How do freelance engineers find work?
Doing an internet search for finding a freelance engineering role usually brings up lots of adverts for companies that say they can get you a job. They all say they know the key to success for your next freelance role. But do they? Here I will share with you how I find freelancing engineering work in the UK. You will not find any jobs on this site, but you will have the knowledge on how I have been finding freelance roles since 2002, over the last 18 years. This is is the best way to find freelance work.
I have been freelancing as either a Site Engineer or Senior Engineer since 2002. And in this article, I will be sharing with you some of the best and easiest ways that I have found to secure that next role.
Make no mistake, there have been times when it has been exceedingly difficult to find freelance roles. When the last recession hit in 2008/2009 I found it very difficult to find any work. There was a lack of work around. Looking back at that time now, I did not have any consistent work for over year. It was tough. Having a day’s work or maybe a week’s sporadic work a month is not a good position to be in.
Why I Struggled to find Freelance work?
Looking back at those times between 2008 and 2009, I can see where I went wrong. And why I found it difficult to find a job at that time. I just did not have the contacts, or enough contacts. The problem stemmed from having too few engineering roles on projects. The roles that I did have lasted for years. They were the sort of roles that every freelancer would dream of. I had two roles that both lasted for over two and a half years each. Brilliant at the time. But I was not building lots of contacts, I did not need to.
Come the winter of 2008 and I had just finished a contract, there was a dramatic drop off in the amount of work around. My ability to call upon people I knew that could help find a freelance role was limited. And those that I did know either could not offer any work or it was limited to short periods. The year of 2009 was very baron on the work front. It was horrible.
How did I overcome my struggles in finding a freelance job?
With very few contacts, it was difficult. But the contacts I did have were well respected within the industry. And once the economy started to pick up again in early 2010, I managed to find work and that lasted again for a couple of years.
But I did not give up during 2009 to try and find work. And while it was tough and not successful during 2009, it did grow my list of contacts. I was starting to find a successful path to finding freelance work.
Whilst the economy has grown over the past years, I have managed to stay working since the end of 2009. But I do not think that it is just down to this. There have been freelance roles with companies I did not want to stay with, but with what I am going to share below I have been able to ditch the roles that I did not like, or the companies I did not want to work with.
Keep reading as the best way to find freelance work is revealed further down in this article.
Get recommended for a freelance role.
Maybe half of the freelance work I have had, has been through personal recommendation. People I have worked with in the past calling to see what my availability is for work. This must be the easiest way to find work. Being called to see if you are available to work for them.
Being recommended for a freelance engineering job means that you do not have to go through the usual steps to getting a freelance job. You do not have to prepare a CV or resume that gets noticed. You do not have to submit your CV or resume to the right person at the right time. You then do not have to attend an interview and impress a future client in what might only be half an hour. Being recommended for a freelance job usually bypasses all of these hurdles.
Do not underestimate the power of doing your current freelance job to the best of your abilities. Importantly, making the working life of your direct employer is the easiest way to keep your current freelance job and getting your next freelance job.
How would you find someone to work for you?
Think about it this way. If you are wanting to get work done on your home, you would ask your friends and family who they could recommend, wouldn’t you. And in that way, you have already done part of your research in finding the best contractors for doing that work. You have in effect skipped the reviewing the CV’s or Resumes and some of the interviews too.
And the same can be said for hiring freelance staff. Freelancers need to know how to do the work required, the employer just needs to find you. So, if you can put in that extra bit of effort and make sure your client is happy. Then they will recommend you.
Get Social. Broaden your network to find freelance jobs.
Being recommended for a role is the best and easiest way to find work for a freelancer. But if that avenue has not turned up anything then you need to start looking elsewhere. If you are looking for work, one of the best social networks that you can use is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the business social network.
I must admit that I do not find LinkedIn works for me, but it does for a lot of people. I guess the problem for me is that I do not spend much time on there. Partly because I do not have the spare time to look at it and get involved.
To stand any chance of finding work on LinkedIn you need to spend time on it. You need to grow your Connections on LinkedIn to stand any sort of chance for finding future work. And you need to be careful about which Contacts you grow as well. You want to make sure you are selecting the right people. The people who can do the hiring of freelancers.
It is good to grow with your colleagues on LinkedIn. It can be an especially useful platform. It may well help land your next role; you might be researched on there. This is where recommendations and a well thought out presentation of yourself is a must.
If you are doing LinkedIn, keep it professional and not personal.
Contact the recruitment agencies for your next freelance job.
It is always difficult finding work for yourself. So why not get somebody else to do it for you? Someone with lots of Connections. And this is where the recruitment agencies come into their own. They will have lots of Connections, the right connections and they will know the people to talk to for your sort of role.
It is the recruitment agency’s job to find you a role that fits for you. If you have never worked through an agency before then you will need to register with them. I would suggest that you register with a few different recruitment agencies. This is again to broaden your network of contacts and employers. When registering with an agency you will often need to supply references from previous employers. I am incredibly careful when doing this, as giving out the contact details of your current employer or previous one can upset people. Respect your referee’s privacy. The usual point that references are given are after an interview or meeting and the client is looking to employ you.
Would I recommend working through a Recruitment Agency?
This is entirely up to you and your preference. I have done both. Some contracts I preferred to be direct and others I was happy to work through a recruitment agency. Overall though I would recommend working through a recruitment agency. I would especially recommend that you work through a recruitment agency if you are just starting out with freelance roles.
What are the advantages of working through a Recruitment Agency?
There are a few advantages of working through the recruitment agencies. It is for you to decide whether they are of use to you. There are also some companies that will not contract you direct and will insist that you work through an agency. These advantages are from when you are working and not looking for work.
The first advantage that I see for working through a recruitment agency is cash flow. You get paid every week. You will have to work a week in hand, but at the end of the next week your money is in your account. If you are going direct to your client, you may have to work a month in hand and then wait till the end of the next month to get paid.
The second advantage of working through a recruitment agency is protection for your working relationship. They will have exceptionally good terms and conditions setup with the clients. Ones that you will probably find difficult to replicate. I have heard stories of companies looking to cover losses on projects by claiming for mistakes off others. When working through a recruitment agency you are most likely working for your time. At the end of the week you get a timesheet that states you have worked those hours and the client is happy with the work you have done. If they are not satisfied with your work that is the time for them to speak up and not sign the timesheet.
The third advantage of working through a recruitment agency is the wider range of projects that you are eligible for. Some companies will have stringent criteria for working with sub-contractors or freelance staff. Again, this is about casting your net wide and more opportunities that you have the more likely you are to find suitable work.
The one disadvantage working through a recruitment agency is probably getting a lower rate than going direct to a client. However, this is often outweighed by the comfort of having your money at the end of the week.
Recommend Recruitment Agencies.
The list below (and links to their websites) are the recruitment agencies that I have found to be the most effective over the years. In no particular order they are: –
Unite People https://www.unitepeople.co.uk/
Kenton Black https://www.kentonblack.com/
Project Resource https://www.project-resource.co.uk/
The Best Way to Find Freelance Work. Upload your CV to CV library.
This is an absolute gem. The best bit of advice I have for you to finding your next freelance role. And I stumbled across this by chance. This is the best way to find freelance work. It’s simple. It’s easy. Just upload your CV to the CV Library website.
This link will take you to CV Library. https://www.cv-library.co.uk/
How did I find out the best way to find freelance work.
I was already signed up with CV Library. I was on a long-term contract and not looking for work. But, I had an email from CV Library saying I hadn’t been active for on the site for awhile and to update my CV. I had a bit of time on my hands, so I updated my CV and uploaded it to CV Library. Within a couple of hours, I started to receive calls from numerous recruitment agencies enquiring as to whether I was looking for a new role. Literally one after another agency was calling me. I had done nothing apart from refreshing my CV on CV Library.
It was this point that I realised that the recruitment agencies subscribe to a CV service from CV Library. This is the number one way the recruitment agencies find people looking for work. It is a lot easier than calling or emailing every recruitment agency you know off. This is why I believe that this is the best way to find freelance work.
This is the way I look for new work. It works. But what I do not do, is constantly keep updating my CV and uploading it. I only refresh my CV when I near the end of a contract.
I hope this information is useful for you in finding your next freelance role. The above information is from how I find freelance roles, but there is nothing to say it would not help in finding permanent positions also.
Happy Job Hunting.
IR35 and the Freelance Engineer
Recommended Construction Industry Books