Freelancing – how to start your freelance engineering career

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published On: 22 May 2020

Freelancing Career Hero Image

If you have thought it over and decided that freelancing is the right direction for your career, then there are a few things you should think about before starting your journey. Freelancing can be great for many reasons, but you have to make sure that you are able to keep yourself motivated and make sure that you are aware of your current work and future work plans. We have some tips and ideas that can help your freelance engineering career get off to a great start and hopefully stay strong throughout!

What are some of the benefits?

Having a freelance engineering career definitely has its benefits. In many instances you can work your chosen hours and you can take on projects you really want to do, as well as declining any projects that you may think are a waste of time for you. You have the reins and can take any career direction you would like. You are generally able to choose the lengths of your contract (if the employer offers that) so you will always know when you will be working and how long for. If you are someone that likes the idea of being more flexible because of family, caring responsibilities or any other reason, then this might be the right path for you. However, it’s not always easy sailing. You might get to pick your own projects and contract lengths, but it doesn’t mean the time you are working is going to be a walk in the park. You have to work really hard and prove to employers that you are worth hiring again, but if you are someone that really enjoys engineering, this shouldn’t really be a massive problem.

Do you have good management skills?

It’s true that a freelance career has many advantages, but you need to make sure that you are setting yourself up for success. You are going to be your own boss. This means you have to be constantly aware of any possible job opportunities for you and make sure you are applying for them. You need to be able to manage your time well. Because the times you aren’t working, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be doing anything. Yes, make sure that you are making sure your personal life and other commitments is kept in order, but you should be job searching, updating your CV and adding your latest work to your professional portfolio, when you aren’t on a contract. Before you choose freelance, understand that you need to stay on top of it. It sounds scary at first, but once you get the hang of it and sort out a schedule that works for you, it is very manageable. But you won’t have anyone else making sure that you are doing all of this, you need to be pro-active, organised and overall dedicated to your career.

Network

Your professional network of contacts is going to be very important. The people you have met through previous work, your industry connections and people you meet in any new networking events you go to are going to be very useful in helping you find roles, introducing you to potential job leads and maybe even hiring you themselves.

Freelance success comes from the knowledge that you are a good engineer. Employers want to see evidence that you are a good engineer, they want you to tell them why they need you and show them what you can do. This can be done very well through word of mouth and networking platforms like LinkedIn. It is very easy for employers to see reviews on your profile, so make sure you are asking your connections to help you out here. If you want, you can also create a website for your portfolio, it’s very easy to have past clients/employers to leave reviews here as well. You want to be constantly connected and keeping active in your network, let people know who you are and how you will improve their company.


Have a portfolio of materials

In a lot of interviews, employers will ask for references. As a freelancer this is important, but you would have had more roles and employers than a regular engineer, so having a portfolio of your best work is a great thing to always have at the ready. You can really showcase your talent and show them from the beginning what you are really capable of. A portfolio isn’t just pictures, so don’t worry if you don’t have any. It can be reviews, what you loved about that role, your education, your extra curriculars that you do outside of work. There are so many things that an employer would love to see. Having it ready and prepared, makes this so much better.

Market yourself

You need to be able to sell yourself. Figure out your unique selling point and use this to sell your skills to an employer. What makes you a good engineer? You want to take the time they give you to share your experiences and persuade them that you are going to be the person for the job. Being able to figure out a brand for yourself can take time and practice, some people just aren’t used to talking themselves up. We have lots more information about marketing yourself in our article How important is personal branding when job hunting?

Trust your skills and ability

Finally, you need to believe in yourself. As simple or as difficult as it sounds, you are selling yourself. If you don’t believe in what you are selling, the employer isn’t going to believe you either. You need to be able to trust what you’re pitching and be able to demonstrate it. Pitching yourself with confidence is something that should grow throughout your freelancing career and you will get better at it. Your skills will grow throughout this experience as well, so make sure you are giving yourself the credit you deserve. Much like skills, your success will build over time and hopefully, you will get the career you are looking for.