Using your Electrical PE for a Side Hustle

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bjwhite2003

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I passed my PE back in Fall 2016.  I currently work in the power generation industry of NC.  My job doesn't require me to be licensed or to stamp anything.  For me, licensure is only required for eligibility of promotion to the upper levels of my position.  I've been tossing around the idea of forming a PLLC and starting a side hustle to help supplement my families income.  The problem is that I'm having a hard time thinking of what the actual service I would be providing would be.  For example, a general contractor or an electrician can pretty much wire a house and outfit it with a circuit breaker panel to code without the need for an engineer to get involved.  The same would go for other projects like pool houses, hot tubs, solar, etc.

So I guess my question is, what are some real world applications that an Electrical Engineer would be called upon to provide their services?

Thanks for any input!

 

EngrPaper

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Well, the first big step is your area of competency.  Where can you ethically offer services (or, otherwise, what skills do you need to gain)?

From there, consider who your clientele would be that require someone with those skills.  If your skills are in generation, are there other plants in the area with their own generation systems that could use you?  Or perhaps power distribution, switch gear, etc. are close enough to your skills that you can design those systems for plants. 

 
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willsee

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Lookup when engineered drawings are required in your state and do that.

Electricians can wire up office spaces and lay them out - some of the time they still require engineered stamped drawings.

 

ZW_Pub_Power

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I would try to find a contractor that you trust in something that is fairly repeatable (like say backup generator installs) and offer to become a part-time employee for them so they can avoid paying consultant markups on drawings. Make sure to determine what the fair market rate is hourly for your services because that will get you in trouble ethically. This could also help you avoid having to pull your own liability insurance (I think. Correct me if I'm wrong someone)

 

LyceeFruit PE

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I'd check your company's employee handbook to make sure your side hustle wouldn't be considered competition and land you in hot water. My company has it on our books that employees aren't allowed to own/work for competing businesses while employed with The Company. So my coworker with the dog wash business is fine but he couldn't have a side business of providing environmental permitting services (since that's what he does for us)

 
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SammyFLS

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You should start by getting some kind of certificate that would increase your chances. After that, you can work in a company that provides such services, there are many of them.
 

FLOrida

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draw plans for architects
hell, you have a PE, you could techinically do the full project (hopefully you’re a fast learner)
 

biff44

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i guess the main problem in your case will be errors and omissions insurance. If it is work that requires a PE stamp, people will be coming to you because it is required by the local building codes, or by their insurance, to save themselves if something goes wrong. So you will need that insurance to protect yourself if something does actually go wrong. And my personal experience is that getting insurance over a 1 million dollar limit will be hard to do....so you might not end up fully insured. My (non PE) insurance was in the $2500 range for a year.
 
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A B

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The state board is at ncbels.org.

I suggest you take a look at the violations section to see what’s gotten licensed PEs in trouble in the past in NC. There’s a link to that history but you have to dig around to find it. I suggest you also get involved with the local IEEE chapter to network.

If you get sanctioned by NCBELS, it’s a permanently public record. Potential customers, employers and other state licensing boards can search their database using your name.

Regarding your employer, better they know ahead of time than find out from somebody else. I’m not suggesting you go to HR; they get paid to say “no” to everything. I’d first look in the employee handbook. If it’s ok or if it’s a gray area, then I’d confirm with your supervisor that it’s ok. Get it writing (an email chain works) then conservatively follow any restrictions.

Your side hustle won’t pay you enough to compensate for trouble on either of these fronts.

I’d also carefully evaluate who you’re working for. There are certain outfits in my line of work that I just won’t use due to their reputation. That also applies to people that used to work for them unless I can determine they didn’t absorb the ethical values / incompetence of their old bosses.

Hiring employees / retaining consultants is always risky. It’s so painful when you get burned and sooner or later some hire’s going blow up in your face. Step 1 in reducing risk is avoiding people that have cut ethical corners in the past.

One final tip learned through hard experience from a non-engineering consulting gig: make sure your client can and will actually pay you. Check their references. Collect as you go - don’t let their balance build up. You can get a court judgement if the client doesn’t pay but it’s _very_ difficult to enforce it. In a nutshell, if they don’t pay, you’re likely just stuck.

Lots to think about!
 
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