areas.

You generally deal with developers (and General Mangers of fabricating firms), whom don't mind taking more than their fair share and then suing you for the rest.

I would recommend if this is the market sticking to about 3-4 times you hourly rate for charging, as there is a lot of money to be lost in preliminary designs, redesign and other such things.

These guys don't care how it looks just that it is cheap and fast. Did I mention that they would want their preliminary design the day after commissioning, and then will build off this, so if you make a change you had better get out that rhino skin.

So i would agree with Ron's underlining message. Get your experience up, then get a raise and enjoy your weekends (why would you want to give these up for a few extra bucks?). Sideline work while good for a few penny's has many pit falls, that at the end of the day genrally the penny's just aren't worth it.


When in doubt, just take the next small step.

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