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How do you get started in freelance work?

How do you get started in freelance work?

How do you get started in freelance work?

I got my first freelance gig about six months ago. It was nice but made me hungry for more.

How do you get started in freelance? I work at the airplane giant and only normally talk with other engineers that work at the same place I do.

What techniques are good to get freelance / contract / moonlight gigs? Right now I am employing Craigslist but it is taking way too long and the return is too small.

RE: How do you get started in freelance work?

Build up a credible portfolio of work.

Build an informative website.

Amuse other people on forums.

At least one of the above works for me.


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: How do you get started in freelance work?

I started with cold calls, walking into Architect's offices and putting the business name in the Yellow Pages.  

Got more response from the cold calls than anything, but that was before the internet and websites.

Mike McCann
MMC Engineering
Motto:  KISS
Motivation:  Don't ask

RE: How do you get started in freelance work?

Use of the words such as freelance/moonlighting, etc., suggests that you are not serious about your services and not many good or serious clients would pay attention to 'freelancers'.

I would try to project a professional image. Plus I am not sure there is such a thing as 'freelance' in engineering. Every piece of advice you give comes with liabilities. A life-time worth of good work can be wiped out by one law-suit. Make sure that you have some insurance protection.


Rafiq Bulsara

RE: How do you get started in freelance work?


I have a full time engineering job, so I'm looking for work that can be done in the evening / weekend on a as needed or part time basis. So I'm not as serious as many since I don't plan on quitting my day job.

Liability insurance will come into play at some point in the future, but I have no clients right now so not much liability to worry about. (My first gig was a no risk job.)


RE: How do you get started in freelance work?


I'm not as serious as many since I don't plan on quitting my day job.

....and you expect others to take you seriously?

If you are not serious about it, I would advise not to do it. Engineering profession is not a hobby! At least the lawyers of your potential clients do not think so. The liability is always in play, whether or not you have the insurance for it is a different matter.

There are other statutory issues as well, like taxes, registering your business, etc.  

Rafiq Bulsara

RE: How do you get started in freelance work?

Freelance part time in addition to your full time job?  Sure, it's done all the time.  From my experience, here are some essential elements:

Skills:  do you have commodity skills that will make you compete with everyone else, or specific in-demand skills that will drive business to you?  Success will definitely be easier with one more than the other.  And the essential question is whether or not those skills fit a market need.

Reputation:  will you have references that will vouch for you?

Network:  takes a while to build this up, but once in place can pay great dividends.

Referrals:  Unless you are selling a specific in-demand skill or product, I think most of your revenue will come from referrals.  

And it should go without saying that you need to have enough common sense not to get in over your head with risky work, work too many hours, develop some selling skills, gain accounting & tax knowledge, learn how to say "NO", etc.  It might be a great extended training excercise for when you realize that you want to take it from part-time to full-time.

Blue Technik LLC
Virtuoso Robotics Engineering

RE: How do you get started in freelance work?

I agree with Tigerdawg, he even gets a star today for his concise summary of the basics.  Each one of his points are then expanded as need be to further develope what you are trying to accomplish.  Insurance is something that cannot be taken for granted.  Good intentions are just that.  There are ruthless situations out in this world in which someone whom has good intentions have teeth of a shark if something goes just a little wrong.


RE: How do you get started in freelance work?

You don't want to get caught moonlighting, so if you are looking for clients, you have a much greater chance of being found.  That reputation seems to follow people around as well.

Somewhat related, I am curious what the forum thinks the best way of networking with companies is?  Does cold walking into an architect firm seem like bad form?

CDG, Civil Engineering specializing in Hillside Grading in the Los Angeles area

RE: How do you get started in freelance work?

I don't think just showing up is a good idea:  no one would make time for an unscheduled appointment and you'd get black flagged.  Try gentle cold calling, an offer of lunch, and target strategic gigs.  It takes time & effort to build a reputation and network.

When I was thrust into the world of freelancing, a psychologist acquaintance gave me a job skills test.  My main weakness was "cold calling" and that fear of rejection bugaboo.  I was advised that it doesn't mean I can't do it, just that I need to work harder at it.  Looking for some freelance work, I called a contact at a company only to discover he had been laid off.  I thought about the advice and called back.  I went through all the company phone directory until I got a live person and made my pitch.  I got transferred and made my pitch again.  On the fifth transfer, I got the company President.  He transferred me to the Manufacturing Engineering Manager who invited me in the next morning.  This resulted in my first well-paying freelance gig.

I employed a strategy that a successful freelancer taught me.  He worked for a controls distributor and was the company expert in Siemens PLCs and DVT vision sensors.  While pushing sales at companies, he would also offer to provide assistance (strictly part-time & after hours) to the Maintenance Techs.  This was for small low-risk jobs of a few hours to provide specific expertise that the companies needed.  Once he established a reputation with them, they would give good references to the decision-maker Engineering staff that had the big jobs.  I followed that strategy by telling my contacts that I only wanted to seek the small jobs that fell off the table of the big firms.  It worked out pretty well.

Blue Technik LLC
Virtuoso Robotics Engineering

RE: How do you get started in freelance work?

I got started in freelance in 2007.  My other company I own concentrates on commercial construction, and as the red flags went up in the latter half of 07, I started up a consulting firm and put some feelers out.  At first I had small goals: make enough on the side to cover a car payment or two each month.  Then in 08 I said let's set the goal of $1k a month.  Then in fall of 08 I said $2k a month.  Then that morphed into $4k a month in spring 09.  December 09 I billed out $10k.  This month is a little slow, maybe $5k, but next month is already on track for a good one.  Construction side also picked up in October 09, though next month is a question mark.  The construction side covers my health insurance and vehicle.  Prof Liability isn't terribly expensive, and I have 2010 prepaid.  I never want to repeat a year like 2009, as far as the shear amount of hustle needed to put food on the table and keep the mortgage paid, but I'm still standing.  It wasn't pretty, but I now have regular clients that call me.

Set goals, figure out what you do best, figure out who needs that, and just get the word out.  Just hit the pavement.      


RE: How do you get started in freelance work?

The phone rang steady today.  I booked $5200 of new work from 3 clients.  Goal has been met for January.

Set those goals.  Shake those bushes.   

RE: How do you get started in freelance work?

what field are you in ?  i am in commercial construction and i am ready to start consulting.

RE: How do you get started in freelance work?

My field is facility support (utilities, mechanical, structural).  My background is facility engineering.  I also have training in water systems (WFI, RO, DI), so I also do a bunch of small stuff with the state regarding small non-community water systems.  I also cut my teeth doing construction estimates, so I do estimating for a handful of contractors. I have a BSME, MSME. I've been a PE for 9 years.  I feel like a traveling family physician.  I also try to avoid engagements that are more than 200 hours or $20k.  I'd rather have 4 or 5 $2500 engagements a month.  Those big jobs tend to lead you down the path of porpoising (work, no work, hunt for work, work, no work, hunt for work), because you're too busy doing the big jobs to pay attention to maintaining contacts and a book of business.

Very enjoyable, doing this on your own, but 2009 was also very frightening.  I've never seen construction drop off a cliff like that.

The big thing in making this work is getting a large enough network of contacts to keep the phone ringing.  But it's not like you're bidding work.  When you're a PE and you get enough contacts, they trust you and just call you regularly and support your practice.  So network and make contacts.

Example: I answered an ad on Craigslist looking for help from a PE to do water system calcs.  That was right up my alley.  That one ad lead to steady work each month, plus regular meetings with well drillers and treatment vendors (who in turn call me now), which lead to face to face meetings with DEP bigwigs, which lead to more contacts and more work, etc.

Also, don't ever be afraid to turn down the people that try to haggle with you.  I gave one builder my rates, and he said he knew a PE that would do the work for half what I charge.  I told him thanks for the cup of coffee and good luck, call me if you get stuck.  Also don't scrape the bottom of the barrel looking for work.  I did that early on, and booked work doing CAD drawings for $40 an hour for home remodelers.  All that did was screw with my focus.  I stopped, and now I keep my focus on calcs and assessments on commercial and high end construction.  More enjoyable work when you're on the roof of a casino, or working in an NFL team owner's mansion, and not in the middle of some guy's do-it-yourself basement remodel sizing up columns.  Not that I turn my nose up.  It's just more enjoyable.

RE: How do you get started in freelance work?

thanks INBCPE...... i would like to transition into wastewater but a little unsure of where the consulting needs are. i am taking classes and trying to get a bit educated.  

RE: How do you get started in freelance work?

If your forte is wastewater, any developer, any manufacturing site, any apartment complex, any large development with on-site septic, any large commercial facility, these are all potential clients.  Make contacts with the owners of septic companies, compliance management companies (if they don't already have engineers on staff), large plumbing companies.  These are contacts that you'd be rubbing shoulders with at a site if there was a big problem.  If you make contacts with them, they might bring you in as a recommended consultant if their client screams for help.  

You might make in-roads into townships, but most of the time those engineering contracts get locked up by larger firms.  Usually the ones that contribute the most to campaigns.  One firm in my state was charged for doing just that, and the owner himself (a PE) was indicted.


RE: How do you get started in freelance work?

INBCPE....thanks for the insight...

RE: How do you get started in freelance work?

Keep postive, stay motivated.  Finding work is getting easier as the economy picks up.  I've landed $24,600 in contracts since January 8th, and the phone keeps ringing every day.  Plus I hear this week on a long term support services agreement for $6k a month for 18 months (fingers and toes are crossed).

RE: How do you get started in freelance work?

INBCPE: What part of the country are you in?  I noticed some pick up 2 weeks ago and then no phone ringing the next week.

Civil Development Group, LLC
Los Angeles Civil Engineering specializing in Hillside Grading

RE: How do you get started in freelance work?

I work the NY, NJ, PA area.

RE: How do you get started in freelance work?

contacts are very important in getting freelance work. If you have good contacts in your field then better for you. I am talking not only about real contacts. In fact virtual contacts (online contacts) are more beneficial.

If you dont have, then try to identify on social networking sites and follow them.

Pumping Equipment

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