By starting a CAD business, you can provide computer-aided design or drafting services to organizations that do not have the skills or resources to handle design internally. In some cases, clients may require advanced CAD skills, or they may require a professional to handle the additional work on a large project.
If you are planning to start your own CAD business, you likely already have strong CAD skills and considerable experience. However, to demonstrate your professionalism to potential clients, consider obtaining certification through an organization such as the American Design Drafting Association. To qualify for Certified Design Drafter status, for example, you must have completed post-secondary training, gained three to five years’ experience and passed the association’s examination.
Acquire suitable hardware and software to carry out your work. Your computer must have a large high-resolution screen to make it easy to view detailed designs. It also must have the computing power and graphics capability to process complex calculations and design instructions. If you plan to print your own designs, buy a color printer that can handle larger paper sizes. A good broadband Internet connection is essential, so you can transmit large graphics files to clients.
Provided you have a spare room with the space for your equipment, you can run a CAD business from home. If you prefer to keep work and home separate, you can rent space in an office or in a small business incubation center in your area. Office location is not a critical factor as email, the Internet and videoconferencing gives you the freedom to deal with clients anywhere in the country. Complete a state or local business license form to register your business and obtain a sales tax license. The Small Business Administration offers a Business Licenses and Permits Search Tool to help you find out the type of licenses that apply in your area. Obtain insurance cover for your premises and your equipment, and take out liability insurance to protect against claims for professional negligence.
The market for CAD services is very competitive with suppliers from low-cost countries offering prices that may prove impossible to match. Strengthen your position and avoid price competition by offering specialist services that others cannot match. For example, you could develop a specialist service in CAD for the civil engineering, interior design or process engineering sectors. If you have architectural or engineering qualifications, take on projects that require detailed design knowledge in addition to drafting skills.
You can offer your services to two types of client – organizations that only require occasional CAD support and firms that can provide you with a regular source of work. Architectural and civil engineering practices, interior design firms, construction firms and the product development departments of large manufacturing companies are potential sources of regular work. Carpenters, small machining shops, welders, fabrication shops and independent architects and interior designers may provide you with more occasional work.