How to become a freelance engineer. Tips for taking your first step into freelance engineering.

How to become a freelance engineer

Jacintha Verdegaal

Are you dreaming of quitting your 9 to 5 job to become a freelance engineer? You’re not alone. More and more engineers don’t want to work for the same boss anymore. Competing with colleagues for opportunities to climb that career ladder. And not having enough freedom and flexibility to choose how, when and where you want to work.

Instead, they choose a different career path and go freelance. If you’re considering to become a freelance engineer, here are some tips to get you started. 

Benefits of freelance engineering

But let’s start with some of the benefits of working as a freelance engineer. Why are so many people looking for freelance engineering jobs? 

As a freelancer you are your own boss. That doesn’t mean you don’t have any responsibilities (more on that later), but nobody is telling you what to do. On what projects you need to work, how you should be doing it, or who you should be working with. 

Whether you’re set on becoming an expert in a certain field or rather work on different engineering projects to develop your skills, it’s your choice. 

That amount of freedom also means it’s easier to combine your work with other interests. Spend more time with friends and family, on hobbies or other side-gigs. 

And of course, if you do it well, choosing freelance engineering jobs could also be financially beneficial. As an expert in your field you can usually charge a nice hourly rate. 

Want to be a full-time or part-time freelance engineer?

If you’re serious about working as a freelance engineer, the first choice you need to make is if you want to do this full-time. Despite what you might think, taking the first steps into freelancing doesn’t mean you immediately need to quit your job. 

Many full-time freelancers started their freelance journey by doing some side-gigs and working on projects in their free time. Especially if you don’t have the financial bandwidth yet to cover months when the money isn’t flowing in.

Tell your network that you’re open to freelance engineering work

Finding freelance engineering jobs is one of the most challenging tasks when you’re just starting out. But you’ll be surprised how many people in your network could use your help and expertise.

You probably know from your own experience how difficult it is to get a project started or finished on time. Hiring additional people permanently is not always an option, but hiring on a freelance basis is much easier. But they need to know that you’re available, so tell them what you have to offer. 

What do you offer as a freelance engineer

Speaking of what you have to offer, do you know what that is? Getting hired for freelance work is very different from applying for a permanent job. They’re not interested in your future potential, they want to know what you can get done today. 

The better you understand your strengths, the better you’ll be able to sell yourself as a freelancer. Try writing it down for yourself first and make it as specific as possible. 

Clients will want to see proof of your expertise, so always be ready to share examples of how you’ve used your engineering skills in the past and how it could benefit them.

Give clients an opportunity to contact you

You’d be surprised how many freelancers create the perfect LinkedIn profile, but don’t share an option to contact them. Unless you have more work than you can handle, you’ll want your email address on LinkedIn to be visible to everyone. So not only to the people in your direct network. 

Eventually you may want to create a simple business website, but as a starting point your LinkedIn profile is one of the places where potential clients will find you. 

Create a profile on engineering freelance websites

Your own network is always the best place the start since they already know you and how you work. But the opportunities are limited. So as a next step you should look into engineering freelance websites. 

There are generic job marketplaces that also post freelance engineering jobs. When you do a quick Google search you’ll find them. The downside is that they’re not specialized in engineering and therefor won’t offer the most interesting engineering jobs. Plus you’ll get offers that don’t match your profile and skillset.

Instead look for websites that focus only on engineering work. The people behind these websites understand your engineering profile better than anyone. Plus clients with serious challenges will rather work with them than the generic marketplaces.

For example our talent platform Tasker specializes in tasks and projects that require hardware engineering skills and expertise. So if you’re a freelance mechanical engineer or looking for a freelance website as an electrical engineer, then Tasker is your best option. 

Understand your finances

Maybe the thought of making more money is what got you interested in freelancing, but how well do you understand your personal finances? 

Being your own boss also means that you are responsible for sending out invoices, paying taxes, saving for a pension and putting money aside to cover the weeks or months in between freelance jobs. This is why freelancers can – or better said ‘have to’ – charge a higher hourly rate, because they need to cover these costs themselves.

So do the math. Look into software that can help you with your administration and maybe hire an expert to do some of this work for you.

Also when you’re considering if you want to work as a freelance engineer full-time or part-time, it’s important to understand how much money you need and how much work you’ll need to get it. 

Diversify your income streams

The days that a permanent job offered more financial security than a freelance career are long gone. It doesn’t matter how much you love or are good at your job, something can happen tomorrow and you’ll find yourself without a job the next day. 

The benefit of a freelance career is that you don’t have to rely on a single income. In fact, you shouldn’t. The more you can diversify your income streams, the less stress you’ll experience when one of them disappears. 

Get started as a freelance engineer

If you’re excited about becoming a freelance engineer, part-time or full-time, then you should simply get started with your first task or project. Especially when you’re not dependent on your freelance income yet, there’s no risk. Give it a try by working on a task and see if you’d like to do more freelance work in the future. 

Freelancing is all about creating the life you want and what’s not to love about that?

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