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Thread: Some advice for the self employed (long and rambling, sorry)

  1. #1
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    Some advice for the self employed (long and rambling, sorry)

    A post that I made in the "custom curtain wall" thread this morning got me thinking about offering some advice that may be useful to others, especially those that are self contained (employed) or are interested in being so. I have been drafting (board, then AutoCAD) since 1969. I have been actively using Revit for 7 years now (will be 8 years in May). I was mentored in Revit by Alfredo Medina, a great man and a wonderful teacher. He taught me to discover, to go down roads that may not seem like the easy path and along these lines of thinking my current business model has changed considerably over the last couple of years. I have flowed into a new, exciting, form of Revit detailing. You see, and most all of those here know this, learning to use Revit "effectively" for whatever your purpose is a steep, steep learning curve. Sure, one can pick up a book, or take a beginner class at the local junior college and start to "model" in Revit. But to really know Revit and be able to breeze through the family editor and create modeled content with a purpose takes time, commitment, energy, and the willingness to learn. OK, anyway, the point of all of this is, there are 100's, maybe 1000's of companies that still produce submittals, shop drawings, fabrication drawings, etc using CAD. They do not see the writing on the wall, they do not want to expend the time, money, or energy to have their employees learn to have 3D modeling capability, regardless of what program might be used. On the other end, more and more current construction projects in the USA are requiring that each subcontractor provide a 3D model of their scope of work for clash detection (and many other purposes). So, using the screen shot that I posted in the curtain wall thread as an example, I work for a commercial glazing subcontractor. That subcontractor gets bids for ACM wall panels for their project. A part of their bid review process is to determine if the companies being reviewed can provide a product meeting specs and submittals and models as required by the project BEP. If they can't do the modeling part my customers choices are to either not use that supplier or figure out how to use the low bid supplier and still get the 3D modeling accomplished. Starting to see where I'm going with this? 90% of my current workload is creating Revit models from 2D CAD drawings provided by suppliers. So, again using the project posted in the other thread, my customer saved $25 to $30k by selecting a supplier that could meet all specified requirements except the 3D modeling portion. Then they hired me. I charge $150.00 US per hour and my total hours on the project we are talking about was 32 (32 hours at $150 = $4,800.00) resulting in a net savings to my customer of $20 to $25k. Do you think that I'm a popular guy? You bet, and for every project that I do I turn down 5 or 6 others just due to time constraints (there's only so many hours in a day).

    This scenario can be applied to any trade for any construction project that has a BEP in the USA. Whatever trade is your specialty, if you need more work just call all of the subcontractors that specialize in that trade (not just at home but all over the US) and tell them that you are a 3D modeler and offer to provide 3D models for projects that have suppliers that cannot do so. I guarantee that your workload will increase in the future (this seems like a good time to sell you my best selling book, LOL!)

    I hesitated to post this information thinking maybe it might seem a bit forward. I am certainly not the most knowledgeable Revit user on the planet (I am in my home town though as I think that I'm the only one here). What I am is driven. I am a Revit crazy person. I can't get enough. Oh, did I mention that I retired on 1/1/2017? That was the plan anyway, I lasted one day and then was back at it. So now the plan is to retire May 1. But the new Revit 2018 will just be out. How's that going to happen. Saga to be continued, I'll keep you all apprised.

    In closing I'd like to thank all of those regular posters in RFO that offer their time and great expertise on an hourly basis without benefit of remuneration. Without this forum I'd be years behind where I am today. Happy New Year everyone!!
    six8, CADiva, cellophane and 11 others like this.

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    Forum Addict tzframpton's Avatar
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    This was a fun read. And I have to wholly agree with you.

    I am now turning down work non-stop. The first year in business I said yes to a lot of jobs that I shouldn't have. Wound up working 7 days a week for about 5 months straight, working as much as I could stand each day. I now have a full time sub-contractor, and both of us together are working six days a week, full 8-10 hour days most weeks. The pay is definitely good.

    In my realm of mechanical HVAC, mechanical piping and plumbing modeling for construction coordination and shop drawings, Revit is where it's at. Everybody wants Revit. Everybody needs Revit (so it seems). Especially in the MEP world. I think I caught this industry in a sort of in-between phase where things are beginning to take root with Revit, while at the same time many companies are still getting by just fine without Revit. This allows me to be the cream of the crop as a vendor, since they want me and only me for their Revit + BIM work. Not only that, but my experience in the field and my experience in working for the three flavors of the MEP domain (general contractor, sub-contractor and consultant engineering) gives me a pretty competitive edge since I can acclimate seamlessly between these three categories of business models.

    I do like that I can still provide fast and accurate 2D drafting. And I still take on these jobs. $500 a pop for my little two or three unit lease spaces that takes me about 45-90 minutes to complete for shop drawings. Gosh man, the easiest of jobs. Give me four of those a month all day long and I'm game. The fee is more of a convenience charge for my client on these types of jobs but hey, their small-time light commercial GC wants them and I can deliver, and their budget for these typical small lease spaces is $500 so they just give it to me. LISP routines and Tool Palettes makes AutoCAD still very relevant for those types of jobs.

    But yeah, I can see a business model like mine being very relevant in the future. I have about 4 main clients and while they do have in house BIM designers, they love having me around to at least scale up some good, reliable help for a quick-start job for a prominent general contractor in town. Or so a general contractor can have a team like mine to fully facilitate a VDC construction project, in which we assume all modeling roles, and deliver a full set of "build it where we tell you to build it" documents and run a construction management fee during the actual construction process for odds and ends.

    It's fun. Revit is fun. The collaboration with Revit is fun, and my business is doing good so far. Good talk Dave.

    -TZ
    Dave Jones and Nurlan like this.

  3. #3
    The Moderator with No Imagination MPwuzhere's Avatar
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    Hey Dave....if you have to turn down folk....you can send them my way... I need work.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MPwuzhere View Post
    Hey Dave....if you have to turn down folk....you can send them my way... I need work.
    sorry, I don't want to be responsible for your bad habits
    tzframpton likes this.

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    Forum Co-Founder Twiceroadsfool's Avatar
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    Great thread. I have learned a lot in my first 19 months in business for myself. Having the time of my life, and things are going really well. Will have to revisit this thread and edit this post when i get some more time.

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    Forum Addict tzframpton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Twiceroadsfool View Post
    Great thread. I have learned a lot in my first 19 months in business for myself. Having the time of my life, and things are going really well. Will have to revisit this thread and edit this post when i get some more time.
    Please do. Would love to hear your perspective thus far.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Twiceroadsfool View Post
    Great thread. I have learned a lot in my first 19 months in business for myself. Having the time of my life, and things are going really well. Will have to revisit this thread and edit this post when i get some more time.
    I also would look forward to your views on self employment and the state of CAD vs 3D modeling, now and in the future.

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    ok so here is my question, i do some work on the side from full time work, but how do you go out full time solo? do you do just like you said? call up everyone and see what happens? if that works how do you know when to drop your full time job? got a wife and 4 kids so cant afford to just not have an income. just curious how you guys started out.....i have tried with old contacts but that is such a random thing that not sustainable they seem to use me when they overloaded once calm down thats it.

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    Junior Member FBlome's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zabes View Post
    ok so here is my question, i do some work on the side from full time work, but how do you go out full time solo? do you do just like you said? call up everyone and see what happens? if that works how do you know when to drop your full time job? got a wife and 4 kids so can't afford to just not have an income. just curious how you guys started out.....i have tried with old contacts but that is such a random thing that not sustainable they seem to use me when they overloaded once calm down thats it.
    I did it by having 3 guys that were providing me side work, plus I was pulling in my own work on the side. This was architectural drafting, CAD but not 3D in the early days. I made myself valuable to them to the point where they needed me just to get the jobs done in time. And by that time, I had a whole system set up for drawing production, and they themselves didn't do any cad. Once I hit 3D, they were locked in. They came through word of mouth and contacts from full time job connections so it took while to finally be comfortable with quitting my full time. Up to that point, I had been working many many hours, so quitting meant being able to work less for the same or more income. Lots of downsides: insurance, subscription fees, staying on top of quarterly taxes, worry about the next job and economy, kids taking priority and too easily interrupting work, boredom and lack of contact with the outside world. And spending too much time on the internet and RevitForum that you don't get paid to do.....

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    Quote Originally Posted by zabes View Post
    ok so here is my question, i do some work on the side from full time work, but how do you go out full time solo? do you do just like you said? call up everyone and see what happens? if that works how do you know when to drop your full time job? got a wife and 4 kids so cant afford to just not have an income. just curious how you guys started out.....i have tried with old contacts but that is such a random thing that not sustainable they seem to use me when they overloaded once calm down thats it.
    pretty much the same for me as Fred's story. I discovered AutoCAD in 1988 and while employed taught myself how to use it evenings and weekends. I then started doing some CAD detailing for my company (I was in sales and a Project Manager at the time) and some of my competitors would see my drawings in Architect's offices while reviews were happening and I started getting calls from them asking "can you do a small job for me after hours?". And so it started. After a year of that I was spending more hours working on side work than on my gainful employment so if for nothing else, to be fair to my employer, I quit and started my own business in 1990. I can honestly say that I've never had a day without some work to do in all of that time. It's out there if you know where to look, and what to do with it when you find it! Good luck!!

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