Freelance engineer explains the pros and cons of self-employment

Rose Almond is a product design engineer.
Thanks to Rose Almond

  • Rose Almond is a fully self-employed freelance engineer after quitting her office job in 2015.
  • Almond shared the positive aspects and challenges of this career move.
  • There may be slow work periods, but she likes the flexibility in choosing projects and when to work.

Rose Almond was done with her 9-to-5 job as a mechanical engineer.

“It wasn’t a good place for a young female engineer,” she told Business Insider. “It didn’t really suit me in the office environment.”

Additionally, Almond said working the night and weekend hustle and bustle of freelance gigs was exhausting. That’s why she quit her job in 2015.

Now she gets to choose her own schedule and which projects she works on.

“I knew something had to be done,” she said.

Almond lives in Canada and is fully self-employed as a freelance product design engineer. She said much of her work still falls under mechanical engineering. Almond did not just decide to become an independent freelancer. To prepare, Almond said she made sure she had “enough money in my business to pay my bills for a few months.”

“I then approached my employer to ask him to switch to part-time work so I could ease into the freelance side,” she added. ‘To be honest, I wasn’t being used to my full potential, and I could have kept the same work rate in half the time anyway, but they refused to even think about it. They got my discharge the same day.”

For others hoping to discover when to make this lifestyle change, Almond said a lot of it comes down to recognizing both your strengths and weaknesses.

“Freelancing provides flexibility in how you manage your time, but it also comes with a responsibility for time management and the need to be able to motivate yourself – even on the days when it’s hard to get going,” she said. “Everyone has their own acceptable level of risk, which should be carefully considered in terms of finances, healthcare and other benefits that may be traded.”

Earn money through the freelance platform Fiverr

Since joining Fiverr in the summer of 2014, Almond has earned approximately $288,000 through the freelancing platform. This includes approximately one year of additional work while still working in her previous job. She has also done freelance work through Upwork.

In 2021, she earned around $65,400 through Fiverr. Almond attributes this partly to people looking more for freelancers during the pandemic. Last year, her Fiverr earnings were nearly $36,000, based on documentation shared with Business Insider. Her total income from her self-employment in 2023 was approximately 65,400 Canadian dollars, or more than $47,500.

Almond provides product designs and creates concept sketches for customers. She said she helps customers “create the products they can sell.” Based on her Fiverr profile, simple hand sketches for a product concept cost $750. Prices rise to $1,000 for color digital sketches and $1,250 for 3D mockups. However, these prices differ if the delivery time is shortened. She also listed prices for designing a client’s product for 3D printing and prototyping.

“It’s really fun to see the products actually being launched and getting to market,” she said.

The pros and cons of working as a freelancer

Almond said choosing her own hours is a great advantage; she likes to work at night.

Location flexibility is another positive. Almond said she has completed projects while traveling. She also did some work, such as answering people’s questions, while waiting for school pick-up.

“I love that the focus is clearly on the quality of what you deliver, rather than something as arbitrary as your location,” she said.

Almond has found flexibility in determining the projects to work on as a professional other than as a freelancer.

“At first it wasn’t so much, because at first it was kind of, you take what you can get,” she said. “And now that I’m more established, I can choose what I want to spend my time on.”

There are also specific advantages to being a freelancer as a parent, Almond has discovered. She has two young children. She said this type of work gives her flexibility with their schedules when needed and caring for them when they are sick.

She said flexibility would be difficult if she were still working as a mechanical engineer for an employer.

“Frankly, a lot of office culture is not fair to women in the workplace,” Almond said.

There can be some disadvantages to being a self-employed freelancer. Almond has found that “the lack of face-to-face interaction” that comes with freelance work can sometimes get lonely.

Another downside is that the workflow “doesn’t always run smoothly,” she said.

“Some weeks or even months it can be very quiet. There’s not much going on,” Almond said. “And then suddenly one day you get five different orders from different people that you’ve been quoting for the past six months, and they all want everything done tomorrow.”

She said managing clients’ expectations, communications and personalities can also be difficult, “especially in a field where results are not always linear and perfectly predictable” and “there is no buffer through management.”

“I’ve definitely gotten better at setting clear guidelines and boundaries over the years,” she added, noting that this has helped with client relationships.

Almond is ready to start working on her own products amid freelance gigs

Almond’s advice to other parents who want a shot at freelance work is to keep trying this type of work.

“You certainly shouldn’t expect it to all happen at once,” she said. “It takes some time to kind of get going, especially on platforms like Fiverr that have really grown and now have more people offering services. But just keep working at it, and eventually it will happen.”

Something she wishes she had known before entering the freelance world is “making sure you know your own worth.”

“In a competitive environment like freelancing, it’s very easy to underprice your services,” she says. ‘And sometimes it’s better Unpleasant wait for the people who will really appreciate you because they will come in with a better attitude, and that will make for a better working relationship.

Freelance work has now given Almond the opportunity to explore a different work goal.

“The flexibility of the hours I work with clients also allows me to explore some of my own personal projects, so I’m really excited to try and get some of my own products launched in the coming months and a year. “

Have you quit your job and gone freelance? Contact this reporter to share on [email protected].