Future of Engineering

How freelance engineers can increase their success in the digital world - Part 1 - Traditional vs. digital

Gavin Christie

Gavin Christie
Sep 11, 2016 11:29

The engineering world is changing. And so too is the way freelance engineers and individual engineering consultants compete for work. 

The “Internet of Things”, global connectivity and new crowdsourcing marketplaces for engineers such as kkooee are changing the way engineering services are sourced, procured and delivered.

So how does a freelance engineer compete and stand out in this new global economy? What is the role of relationships and how does this translate into the digital world? And importantly, what can an independent engineer do to be more effective in winning work in this changing environment?

I’ve worked for more than twenty years helping consultants win work. This experience has covered engineers, lawyers, auditors and technologists (to name only a few).  During this time I’ve seen the good, the bad and the downright ugly when it comes to winning work.

So for freelance engineers competing in this new digital frontier, or those who want to make the leap, I have written a six part blog series that include some tips that will help you stand out from your competitors.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting the rest of the blogs starting with PART 1 - Traditional vs. digital – Has anything changed?.

The full series includes:

To follow this blog series, simply follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter or visit our blog page on kkooee.

In the first part of the series I will explore some of the fundamental differences between winning in the new digital world.

PART 1 - Traditional vs. digital – Has anything changed?

Over the years I’ve learned that winning for professional services has always centred on three key factors – value, relationships and expertise.

Traditionally, successful independent engineers compete in a relatively defined geographic region. They focus on a relatively narrow and specialised group of services and have a list of clients built through personal (largely face-to-face) relationships.

In the digital marketplace, you are competing against a larger pool of experts who are typically spread throughout the world and there is limited capacity for face-to-face relationships. You’re also opening to yourself to competition against those who may have vastly different pricing and cost bases due to their location. This presents you with new challenges in demonstrating and communicating value.

Crowdsourced experts were critical to the development of kkooee and when hiring a freelancer for the first time, we couldn’t base our decision on relationship. Traditionally I would have asked my trusted networks for references, but this is impractical in a digital market. Rather I would use the rating systems and comments provided by other clients to shortlist freelancers. From that point I would pick the freelancer that provided the best mix of value-for-money and expertise. In most cases I would start with a small project and if they delivered well and I felt there was the capacity to build a relationship and deliver longer-term value, I would rehire for additional projects.

So in many cases, competing in the digital world is not unlike the way it’s always been. Clients will still make buying decisions based on their perception of value, relationships and expertise. And no matter what people say, it’s not all about price.

What has changed with online crowdsourcing marketplaces is how these relationships are built and the communication channels used to do this.

Stay tuned for the next blog in the series where I’ll explore in more detail the importance of building relationships. I’ll give you some tips that will help you win more work if you consistently apply some of them in your business development activities as a freelance engineer. 


Thanks Gavin for sharing some valuable insights.