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Re: solo engineering: hourly jobs/software investment/etc

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akester wrote:

After talking to several engineers, they said to never charge your exact time when doing hourly work unless it is expert witness, an on site evaluation, or writing a letter or something, because you are cheating yourself. Charge what you think others would charge and what is a fair fee, and what it is WORTH.

I wholeheartedly concur with this.

Also, NEVER second guess yourself (well, don't spend inordinate amounts of time doing so) because you "lost money" on a particular job. You will find that your average over time tells a truer story.

Also, don't hesitate to take on work that you know will "lose you money" if it presents an opportunity to add to your skill-set. For example, I started doing residential plans with a pretty clear idea that it was going to "bite me" at least at first, because I needed to get up to speed on what would be required, what review comments would have to be addressed, etc.

In fact, I ended up losing "money" (time-equivalents, anyway) to a much greater degree than I had anticipated at the outset. But I noticed that as I went along I established a set of processes that I can see will make things easier as I go along. For example, I hit upon the idea of tabulating beam data using Woodworks Office for dimension lumber and the proprietary design software of certain structural engineered lumber manufacturers. I did some struggling with this at first, but was aided in comments back from the builder ("Could you tell me what beam I can use from XYZ Corp.? We use a lot of their stuff.").

I "lucked out" in a sense because the builder was building "spec homes" (not for the eventual owner but for a real estate investment trust) in an upscale development that has an almost unreasonably demanding Architectural Review Board. Some of the review comments were inane, but many of them were useful and I incorporated this into my personal "knowledge base."

I have found that small projects tend to be the most challenging because they are tailor-made for a small operation like yours (and mine), and they nearly always follow an aggressive schedule. I follwed this "loss leader" recipe early on several years ago when just starting out, getting paid "peanuts" for some small commercial buildings for which I developed a sort of "prototype" design (for in-house use only; I didn't do this as part of my scope for the architectural client), and I found over time that I could get one of these small buildings out in two days--the first one took me nearly three weeks!.

In the end, you are doing this to support your family, but you're also doing it because it will afford you the satisfaction of being your "own boss" (whatever that means; I find that my clients tell me what to do an awful lot, when my wife isn't engaged in doing so), and to be more of an engineer, which working for a larger company often doesn't affor thanks to the Peter Principle.

HTH, and drop me a line if you want to discuss anything in particular. I have found SEAINT to be invaluable over the years that I've been in practice. Whatever else folks here might think, there is NO ONE here for whom I do not have profound respect.

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