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part time structural engineering business

part time structural engineering business

part time structural engineering business

Has anyone out there ever tried to start a part time structural engineering business?  I am a PE and left structural engineering about a year ago to work with a family business in another field.  I have been missing some of the aspects of engineering and with the wife staying at home with kids, some extra income would be very helpful.  I was tossing around the idea of trying to start a structural engineering practice part time (i.e. 10-20 hours or less a week) while keeping a little less than full time with the family business.

If I can be 5-6 hours or so billable per week, then maybe I could bill out $25k a year assuming I bill myself at $100/hr.  I would be able to use existing office space, equipment, etc. so I think it would be easy to keep expenses around $10k (plus insurance which brings me to my next question).

Is it possible to get professional liability insurance (I am in Virginia) for a lesser rate with a low revenue (<$50k), part time business?  From what I gather, insurance would cost on the order of $1000/mo. or more.  Of course, that would then not be worth it.  Is an LLC to protect personal assets an option here?  I would not consider it worth the time unless I could keep the insurance rates below $2000-$3000 or so for the year.

Does this seem feasible?  I know I would need to limit my work to certain types of things - residential, small things for contractors, small specialty stuff, reports, expert witness, etc.  I would also, with this type of work, try to limit liability to my fee with a contract clause.

Thanks in advance!

RE: part time structural engineering business

structetc...yes, it's possible and probable.  Looks like you've thought of most of the pitfalls, so the next thing to do is get clients.  Working 5 to 6 hours a week is not practicable. You'll probably be working 15 to 30 hours per week when you get established and you'll wait for a while before you get paid.  Prof. Liab. Ins. is an absolute necessity. Yes, it's available for sole practitioners. The cost will depend on your selected deductible and expected annual GROSS revenue. Don't forget that premiums are based on gross, not net, fees. That means when you sub something out and bill for it, it hits your gross revenue, so you'll pay based on that.

Good luck. Expand it to full time.

RE: part time structural engineering business

I agree with Ron, based on experience too.  5 to 6 hours is not reasonablke, except in the present economy, you will be lucky to get any clients, also based on experience.  Good luck.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

RE: part time structural engineering business

I've done it for years... Works great

RE: part time structural engineering business

you can LLC, but I see very few practical ways to protect your personal assets when you are the sole proprietor. You are better off staying out of trouble than trying to hide your assets from the attorneys.

Expert witness work may pay well but it doesn't reduce your risk and certainly doesn't fit with the 5-6 hours per week theory. You will work when the judge and attorneys order it and for however long it takes.

RE: part time structural engineering business

Thanks for all the responses.  I realize that the 5-6 hours would be unreasonable.  I had figured that on average over the year, I may end up with 5-6 hours billable spending 10-20 hours a week total.  Does this seem more reasonable?


RE: part time structural engineering business

5-10 billable hours for 10 to 20 hours expended.  50%

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering

RE: part time structural engineering business

wow a 100 dollars an hour. for one year out of college i'd say that is fantastic. is it realistic ???

RE: part time structural engineering business

I would not charge $100/hr for 1 year out of college.  I have my PE and have over 10 years experience.  $100/hr is actually a cheap rate. :)

RE: part time structural engineering business

thats wonderful news

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