If the past couple of years taught us anything, it is that work is no longer relegated to being completed in the secluded spaces of a corporate office. For this very reason, more and more professionals are switching their career strategy from pursuing corporate glory to becoming freelancing rock stars that have more control over their work. Can engineers follow this pattern too? Of course! Let me share a few tips on how to do it seamlessly.
How to Approach a Career as a Freelancer?
I’m going to be honest, starting an engineering career as a freelancer can be a little scary, especially when you’re used to a steady workload and a monthly income. In freelancing, this might not always be the case. You can face peak, utterly busy seasons followed by weeks of zero action. So, my first tip is telling you to prep your psyche for this potential real-life scenario. The second tip is not to let it overwhelm you. And the third tip is encouraging you to build a safety net or cushion that gives you room to operate during slow seasons.
My fourth tip is about the other important things you have to concrete before starting as a freelancer:
- Defining a time commitment to work (full time or part-time),
- Arranging office settings to operate comfortably (location, furniture, services, utilities),
- Buying or leasing software and hardware for your work,
- Organizing a network of potential clients and industry contacts,
- Building a presentation portfolio of your services,
- Developing a marketing strategy (social media, LinkedIn, website, they all help!), and
- Setting fees for your professional services.
Starting on your own can be a little too much. Are you feeling this way? If so, you will appreciate my fifth tip, which is testing the waters with remote platforms like Upwork or Fiverr. They have global opportunities for engineers and offer a protected system that guarantees your services and payment conditions are fulfilled.
In freelancing, you are your own manager. This gives you a lot of power over your doings, the projects you choose, and even your market competitiveness. My sixth tip revolves around it. Remain studious of your discipline and towards improving soft skills. Engineers that can master both are often preferred by clients.
Last, but certainly not least, my seventh tip is for you to create an organized system that helps you meet deadlines and keep your documents, technical and administrative, duly stored and protected. A step you have to follow to be ready for future audits.
Benefits of Pursuing a Freelancer Career as an Engineer
The advantages of going freelance are notorious. You are just more in control of your time and can accommodate it to your benefit. I used to work with a boss that felt more active after 3 pm, which was so inconvenient to a morning person like myself. Said boss always had us stay overtime, extending our 9-5 to a 9-8. As a freelancer, you don’t have to go through that. You’ll be your own boss, answering to no one but your clients. Awesome!
Freelancing careers can be just as successful as regular ones, if not more. I’ve seen freelancer engineers earn six-figure incomes per year. Not right away, but after overcoming their starting period to establish themselves. Work towards building long-lasting partnerships with your clients, and, for sure, you can do it too!