Ah, imagine that: Being your own boss, working the hours you want to work and only taking the jobs you want to take. Freelance welding can be incredibly enticing. But before you give your foreman the finger and decide to head out on your own, here’s a couple things you should consider when thinking about becoming a freelance welder:
Often You Aren’t Your Own Boss – As a freelancer, you definitely have the ability to take on the jobs you want to do. However, once you’ve agreed to a job, you’ll often find you’re still following someone else’s instructions. If you’re freelancing directly for a client, they’ll still have specifics they want you to follow. If you’re freelancing for an indirect company (such as a contractor, manufacturing company, etc.), often you’ll still have a welding inspector watch over you to evaluate your work.
The same goes for the hours you work. The ideal freelance job would allow you to work whenever you wanted as long as the job gets done. However, often freelance jobs require you to coordinate with other individuals on the project. This means that many jobs still have a certain expectation of when you’ll be working.
Experience – While working under a company, there’s often a certain amount of “learning mistakes” you’re allowed early on in your career. Many companies will often pair new welders with more experienced ones to help them learn the ropes. As a freelancer, you’ll be afforded none of these luxuries. You’re not only expected to do good work without the beginner mistakes, you actually survive off doing it. That’s because much of freelance work is gained by recommendations from past clients. And clients only recommend when they’re happy with the work you did for them.
Most successful freelancers will recommend you don’t go out on your own until you have at least 5 years of experience on the job. Generally, the more experience you have, the more companies will be willing to hire you. Your certifications and any formal welding education you get can also play a role in the types of jobs you’ll acquire.
Networking – Networking is really the essential life blood of getting jobs while freelancing. There’s quite a few different approaches you can take to networking but the most crucial thing to remember is to simply do good work. It’s pretty obvious if you think about it. Would you ever recommend to a friend someone who does shoddy work and has the charming misdemeanor of a lobotomized serial killer?
It’s not just doing good work that’ll help you grow your network, it’s also appearing like you’re doing good work. There is a difference. Let’s say you’ve got everything under control but you’re just a more volatile guy with the mouth of a sailor. Every time your client comes to check on you, you’re kicking your equipment and cursing in a way that would cause your mother to faint. Even if in reality you’re doing great work, your client is going to think you’re having a rough time. Just remember to sustain a certain level of friendliness and professionalism while on the job and especially in front of the client.
The fine print – There’s always a few things welders don’t think about before they decide to freelance. Here’s the biggest one: insurance. As a freelancer, you’ll have to cover your own health and/or disability insurance. For the most part, it’s not even a question of should I get insurance. A large chunk of freelance jobs out there require you to have certain types of insurance (to cover their liability) before they’ll even think about hiring you.
As an independent contractor, you’ll also be in charge of paying your own taxes. This includes the general slew of employment taxes such as Social Security, FICO, etc. Many freelancers will recommend you set aside 25% of the money you earn towards your taxes.
Freelancing can really pay off if approached in the right way. However, it’s important to know what you’re getting in to. If you’re looking for other ways you can make money with your welding skills, check out these 2 excellent post below:
Making Money as a Hobby Welder