Author Topic: Self employment in electronics  (Read 3041 times)

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Offline djsb

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Self employment in electronics
« on: September 26, 2010, 03:30:00 AM »
Just thought I'd ask those that are self employed how they got started, how they find work and how is self employment compared to working for a regular employer?
I'm having to consider this option as finding regular employment is becoming more difficult. It scares me to even think of it as it means looking at work in an entirely different way.
Any stories or experiences shared would be very welcome. Thanks.
David
London,UK

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Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Online mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Self employment in electronics
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2010, 03:45:23 AM »
I've  been doing it for about 20yrs.  If you're a good all-rounder then IME there is no shortage of work,  but getting the first few jobs & contacts  is probably the tricky part. I've been fairly lucky &  have never had to advertise - e.g. I've done  work for one company,  someone left them & I got work from the place he  went to, then a customer's brother's  company needed something...
I've found that if you do a good job, people come back for more and are happy to reccommend.
Most of my initial customers were places that either  had no in-house electronics  people, or whose in-house people were  too  busy.  The market  has probably changed a little since then,as many of these were places for whom electronics or embedded micros were a fairly new & unknown territory, whearas nowadays it's hard to find anything without  a micro in it.

A major issue is flow regulation  - having several customers means there are times they all want something, so you need to    get them trained to allow sensible timescales..!

I see a lot of  short-term  contract work  advertised but can't comment on this as  I've never done it.
I've also never had a normal job in the electronics industry so can't really comment on  the difference, but I think I'd find it near-impossible to be working on  one project or in one sector for ages - a major benefit of freelancing is   variety, which is not  only  interesting,  it broadens your  skill base considerably.   I don't think I've ever done a job I've not learned something doing. You do need to  be a quick learner, and interested in learning new things.

Being parts of semi. manufacturers' registered consultant or similar schemes is very valuable, both as a source of new customers, and benefits like cheap/free devtools and good support.
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Offline migsantiago

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Re: Self employment in electronics
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2010, 05:36:13 AM »
I am starting as a self-employed designer. The first projects I've worked in have been because people who knows me have remembered that I could help them.

For example, I met this guy online who wanted to build a step counter. I told him we could use a Wiimote or an accelerometer to solve it. At the end, his client didn't accept the price he was asking for. One month later this guy contacted me again with some MySQL projects because the first time I talked to him I told him about everything I was an expert at. The MySQL project was a good one, now we're planning on a second project.

Get a webpage, talk about eveything you know, your expertise areas and make sure you bring good stuff or proof of your experience. I'm sure they'll remember you and say... "hey, do you remember this guy who was an expert with PICs? Let's call him."  ;)

Offline Kiriakos-GR

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Re: Self employment in electronics
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2010, 06:29:19 AM »
Ok ...

At the age of 15 that I lost my father ( hart attack accident ) ,
he was cars electrician , and he was using all his force so to made me one too..
And he was not trying to just teach the job,  but to make me an lover of perfection as he was .

Any way after his death, I was free to choose my way in life , and I started playing with electronics,
and actually with home made FM transmitters ( tubes ) .

Because of that hobby , I started to buy electronic parts from an local large shop ,
that was selling parts and they was making repairs too. ( five technicians was in it all ready )  

The Boss of this business , made to me an actual invitation , job proposal ,
to work for him at my spare time  ( I was still in the school of Electricians ) ,
and my payment would be by percentage ...
At any successful repair I would get  the 40%  if it was in door , and 60% if it was outdoor ( installation of an TV aerial ) ..  

In about five years , I had become an master repairman, in anything other than TV sets,
that I hate them .
Mostly because they are heavy to move around ..

I did my time in the Army ( Greek air force - radio communications  ) ,
and when I came back , I started to work as employee  technician at the local repair centers of major brands  like  Philips ( HiFi TV ) - Panasonic ( photo copiers - telephone centers) - Miele ( home appliances )- Omron ( cash registers ) Ricoh ( photo copiers ) ,  I was very good but those was very small businesses , and at every small financial difficulty, they showed the door to me , because I was and the most fresh employee to them .  

No matter the difficulties , I got so much knowledge , that I could start anything that I would like.

And I did , I traveled in a near by Island , and started my own business there , aka less competition.
Started to work with hotels , repairs on boats ,  electrical generators on the Vila's and satellite dishes.  
The island was mostly an attraction for tourists, and at the winter time it was like an desert financially,
so I moved back to my home town after two years.

The good part after you become an true knowable freelancer , are that finding an job ,
its more easy ...  The factories are trusting you more , than any new face .
You can do small contracts ..
You can start an new business ..
You have the "power" to become partner at someone else s  business .

Any one who can accept the challenge and become an freelancer his is an hero ,
and if you had survive by doing this over and over for 27 years , then you are also truly tested one !!   ;)  

          

 
« Last Edit: September 26, 2010, 06:31:39 AM by Kiriakos-GR »

Offline Time

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Re: Self employment in electronics
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2010, 06:49:19 AM »
This does not seem typical or even possible to do in the states.  I would be interested to hear about it if it does though.
-Time

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Re: Self employment in electronics
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2010, 07:32:58 AM »
This does not seem typical or even possible to do in the states.  I would be interested to hear about it if it does though.
From what I gather, this is as much to do with being self-emplloyed in general than electronics in  particular - health insurance,  fear of litigation etc. May also be different business culture.
 
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Offline Kiriakos-GR

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Re: Self employment in electronics
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2010, 07:54:47 AM »
Well an freelancer has many things that he must have in control ...
But things like  , health insurance or fear of litigation are not that important.

If you are skilled in what you do , and have an positive way to communicate with your customers ,
then your worst fear of becoming  an laughingstock its just disappears.

 

Online Mechatrommer

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Re: Self employment in electronics
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2010, 10:09:23 AM »
well, i'm not a self employed, but doing a freelance photography, maybe i can talk a bit of freelancing. the keywords other than already mentioned (knowledge, skill, communication and diplomacy etc):

1) you look for a job, not the job looking for you!... you must know how, willing to and persistent on it, there are a LOT of jobs out there than you ever know, trust me! it only depends on you.
2) your income = your effort... less effort = less income vice versa.
3) you must be willing to follow order from people, just like typical employer. if you do it to you own preferences/liking, then you'll start losing the job.

thats it! only 3? haha! my 2cnts.

Offline EEVblog

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Re: Self employment in electronics
« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2010, 11:28:15 AM »
I've done all three major ways:
1) Work for myself doing freelance design work
2) Work as a freelance contractor (usually through an agency)
3) Work 9-5 in engineering companies.

I've even dabbled in a forth:
4) Selling my own designs

#1 working for yourself doing freelance design would have to be the most stressful and risky IMO. You have to estimate jobs, possibly try and undercut others, juggle multiple jobs, and the worst of all, deliver ON TIME! And you usually have to eat anything (financial and time wise) that goes wrong.
Almost everyone I know who works for themselves like this has no life outside of work.
Most people start out this way part time doing jobs on the side and then ease into it full-time when they can't keep up the load along side their 9-5 job.
Not a good idea to jump into this cold, and if you have to ask this question then you likely are not in a good position to attempt this.
People see this as "Being your own boss" which is just absolute bullshit. You are still working for "the man", but there can be more than one and they whip you harder.

#2 is a great way to be "freelance", usually get more money than a 9-5 job, and not get stuck at the same place.
You might join a design group for say 6-12 months and then bugger off. These often lead to full time jobs.
The fixed terms mean you can often plan the next job before the previous one ends.
You get none of the hassles of the financial or paperwork aspects, just a steady pay cheque that gets interrupted once or twice a year, and shit that goes wrong is usually blamed on the company "system". And you get to go home and forget about it come 5pm.
Hardly any risk, and can give good diversity, I'd recommend it.
I'd never hesitate to go back to this if my current 9-5 job folded.

#3 Dilbert land. Say no more, it's the average paying gravy train. I like it, you can go home at 5pm and forget all about it.

#4 This is what I'd ultimately want to do full time along with the blogging. Do your own thing, work on your own stuff, and answerable to no one!


If you find getting full time work hard, try contracting before considering working for yourself.

Dave.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2010, 11:34:26 AM by EEVblog »

Offline JohnS_AZ

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Re: Self employment in electronics
« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2010, 02:24:16 PM »
Like Dave I've done all three.
Here in the U.S., the killer with self employment is medical insurance. That is, you won't have any.
Also, here you pay higher social security taxes if you're self employed.

The more universal downsides ...

You think you'll be an engineer, and you will. But you will also be an accountant, bookkeeper, tax preparer, marketing wonk, and sales director. Not to mention being the janitor and the guy who has to run out for copier paper. All that documentation that the secretaries, or lit control folks, or interns make all pretty and presentable? You get to do that now too. Oh, and you're also the IT and legal departments as well. Hope you like paperwork... That rail of 10 ICs you bought? Well it's now a personal business expense. It has to be documented, paperwork has to be filed, and it has to be taken into account at tax time.

If you're a one-man enterprise, the shit doesn't roll anywhere. If there's shit, you're in it. Deep. You know the old saying that the customer is always right? The corollary to that is "you're wrong".

Need new test gear? You get to pay for it yourself. Want to go to a trade show or conference? It's all on your own dime. Need sample parts? Well you're no longer a "serious" potential customer.

And this might sound lame, but it can turn into a VERY lonely life. No one to say hi to in the halls, and conversation over lunch will be between you and your cat. No one to bounce ideas off of, no one to call in for a fresh eye on a problem.

As Dave pointed out you're not your own boss, every client you have is a boss. And worse, some of those clients might well be COMMITTEES of bosses! You end up with the "Field Service Curse". That is: No matter how great a job you did, you took too long, charged too much, and "we could have done that internally".

So ... in *MY* opinion, working through an agency isn't a good option, it's the only reasonable option.

If you do either, here are a few things that worked for me...

Join associations. When I was solo I was a member of IEEE, SME, and ESDA. Went to all the monthly dinner meetings, and me a lot of very valuable folks who ultimately turned me onto jobs.

Find any entrepreneur clubs, small business groups, or anything else that may put you in contact with potential clients and join. (forget about linked-in or any of the other on-line crap. it's worthless). My experience is that 99% of the contract/freelance work out there is with small companies, not the big guys (unless you're wildly specialized and accomplished).

Promote yourself. For example, my specialty was ESD. I started writing papers, articles, and ultimately a column. A gave talks and presentations. Remember: The first step in becoming a Guru is telling people that you are one. The second is to always act like one, and the third is to perform when called on.

Create and maintain a portfolio of previous work. A little creative editing can get you around confidentiality agreements.

And my -absolute- golden rule of freelance: never, ever, do anything for free or for "a cut". What you will certainly hear over and over again is "You design it and build the prototype, I'll build and market them, and we'll both make a million dollars!" The ONLY answer to this is "Tell you what, pay me to design and prototype it, you do the rest, and YOU get to keep the whole 2 million".  :)

Truly ... I wish you all the best.

 
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