The coronavirus pandemic did not just change the world. It opened doors of opportunities to the possibilities one can achieve from home. Quarantines, social distancing, and strict lockdown measures meant the traditional nine to five was no longer an option. Offices, malls, businesses, and practically everything and everyone, bar heroic health workers, had to suspend operations. The world as we know it was at a standstill. But one sector kept moving, remote working—especially freelance CAD designing. In the US alone, the number of freelancers rose from 17% to 44% during the pandemic. While the pandemic holds credit for accelerating the workplace, freelancing is slowly becoming the norm. This is evident in the fact that most CAD firms now prefer freelancers to traditional hires. Also, with the availability of tools like VPNs and cloud-based software, becoming a freelance CAD designer has never been more profitable. For a step-by-step guide on how to become a CAD freelancer, Read on.
Who is a Freelance CAD Designer?
A CAD freelancer does the job of a traditional designer without the restrictions and supervision of an office or employer. That said, the CAD industry is relatively broad. And while being a “master-of-all” can be profitable, most clients prefer hiring freelancers with field-specific specializations. On that note, depending on the field you want to work in, your duties as a freelance CAD designer may vary. However, here are some of the general tasks you’d most likely perform:
- Convert written or verbal instructions into complex layouts and drawings.
- Understand new/improved product ideas to create corresponding CAD drawings, with industry and departmental standards in mind.
- Collaborate with team members to sync drawing information and complete projects on time.
- Incorporate feedback and review pre-designed layouts to ensure compatibility with clients’ design concepts. This might include having to liaise with engineers and manufacturers to solve an existing design problem.
- Make recommendations regarding design concepts in an engineering and manufacturing design review.
- Create and edit 2D drawings and 3D models.
- Understand and implement corrections to 2D and 3D models based on your clients’ requests.
Skills You Need to Become an Expert CAD Designer
Depending on your field of interest, the CAD designing skills you’d need may vary. Some freelancers resolve to apprenticeship programs when looking to gain skills. However, the best and most rewarding method is enrolling in a college program, whether online or on-campus. Most colleges offer a 2-year CAD drafting program, with an option to specialize in any area of CAD you find interesting. That said, your certifications would pave the way for you to become a CAD drafter/designer. However, there some general skills you must possess for a fruitful freelance journey:
More than Basic Maths Knowledge
If you’re one to shy away from maths, this job probably isn’t for you. There’s always a need to calculate angles, distances, radius, concentricity, and so on. You need these calculations to create accurate 2D and 3D drafts. Therefore, you must be able to apply maths as part of your daily work if you want to become a freelance CAD designer.
Versatility in Different CAD Software
One of the perks of freelancing is that you get to work with different companies from around the globe, depending on the freelance platform you choose to work on. However, these companies may or may not use the same software as you. So, you need, to say the least, a basic knowledge of several CAD software. This way, if you’re using software that’s interoperable with your clients’, you easily import designs or geometry.
Ability to Provide High-quality Work, on time, Without Supervision
As a freelancer, you’re your own boss. Most times, you have the luxury of choosing when and where you work. However, in this case, you’re your supervisor. Therefore, if you need someone hovering over your head before your complete a job, freelancing may prove difficult for you.
The freelance market is very competitive, and clients go for freelancers that’ll deliver on time. So, the ability to work independently with self-motivation can give you that extra edge to succeed as a freelance CAD designer. The last thing you’d want is procrastinating on a job until it’s a few days to its deadline. Then having to rush up and you end producing substandard work. The freedom you get with freelancing can be intoxicating, and as such, you need the right amount of self-motivation.
Good mix of creativity and technical know-how
Creativity is always a plus in any aspect of work, and CAD freelancing is no different. Whether it’s machine parts or floor plans, it takes the perfect combination of technical know-how and creativity to visualize and construct the right design. Therefore, you need to unlock your creative mind if you’re to join the CAD freelancing train.
Websites You Can Find Freelance CAD Jobs
Now that you know the skills you need to become a freelance CAD designer, next up is finding where to ply your trade. There are numerous freelance websites out there. However, most don’t offer a marketplace for CAD designers. Here is a list of some reputable websites where you can find CAD jobs.
Upwork is arguably the largest and most competitive freelance platform out there. With thousands of clients posting jobs daily, this is a great place to ply your trade. This platform requires that you sign up on the Upwork website, research CAD jobs that match your skills, and submit a proposal to apply. Additionally, Upwork has a new feature, the “Project Dashboard,” that lets you create projects clients can buy.
Cadcrowd is a freelance platform strictly for CAD designers. With a large freelancer community, this platform can be considered the home for freelance CAD designers and engineers. Unlike most freelance platforms, CadCrowd has a unique mode of operation where it qualifies freelancers using “design contests.” This way, clients create a contest, and freelancers enter into it by submitting their designs. The employer then selects the best design. Also, Cadcrowd operates on a ranking system, where the more contests you win, the higher your rank. And the majority of the private offers go to high-ranking freelancers.
One of the largest freelance platforms in the market, offering a marketplace for almost any freelance profession, including CAD. Its selling point is offering freelance skills at a cheaper rate compared to other platforms. Like Upwork, you need to sign up, search for jobs that match your skills, and apply.
Another reputable freelancing platform, Fiverr, started as a marketplace where clients could get anything done for $5. Fiverr has a unique mode of operation where freelancers set up gigs with details about their offerings, time of completion, and price. This way Fiverr shows clients the best freelancers when they’re looking to hire.
Common Mistakes you Must Avoid as a Freelance CAD Designer
Navigating the freelancing world can be overwhelming even for experienced freelancers. There are no predefined rules, most times, no onboarding process. Therefore, it’s common to make mistakes as you try to find your way. However, you must learn from your mistakes if you’re to succeed as a freelancer. You can get an edge over your competitors by considering the following mistakes:
Charging too low
Most freelancers make the mistake of charging too low, especially in the early phase of their freelancing journey. While building a portfolio is essential, you need to ensure you’re being paid accordingly. To avoid pricing below your worth, research experienced freelancers and look up their rates. You can also look up the rates of other entry-level CAD freelancers.
Working for Too Many Clients at once
With the high degree of freedom and competition in the freelancing world, it’s easy to find yourself taking on too many clients. This can lead to you producing low-quality work in a bid to meet up with conflicting deadlines. Also, you need to create time for yourself, and with too many clients, you could find yourself working 24hours.
Not stating your terms and conditions
Your clients will state their terms and conditions. You should also state yours. This can be anything from working hours, not working weekends, to payment preference. This will ensure you maintain a smooth working relationship with your clients.
Not maintaining a good client relationship
Your relationship with your client does not end when a contract ends. Send them an email, let them know that you’re available for another job. Maintaining good client relationships is imperative for building a solid client base.
So, there you have it; the road to becoming a freelance CAD designer is not so difficult to tread. However, there are certain factors that you may find discouraging along the way. One of which is the issue of unstable work, especially in your early stages when you have no client base to fall on. Another is the issue of what rates to charge. How do you set a price that’s both convenient for you and your client? While trying to solve these issues can be a daunting process, the result can also be rewarding. Provided you put in the necessary work.