Author Topic: Electrical Consulting Company as a side business?  (Read 763 times)

Mr.GrowingMustache

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Electrical Consulting Company as a side business?
« on: February 14, 2018, 09:48:43 AM »
Hi,
My friend and I are electrical engineers with 8 and 10 years professional experience (mostly electronics, and project management) and we have have done a lot of DIY stuff in our houses. I also summer interned for a Consulting company that marked up the wiring runs, and my friend has done several engineering drawings for his house that needed a PE signature and has saved himself a few grand. We are still employed but we have been talking about a consulting company as a side gig.

My friend is going for his PE license and we are fairly confident that we can Learn the Electrical code book, local codes and eventually do some consulting residential work. We won't be looking to setup some major business here, perhaps something that can eventually generate 10-15k each per year. This might takes a few years to setup and get going.

Does anyone here have experience doing this? Any tips, pointers, research material, or first steps suggestions would be appreciated.

big_owl

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Re: Electrical Consulting Company as a side business?
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2018, 04:49:41 PM »
Honestly, as a EE myself who works mostly on three phase  power systems for a very large energy company, I get roped into commercial (residential-style, NEC) power work more often than I like and it's absolutely miserable.   It's not engineering, it's code surfing and it's mind numbingly boring.  I can't imagine doing residential work for a living that requires NEC compliance.  It's terrible and generally doesn't involve any real intellectual work (other than arguing with inspectors over umpteen million different interpretations of various NEC articles).

In any case, you'll need a PE for any serious work.  Start there I guess.  And take some code classes.  But definitely bring lots of caffeine with you...

Asalbeag

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Re: Electrical Consulting Company as a side business?
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2018, 09:50:14 PM »
Surely an electrical engineering consultancy would be much more lucrative and not require any major re-education. Any particular reason why you are thinking about going into a sightly different field (change of pace, non-compete etc.)?

BigHaus89

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Re: Electrical Consulting Company as a side business?
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2018, 10:48:42 AM »
As an EE with a PE in power, I have briefly tossed around the idea of starting my own biz. I quickly came to realize that it is not worth the time/energy/effort and technical knowledge required to do such a thing. There are much easier and more passive ways to earn more income i.e. real estate.

Mr.GrowingMustache

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Re: Electrical Consulting Company as a side business?
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2018, 11:17:31 AM »
Honestly, as a EE myself who works mostly on three phase  power systems for a very large energy company, I get roped into commercial (residential-style, NEC) power work more often than I like and it's absolutely miserable.   It's not engineering, it's code surfing and it's mind numbingly boring.  I can't imagine doing residential work for a living that requires NEC compliance.  It's terrible and generally doesn't involve any real intellectual work (other than arguing with inspectors over umpteen million different interpretations of various NEC articles).

In any case, you'll need a PE for any serious work.  Start there I guess.  And take some code classes.  But definitely bring lots of caffeine with you...


Thanks for that insight! Yeah your right, it's not engineering, hence the side gig thing. I guess I will have to consider the "pain in the ass" factor in dealing with inspectors :/. Maybe specialize in small project or one particular area.

If you don't mind me asking, what was that residential NEC stuff did they have you deal with?


Surely an electrical engineering consultancy would be much more lucrative and not require any major re-education. Any particular reason why you are thinking about going into a sightly different field (change of pace, non-compete etc.)?

This is more for a side gig. I feel like there is more of a finite element to it. At my current job projects take years to complete and involve logistics, funding, software, cyber, and mechanical work. Maybe some boring single purpose CAD or Code work might be ok.

Mr.GrowingMustache

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Re: Electrical Consulting Company as a side business?
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2018, 11:22:58 AM »
As an EE with a PE in power, I have briefly tossed around the idea of starting my own biz. I quickly came to realize that it is not worth the time/energy/effort and technical knowledge required to do such a thing. There are much easier and more passive ways to earn more income i.e. real estate.


Interesting! Were you looking to make this a full time business? Why wasn't it worth it, what were the hurdles?

big_owl

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Re: Electrical Consulting Company as a side business?
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2018, 05:45:50 PM »
If you don't mind me asking, what was that residential NEC stuff did they have you deal with?

I typically work on industrial megaprojects as lead electrical engineer.  That's the cool part - big generators, motors, VFDs, transformers, and all the fun control systems that go along with them.  The money-making portions of a facility like this (think refinery, generation stations, liquefaction plants) are way above your average local electrical inspector so they fall under the jurisdiction of FERC, and as such I am the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ).  So basically I can do what I want.  I mean, we still follow the NEC generally for things like grounding and cable ampacity and safety protocols, but beyond that it's "engineering judgement".  If I need to install a new 30MW feeder line for a VFD driven synchronous motor I don't need to consult any licensed authority, I can just do it.

HOWEVER, when it comes to the portions of a facility that are considered "occupied" in the eyes of OSHA, then the local AHJs get a say.  These portions of a site are generally the administrative buildings, any temporary construction trailers, control rooms, things like that.  Small-scale commercial stuff with HVAC, 120/208V DPs, lighting transformer loads, etc (very similar to residential).  This is where it gets miserable (IMO at least).  Everything needs to be done by the NEC and there are always local AHJs/inspectors that need to prove they know the code better than you and it's often very obnoxious.  The NEC part is pretty easy once you do a couple jobs and you've memorized the feeder/secondary tap rules, bonding vs grounding, etc...and most importantly after you've taken your local AHJ to lunch a few times and get a relationship going with them.  Permitting is always a wildcard as are inspections.  Depends on your local authority.  Whatever it is, mentally stimulating it is not, at least not to me.  It is rather useful in a practical sense though.

Mr.GrowingMustache

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Re: Electrical Consulting Company as a side business?
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2018, 06:14:08 PM »
If you don't mind me asking, what was that residential NEC stuff did they have you deal with?

I typically work on industrial megaprojects as lead electrical engineer.  That's the cool part - big generators, motors, VFDs, transformers, and all the fun control systems that go along with them.  The money-making portions of a facility like this (think refinery, generation stations, liquefaction plants) are way above your average local electrical inspector so they fall under the jurisdiction of FERC, and as such I am the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ).  So basically I can do what I want.  I mean, we still follow the NEC generally for things like grounding and cable ampacity and safety protocols, but beyond that it's "engineering judgement".  If I need to install a new 30MW feeder line for a VFD driven synchronous motor I don't need to consult any licensed authority, I can just do it.

HOWEVER, when it comes to the portions of a facility that are considered "occupied" in the eyes of OSHA, then the local AHJs get a say.  These portions of a site are generally the administrative buildings, any temporary construction trailers, control rooms, things like that.  Small-scale commercial stuff with HVAC, 120/208V DPs, lighting transformer loads, etc (very similar to residential).  This is where it gets miserable (IMO at least).  Everything needs to be done by the NEC and there are always local AHJs/inspectors that need to prove they know the code better than you and it's often very obnoxious.  The NEC part is pretty easy once you do a couple jobs and you've memorized the feeder/secondary tap rules, bonding vs grounding, etc...and most importantly after you've taken your local AHJ to lunch a few times and get a relationship going with them.  Permitting is always a wildcard as are inspections.  Depends on your local authority.  Whatever it is, mentally stimulating it is not, at least not to me.  It is rather useful in a practical sense though.

Thanks for the follow up! it clears up some things.

I actually focused on power in undergrad thinking of working for a power company doing similar stuff to you (balancing systems, generators, transmission, etc.) ended doing electronics, software, RF hehe.

Anyhow, I see where the annoying part is in dealing with the inspectors, going to look into it further. Could be a pain in the butt if we sell a drawing to code and have some inspector argue one it's built :/

BigHaus89

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Re: Electrical Consulting Company as a side business?
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2018, 11:59:11 AM »
As an EE with a PE in power, I have briefly tossed around the idea of starting my own biz. I quickly came to realize that it is not worth the time/energy/effort and technical knowledge required to do such a thing. There are much easier and more passive ways to earn more income i.e. real estate.


Interesting! Were you looking to make this a full time business? Why wasn't it worth it, what were the hurdles?

I was looking to have a side gig with the potential to RE and do it part time. There is a large amount of up-front work such as looking like a professional company that someone trust their business to. Website, resources, materials, references, etc. Then the time to market and try to drum up some clients to get started. This is ultimately what deterred me. I am more of a behind-the-curtain type of person so trying to sell myself to potential clients sounded absolutely terrible. This is where a good partner would come in. Keeping the pipeline filled with clients is what makes or breaks businesses like this. You need to be on top of things to make sure clients will keep flowing in year after year. It is a lot of extra work.

DW and I currently have our own biz not EE related. Fortunately, DW is someone that makes a great CEO/Face of the company and a great networker. This allows the both of us, behind the scenes, to come up with ideas, higher efficiency and such to put into action.