The construction industry is a consistent employer for millions of Americans. Whether in residential or commercial construction projects, the industry has provided jobs to both skilled and unskilled laborers with jobs being expected to grow by 20% between 2012 and 2022.
Engineering contractors are some of the skilled professionals that benefit immensely from the construction industry. With so many sectors of practice in the engineering industry, learn how to become a general engineering contractor and find freelance work.
The Freelance Life of an Engineering Contractor
Yes, by becoming an engineering contractor, you are free from the mundane and boring office environment. However, it always comes with its challenges. As a freelance engineering contractor, there are days you may have to put in more time than the regular 8-hour work day.
It’s not on one occasion that you will find yourself working late on a contract or a proposal that a client may end up rejecting. On such days, you’re bound to miss the days of spending afternoons sitting lazily in an air-conditioned office with nothing much to do.
Also, expect that you will have to chase clients for payments. This is one of the most common problems that many engineering contractors complain about. You might have to wait several months for a client to pay you.
If the above challenges don’t discourage you from being a freelance engineer contractor, then you may have what it takes to survive as an engineering contractor.
Getting Freelance Clients as a General Engineering Contractor
As an entry-level engineer especially in the freelance world, you should expect inconsistent work. There will be months where you will have several contracts, and there will be months where you won’t have any work at all. Here’s how you can look for projects to avoid those slow months:
1. Personal Contacts
Most of your first contracts as you start out will come from personal contacts. Personal contacts are your friends, old colleagues, or people you may have networked with in the past.
To increase your chances of getting clients, attend mechanical engineering networking events. Make conversations with different peoples, and collect phone numbers and emails.
Make honest and open conversations and avoid pushing yourself on other people. If you have good conversations, you may end up securing some good contracts.
If you don’t immediately get clients, continue offering value to your connections. If there’s a new technology, or a change in policy that you think would benefit your connections, drop them an email. Such subtle acts of offering value may result in new jobs.
2. Consider Digital Marketing
Do you have a strong opinion on a certain issue in the industry? Do you consider yourself an expert in a certain mechanical engineering topic? Why not start a blog, where you can create posts around your niche of expertise?
If you provide quality content on your blog, it is bound to get to the right readers, and this may result in you securing high-value contracts. Blogs can also act as conversation starters, which may, in turn, result in both learning and employment opportunities.
3. Join Job Boards
This is one of the most competitive, but most effective ways of finding engineering clients. Through job boards, you are connected to a pool of clients, which helps to ease your search for a job. Job boards are awesome places to find entry-level engineering jobs.
To get clients from job boards, all you need to do is open an online account on sites such as Craigslist and PE4Hire, then respond to client posts. However, how you respond has a crucial impact on whether you get hired.
Check out these insights on how to improve your client communication.
4. Cold Contacting People
This is probably the most ineffective methods for getting clients. Cold contacting involves either sending emails of calling people whom you have no previous contact with.
With cold calls, you inform the client of the benefits they stand to gain from employing you as an engineering contractor. However, when it comes to cold contacting, you have to contact multiple people per day to increase your chances of being employed (usually 10-15 cold calls or emails a day).
Now that you understand how to find work as an engineering contractor let’s look at how to increase your chances of success.
Tips for Success as an Engineering Contractor
The first step to success as an engineering contractor is to niche down. Rather than being a generic contractor, find something that you are an expert in. Niching down makes it easy for the right clients to find you, especially on job boards and prevents other engineers from undercutting you.
Also, before quitting your job and going out fully as a freelance contractor, ensure that you have worked with several contracting clients on the side. This allows you to get an introduction to the ins and outs of the industry before you fully immerse yourself.
To avoid issues of having to chase down clients for payment, ensure to include court and collection costs in your contract. However, this is not an assurance that clients will pay you. You can also request the client to pay you in stages.
Lastly, ensure you provide nothing but “pure gold” to your client’s projects. When you get a project, do it to your best. Providing value may also involve directing clients to other professionals that you think are capable of offering a solution that is different from your skills.
Such practices will result in repeat business as well as word of mouth promotion, which may result in you securing more contracts.
Getting Clients as a General Engineering Contractor is Not Easy
Reading and thinking about how to get clients is not enough. You will have to put in a lot of work to succeed as a general engineering contractor. Whether it is in building your blog, attending networking events, or cold contacting some people, getting clients will require you to put in more effort than you expect.
When you get clients, you may have to work harder and longer than your employed colleagues. Keep reading our blog to get more tips on how to get and retain clients as a general engineering contractor.