One of the great things about having good skills with CAD tools is that it’s a highly marketable skill, and you don’t necessarily have to restrict yourself to working out of an office and under an employer if you don’t feel like it. There are actually lots of opportunities for freelancing if you’re good at what you do, and you should have no problem maintaining a steady stream of clients once you’ve established yourself. However, if you’re coming into this from a regular day job, there are some caveats to keep in mind before getting started.
It’s Not Like Working a Full-Time Job
The most important thing to consider is that this will not be like your regular day job – at all. For one thing, scheduling is entirely in your hands most of the time. And while that can seem like a great bonus, it can actually be a curse in disguise if you’re not very good at organizing your time. You will also have to sort out everything on the accounting and legal front (more on that below), which can get messy fast in some specific niches.
Financing Your Setup
Then there’s also the concern of financing your working setup. When you’re working at a company, they’re responsible for providing you with all the hardware and required software licenses. When you’re on your own, that’s up to you – and as anyone experienced in the field knows, CAD software can be quite demanding in terms of hardware. Some of the things you’re buying may be tax-deductible but don’t count on that. In general, you’re looking at covering at least these points:
- High-end computer
- Software licenses
- Working desk and chair
- Subscriptions to any additional services (like Trello)
Do You Need an Office?
A great benefit to working as a freelancer in any field, not just as a CAD designer, is that you can practice the job from home most of the time. However, there are some benefits to working out of an office that you should not disregard. At some point, you may want to start looking into this if you see that your business is going well. Some of the benefits to working in an office include:
- Easier face-to-face meetings with clients
- Proximity to other businesses
- A more professional presentation
- Potential tax benefits
Education and Certification
Just because you’re not working under an employer, doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from formal education, and this is actually something that can help you stand out from the competition in an otherwise crowded and challenging field. It’s not just about knowing your way around CAD solutions either. There are various types of degrees and certificates that can come in handy when working in this field, depending on who you have as a client. A lean manufacturing online course from an accredited university like Kettering University can be very valuable if your work is related to physical production in any way, for example. Try to brush up on auxiliary skills that are not directly related to the job, but can still be beneficial to it.
Finances and Legal Concerns
As we mentioned above, another common concern you’ll have as a freelancer is related to your finances and the legal side of your business. It can be very worthwhile to pay an accountant to handle that for you, and you should also have the contact details of a good attorney handy. When it comes to things like intellectual property and legal rights – topics that come up quite often in this line of work – it can pay to have the extra layer of protection that only a legal specialist can provide you. Remember, there are some companies out there that will latch onto any opportunity to exploit your ignorance if they see a weakness. And considering how little it can sometimes take to destabilize your business with a lawsuit, you should definitely do your best to prevent that from happening in advance.
Learning to Market Your Name
No matter how good you are at what you do, you won’t get anywhere without proper marketing skills. And since those take time and effort to build up like any other kind of skill, it can pay to hire a competent specialist to handle that for you. There are multiple fronts on which you can market your business these days, and it’s a good idea to have an active presence on as many of them as possible. Some ideas to consider:
- Personal website with a storefront
- Freelance websites
- Networking through current clients
- Social media
- Paid advertising
While you will often see a lot of success without having to spend any actual money on advertising, a well-timed campaign can sometimes make all the difference in your success. Don’t underestimate the benefits of spending a little money to spread the word about your business!
The Importance of Networking
And speaking of networking through your clients, you’ll quickly learn that this is one of the most important aspects of this job as far as your long-term aspects are concerned. While you’ll occasionally stumble upon good clients through the public channels, the best way to build new connections and spread your business is to ask your current clients for references. They’ll be able to put in a good word for you, which will already set you up on proper terms with your new clients, and you also won’t have to spend that much energy to look for those connections in the first place. And the best part is, you’ll have access to potential offers that you would never find on the open market otherwise. In the end, many people prefer to hire freelancers through established partnerships instead of risking their time and money with random newcomers, so that’s where most of the jobs lie.
Last but not least, remember to keep polishing your skills! CAD tools are constantly evolving and new solutions keep coming out on a regular basis, and it’s important to stay in touch with the current state of the market. Otherwise, you’re going to get overtaken by newcomers who’re simply focusing their learning efforts in the right direction sooner or later.