Author Topic: Freelance CAD work?  (Read 16826 times)

layzbones

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Freelance CAD work?
« on: March 21, 2013, 11:15:29 AM »
Hey - just wondering if anyone on here has any experience with freelance/moonlighting CAD work.  For my day job I'm a product design engineer and am well trained in Pro/Engineer and Solidworks with a good bit of advance surfacing experience.  I know especially for Pro/e, knowing good surfacing techniques is a huge asset.

Sometimes we quote out jobs that we don't have time to do and even the most simple tasks of converting simple geometry can fetch thousands of dollars.  I love using CAD, to me it's like a puzzle, so I just wanted to start thinking about how to put my skills to work for me a bit more.  Ultimately this could even become a gradual transition to retirement itself if it works out well.

Any CAD users out there do any work on the side?  I figure I'd have to save up and buy the software, which can run easily $10-15k.  Any ways around this or alternatives?

How do you go about finding work?

What would the tax implications be?  Would I just report it as income and pay the taxes that were due?

Thanks in advance!

Bearblastbeats

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Re: Freelance CAD work?
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2013, 12:01:56 PM »
I too would like to know about this as I am an Assistant Engineer / CAD Draftsperson at my firm.

igthebold

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Re: Freelance CAD work?
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2013, 12:10:55 PM »
I have heard of people doing CAD work for hire. Not sure how you'd go about doing it short of networking with engineers and architects, which takes time and social energy.

The software cost seems extreme, but there may be smaller packages that you can use that would provide most of what you need without anything super fancy, like, I don't know, modeling and simulation? In other words, you do the grunt work of placing the vertices, and they run their sims on it.

The following would be one reasonable way to pursue it:

1. Determine a minimal setup first.
2. If you have engineer or architect friends, let them know you're starting a business doing contract CAD work. This is important from a branding perspective; the difference between "part-time contract CAD business" and "guy on weekend who might could help out" is huge.
3. BE AVAILABLE. Freelancing takes a certain amount of willingness to drop "everything" to help out a customer. If you're not available for the first couple opportunities, they won't bother with future opportunities.
4. Practice good business sense. Always return calls, try to always say, "yes," in some form or other, build up your network of providers, be reliable. Remember, you're selling trust that you can do the job efficiently by a certain time. Also, understand your day-job's moonlighting policy. If it's bad, find another job. :P

As far as income goes, you'd probably just report it on 1040 Schedule-C as self-employment income. You'd pay the full 13.whatever% for FICA and Medicaid, plus income tax.

If you make a lot, then you should pay estimated payments quarterly. I believe you're penalized if you don't pay 90% of the taxes you end up owing by the end of the year. Or something egregiously complex like that.

MtnGal

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Re: Freelance CAD work?
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2013, 12:26:40 PM »
I was just looking into this recently and found this article: http://blog.machinedesign.com/Machine_Design_Blogs/2013/03/07/how-to-become-a-freelance-engineer/?NL=MD-06&Issue=MD-06_20130315_MD-06_986&YM_RID=cmcclard@fiberforge.com&YM_MID=1380062&sfvc4enews=42

It seems a bit different that what I would have tried, but maybe worth looking into. I checked out elance.com and it looked really easy to use with quite alot of jobs there. Whether or not the jobs there pay enough to make it really worth your time is another question.

igthebold

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Re: Freelance CAD work?
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2013, 12:57:01 PM »
I think eLance indicates that there's a market, but there's still room for higher-priced, easier-to-communicate-with, more-inherently-trustworthy (for cultural reasons, if not the face-to-face factor) providers in country.

Aaand, I've used up my hyphen allowance for the day.

MooreBonds

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Re: Freelance CAD work?
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2013, 09:54:45 PM »
Hey - just wondering if anyone on here has any experience with freelance/moonlighting CAD work.  For my day job I'm a product design engineer and am well trained in Pro/Engineer and Solidworks with a good bit of advance surfacing experience.  I know especially for Pro/e, knowing good surfacing techniques is a huge asset.


I'm a plumbing engineer who uses AutoCAD and Revit for one of my main gigs (I also work for a relative's construction company - long story there). In the past I've done some moonlighting for a construction company that had to do 3D coordination drawings on a project, which is getting more and more common.

Hopefully the company you would moonlight for has their own software/hardware setup, because otherwise it would be pretty hard to justify a $15k investment of your own for a side gig that may not even cover your costs (let alone pay you for your time). You might want to roll the dice and work late at your company, but that's kind of risky, depending on your work environment (however, it seems many of the 12 people in the office I work for actually have side gigs, often using the company's computers/laptops that they use on a daily basis for work).

If they have the setup and all you provide is the labor, you can sell your time as an independent contractor. You have to pay an additional share for SS/Medicare( 7.65%) when you file your income taxes, but you get pretty decent, perfectly legitimate writeoffs (like mileage from your home office at home to the employer's office, etc.). Also, you can open up a SEP IRA or solo 401k and sock away more money in addition to your 401k at your full time job.

Being an independent contractor is far more appealing to your prospective client, because they don't have to pay the 7.65% Medicare/SS part, AND all of the benefits and get hit with an unemployment claim when you're done.

Go about finding work by simply calling companies that you know might want some work done for them. Calling someone that asked your employer for a price could be viewed differently by different people. Wouldn't hurt to try talking to whomever asked your company for a quote - but don't identify yourself or who you work for. Just say that you heard through the grapevine that they might be looking for someone to do some modeling for them.

Who knows - if you get enough business lined up, you could even go into business for yourself and be self-employed, undercutting everyone in town and making tons more money!

You will need to be willing to make sacrifices of your time. If you're willing to perhaps work late and/or on the weekends to get your product done and impress a client, then go for it.

gooki

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Re: Freelance CAD work?
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2013, 04:49:08 AM »
For he software cost issue, insist your workplace provides you with a laptop :)

igthebold

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Re: Freelance CAD work?
« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2013, 07:54:34 AM »
For he software cost issue, insist your workplace provides you with a laptop :)

Unfortunately, the IRS (in USA's case) starts to look at people as employees rather than independent contractors, so companies tend to shy away from providing computers to contractors. Probably possible, but it's an issue worth being aware of.